In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul lists some of the positive fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Earlier in Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists some of the negative “works of the flesh”: “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”
To these two lists of moral attributes and characteristics we could add the concepts of truth, honesty, dignity, loyalty, friendliness, honor, humility, dedication, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, humor, flexibility, empathy, forbearance, consideration, self-sacrifice, gratitude, persistence, commitment, discernment, rationality, logical thinking, being organized, being a peace-maker, fairness, generosity, passion…and a number of other distinct and precise words that describe finely differentiated moral characteristics…and that could be expanded further by listing their negative counterparts.
Could we add another 20 more words to describe moral attributes and virtues? Could we list another 50 such words?
Could we compile a long list equal in number to the known elements in the chemistry Periodic Table…as a comparative analogy to the breadth, depth, and wealth of the atomic elements that enables an accurate exploration and comprehension of the natural world?
Modern science tells us that the elements in the Periodic Table are consistently and uniformly present throughout the known universe. The carbon atom…for example…is defined by its exclusively unique number of protons, neutrons, and electrons. No other element can be a carbon atom…and a carbon atom cannot be anything else.
What specifically defines a carbon atom or a hydrogen atom here on earth…also defines a carbon or hydrogen atom on the far side of the universe.
We may over time discover new previously unknown elements…but these will be relatively obscure…because the uniquely defined elements that have fixed numbers of protons, neutrons, and electrons…are already identified and occupy their established, fixed locations in the Periodic Table.
No newly discovered elements will bump the carbon or hydrogen atoms out of their places…because what defines their unique characteristics…is fixed and firmly established.
Modern science can therefore say with relative confidence that we have a nearly complete and exhaustive list of the elements and their defining characteristics…in their exact atomic descriptions in terms of whole numbers…of protons, neutrons, and electrons…because any additional elements that we have not discovered so far…should be within a reasonably close physical reach…accessible to scientific discovery…based upon the general rule of the universality of the elements of the Periodic Table…existing everywhere in the cosmos.
Using the known elements of the complete Periodic Table…we can unravel many of the mysteries of the physical universe…starting at the atomic level.
The incredible human capacity to discover, classify, and organize the elements into the highly specified and coherently integrated Periodic Table…studied by beginning chemistry students worldwide…aligns in parallel with the dual realities of the orderliness and intelligibility of the natural world…which makes advanced scientific investigations possible…which makes our natural world accessible to human comprehension…in a truly marvelous way.
In a similar sense…what other basic and fundamental moral traits are undiscovered still…beyond what we can currently observe, experience, admire, and loath…within the tool-kit of moral reasoning…functionally operative for human beings…that allows us to analyze the life and ministry of Jesus Christ…to determine if His claims to moral perfection are justified…as Savior, Redeemer, King, Judge, and Leader…now and for all eternity?
The mere idea that human beings can adjudicate moral performance at the outer-limits of brilliant pure light, absolute goodness, and perfect virtue as demonstrated in the accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ recorded in the biblical New Testament…renders the gradualistic development component of naturalistic materialism…to be plausibly inadequate…to fall far short as an all-encompassing explanation-of-origin for the richness, diversity, and functional coherence of the broad array of moral concepts and virtuous characteristics.
Why is this important?
When anyone…born-again Christian, Bible college student, Christian theologian, atheist, skeptic, or curious truth-seeker…begins an examination of the perfect and sinless life of Jesus Christ…by doing so they are acknowledging the existence of the very tools…the myriad of sophisticated and varied concepts available that precisely define moral characteristics…that make such an examination possible…a reality that in and of itself argues as compelling evidence for their divine origin.
Without a complete and exhaustive tool-kit of concepts by which to judge moral characteristics…a personal decision for or against accepting Christ as Savior would fall short of being meaningful…would not have all of the richly differentiated choices to support a valid decision…one way or the other.
This would be like a partially incomplete Periodic Table of the elements…inhibiting an accurate investigation of the natural world.
We could not accurately and realistically produce an oil-painting depiction of a rugged seascape shoreline with waves crashing against rocks…or of forest trees, blue skies, brilliant white clouds, and a peaceful lakeshore…using only three colors. To create a masterpiece landscape painting, we need the full palate…the full array…of oil-paint colors.
Like the distinctive and well-defined characteristics of the elements of the Periodic Table…adequate in number and quality to support a scientific investigation of the natural world…that strongly suggests an intelligent designer as their source of origin…the question can also be raised as to who or what is the origin of the wealth of diverse and distinct moral concepts…delineated in the brief list of words given above…that would support our ability to make an informed decision regarding the truth-claims of Jesus Christ to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
For a God-less interpretation of reality to be valid…it would require some reasonable explanation for the creative origin of the extremely complex and nuanced definitions of the many words that describe the advanced moral concepts that human beings use and understand every day…that define the essence of what it means to be human.
The complexity, specificity, and integrated coherence of the life-story of Jesus Christ…in support of His being the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…requiring moral perfection within the context of a human life…not only requires a reasonable explanation for the origin of this remarkable concept…but also by necessity raises humans up into the elevated zone of being able to cast their informed votes…for or against…the placing of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.
The foregoing analysis removes from consideration the gradualistic question of which came first…the chicken or the egg?
The three required categories…the existence of the broad array of moral concepts…our capacity for moral reasoning…and the divinely composed life-script for Jesus Christ…must all be mature and fully developed in-time for the appearance of Jesus Christ into this world…in the first half of the first-century A.D.
In my view, this far surpasses the capacity for an invented, literary fictional Person and life-script for Jesus Christ…and by process of elimination…leaves only a divinely creative origin.
Jesus died on the cross for all of our shortcomings in all of the areas of morality and virtue…listed above.
But this discussion opens the door into a better and fuller understanding of the uniqueness of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ…validating the life of Jesus to be at the top-most point of moral perfection…the topic of the next essay.
From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity.