The Power of Moral Principles in Action

2016november_vision-moral-principles_1920x1080.jpg

Have you noticed that morally powerful quotes posted on social media from insightful thinkers get a lot of traction? Moral principles inspire people. “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children” (attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer) brings instant positive comment, as does “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act” (generally though probably incorrectly ascribed to George Orwell). It’s the same with stories of people who stop at nothing to live up to the demands of their belief. Take the subject of Mel Gibson’s new movie, Hacksaw Ridge, about the Sabbath-keeping, pacifist medic Desmond Doss at the 1945 Battle of Okinawa. This noncombatant (unarmed) hero saved many wounded men by dragging them back from the front line at the height of battle. He was the only World War II conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor. Two of his principles were derived from the Ten Commandments, which specify Sabbath rest and forbid murder.

Moral principles and the actions that flow from them are the truly big ideas. When principle is lived out in example, no matter the walk of life, it convinces and convicts.

Yet many too easily dismiss principled people’s actions in the same breath in which they praise their commitment. While admiring the Sabbath-keeper’s devotion to principle, they might voice the excuse that they wouldn’t want to be overly strict personally, effectively canceling out the action that led to admiration. In other words, let the other person live up to principle, but I don’t want to be a fanatic. We could consider this as an interesting maneuver on the part of human nature. Was Jesus a fanatic when He observed the Sabbath? Certainly not! Was the Pharisees’ strict obedience in keeping the day the problem, or was it their self-righteous and judgmental attitude toward others? Clearly the latter.

We are susceptible to self-deception every time our actions conflict with the lived-out principles we admire in others. It’s then that rationalization kicks in and we find a reason for our failure to be brave or persistent or committed. We tell ourselves that it’s too difficult to do what is right; or we hide behind “I’m no saint”; or we excuse our wrong behavior with “I’m just a weak person.”

But Jesus taught those who followed Him, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Belief had to be seen in good works—in the doing of the right thing. To profess and not do would not produce anything beneficial. As He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Can human weakness be overcome so that right action can follow from right principle? Can we “be[come] perfect” as our Father is (Matthew 5:48)? It’s a tall order. But just before His death, Jesus assured His followers of His continuing help. It was closely connected with living out His teaching: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). There can be no better help than that!

Tags: ethics and morality, character, moral principles

What Was Earth Like 100 Million Years Ago?

2016november_vision-blog-what-earth-was-like_1920x1080.jpg

Miners in northern Myanmar’s fossilized amber mines have been unearthing some incredible specimens containing the remains of an array of small creatures from the Cretaceous period of Earth’s history, which stretched from around 145 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. Fossilized amber is an amazing material that originated from the resins of trees or plants millions of years ago. The sticky organic resin oozes from certain types of trees, and from time to time, parts of plants, insects, spiders and other small creatures are trapped in it. Over millions of years, some of the resin that was trapped in layers of sediment and under immense pressure became fossilized amber. Due to the lack of oxygen needed for decay, organic material and even small creatures trapped inside the amber were able to remain remarkably intact and preserved. The advantage of fossilized amber over fossilized rock specimens is the greater integrity of delicate details such as pollen, skin and feathers.

Much of the fossilized amber mined in Myanmar is polished and sold in gem markets for use in jewellery, the pieces with trapped creatures in them being particularly desired for their ornamentation. Recently the scientific community has taken more interest in intercepting and purchasing these fossilized amber specimens for their immense value in providing the opportunity to study life on Earth as far back as 100 million years ago, which is when the Burmese amber was likely deposited. Some recent examples of Cretaceous period specimens found in amber include several species of ants and termites, the oldest example of a chameleon, and recently the wing of a bird-like dinosaur with intact feathers and soft tissue. A great deal of information is being uncovered about these ancient creatures through micro-CT scans and electron microscopy of fossilized amber specimens, led by scientific institutions such as the Florida Museum of Natural History (US), the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (France), and the China University of Geosciences Beijing.

Do these incredible discoveries of 100-million-year-old insect remains conflict with the creation account found in the Bible, or does the Bible provide us clues that would allow for an ancient world teeming with plant and animal life? You might be surprised by the answer.

In the first two verses of Genesis there is a thought-provoking description that gives us an indication that a created version of the world existed well before the creation event mentioned in the remainder of Chapter 1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1, New International Version). The Hebrew words for “formless and empty” are paraphrased “tohu and bohu” and indicate a state of confusion and waste. We know from another scripture that “God is not a God of confusion . . . ” (1 Corinthians 14:33, English Standard Version). Taken together, the statements that the planet was in a state of confusion and waste and that God is not the source of confusion strongly implies that the Earth became formless and empty rather than having been created that way. In fact, the New International Version of the Bible (NIV) includes a footnote explaining that Genesis 1:2 can be appropriately rendered  . . . the earth became formless and empty.”

What was the Earth like before becoming formless and empty? It may be that we are learning more about this ancient world when we study the incredible specimens trapped in fossilized amber from the Cretaceous period millions of years ago.

T. Brandon Sexton 

For more from Vision on the topic of the Earth’s geological record and creation see “For Creationists to Consider.”

 

Tags: creation, cretaceous period,, age of earth, amber mines