So much of our morality nowadays is attempting to grade on the curve. At one end of the curve is Mother Theresa and other figures we can imagine, like Danny Devito maybe that represent the selfless giving that is so rarely seen in humans. And at the other side of the spectrum, of course, is Hitler and all the Nazis, maybe Stalin or Osama Bin Laden, and any fictional evil character that comes to mind, like Hannibal the cannibal or “Nature Boy” Rick Flair. And we like to place the rest of us somewhere on the spectrum: not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but no monster either. And, to top it off, we’ve got this mistaken conception that as long as we don’t commit any crimes along the likes of Hitler, we’ll make out pretty good, more or less, in the afterlife. Because, after all, hell (if we choose to believe in hell) is reserved for the worst of the worst (Satan, Hitler, and maybe Weinstein…probably Weinstein). So, heaven must be for everyone else.
The only problem with this grading on the curve that we all participate in is it’s really impractical, not very biblical (if you choose to believe in the bible), and doesn’t make too much sense when you think about it. First of all, if there’s a God (and I’ve got money riding on there is…especially when you consider that there’s more than 4 logical arguments for the existence of God and the only argument the opposition can seem to muster is the problem of evil…which is very problematic in its own right), then it stands to reason that this Creator of mankind is probably the only one that knows how mankind should act morally.
Think about it this way, our morality is how we function with the environment, with each other (and with the Creator)…meaning: our morality is how we properly function, part of our purpose. And assuming that the Creator knows the purpose for which we were created (ie. perfect morality), then only He is the one that could tell us how to function perfectly. The hammer functions to hammer in nails and pull out nails. Yeah, it can beat in a screw or pound a piece of wood kinda flat, but that’s not its intended purpose. Hammering in a screw and pounding in a piece of wood are imperfect purposes: they work, but they won’t work as well as the intended purpose (and we could seriously damage the screw or wood if we use them the wrong way).
Now, in order to know the intended purpose, one has to have some sort of measuring stick or instruction manual that can reveal the purpose. In other words, one would need to know what an imperfect purpose was in order to reveal what an imperfect purpose was. One cannot know what off-white is unless one knows what white is. Plato would call whiteness an eternal form: something we could compare something like it to determine how much like the perfect form it is. Where morality is concerned, God would be that perfect or eternal form. In order to tell humans what is good or bad (white compared to off-white), one would need to know white. Or, in order to tell humans what their imperfect purpose (or morality) is, one would need to know the perfect purpose. We’ve got to have a straight line in order to know what a crooked line is.
Now, suppose you were a creator that created a bunch of little men who could bake cookies really well. What would make you the happiest? If you answered, “to see them bake cookies,” then you got it. I mean, you designed them to be the best durn cookie makers there are. If they don’t bake cookies, that kind of defeats the purpose. But how do you make sure they do what they’re supposed to do? You could implant a chip in their brains where they had no choice but to make cookies. But would that really make them happy? I mean, you created them. You know that what would make them really happy is to bake cookies, but you don’t want to force them to be happy, cause that would kind of defeat the purpose too. So, what do you do?
Well, if you wanted them to be truly free, free to choose to be happy and do what they were designed to do or free to do something else and be miserable, you’d give them the choice. And, knowing little men, you’d probably not want to hang around looking over their shoulder just to make sure they were doing what they were supposed to be doing. You’d give them the ability to find out what their purpose really was. So, maybe you’d just leave a manual lying around that told them what they were designed to do. And if they wanted to read it and follow the instructions and be truly happy, that’s awesome. But the ones that were like really stubborn and wanted to do other things no matter what…maybe you’d put them somewhere else over time. After all, they wouldn’t be happy, and they’d be complaining and annoying and try to do weird stuff they weren’t designed to do, like wax the fish and eat toboggans.
Okay, so long simile short, perfect morality is what God designed humans for and sin is what it’s called when humans attempt to do what they weren’t designed to do. Now, it doesn’t matter what humans do, if they do something that they weren’t designed specifically to do (that perfect morality, white sheet, baking cookies thing), it’s off-white and sin. So, there’s really no curve: it’s pretty much either white or off-white.
But that’s not really something humans like to hear, is it? So, you’re basically saying that everyone is like Hitler? That’s not right. But think about the perfect form idea. There’s the purpose you were designed for and everything else. Yeah, you could be a hammer that was used to tear apart furniture or used to bang open cans of pop or used to bang open the heads of your enemies. Regardless, it’s not the perfect purpose. It’s off-white.
Now, some humans who think they know what their perfect purpose is may want to take this human tendency to compare and contrast things too far. They may start saying that hammering in a screw is okay cause it’s pretty close to the intended purpose. But once you start banging in the heads of your enemies…well, that’s taking it a bit far. But, they’re missing the point. Any purpose that’s not the intended purpose is an imperfect purpose. It may be a lighter shade of white, but it’s still off-white.
So, looking at this from a strictly earthly standpoint, following your intended purpose is a win-win all the way around. But what about after this earthly trial period, when it’s just you and the Creator for eternity? Well, let’s go back to the cookie-baking men. You created these men to bake cookies and be the best at it. But you’ve got one little guy (Jerry), who wants to do his own thing and wax fish all day. Now, he’s pretty miserable and actually he resents you for creating him and making him have a miserable life (not realizing that it’s really Jerry that is making his own life miserable).
Well, after the trial period, you don’t really want Jerry around for all eternity because he’s not doing what you created him for, and he complains a lot and he doesn’t really want to be around you either because he hates you and wishes he was never born. Maybe you should put Jerry somewhere where he’s not gonna bring everyone else down. Plus, it wouldn’t be fair for Jerry to be stuck for all eternity with someone he hates (why, that would be like hell for Jerry). So, maybe you put him in a closet with a bucket of fish and a can of turtle wax and see what happens.
While the ones who wanted to do what they were created for and are really grateful that their creator get to hang with their creator for all eternity, then there’s Jerry, who gets to be in a dark closet with a little light (you’re not a jerk. You give him a night light), and the smell of fish and turtle wax and his constant complaints of “this turtle wax is making me dizzy” and “I hate the smell of fish so much.” And that’s kind of like being in darkness (closet) with fire (night light) and wailing and gnashing of teeth (“This wax is making me dizzy” and “Fish stink!”).
*As with any analogy, this will leave some feeling like it leaves a lot to be desired. Hopefully, it gets its point across in a humorous way.