A New Year Virtue in Every Old Year Vice – Fulfilling Good Needs without a Bad Twist

There’s a virtue buried deep within the vices that we love. Good needs and virtues are often twisted into something more or less than it should be.

God gave you desires and these good gifts get twisted and distorted and buried in the vice. Embedded in the worst of things is a remnant of the best of things (Meyers, Virtue in the Vice). In fact, the vices we love are really God’s good gifts with a twist.

Embedded in pride is the gift of worthiness. You have been created by God and this gives your life intrinsic value. But don’t start believing that you are God. God never intended for you to be God; that’s worthiness with a twist. So many bow down to the God of “Me”, with the ultimate expression of idolatry being atheism. I don’t want God to exist because I am god over my life.

Embedded in envy is the gift of emulation. It is good to imitate a good example. God has especially gifted others to show us the way. But it isn’t good to dislike God’s goodness to someone else and dismiss God’s goodness to me (Ortberg, Love Beyond… 157). Emulation has morphed into envy when that happens. Celebrity worship and the pedestal complex, where we pore over the minutae of the lives of others, breeds discontentment;this need for emulation turns into envy.

Embedded in anger is the gift of passion, a motivation to do something. We’ve all read stories where little, senior ladies lift cars off of trapped people. Anger mixed with fear had something to do with that. We’ve also heard about motorists who kill another motorist for cutting them off in traffic. When we sullenly replay the agitating events of life over and over in our minds…and lash out in some overt act of violence, then it is logical to assume that our God-given passion for justice has mutated into revenge and even rebellion.

Embedded in sloth is the gift of contentment. But contentment with a twist, morphs into a lack of motivation to do anything because my life really doesn’t matter or count for much, or so we think.

Embedded in lust is the gift of intimacy. God has given us each other to be open and vulnerable with, to love and to be loved, and to share our sexuality with another person with whom we will spend our lives. Our craving for intimacy can become so great that we throw off all restraints and totally give ourselves to the pursuit of the human body in consuming lust and we miss intimacy.

Embedded in gluttony is the gift of communion and nourishment. God has given us an appetite that we are to satisfy with food – preferably good food. But the craving for communion and nourishment can easily morph into eating for the wrong reasons in an attempt to satisfy a deeper soul hunger.

Embedded in greed is the gift of stewardship. God has blessed us with so many things to take care of and use for our enjoyment and His glory. But stewardship morphs into greed when we want to hoard these blessings, stockpile them, and pursue them to the exclusion of all else.

Are you feeling worthy or proud? Are you emulating good examples or envying others? Are you angry over the right things? Are you content? Do you know intimacy deeply, or do you settle for lust? Why do you eat what you eat? What are you doing with what you have?

Every New Year virtue you aspire to, comes with an Old Year twist. Watch out for the twists.



Filed under Atheism, Christian Worldview, New Year, Seven Deadly Sins, Sin

9 responses to “A New Year Virtue in Every Old Year Vice – Fulfilling Good Needs without a Bad Twist

  1. >I don’t want God to exist because I am god over my life.

    Such assertions have the same advantages over real arguments that stealing has over work.

    I could just as easily argue that religion is an expression of man’s desire to be more in-the-know than everyone else. In your heart, you know that it’s all fake, and that prayer doesn’t really do anything. You just need to admit it! Why won’t you admit it?

  2. But isn’t it true, that despite evidence, people can choose not to believe something? And isn’t it true that you resist when someone tells you to do something, even though it’s the right thing to do, but you resist simply because they told you to do it?

    See, I believe that we play this elaborate hide-n-seek game with truth. We pretend not to know what we could know because of a moral problem – which is, I want my way. The “I” becomes our god – because no one will tell me what I have to believe or who I have to believe, regardless of the evidence.

    It goes beyond autonomy here – something is wrong in a world where the most perfect human being to ever live, was executed, though totally innocent, and perfectly good. This heart issue must be taken into account. Our hearts are messed up. We just don’t want to be independent – we want to be god, make our own rules, and call the shots.

    Motivations for doing things are always suspect with human nature. Sure, religion may be someone’s attempt to know more, to fake prayer, etc… But, the bottom line is, am I willing to admit and own my tendency to do this… The atheist won’t own it; the true Christian theist will admit it. That’s the difference.

  3. >The atheist won’t own it; the true Christian theist will admit it. That’s the difference.

