Rights granted on the basis of pure emotion ultimately unravel. What emotion gives, it can also take away. But if our human dignity is given by God and that is recognized by our culture, then we have fundamental human rights that inform how we treat other people.
Several years ago, the mother of a college student came to me wringing her hands, saying: “I don’t know what to do with my son. I’ve been praying for him for years; he’s in total rebellion. He’s smoking dope; he’s doing all these wild and crazy things, and he won’t listen to me about the Christian faith. Will you talk to him?” I cautioned her that forcing him to come talk to me would make him a reluctant audience, but I nevertheless agreed to her request. She persuaded the young man to come and see me. When he came in, he was sullen, curt, and obviously hostile. So I asked him, “Who are you mad at?” He replied, “My mother.” And I said, “Why are you angry at your mother?” He said he was mad at her because “every time I turn around she keeps trying to shove religion down my throat.”
I said, “I see, you don’t buy into Christianity?” He said, “No, sir.” “OK,” I replied, “so what do you believe?” He said, “I believe that everybody should have the right to do their own thing.” “Alright,” I answered, “but why are you mad at your mother?” He said, “What do you mean?” “Well,” I replied, “maybe it’s your mother’s thing to shove religion down people’s throats. What I hear you saying is that you want everybody to do their own thing as long as their own thing doesn’t impose upon your own thing. And you want to be able to do your own thing even if it does impose on other people’s own thing.”
I said, “Don’t you see that if you complained to me on the basis of Christian ethical standards that things would be diferent? If your mother is provoking you to wrath and is being thoroughly insensitive to you as a person, then I would have a foundation upon which to stand with you. I could defend your cause against your mother.” At that point, he started getting interested in the Christian faith. Of course, the point of the illustration is that the young man knew what he didn’t like, but he hadn’t thought it through. He wanted to come to the conclusion that there is no basis ultimately for ethics, but he couldn’t live in that domain. And that is the point that even a non-Christian philosopher such as Immanuel Kant made, namely, that life ultimately is impossible without God, without justice, without life after the grave.
The bottom line is this: if there is no God, if there is no life after death, then ultimately all of our ethical decisions are absolutely meaningless. That’s a true and inescapable conclusion. If we think about it, it’s the only conclusion we can reach if we have absented God from our thinking. The only alternative to an absolute ethic is a relative ethic. We cannot have an absolute ethic without a personal Creator.
To confess that God is Creator is to confess that we are not cosmic accidents, devoid of ultimate value. We came from somewhere significant and we are headed toward a destination of importance.
Mechanistic determinists and hyperevolutionists say that the human animal is the highest advance up a scale of life that emerged out of primordial slime. Humanity, the grownup germ, is the result of accidental cosmic forces, and the destiny of the human race is at the mercy of these indifferent, impersonal forces. This view does not leave us in total darkness about the goal of human existence, nor does it point us in the direction of significance. What began in the slime is destined for organic disorganization or disintegration.