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How Does Truth Relate to Me?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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August 4, 2022 12:01 am

How Does Truth Relate to Me?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 4, 2022 12:01 am

What does it mean to be human? What gives true meaning to your life? Today, R.C. Sproul addresses these questions through the science of anthropology, the study of mankind, examining the dignity that sets people apart from all other creatures.

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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind... Where God is no longer at the center of people's thinking, it is inevitable that the question of human dignity becomes a matter of grave concern.

Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul takes a hard look at what we often take for granted, human dignity. I think it's safe to say that Adolf Hitler wasn't all bad. He may have been one of the baddest of the bad of all of human history, but even in the depths of our sinfulness as human creatures, sometimes by accident it seems, or unintentionally we're able to at least outwardly conform to the good as the theologians have defined as civil righteousness. What I was thinking of was that at least Adolf Hitler celebrated Christmas on occasion, and he did it with a generous, kind-hearted spirit by which he distributed presents to his friends at his own expense. He wasn't Ebenezer Scrooge, so I mean we have to say that nice thing about Hitler is that he did give presents to his friends. In fact, before he became the Fuhrer of Nazi Germany, he one year gave the same present to all of his close acquaintances and friends, his cronies.

People like Goebbels and Hermann Göring and Adolf Eichmann and Himmler and the rest, whose names have gone down in infamy. That year Adolf gave each one of them a personal copy of Friedrich Nietzsche's book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In the German edition of that book, Nietzsche, of course, announced the death of God and called for the birth of the übermensch, the Superman, who would take humanity to new heights and to create a new world order.

The philosophy that Nietzsche developed under the aegis of this concept of the übermensch, or the Superman, was called biological heroism. What he meant by that was that he thought that it was important to weed out the weak, the impotent, the lazy persons of the human race. Nietzsche was convinced that his own century was decadent, 19th century Europe, and it needed a new leadership that would inaugurate and usher in a new humanity. And so he looked for the creation of a master race of people.

And in Hitler's madness, he took Nietzsche's book as his blueprint for creating the Aryan race. In my lifetime, ladies and gentlemen, it was a matter of serious dispute on the continent of Europe whether Jewish people could genuinely be considered human, or at least fully human. In our own nation, in the 19th century, serious debates were held in conjunction with the issue of the abolition of slavery over the question, does the African Negro have a soul? Is that Negro a person or mere property or chattel?

That may sound totally shocking and astonishing to you, but the reality of the situation is that people's humanity can never be taken for granted. In the realm of philosophy, the subject that has been on center stage in the 20th century has not been epistemology. Epistemology dominated 17th and 18th century philosophical investigations.

It has not been metaphysics which dominated ancient philosophy and medieval philosophy. The dominant question of philosophy in the 20th century has been the question of anthropology. What does it mean to be anthropos, to be man or human?

That's been the overarching question, and there's a reason for that. It's not, again, by accident that the crisis in anthropology followed in history the eclipse of belief in God in Western civilization. Where God is no longer at the center of people's thinking, it is inevitable that the question of human dignity becomes a matter of grave concern. The ancient philosophers tried to give definition to what it means to be human. The expression, if it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, chances are it's a duck. It's like the little boy that went to Sunday school, and his teacher said to him, Johnny, what is it that is gray and furry and has a great big long bushy tail?

And Johnny said, I'm sure you want me to say Jesus, but it sounds like a squirrel to me. Sometimes we have difficulty giving precise definition to entities around us and in this world. Plato mused over the question, what is it that makes a human being distinctively human?

What separates us from the other animals? And finally, in desperation, he defined a human person as a featherless biped. A duck without feathers, until one of his students hurled a plucked chicken over the wall of the academy with a sign on it which said, Behold, Plato's man.

It was featherless, and it had two feet. What does it mean to be human? What is man? You remember the psalmist asked that question.

He said, O Lord, our Lord, how excellent, how majestic is your name in all of the earth. When we consider the heavens, the work of your hands, the sun and the stars, and all that thou hast ordained, we inevitably ask the question, What is man? That thou art mindful of him. But you see, how we understand humanity in large measure controls how we treat human beings, how we value human beings.

And so an integral part of any Christian life and worldview must include within it a Christian anthropology, a Christian understanding of what it means to be human. I keep wondering what my guest is pondering. You know, he hasn't said a word since we started this. He doesn't seem to even be bothered by my constant interruptions. It just goes on pondering more and more, it seems, intently. He's satisfied to be alone, doesn't have to be in a crowd, but I wonder what he's thinking. Perhaps he's pondering the question that every one of us asks sometime or another, Who am I?