    You’ve lost me. Could you say that again?

    >But isn’t it true, that despite evidence, people can choose not to believe something?

    Of course. But the logical possibility of intellectual dishonesty does not get you anywhere close to the conclusion that all atheists are intellectually dishonest.

    I fully recognize that you actually believe, and you actually think the evidence supports belief. The existence of sincere belief is consistent with atheism.

    However, your beliefs force you to deny the possibility that I’m for real. If I was, then either an atheist will go to heaven, or God will not care about sincerity and just send me to hell for getting the answer wrong. Theologically, you can deal with neither and are hence forced to deny that I actually think the evidence is against faith.

    The way faith gives you “knowledge” like this is that is so obviously false is an extremely clear example of how religion hijacks logic.

  4. Religion hijacks logic? But atheism won’t even get on the plane to attempt to make the trip. They have already decided that there’s no reason to make it. How logical is this? You seem to be implying that if someone knows something to be true that it’s illogical to share it, lest someone feel “hijacked.” Cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments are not illogical, nor are they intolerant. Knowing something is not an inferior/superior proposition. What matter is whether or not something is true. And, I’m not advocating “religion.”

    Honestly, I do think that atheists “play dumb”. There are some things that we cannot NOT know. We have the basics to know things – right from wrong. Extensive evidence from Natural Law can substantiate what I’m asserting. And if there is natural law, there is a Natural Law Giver. Like I shared with one guy recently: “How did you get this idea of what is right and wrong? You don’t call a line crooked unless you have some idea of what is straight. You’re like C.S. Lewis in a way. As an atheist, his argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. Then it hit him. How did he even get this idea of justice to be able to make that observation? Answer. It was written into us by a Moral Law Giver.”

    Atheist play dumb to this, pretending to be honestly searching, so as to convince everyone that they are being fair, when in reality, there’s an elaborate hide-n-seek game, ironically enough, with themselves. This is not an unfounded proposition. Modern day philosophers have asserted it…

    And Paul teaches it…

    Christian Theists will own this. They understand this kind of game that we play…and they admit it, own it, and de-throne themselves.

  5. >Knowing something is not an inferior/superior proposition. … Honestly, I do think that atheists “play dumb”.

    You believe that your position leads to eternal bliss and mine leads to eternal torment. Because God is just and loving, you necessarily consider this outcome to be just and loving. There is no way around this without a massive superiority complex that makes you believe things like anyone who claims to disagree is lying. Just because you have a certain superstition regarding the origin of an ancient book doesn’t make it true.

    >And, I’m not advocating “religion.”

    You believe in magic. You believe that you talk to God and he talks back. You believe that you have a book that God inspired. You believe that if your mind is in the correct state and you think the right thoughts, that this could result in a tangible change in the world. That sounds like a religion to me…

    >You don’t call a line crooked unless you have some idea of what is straight.

    We also have a concept of smell. Some things smell a little and some things smell a lot. How are we able to contrast various degrees of stench unless there is a Great Cosmic Stinker to give us the concept of Absolute Stench from which to measure? Or should it be the Great Cosmic Perfume from which stenches are bent?

    [Thank you Dawkins for that joke. The God Delusion turned out to be much better than I anticipated.]

    If my sense of morality comes from the Christian God, why do his actions clash with my sense of justice? I don’t suppose my objections to his ordering the genocide of the Midianites can rightly be attributed to my selfishness.

    >Christian Theists will own this. They understand this kind of game that we play…and they admit it, own it, and de-throne themselves.

    … and then claim to now be living above it because they have the Truth. Of course, if the topic is “why do Christians sin” you aren’t above it. But when the topic is “how do we have more love” or “how are we able to believe” this is thinly veiled in theologically-correct language. So spare me the false humility about how bad you would be without Christ. You have him, or at least think you do, so all your self-deprecatory crap is really a statement about how evil everyone else actually is and you aren’t.

    Before you develop some martyr complex, contrast this with “You’re just playing dumb. You don’t really believe something as stupid as Christianity. That’s so crazy, that I don’t even think people can be that foolish. You must be lying about what you believe or else you would have a sub-human intellect.” Had that been my response, I would not even be escalating.

  6. A couple of things…

    I’ve said nothing of my view leading to eternal bliss and your view leading to eternal torment. Besides, hell is chosen, more than being sent there. The trajectory of ones life will continue beyond this life…into another realm of existence. Logically, there has to be a place where people can do life without God should they choose. Hell is that logical, free will possibility. We’re only sent after we’ve chosen it.

