Many years ago I happened to gaze upon the face of a sleeping baby boy. I've seen many infants in the course of my life, but for some reason God decided to grant me an epiphany as I looked at this one. Perceiving his face I felt a then-rare sense of awe steal over me. In the serene visage of a tiny child I was suddenly overcome with a deep recognition of the dignity of a particular human being made in the image of almighty God. The perception only lasted seconds, but I have never forgotten it. That child's face, and the realization of the presence of the divine in it, has been burned into my memory.
In an era when our culture has progressively forgotten God, a sense of the reality of human dignity and the sacred value of human life have become increasingly lost to far too many of us. Without the grounding of human worth in the reality and ultimate worth of the Creator, people become expendable. This is because, apart from God, our existence is increasingly seen as meaningless and, thus, worthless. We see the results of this kind of thinking in everything from the contemporary fetish for violent media to the ongoing attempts to expand legalized abortion "rights" to inexorably climbing suicide rates in the West. Detach human value from divine origin and image-bearing and you are left with a sort of "societal death fetish". This is the terrible trademark of the Post-Judeo-Christian worldview that has gained so much ground in the West during the last few decades.
For this reason it is imperative that we who call ourselves Christians find the time to meditate on the implications of our origins. The truth is that a taste for violence and self-destruction is not unknown even among professed believers today. It is difficult not to wonder if this reflects just how deeply we have allowed ourselves to be influenced by the world that we are in, but not of. In this light perhaps a holy rediscovery of the God-given value of human life must begin in the Church long before we expect to be able to re-introduce it to the surrounding culture.
Such a re-discovery starts with the realization that while all value is derived from something, ultimate value is only derived from Someone. Despite the secular humanist's sometimes strident objections, nothing and no one has intrinsic value apart from God. It does no good to talk about human rights unless there is a transcendent value imputed to human beings that both justifies and delineates those rights. If that value is assigned by human beings, it is being assigned by imperfect creatures whose perceived self-interest, at any given moment, will define what a "right" is for themselves and others and what isn't. Such rights are fluid and will ultimately be changed to fit the temper of the times. We saw what this can lead to in the mass depredations of atheistic political systems during the 20th century, so far the bloodiest in human history.
The only ground for real human moral progress will be found, if it is found at all, in re-centering human value from our profoundly imperfect selves to the perfect Maker of the Universe, the one perfectly revealed by the God-Man, Jesus Christ. Apart from this all that the most well-meaning people hope for in our future is doomed to be lost forever.
As I write these words I find myself wondering what kind of world that precious slumbering baby from years ago is, even now, growing up to inherit.
© Shea Oakley. All Rights Reserved.
Converted from atheism in 1990, Shea Oakley has written over 350 articles for electronic and print publications since 2002, including Disciple Magazine (and Pulpit Helps Magazine),The Christian Herald, The Christian Post, Christian Network and Crosshome.com. In 2003 he graduated from Alliance Theological Seminary with a Certificate of Theological Studies. Shea and his wife Kathleen make their home in West Milford, New Jersey.
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