One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple. (Psalms 27:4)
There are those who would have us believe that mankind is getting better – improving. Their utopian vision for the future includes the notion of an attainable, or perhaps even occurring, social evolution in which a society can take shape where all share equally in the wealth, no one is wrong, all lifestyle choices are right, and all religions (if such a thing is necessary) are equally true. Mankind is equitable and kind to his neighbor, and evil becomes an antiquated notion – you know, like heaven and hell. No longer are absolutes necessary, for everyone does what is right, since whatever one deems to be the right is, of course, right for them. We all walk around holding hands and singing John Lennon’s, Imagine, enjoying mutual respect, peace, and tolerance toward all.
Such delusions, however, are shattered by events such as the one that transpired in a Florida High School this last week, or the one in Las Vegas some months back, or the one in San Bernardino just over two years ago. Suddenly we’re confronted with the true face of evil, once again, and the world goes reeling, looking for a scapegoat that will point the problem away from us. It’s easier to label the perpetrator as a monster and separate ourselves from him, as though he is some hideous anomaly that could never have come from the world we know. As more of these incidents increase and the political rhetoric gets louder, many will focus on issues such as gun control but will refuse to address the real underlying issue in our society that has brought us to this point to begin with.
We teach our young people that right and wrong are merely social constructs, not based on objective reality. What’s true is what’s true for you. The materialist worldview, which is increasingly gaining traction in our culture, tells us there is no intrinsic meaning to life, and that we are merely the random products of an undirected natural process. Since there is no transcendent reality, all metaphysical concepts, such as worth, meaning, and beauty, are merely illusory products of a physical brain which is programmed merely to help us adapt and survive. Since there is no objective reality, no one thing has any more worth or value than another, nor can anything truly be called right or wrong, good or evil.
Such a worldview was supposed to free us from antiquated and repressive “religious” ideas such as sin and judgment since we had sanctioned everyone’s choice and provided absolution for every indulgence. However, it hasn’t gone according to plan. By removing all the boundaries our society found inconvenient or offensive, we crossed the line into a danger zone that wasn’t supposed to exist. We’ve redefined everything from gender to the fundamentals of right and wrong, but the universe doesn’t seem to be cooperating. We thought we could alter reality by simply renaming it, like swapping the labels on cans, thinking it would change the contents of the can.
A genocide of our most vulnerable citizens, redefined as protecting women’s reproductive rights, still leaves scars of loss and guilt. Celebrating the redefinition of gender to mean “how we feel about our sexual identity,” rather than letting simple biological facts guide our understanding, has led to utter incoherence. The denial of a Creator and the clear understanding of objective good and evil has removed a necessary social restraint and exacerbated the desperation many feel due to a sense of meaninglessness and futility. In removing the moral guardrails that kept us safe, we crashed into the hard, unyielding wall of reality. Man was supposed to be inherently good, and yet the harsh reality of the evening news seems to say something else. The utopia remains elusive.
The twentieth century was the bloodiest century in human history, with over one hundred million dying under totalitarian and fascist regimes led by despots, such as Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and others. Two world wars, countless conflicts, and abortion on demand has killed countless millions more. As the famed British journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, once quipped, “The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.” In other words, no one wants to own the truth that we are broken and deeply flawed. Man is not inherently good, but rather, as the Bible tells us, a sinner in need of a Savior. God destroyed the world by a flood in Noah’s day because, among other things, “the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11), and it would seem that not much has changed since.
David, who wrote the Psalm we quoted at the top of this article, was a man of war. He saw much of the ugly realities of this fallen world. Today we can kill at a distance with smart bombs and drones, but David had done so up close. He saw the life leaving the eyes of those who were slain by his sword and witnessed comrades in arms die in brutal battles. He knew the horrors of war as well as unrest in his personal life. He saw turmoil and betrayal in his own house, in part brought about by his own failings when temptation lured him from the battlefield to wandering the rooftops at night. Despite all this, David was a man after God’s own heart. He knew that in a fallen world there were battles that must be fought and justice that had to be meted out. Nevertheless, David, the Sweet Psalmist of Israel, longed for the good, and the true, and the beautiful. He found it in one place: the presence of God.
In God, there is no inequity, fear, malice, or deceit. He is all-knowing, wise, and beautiful and the author of all that is good. He is a gracious giver of good gifts and a strengthener of the weak. He is just in judgment and true in word. He is the source of all that is pure and holy and the author of all creativity and beauty. He is the inspiration behind the exalted verse and the beautiful melody, and He is the artist who paints the sunset. He is the eternal, immutable Truth to which all objective reality conforms and the uncreated, first cause of the universe. He is love and altogether lovely. He is the redeemer of mankind and a Father to all who put their trust in Him. In the Person of His Son, He was the ransom for our sin, and He is the hope of all mankind.
No earthly answer can right the wrongs so deeply embedded in our world. We can pass laws, but we cannot eliminate the lawlessness in man’s heart. The enemy is within – the danger internal rather than external. The real answer is not a change of policy but a change of heart. Today’s killers use automatic weapons and car bombs. Cain used his own hands. Regardless of the means, all murder starts in the sin-darkened hearts of men and women. The sinful nature seeks to advance one’s own interests at the expense of others, the ultimate expression of which is murder. Love, however, seeks instead to advance the interests of others, even at the expense of our own. The ultimate expression of that is to lay down one’s life for another. This is love that is quite literally from out of this world.
That is why the cross, in all its brutality and cruelty, is so beautiful. It was there on those two wooden beams on a Judean hillside, two thousand years ago, that perfect love triumphed over hate, good overcame evil, and truth won the day. The real solution to our dilemma is really not that complicated. That goodness, which comes from heaven, must come in and displace the darkness so prevalent in our world today. The beauty David once sought to behold in God’s house is no longer dwelling in temples made by human hands. Rather, He has taken up residence in a new dwelling, behind the clay-shuttered doors of the believing heart. It is there that God has placed His treasure – that which is good and beautiful and true.
Dr. Randy Bunch is the pastor of West Kern Christian Center, located at 1000 6th Street in Taft, California, as well as a graduate advisor and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. He is the author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World. For more information, or to purchase your copy, go to randylanebunch.org. For more information on the ministries of WKCC, you can go the ministry’s website at wkcconnect.org.