problem

The Universal Problem We Don’t Want to Admit

How do we fix a world filled with murder, rape, betrayal, adultery, fraud, theft, sexual exploitation, pornography, bullying, abortion, terrorism, cheating, lying, child abuse, racism, assault, drugs, robbery, and countless other evils?

There will be no solutions unless we are honest about their underlying causes. Although we don’t want to admit it, the truth is that every one of those world problems can be traced back to a problem with the human heart.

No one knows that better than an honest cop. My friend Jim Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective in California. He’s been featured four times on Dateline for solving crimes that are decades old. He’s noticed that every crime he has ever solved can be traced back to one or more of these three motives: financial greed, relational lust, or the pursuit of power (money, sex and power). We want these things so much that we are willing to use immoral means to get them.

In other words, the sick condition of our world is preceded and caused by the sick condition of our hearts.  That’s why we won’t improve the external world until we first improve our internal worlds.

You might think that this doesn’t really apply to you. After all, you may be congratulating yourself because you haven’t committed any of the crimes listed at the top of this column.

“Well, not most of them anyway,” you say. “Who hasn’t lied or stolen something?   But I’m better than most people!”

Maybe so. But your very act of self-justification proves the point—instead of admitting our faults, our natural inclination is to minimize them or cover them up while claiming moral superiority.

We don’t want to admit this because it hurts our pride, which is also a heart issue. “Don’t tell me I’m wrong! You’re offending me! You’re hurting my feelings!”

It’s no wonder free speech is under attack in the culture and on campus. To channel Jack Nicholson, we “can’t handle the truth” because the truth exposes the fact that we are not really as good as we claim we are. We can’t bear the fact that we are broken, narcissistic creatures who find it much easier and more natural to be selfish rather than selfless.

This affects even people who deny real right and wrong. For example, leading atheist Richard Dawkins has declared, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. . . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”

But Dawkins doesn’t act like he actually believes that. He recently insisted that a woman has the right to choose an abortion and asserted that it would be “immoral” to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome. According to Dawkins, the “right to choose” is a good thing and giving birth to Down syndrome children is a bad thing.

Well, which is it? Is there really good and evil, or are we just moist robots dancing to the music of our DNA? If there is no objective morality, then there is no “right” to anything, whether it is abortion or the right to life.

And if there is no objective morality, then why does everyone, including atheists, try to justify their own immoral behavior? As C.S. Lewis observed, “If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much—we feel the Rule or Law pressing on us so— that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility.”

Ironically, when we try to shift the responsibility for our immoral actions, we often appeal to other moral principles to justify ourselves:

  • I used my expense account for personal items because I work harder than what they pay me, and it’s unjust that my boss makes so much more than me.
  • I ran off with my assistant because she really loves me, unlike my wife who doesn’t give me the attention I deserve.
  • I don’t have time for my kids because I’m too busy working hard to provide for their future.
  • I had an abortion because it’s immoral to give birth to a Down syndrome child.

Even our excuses show that we really, deep down, believe in objective morality. We often deceive ourselves into believing that something immoral is really moral (like abortion), but, as Thomas Jefferson famously declared, certain universal moral truths are “self evident.” All rational people know this. Unfortunately, our tendency for moral self-deception is also universal. We know what’s right, but we make excuses for doing wrong by trying to appeal to what is right!

Where does all this leave us?

There is hope. Regardless of what you believe about the Bible, what can’t be denied is that the Bible nails the truth about human nature and our deceptive human hearts. The book of Genesis admits that “every intent of the thoughts of [mankind’s] heart was only evil continually.” Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful and wicked, who can know it?” Jesus declared, that people “love darkness rather than light.” And Paul observed that we “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” in order to continue in our sins.

But the Bible doesn’t just accurately state the problem; it also reveals the only possible solution. Because of our moral failings, God’s infinite love compelled Him to add humanity over his Deity and come to earth in the person of Jesus that first Christmas. The incarnation was necessary because an infinitely just Being cannot allow sin to go unpunished. Instead of punishing us, God found in Jesus an innocent human substitute to voluntarily take the punishment for us.

Our pride tells us that we can rescue ourselves, but we can’t. No matter how much we try to justify ourselves or pledge to do better in the future, we can’t escape the fact that we’re guilty for what we’ve already done.

So it’s important to ask this Christmas season, “Have you accepted the pardon Jesus came to offer you? And have you asked Him into your life to help heal your self-centered heart?” If not, why not? He’s the only true solution to the world’s evils and the heart problem that afflicts each one of us.

17 replies
  1. Coy stovalljr says:

    I have studied the Bible for 45 years ,not a brag just a fact, I would have to lie to myself intellectually not to believe!

    Reply
  2. Hugh says:

    Actually there is only one cause. Ego. Ego is also the birthplace of religious delusion.
    Many if us have come to understand this. We accept and make recompense fir our mistakes. The ego driven refuse to admit fallibility. Often preferring to appeal to a supernatural belief system to absolve their “sins” but will never admit liability.

    Reply
    • Kalmaro says:

      Hey, just noticed your comment.
      I’m not sure I fully understand your stance on this. You seem to say that ego is what Christians have and it makes them feel above being wrong, but the Christian belief is that everyone has sinned so I’m not sure I follow your logic.

      Would you mind explaining what you mean?

      Reply
  3. Andy Ryan says:

    “This affects even people who deny real right and wrong. For example, leading atheist Richard Dawkins has declared, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. . . . DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”
    But Dawkins doesn’t act like he actually believes that.”

