It is a shame, certainly, when you call in the carpet guy because you think the carpet he sold you last year has gotten kind of spongy, and he informs you that the actual problem is that your floor joists have been eaten clean through by progressive termites. Don’t you hate that?
In the meantime, the forces of truthiness are trying to reassure you that there is actually nothing wrong with the the carpet at all. In such a situation, normal people might want to think that the alternatives before us consist of arguing with with the pomos about the carpet, or refusing to argue with them about it — but in both instances leaving the floor joists entirely alone.
In this illustration, what are the floor joists? What is it that we have allowed to rot clean through? There are two basic areas, and they are the fact that reason is grounded in the nature and character of the immutable triune God, and that the same thing goes for morality.
We must either accept our ability to reason as an authoritative and axiomatic starting point, considered as a gift from God, or we must resolutely refuse to reason at all. And even that attempt to “not reason” is an attempt at consistency, which is . . . reasonable.
The same thing goes for foundational morality. We must begin with an understanding that a knowledge of right and wrong is simply baked into the conscience. We must function within the constraints of that knowledge, or we must rebel against it. If we rebel against it, and the same thing goes for rebelling against right reason, we are rebelling in a particular direction — which is the Abyss, the Void, the Pit. That way lies damnation.
Let me cite C.S. Lewis on both of these points.
“Unless Reason is an absolute — all is in ruins.”
“Either the maxims of traditional morality must be accepted as axioms of practical reason which neither admit nor require argument to support them and not to ‘see’ which is to have lost human status; or else there are no values at all.”
If, for the sake of some pretended “objectivity,” you divest yourself of all reason and all morality, and attempt to attain to one or the other of those two concepts by epistemic wiggling, you will find that you are not that good a wiggler. You can’t even wiggle off your spot on the floor, and the transcendent truth you need is several trillion light years away.
You need that transcendent truth. You must have it. You cannot function without it, but — and here is the catch — you must have it as a gift. You cannot attain to it. This is a grace. It may be common grace, or it may be part of saving grace, but it is given to pitiful creatures who could in no manner generate such values for themselves.If these realities are several trillion light years away, someone must bring them to us. They must be placed in our hands, and in our hearts. Otherwise we don’t have them.
Sartre put our dilemma well when he said that without an infinite reference point, every finite point is absurd.
So the rational world has footings, and those footings are Christ. The moral world has footings, and those footings are Christ. Right reason is an attribute of God, just like righteousness or love. Practical reason is grounded in the way Jesus reveals the Father.
I keep coming back to this. If Christians want to respond to the insanities unfolding around us daily, we must do it with gospel. But this gospel rests upon certain fixed and objective realities, and if you have compromised on that, it doesn’t matter if you have a brand new “gospel-centered” carpet. The joists are still rotten.