Human Value


God saw all that he had made and it was very good! (Gen 1:31)

There are many things we consider true and good that are not observable as natural phenomena. For example, no one has ever observed parallel lines, yet plane geometry  relies on the axiom that parallel lines never intersect. We consider an axiom "true" by definition, not by observation (i.e., a tautology). Yet, such a definition has a very practical consequences. We can use the rules for sums of angles, derived from the axiom of parallel lines, to calculate actual, observable  distances. But parallel lines, as an observable "thing," do not exist.

Now,  consider St. Anselm's famous ontological argument. If the term "God" refers to a perfect being (by definition), and perfection must include existence, then it is meaningless to say "God does not exist." Hence, "the fool has said in his heart, there is no God." Skipping pages and pages of unnecessary analysis, and put simply, arguments offering a "proof" of the existence of God are inductive, by inference and intuitive. It either "seems right" to you or it doesn't. To claim there is no "scientific proof" is (ahem) just plain silly. The question needs to be reformulated...

Correctly stated, the truly mystifying, interesting, meaningful question concerns the ultimate nature of existence -- is there only what is physical and phenomena arising from physical things (e.g., naturalism,  materialism), or is there physical plus something else (e.g., supernaturalism, idealism)? The answer to such a question cannot lie solely in the world, limited to "empirically observable facts" since that would beg the question. The answer cannot be worked out conclusively with logic without assuming logic is sufficiently powerful to explain all things. We are forced to make a choice as an a priori premise and which premise you choose determines the kind of conclusions you can get. Your conclusions then become the filter of what is actual, observable, and asserted as a truth. In short, we have only models of reality, nothing more, and all understanding must be through metaphor, usually grasped intuitively, then applied in practice to gain an experiential trust in the idea.

When you start with materialism as an a priori premise, any conclusions you draw concerning the value of human life must of necessity be self-serving and arbitrary. We can claim that murder is wrong because we don't want to get killed by someone else. But we can equally claim that human life has no more value than a rock and be rational and justified in doing so. Arguendo, both the rock and the man are mere accumulation of matter, arising as a result of random events, and neither has any claim to priority of value. Jumping to the punch line – in an amoral universe, nothing has intrinsic value and the universe does nothing to insure life will continue. It doesn't care if you live or die, and (more importantly) it doesn't care if you destroy everyone else to suit your own desires.

On the other hand, if you start with an a priori premise that there is a Creator superior to his creation, you can then assume as a corollary that the Creator has declared human life valuable. We can begin with an absolute statement that "life has value" and derive actual moral principles as a consequence. Murder is evil because it destroys something declared valuable by a being greater than ourselves. Preservation of life is good for the same reason. Morality is no longer a matter of choice, but imperative.

We can also justify destruction of a life as good, but if and only if that life no longer serves the purposes of his Creator. For example, when a human life has lost its imputed value (by failing to server his Creator's purpose), that life is no longer worth preserving. But only the Creator can make that distinction; we cannot make it for ourselves.

The God of the Bible, YHWH, is often portrayed by detractors as arbitrary, vindictive, tyrannical, etc. Claims such as those show a lack of understanding of the Bible and its premises. The Bible a priori states that God is Creator, and as such, He defines the purpose of His creation. It is His choice in the matter that determines a thing good or evil. It is His choice alone what is to be preserved and what is to be destroyed. Human life has value (or not) independently of our relativistic, self-centered opinions and desires.

The Good News of the Christian gospel is that God is seeking to correct what went wrong and to redeem that which has lost its value before it must be destroyed. The solution given is to "regenerate" man through the infusion of a new life which then replaces the old, degenerate life.

So then from now on we acknowledge no one from an outward human point of view. Even though we have known Christ from such a human point of view, now we do not know him in that way any longer. So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away,  look, what is new has come! And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. (2Co 5:16-19)

Human life can have value, but only when we recognize our total dependence on the one who created life. That is the "metaphor" I choose to live by. And I have found it to be true in actuality.


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