    You’ve combined two different Dawkins quotes making different points, adding the DNA quote to another one, albeit from the same book.

    In the first, Dawkins is saying that the universe is indifferent to US – he’s not saying that we are indifferent to each other, nor is he saying we should be. So pointing out examples of Dawkins talking about how we should behave towards each other in order to reduce suffering and unfairness doesn’t negate his point about the universe at all.

    Reply
    • Søren Bang Hansen says:

      Dawkins can’t really say anything about right or wrong when he has no objective standard (ie God!). Then it’s just his opnion againt Hitlers. So why should anyone care? Good advice: Check Frank Turek out – at least on YouTube if you wan’t the quick version. Powerful stuff.

      Reply
  4. John Stefanyszyn says:

    Whats is ‘mother’ of desire for ‘greed,lust,power’? Is it not FREEDOM..to define&do what is right,is moral, in one’s own eyes? Is it not FREEDOM to serve and magnify oneself (XES)?
    This SAME FREEDOM justifies gay marriage, abortion, free sex – fornication, adultery, religious self righteousness, etc.
    This SAME FREEDOM also defines, justifies, and dictates, as a god of fortresses, that it is right, a human right, to be free to worship (without judgement) ANY ‘god’.
    But the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son Who Uniquely defines the identity of the One Creator God & Father, said to worship ONLY the One Lord your Creator God and Him Alone to serve in obedience and love.

    Very soon, the Lord Jesus Christ will return, as a thief in man’s eyes, to rule the earth in power and obedience as the One King according to the Will of the One God Who is Good and NOT according to man’s first love for ‘his freedom’.

    The Lord Jesus Christ said to repent and to serve only Him, the Savior Who paid the debt of death of sinners that repent.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “This SAME FREEDOM also defines, justifies, and dictates, as a god of fortresses, that it is right, a human right, to be free to worship (without judgement) ANY ‘god’.”

      John, this religious freedom that you have a problem with is a cornerstone of the US Constitution.

      “The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son Who Uniquely defines the identity of the One Creator God & Father, said to worship ONLY the One Lord your Creator God and Him Alone to serve in obedience and love”

      Sure, it’s Yahweh or the highway – most Gods say the same. It seems most Gods don’t like people worshipping other Gods. If Allah turns out to the ‘one true God’ then you’ll be in trouble with him for worshiping the Christian God.

      Reply
      • Kalmaro says:

        You’re right, if Allah is real then everyone not following Allah would be in trouble.

        It seems like you’re trying to make a point though and I’m not sure what it is.

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          “It seems like you’re trying to make a point though and I’m not sure what it is”

          It seems like you’re trying to ask me a question and I’m not sure what it is. Seriously though, my post wasn’t that opaque – John was saying that Jesus said to worship only his God, but most religions say that only their God should be worshipped, so it doesn’t tell us much that Jesus was the same.

          Mark: “I’ll take my chances with Jesus, Andy. You would do well to do the same.”

          Thanks for the vague threat, Mark, but you give me no reason to think it’s a reasonable chance to take.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            So CS Lewis believed that Muslims went to a Muslim heaven? And atheists who don’t accept Jesus as the son of God, but nevertheless WISH that the Christian heaven existed – they’ll all go to heaven anyway? Because that’s what they want, even if it’s not what they believe? In that case there’s no need for them to believe – they’re going to heaven anyway, according to you and Lewis. How did CS Lewis know this, anyway? Or was it just a guess on his part?

          • Mark says:

            What do you believe about Jesus, Andy? Myth? Good moral teacher, but not God? One of many ways to God? Avatar? Died on a cross but didn’t rise? Your answer will determine your eternal destiny. As I said above, its up to YOU.

          • TGM says:

            “If you don’t believe me and do what I tell you, my buddy, who you cannot see, is going to make your existence miserable.”

            Mark, do you even realize the silliness of your approach? You may not consider it a threat, but it sounds like one to a non-believer. And it’s an empty threat, because you have not mustered any credible reason for anyone to take it seriously. Do you really think this is an appropriate way to shine your light on the world? How very christian of you.

            I can assure you that Andy is unimpressed with the dangers you imply and is doing a nice job of staying civil.

            As for Jesus, who can really say? He could be a lot of things, all at once, but unfortunately, all we know is what people 2000 years ago thought about him. Seriously, don’t you consider it even the least bit peculiar that in this gigantic, ancient universe, the only pathway for you avoid eternal punishment is to believe something extraordinary about one person who existed for a brief time and left scant evidence of himself or his claims?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Most likely an itinerant rabbi about whom many myths have grown. When men of his standing were crucified they were generally simply left on the cross to be eaten by wild animals.

            But you’ve again answered none of my questions; here again:
            So CS Lewis believed that Muslims went to a Muslim heaven? And atheists who don’t accept Jesus as the son of God, but nevertheless WISH that the Christian heaven existed – they’ll all go to heaven anyway? Because that’s what they want, even if it’s not what they believe? In that case there’s no need for them to believe – they’re going to heaven anyway, according to you and Lewis. How did CS Lewis know this, anyway? Or was it just a guess on his part?

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  1. […] crossexamined.org/the-universal-problem-we-dont-want-to-admit/ […]

  2. […] Frank Turek asks, “How do we fix a world filled with murder, rape, betrayal, adultery, fraud, theft, sexual exploitation, pornography, bullying, abortion, terrorism, cheating, lying, child abuse, racism, assault, drugs, robbery, and countless other evils?” He says we may not like the answer. […]

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