Mockingjay, Morality, and Might makes Right


I saw the new Hunger Games movie last night – Mockingjay Part 1. As usual with the Hunger Games films I left the theatre quite perturbed. The movie deals with an oppressive government that destroys the freedoms of her people; and it features the nobility of a young lady, Katniss, who reluctantly, though inevitably, stands up for justice.

The movie raises an important question: who gets to decide right from wrong?

This is no abstract question – our society wrestles with questions of right and wrong all the time.

For example, the news is on right now even as I write this and CBC is  covering a story in which Michelle, the Duggars mom, has spoken against so-called same-sex marriage. How does a society what is right and wrong?

Isaiah spoke against those who “call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isa 5:20 ESV). In short, he rebuked those who inverted the moral order.

And that is where Mockingjay asks us some penetrating questions about morality.

But the conclusion is actually incredibly simple. John Piper once said that when there is no moral standard, no moral arbitrator, then, necessarily, “might makes right.” Sadly, that is the legacy of Derrida, Foucault, and the other parading pundits of postmodernity with their silly conclusion that “what’s true for you is not always true for me.” Yeah sure. What they are actually saying is what they have been saying for years: “might makes right.”

Think about it. If you give up law that is built on human dignity, ten commandment-type stuff (lex talionis), then morality is determined by the loudest voices, the biggest biceps, and the largest arsenal.

And that is why Hunger Games is so deeply disturbing – it’s meant to be. Yet that is also why It makes such a striking point – because we all know, fundamentally, the difference between right and wrong. It’s in our souls. It’s the strongest argument for the existence of God. And that is why, when the state passes, by majority vote, that black is white and bitter is sweet, there will always be a few Katniss-types who know that you just can’t change what’s really there, no matter how much positive, affirming language you couch it in.

In other words, give me divine-command ethics or no ethics at all. Cuz that’s all you will get otherwise. No real ethics. No real morality – just the morality of muscles, where the biggest ones always win.


Wide Awake in the Free World

Today is Remembrance Day. I slept in for the first time in weeks. I’m writing this now on the bus to the ceremony downtown. I’m very thankful for a day to rest, and remember.

Not everyone got to sleep in on this day in 1918. They woke up, if they slept at all, and went to fight. But this morning I enjoy peace and freedom because they did.

So today is a day to remember those who fought and died for our freedoms. And that is good to remember. We are free. We have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly. In many countries around the world they don’t have those freedoms. Write a cartoon or publish a book and a fatwa is on your head.

One if the wonderful things that Liberalism (classically defined) and Christianity believe in is the freedom of the individual. Freedom of speech. Freedom to vote. My big claim is that this all comes ultimately from the awareness of the image of God on man, the doctrine of the imago dei. As such, we ought to celebrate this freedom, defend it, and fight for it.

Okay bus just pulled up to the service. Got to go remember…

Two lenses on the Gospel

Isn’t it strange that the writers of Scripture can talk about the gospel using such a variety of language? John highlights the way Jesus spoke about “eternal life.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke highlight the way Jesus spoke about “the kingdom of God.” Paul talks about “justification.” So are there three gospels?  Why the difference in language?

The Bible uses multi-faceted language when talking about the gospel because it is important for us to have both a small and large view of the gospel, a zoom-in version and a panoramic version. Let me explain: if you bring together all the different ways the Bible talks about the gospel, you can essentially express the gospel in two ways:

  • God  Man – Christ – Response

The classic expression of the Gospel is that God is holy and righteous. Man has sinned and rebelled against God, thus deserving God’s righteous punishment. Christ, being fully God and fully man, has paid for our punishment and substituted himself for us. Then we have to respond in repentance and faith to what Christ has done to be restored to a right relationship with God. That is the Gospel. It’s our only home. It’s personal. It’s about you and your relationship with God. This, as Matt Chandler would say, is what the gospel looks like on the ground as the Spirit of God converts and transforms individuals.

But there is another way to look at the Gospel. It’s a bigger lens, if you will. The gospel is:

  • Creation – Fall – Redemption – Restoration

This is the message of the entire Bible in a succinct summary. God made the world good. Man rebelled and fell into sin that separated man from God. Though the covenants in the Old Testament and ultimately through the death and resurrection of Christ, God is redeeming the world. Finally, one day all things will be renewed in a new heaven and a new earth. That’s the gospel. That’s the grand story of the Bible. God has decided to transform the universe by the cross of his son. This, as Matt Chandler would say, is what the Gospel looks like from the sky.

The reality is that these two ways to look at the gospel are ways of expressing the one gospel.  So which “lens” do you prefer? If you prefer to look at the gospel from the big lens, remember that this grand story of Scripture from creation to restoration is actually a story that demands a personal, individual response. Likewise, if you prefer to look at the gospel from the “small lens” in what I call the classic expression of the gospel (God-Man-Christ-Response), remember that the gospel needs to be worked out in the rest of your life, not just your private life. The gospel is a message that saves not just individuals, but ultimately the whole creation, and so we need to be about the business of the kingdom of God as we “flesh out” what the gospel means for us not just as individuals, but as a New Covenant people of God and agents of his kingly rule on earth. So then…enjoy!