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Diagnosis: Life or Death

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Technology--what a wonderful word in today’s society! It brings us great new forms of entertainment, convenience, and, of course, healing. It certainly has constituted a major part of my life while I was a consultant to many hospitals and commercial firms in the area of radiological physics. I can see first hand where advances in technology have made significant contributions to our well-being and happiness. For example, the Nobel prize in medicine was once given to two physicists for inventing the computerized axial tomograph, better known as the CAT scanner. With it, physicians are able to see structures in patients that were previously only visible during invasive surgery. The magnetic resonance imager, or MRI, is not only enhancing the visual presentation to the doctors, but will possibly be able to perform the cell pathology as well.

It does seem a bit strange that with all this advanced technology, the ultimate diagnosis is still made the old fashioned way, by comparing what the doctor sees to what is, by scientific consensus, the normal tissue or structure. That, of course, is the method of all diagnostic procedures--comparison. When we consider all sickness, mental as well as physical, the diagnostic procedure is the same, comparison to a normal standard. However, when we consider moral sickness, the “normal” standard becomes a bit elusive. What is the consensus? Who or what should be used as the standard for diagnosing another person’s moral sickness?

Most people will listen to and then agree with a diagnosis of some medical malady they possess. However, it would be the rare individual who would agree with a diagnosis of moral sickness. His or her first response would probably be, “What about you … you’re no better than I am!” The logic here seems to be that if a person has the same sickness that you have, it disqualifies him from diagnosing that illness. Many capable doctors have or have had cancer! This certainly does not disqualify them from diagnosing cancer. In fact, it probably enhances their perception and understanding of the disease. From the secular point of view it would seem to be difficult to establish a moral standard against which all other moral actions could be weighed. But a standard does exits, the Scriptures solve the problem with the statement, “… be ye holy even as I am Holy.”

God is bold enough to use Himself as the moral standard of the world. When we compare God’s “moral x-ray” to our “moral x-ray,” we see an obvious and marked difference. Perhaps it is this difference that most people cannot accept. “I’m not a bad person. As a matter of fact, I do quite a few good things, so I guess I am really a better person than you think.” This common response is a result of not comparing oneself to the proper or normal moral standard. The only acceptable standard is the Creator of the universe. Compared to Him, we are all very sick morally, and the prognosis is poor.

The realization of moral sickness in the life of a secular humanist is a most difficult procedure to endure. Believing that there are no moral absolutes to be imposed on mankind, they are a moral standard unto themselves. Of course all secular humanists would agree that there are “things” that are right and some “things” that are wrong. These, of course, are really moral things, but the problem is how to adjudicate between them without a standard. Secular law is appealed to for a solution, but what is the source of secular law? Without an exhaustive historical search it is evident that our current secular law has much, if not all, of its origin in moral law, the law of absolute morality of an absolutely holy God. With this standard it is possible to accurately diagnose moral sickness. I am, when judged by the absolute morality of God, obviously deficient in intent and action. Of course I am at liberty to ignore this diagnosis or even acknowledge it but to refuse the required treatment. Just as we must give our permission for secular doctors to treat us, we must give God permission to treat our moral sickness. Many refuse on the basis of their secular, humanistic philosophy, but at least they are being consistent. Some, however, will plead their “goodness.” This is comparable to the patient diagnosed with esophageal cancer claiming that he has really good teeth and magnificent upper body strength. No matter what parts are “good,” the cancer will still proceed to claim its victim.

Moral sickness, or moral cancer if you will, is quite virulent. Its primary site is the heart, and it metastasizes to all other parts of the body. It spreads to the brain, and we think things we should not; it spreads to the eyes and we look upon thing we should not; it spreads to the hands and we touch things we should not; it spreads to the feet and we go where we should not. According to the standard of God’s moral law it is surely fatal. Must we then live in despair and hopelessness? Well, if there is no recourse to a treatment facility with appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic regimes, the answer is a depressing yes. However there is good news!

God has provided a unique treatment for the “cancer” of moral sickness. It is not in radiation, surgery or chemotherapy. Surprisingly the solution is death. No, not your physical death, though that is the inevitable outcome, but the death of another person. God’s atonement for sin is death. One death is required for one sin to achieve a proper atonement. Since we can only die once it would be impossible for us to atone for our many violations of God’s moral law. However, one death for sin would provide a singular atonement. Think of it as an equation with death in the numerator and sin in the denominator. One death; one sin; an atonement. One death; more than one sin; only a fraction of an atonement. The atonement must be whole and able to secure atonement for all people for all time. One death; no sin (that is zero); an infinite atonement (some mathematicians would call the value “undefined” but infinite is just as acceptable). Since the number of people who will ever live is finite, and the number of violations of God’s moral law they commit will also be finite, an infinite atonement will suffice. One only has to agree with God that this substitutionary atonement applies to him, and then put his trust in what God has done in sending His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be the perfect, sinless sacrifice for his sin. The cure is complete and the prognosis is everlasting life.

Related Topics: Spiritual Life, Apologetics