What is the meaning of my life? The biblical image that is used more often than any other image for human life is an image drawn from nature. This is the image of grass.

The grass that grows, it springs up, it's germinated by the cool rains and the warmth of the sun and the process of photosynthesis. It flourishes for a season. But then as the sun beats down upon it, it withers and it dies.

It sounds as a very pessimistic view of the matter, doesn't it? But even in the most upbeat portions of sacred Scripture, from time to time the writer will stop to remind us, don't forget, all flesh is grass. We live, our three score and ten, then we wither and we die. And in light of the fragility of human existence, we have to ask, What's it all about? Do we have significance? Do we have meaning?

Is there any real value to human life? We live in a time, I believe, of unprecedented pessimism with respect to the significance of human personhood. After the Holocaust of World War II, after the camps were exposed, the soldiers returned, France was liberated. It was then that the works of men like Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre began to receive exposure across the world. And Sartre, perhaps the most penetrating dramatist that the French nation produced in the 20th century, is also a technical philosopher, and he commented frequently out of the milieu of atheistic existential philosophy. In one of his books, I remember trying to secure a copy of it back in the 60s, and I had to special order it to get it because nobody had it in stock in the city of Pittsburgh, and I had to wait months to get it. It was a little book entitled, Nausea. And the book, Nausea, was Sartre's perhaps most vivid description of the futility and meaninglessness of human existence. His final comment was that man is a useless passion, a useless passion. A passion, ladies and gentlemen, is a feeling, an intense emotion that we express, something that consumes us and controls our very being. It's not just a casual concern.

You remember Paul Tillich used to say that a person's God can be defined or identified once you identify that person's ultimate concern, that about which you are most passionate, most caring. It is a given about our humanity that we do care about things, don't we, that we have feelings. I remember when I was a little kid and somebody would insult me and I would cry and I'd go home to my mother and cry and she would say, listen, don't let these people get you down. Whenever people say unkind things about you, you just go back and you say, sticks and stones will break my bones and names will never hurt me. That was my defense, right? Did you ever learn that?

Yes. That transcends generations, huh? And so I tried it. There was this guy in our town who used to beat up on me and I'd come home crying. He would call me all these terrible names and one day he was calling me all these names and I looked at him and I said, sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

And what I was thinking inside was this is a lie. Because sticks hurt and stones hurt, but you can get over those. But the insult, the insensitive criticism can paralyze your soul until you die.

Every person in this room and every person that sees this film has wounds that have never healed in their souls from something they heard somebody say to them or about them in their lifetime. We care. We feel. We laugh. We weep.

We become afraid. We don't just think. Thinking alone does not define the essence of our humanity. In fact, you can even sense in the thinker here that there's not simply cerebral activity taking place but what else is communicated here is an attitude. I'm not sure what the attitude is, but it's certainly not one of frivolity.

He is not in a mood of partying at the moment. He's got different feelings that are absorbing him in this posture. Our feelings change. The one thing about our feelings is that they always change.

I always say the person who commits suicide, if they would have waited 24 hours, they probably wouldn't have done it. How quickly our feelings and our emotions change. But the question that Sartre was wrestling with is all this caring, all this feeling, all this hurting, all this rejoicing, does it matter?

Does it mean anything? And his conclusion was, no, it doesn't. That we are bundles of passion, bundles of feeling, bundles of care, and all of our caring is nothing more and nothing less than an exercise in futility. It's useless because humanity has no meaning. Humanism could only emerge really from a society that had previously been committed to a meaningful origin and a meaningful destiny to the human race. What humanism has done is rejected Christianity and tried to replace their secular worldview in what they have rejected, not realizing that they have rejected the very foundation for the humanity that they seek to extol. And I say to the humanists with all cynicism, if I come from nothing, if I'm going to nothing, I am nothing, and why should I care who sits in the front of the bus or on the back of the bus?

Who do I care whether it's white germs or black germs that have rights in this world? I keep asking the humanist to give me a reason for his faith. I keep asking the humanist to give me one reason why I should treat any human being with dignity other than that he simply has the preference that I do it. You see that humanism is based on sentimentality. It has no metaphysical foundation, no epistemological foundation, and certainly no theological foundation.

It is an anthropology with no support based on sentiment. The Christian worldview teaches that man is totally depraved, that mankind is the most wicked creature on this planet apart from the visitations of Satan himself here, that of all the creatures that inhabit this world, man is the worst, that the great ecological problem with planet earth is not because of an overabundance of rats, but an overabundance of people. It's people who have plunged the world into ruin. The whole creation groans in travail because of mankind. The whole creation is under a curse because of mankind. And that which is grass is more than grass, it is unspeakably wicked. And the moral judgment that God gives to mankind is that there is none righteous, no, not one.

