Let’s talk about the Bible.
I was surprised that George Lakoff brought up the Bible at all in his book, Whose Freedom?. Even more shocked that he spoke of it positively from time to time, suggesting that it should guide our lives. Lakoff talked about some of the great teachings of Jesus which, he argued, should be followed by all.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Who could argue with those statements? Sounds like Lakoff is on the right track. But the devil is in the details of what the professor from U. C. Berkeley believes about the book that informs the Christian’s faith and practice. Listening carefully to all that he says about the Bible I found him undermining the authority and timelessness of God’s standards as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit and recorded by men of faith.
This book we call the Bible, he asserts, is full of made up mythological and metaphorical stories. It is a book written by the men who made moral decisions for their day. Their work, then, gives us guidance as we seek to define ethics in our own.
(I hope I have come close to a fair representation of Mr. Lakoff’s view on the Bible. It was a bit confusing at times, but I think I’ve got it right. I’m sure at least I’m close.)
So what does the Bible say for itself? It is the testimony of this book that it is actually God’s word. Its purposes are clear. It is written to inform our morality by revealing God’s decisions about what is right and wrong. It is given to us to show sinners – which includes all men, we’ve all fallen short of God’s standards – the way to salvation through faith in Jesus.
“All Scripture is God-breathed,” Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy. “[It is] God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV)
So this is not a man-invented book, but a God-inspired one. It is the inspired record of God’s dealings with man from the very beginning of time. It is the inspired record of God’s revelation of himself and his unchanging standards of morality. It is the inspired record of God’s work to save the damned, folks like you and me, through his son Jesus.
If this book is not what it claims to be, if it is only the inventions of man, if its morality is not steady, but changing, then this book is nothing really. It is not a moral guide. Who says we have to follow any part of it? Not God. He doesn’t even exist. He’s a part of the myth man made up until he grew up, until he knew better than God. We can do as we please, God be damned. The church be damned. Morals be damned.
Lakoff would, I imagine, object to the last of those three statements. He isn’t, in his own mind, rejecting morality. He isn’t even rejecting the Bible. He embraces the Bible’s overarching principles. What are the ultimate biblical principles, the ideas that guide progressive Christians as they make decisions? Empathy and responsibility – that’s what the Bible is really all about. Empathy and responsibility are the twin informers of ethical decisions for man in each era of his existence. Empathy and responsibility can help anyone know what is right for them at any given time in any given situation.
So let’s take a situation and apply the left’s principles of empathy and responsibility to them.
A woman gets pregnant. She does not want to be pregnant. She has been married to her husband for fifteen years and they already have two children. The two are in school now and she wants to advance in her career. She’s just applied to and been accepted into a prestigious university’s graduate school. Having a child will be a terrible inconvenience to her. A baby will limit her freedom to pursue her dreams.
The liberal feels with this woman. She is in such a difficult position. What she wants is being denied her by a growing fetus in her womb. Poor woman. She must be so frustrated. All that striving for admission to XYZ U will come to nothing. What’s she going to do?
The kind-hearted liberal really feels this woman’s anguish with her, feels it in his gut. It’s visceral. Real. Painful.
And so his empathy leads him to do the responsible thing: make sure this woman can end her suffering by terminating her unwanted pregnancy. That’s why abortion must remain legal in all cases. It’s a moral imperative. Empathy and responsibility which the Bible demands of all moral people insists that action be taken by all men to keep abortion legal, to make it available free-of-charge so all can have access to this option, to insure that it is as safe as any other “medical” procedure.
A woman’s freedom is at stake, for crying out loud! Feel her pain. Help her.
Knowing they will evoke empathy from the crowd every smart liberal asks the hard questions when debating a conservative. What about rape? What about incest? What if the mother’s life is endangered?
They do so in order to keep folks from discovering the truth: liberals, at least those who consistently apply their worldview to all of life, are for keeping all abortions for any and every reason at any point in the progression of a pregnancy legal. They believe anything less is immoral. Impinging on a woman’s freedom in anyway is a step backwards, a return to the time with the Bible was used to keep women down. We’re more moral now. We must maintain freedom for woman by insuring their right to abortion.
How different from what the Bible actually teaches. I will grant Lakoff this one point: empathy does require responsible action. God does require us to be compassionate toward others. The Bible teaches this clearly.
James 2:15-17, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (NIV)
In some ways, conservatives have failed to act compassionately in God-commanded ways. Our leaders’ (and sometimes our own) disdain for the poor does not reflect God’s character. We have room to grow.
But that does not change the fact that the Bible does not teach man to act immorally toward another in order to benefit the person for whom you feel sympathy. In other words, my feelings of compassion for a mother who does not want to be pregnant cannot justify the murdering of her infant in utero. God’s moral prohibition of murder trumps the desire to end an unwanted pregnancy. Killing the baby is not, according to God’s original design, natural. It is against our nature as human beings to kill another human being made in the image of God for convenience sake.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
If the standards of right and wrong change as man’s understanding of ethics evolves this cannot be true. There can be no basis for rebuke or correction if there is no firm and eternal truth. Without truth that is truth for all time anything and everything is permissible. There is no basis whatsoever for prohibiting anything. Today’s prohibition against that which harms another is subject to the same rules of relativity. Why should anyone let hurting another keep him from reaching his goals?
“That’s life, baby. Survival of the fittest. Praise Darwin and pass the ammunition!”
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