Morality & Beauty
by Ravi Zacharias & Vince Vitale
I am sitting in a plane, writing this on a flight between Seoul and Atlanta. I have entered the skies of the United States. It is about six a.m., and as I look out the window I see a spectacular sunrise. The clouds below are soft and almost appear like marshmallows. Oscar Wilde remarked that while I may be in awe of its splendor, the sunrise cannot return the compliment to the viewer. It is the person who frames such realities of beauty. Beauty as an abstraction does not revel in itself. But I move to a higher plane and think of how a poet would respond to such splendor. And then I ask myself, have I ever read poetry that no poet had written? Have I ever heard a song that no singer had sung or instrument played? Had I ever read a book that no author had ever written? Have I ever been loved when there was no one behind that love?
To be sure, the atheist can also enjoy the sunrise. But the atheist stops at the door of beauty or goodness with no one behind that beauty and goodness. It is the ultimate dead end of an idea and decapitates the cause behind the creation and the one who is in awe. Personhood and genius are destroyed at the doorstep of ideas. It is natural to see a painting and look for the signature, to read a book and look for the author, to see a war and ask who started it, to see a grave and ask who is buried, to see a baby and ask who are the parents. The intrinsic and creative or destructive worth of a person.
The atheist in fact talks of the true, the good and the beautiful, but never asks why we admire or pursue such categories. These are ideas by which we judge everything, as Mortimer Adler points out. The same applies for liberty, equality and justice. These are ideas by which we seek to live. Wars are fought over them. Books are written because of them. If such categories exist, which of the worldviews is able to explain them or justify or sustain them? Atheism simply cannot do it. To be sure, it has been tried. Sam Harris writes on it in The Moral Landscape, as does Stephen Hawking in The Grand Design. But, alas, there is no designer and there is no objective moral lawgiver. We make laws and claim credit. We design beauty and claim the credit. But is the backdrop of these categories free from necessary connections? The counterintuitive conclusions are indefensible. We will write books that can break up lives and defend freedom, but we deny God that same prerogative. We cannot restore life. He can. We do not have infinite knowledge. He does.
Ideals matter. They all matter because of eternity and because of the character of God. Eternity, morality, and next, accountability.
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