There's not even one who does good, no, not one. People don't want to hear that. They say that's one of the reasons they reject Christianity and not only Christianity in general, but traditionally Reformed Christianity because Reformed Christianity talks about the total depravity of human beings. They're born in sin, the original sin. We stole human freedom, man's free will, ignoring the fact that the term free will never occurs in the Bible. The concept's there in terms of human responsibility, yes, but the emphasis of the Bible is on the bondage of the human heart. It's captive to evil passions, not useless passion. Sinful passion is what defines humanity. People say, I don't want to believe in that kind of a view of anthropology. It's depressing.

It's the highest view of man the world has ever seen. There is no religion, no philosophy under the sun that takes sin as seriously as Christianity does. Do you ever wonder why that is? Because we have a morbid fascination with morality?

No, no, no, no. Christianity takes sin seriously because it takes people so seriously. And Christianity says it is a serious matter when one human being violates another human being, when one human being hates another human being, when one human being steals or rapes or kills another human being.

That's serious, and that's wrong. You see how epistemology, metaphysics fit together, driving us to the concept of God? Our doctrine of God determines our doctrine of man, and our doctrine of man drives us to ethics as an integral and necessary dimension of our life and worldview. The Bible says that man, of all of the creatures, was uniquely created in God's image, that we alone have a profound capacity and ability to reflect and to mirror to the rest of creation the very character of God, that we are called to be mirrors of God's holiness. And that's why when we sin, our sin is so serious, because not only do we violate each other, but we lie to the creation about the nature of God.

We're involved in cosmic treason. We have free will in the sense that we have the power to do what we want. We don't have free will in the sense that we have the power to do what we want with impunity, because over and above my free will always stands the sovereign authority and the power of Almighty God.

And if your anthropology makes man sovereign, your anthropology is not Christian. You can have man as free, but never autonomous. Remember that God is free, and His freedom is a higher freedom than my freedom.

I am free only within the limitations of God's freedom. I hear Christians say that God's sovereignty is limited by human freedom. When I hear them saying that, I make certain assumptions. The first assumption is it didn't come from this guy. The first assumption I make is that that Christian has really never thought about what they've said.

They heard somebody else say it, and they're just repeating it. They haven't thought about it for five minutes, because I'm afraid if they thought about it and then said it, then they wouldn't even be a Christian, because if God's sovereignty is limited by human freedom, God is not God. That's blasphemy. So we need to integrate our understanding of man in light of our understanding of God, because we get our identity from being made in the image of God. God is not made in the image of man. He is sovereign.

We are not. Our humanity is defined by Him, and therein we find dignity. We have an origin in the divine purpose of God. We have a destiny in eternal glory that the Father has prepared for us from the foundation of the world. Therefore, everything that happens between creation and consummation matters.

There are no useless passions. It matters how we treat white people and black people, Jewish people, any kind of people, because they're created in the image of God, and they bear that image even in their sinfulness. We are called to love, to love them as we love ourselves. How we understand human dignity will determine how we live our lives.

It influences our work ethic, our family dynamics, and, as we just heard, our social interactions. All week here on Renewing Your Mind, we are featuring Dr. R.C. Sproul's series Blueprint for Thinking. In five messages, R.C. explains the basic elements for right thinking.

We will add the audio files to your online learning library when you contact us today with a donation of any amount. We also want you to have Dr. Sproul's comprehensive series on Western philosophy. It's called The Consequences of Ideas. You know, we read the headlines, observe the culture, and wonder, how did we get here? Where do all these ideas come from?

This series answers those questions. So make your request today, and we'll send you the nine DVDs, plus we'll add the digital study guide to your online learning library, all of these resources available today for a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. You can reach us by phone at 800-435-4343, or you can make your donation online at, and we are grateful for your generous support. Here at Renewing Your Mind, it is our goal to equip you to understand what you believe, why you believe it, how to live it, and how to share it. We do that through daily messages that reveal the glory of God against the backdrop of culture, philosophy, apologetics, ethics, and church history. You'll find an archive of past Renewing Your Mind programs, plus articles, videos, and daily Bible studies when you download our free app.

Just search for Ligonier in your app store. Well, this week we are learning some of the basics of how to think with a Christian worldview, but the truths of Scripture are more than just intellectual ideas. They are requirements for the way we live. We'll have more to say about that tomorrow, and we hope you'll join us for Renewing Your Mind. Copyright © 2020, New Thinking Allowed Foundation
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-16 19:54:17 / 2023-03-16 20:02:22 / 8

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