The Question of Standards
How can a person living in the dawn of the twenty first century believe that the Bible is the Word of God and should be used as a guide for life? There are many ways of answering this question, and we have reviewed some of them in past issues of this journal. One of the more convincing evidences that the Bible is inspired and not the work of man is the fact that it gives mankind a proven, workable, testable, logical standard of conduct that improves the condition of all humans and brings real meaning to life. The last sentence is one that skeptics and atheists do not like to hear and will argue vociferously against. In modern times, we have had a parade of philosophers from Ayn Rand to the secular humanist of the American Humanist Association that have suggested alternatives, all based on the "virtuous nature of mankind." It is easy to show from a historical standpoint that such standards are doomed to failure.
The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson in the early 1820s. Jefferson dreamed of a public college which would have no regulations nor rules. Students of "good report" would be admitted and expected to practice "good will and judgment" that would respect the rights and property of others. The University of Virginia was opened in what Jefferson called the "Grand Experiment" in which democracy and public education were brought together. It is important to notice that this was a faculty and student body that was composed of the "cream of the crop." There were no religious values imposed on the students and no rules concocted by a previous generation that could be construed as an attempt by elders to manipulate, control, or restrict the younger generations. Like Liberal, Missouri--the town established by atheists without churches and without religion (see July/August 1989, Does God Exist?)--the University of Virginia offered an opportunity to see where highly educated, intelligent people would go with a lack of external rules and regulations.
The University of Virginia experiment of the 1820s was a total failure. Students did not go to class, drinking became a major problem, all kinds of offensive sexual conduct was carried on, and violence escalated. One night, 14 students high on alcohol went on a rampage assaulting professors with bricks and canes. The trustees of the University held a special meeting with the 82-year-old Jefferson in attendance. In his speech, Jefferson called the grand experiment "the most painful event of his life" and ended up sitting down in tears of grief unable to finish his speech. The board of trustees then enacted a series of rules and regulations along with a code of conduct that was rigidly enforced.
One might argue that a total lack of rules and regulations are unworkable, but that the Bible is only one of hundreds of other systems which will work equally well. All one has to do to see the fallacy of that argument is to look at what all of the other systems that have been tried on this planet have done. Look at what communism as practiced in Russia, China, or any of the Russian satellites has produced. See what monarchys over the millennia have done to and for their subjects. Consider how women have been treated in Moslem cultures or how science and technology have fared in animalistic ancestor-worship cultures. The skeptic might respond by pointing out the results of the Crusades, the Catholic/Protestant struggles in Ireland and all of Europe, the Ku Klux Klan, or the Mormon killings in the United States. It is true that some horrible things have been done in the name of Christianity, but these atrocities were done in diametric contradiction to the Bible, not in obedience to it.
The Christian standard, unlike all others in the world, puts man in a position of doing service to others with others being first. It also places God as the judge, jury, and punisher--not man. The Christian system rewards love, service, generosity, gentleness, and self-sacrifice. Other systems emphasize "looking after number one," things, control of others, prosperity, land, and sacred people or objects--all of which are just the opposite of what Jesus taught. The contrast between the teachings of Christ and all human systems is dramatic. We are surrounded by a culture trying every standard of successful living except Christianity. The clarity of the superiority of Christ's teachings is astounding, and it is always there for us to see.
Data on Jefferson and the University of Virginia from Imprimus, April, 1997, Vol. 26, Number 4.
--John N. Clayton
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, Nov/Dec97.