    It’s not so much that I see atheists as “lying” as you say, as it is a refusal to see what is visible; it’s not so much that atheists are trying to deceive others as it is an issue of “I refuse to look.” There’s a great curtain drawn, and I refuse to peek through to see what is seeable, though there are thin places for me to do so.

    The sense of smell and the sense of right and wrong are entirely different. We don’t smell justice, but we know it through Natural Law and conscience.

    It’s amazing to me how God would allow the atheistic mass muderers in human history to live, but He does. Such love.

    No false humility here or martyr complex. There is something terribly wrong with the human condition. The Gospel calls on us to see it and then to personally respond.

    If I am my own God and live according to Joeyism, then I want to call Christianity foolish (why? because it has the most substantial worldview and makes the boldest claims with historical evidence); I want to pull the “false humility card” because it lets me off the hook to deal with what I see in my own heart, but am afraid to keep looking; I want to find all the places in the bible that make God “an ogre” because it justifies my hatred (and ironically enough demonstrates that I do know justice after all); I want to caricature a viewpoint as “magic” because then I reduce it to the mythical claims of fairy tale (even though we don’t see one magic flying carpet in the Gospels); I want to create an “us versus them” superiority dichotomy, because then I can enlist others to be with me (because my worldview makes my world so lonely and I was made for community).

    Joeyism sounds really good, except for one thing. It doesn’t work and it doesn’t even come close to answering the deeper questions of life with cohesion…I’ve tried Jeffreyism Jeffrey… for some reason “crap” seems to be the operative word…

  7. >I’ve said nothing of my view leading to eternal bliss and your view leading to eternal torment.

    I’m an atheist, and suppose for the sake of argument that this doesn’t change. Does that not necessarily imply that I am choosing hell, and therefore my position leads to hell? I do understand that hell need not be literal fire, but torment seems like an accurate description of any place that can be metaphorically described as a place of fire.

    A couple times you’ve pointed out that I’ve put words in your mouth about hell. But neither time have you said what you think instead, or even explicitly stated that you don’t believe what I said you believe.

    >I [meaning you] want to find all the places in the bible that make God “an ogre” because it justifies my hatred

    You need to draw a distinction among different uses of God-is-evil arguments.

    The first use is to argue that a God this evil could not exist. I see absolutely no validity in this line of reasoning. God could be so evil that existence is meaningless and this still wouldn’t mean he doesn’t exist.

    A stronger use with a narrower target is to argue that the God of the Bible is inconsistent with himself, evil is one place, and loving in another. While I find this approach to be valid, it’s a tricky argument to make. But I didn’t make it here.

    The argument I made was for a very narrow goal – as a rebuttal to the moral argument for God. In fact, it doesn’t even refute the general moral argument for a god, or the God of the Bible, but only the moral argument when the eventual goal is the God of the Bible.

    The argument is that many of God’s actions are repugnant to my sense of morality. Therefore, wherever morality comes from, whether from a god, from society, or whether it’s an illusion, my sense of morality doesn’t come from the God of the Bible.

    I have to trust my moral instincts to reach the conclusion that morality is real. But these same moral instincts tell me that what God told Moses to do was wrong. Why trust my moral instincts in only the first case?

    Even C. S. Lewis agreed with my reasoning to a point. They way he got around its final conclusion was to implicitly draw a distinction between the God of the Bible and the God of Christianity, through not accepting the inspiration of some parts of the Bible. My argument is sufficiently narrow that Lewis is immune to it.

    “On my view one must apply something of the same sort of explanation to, say, the atrocities (and treacheries) of Joshua. I see the grave danger we run by doing so; but the dangers of believing in a God whom we cannot but regard as evil, and then, in mere terrified flattery calling Him ‘good’ and worshiping Him, is still greater danger. The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of Scriptures is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two. Indeed, only that doctrine renders this worship of Him obligatory or even permissible.” – C. S. Lewis, emphasis added


  8. Correction, I wrote:

    “[The] way he got around its final conclusion was … through not accepting the inspiration of some parts of the Bible.”

    I meant to write:

    “… through not accepting the inerrancy of some parts of the Bible.”

    “Accuracy” or “truth” and many other words weaker than inerrancy could probably also be inserted into the sentence, but these are all disputable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s