Value Systems :  The Genesis of Values: A Christian Perspective

Barry Doublestein is President of the newly-formed Institute for Leadership in Medicine. As a not-for-profit institution, their purpose is to train qualified physician-leaders for the medicine.

 

Barry is President of the Osteopathic Institute of the South, an organization dedicated to the training of medical students and Chairman of the Board of Masterworks Foundation, an arts-related institution, focused on training artists from a distinctively-Christian worldview.

 

Barry is also a doctoral student in the School of Leadership Studies at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

 

He can be reached at: barry@mafa.net.


 

There is a great deal of misunderstanding from the non-Christian world as to why Christians believe and, henceforth, respond as they do to the world around them. This paper examines a basic Christian perspective on the genesis of values, for it is through values that people respond. It is important to understand that differing perspectives exist on this issue within Christian circles. A recent Baylor University study mapped four images of God to reveal how Americans’ view their world; especially with respect to their values and their politics. It found that 91.8 percent believe in God, a higher power or a cosmic force. 1 Those who believe in a Critical or a Distant God comprise 40.4 percent of the American population. These people are less likely to draw absolute moral laws, whereas the 54.4 percent who perceive an Authoritarian or a Benevolent God fall into the class that believes in absolute moral truth. 2 It is in this latter group that most mainline Protestants and Evangelical Christians fall.

 

There is a continuum across which these differing views regarding the genesis of values fall. On one side are the secular humanists who believe that man is his own savior, who, with the help of science, will attain self-formation, self-transcendence 3 and self-actualization. 4 The word ‘sin’ is not in their vocabulary and mankind does not need redemption of any sort, rather all he needs is education. 5

 

On the other end of the continuum are Christians; those who believe that man is created in the image of God; the One who proclaims absolute eternal truths. 6 They realize that man has chosen to disobey these truths (sins) and, thus, needs a savior (redemption).

 

While there are many views between these two positions on the continuum, our interest lies mainly with the extremes. In fact, the Christian and the Humanist’s viewpoint are 1800 opposed to each other; and are mutually exclusive, diametrically-opposed system. 7

 

The reader might ask the benefit of a discussion on the genesis of values and to what end it might take him? Nothing could be more important than to know the source of one’s values, for in its understanding one is confronted with the elemental components from which all behaviors arise. Just as one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms form a molecule of water, the elemental components of values will determine its outcome; one’s behavior. In light of this, one cannot identify values without a comprehension of their beginnings.

In order to accomplish this understanding, in separate sections of the paper, we will look at the humanist and the Christian perspectives on the genesis of values, look at how Christians either respond or not to these values, and finish with a short discussion of the importance a solid understanding of the Christian’s perspective is to the leader in today’s society.

 

                                                             Humanist Perspective

 

To the humanist, that which is natural is all that exists. Everything can be explained by natural causes. Kurtz holds that nature may be deeper and broader then is known at this moment, so any new discoveries enlarge the understanding of mankind. 8 This naturalistic perspective combats all forms of authoritarianism in morals and arts, opposes reduction of ethics to mere formalism, and rejects the appeal to any supposed extranatural source of experience, leaving man to stand consciously on his own feet. 9 In fact, Julian Huxley summarizes the humanist’s perspective on naturalism succinctly:

 

I use the word ‘Humanist’ to mean someone who believes that man is just as much a natural phenomenon as an animal or a plant, that his body, his mind, and his soul were not supernaturally created but are all products of evolution, and that he is not under the control or guidance of any supernatural Being or beings, but has to rely on himself and his own powers. 10

 

This naturalistic philosophy leads the humanist to reject supernaturalism and accept that man came into existence through a series of evolutionary processes that will continue. If correct, there can be no absolute truth for it originates from whatever man declares it to be. In fact, Sellars argues that the traditional Christian outlook has been undercut and rendered obsolete by the knowledge about man and his world; 11 not through some absolute truth.

 

If there is no absolute truth, there is no sin. In the humanist world moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics, being autonomous and situational, need no theological or ideological sanction. These ethics stem from human need and interest.12

 

If there is no sin, there is no need for a redeemer. For the humanist, promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans from present concerns, from self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices. 13

 

So what is the supreme aim of mankind for the humanist? According to Lamont, it is “working for the welfare and progress of all humanity in this one and only life, according to the methods of reason, science and democracy.” 14

 

Taking the humanist’s beliefs to its roots, “all knowledge (knowing and known) whether commonsensical or scientific; past or present, or future; is subject to further inquiry, examination, review and revision.” 15 As such, there are no absolutes and values are determined by consensus of a social construct. Thus as knowledge increases, values must change in order to be relevant.

 

                                                             Christian Perspective

                                                                                                           

Christians, on the other hand, believe that God existed from the beginning of time 16 with Jesus Christ, 17 who is part of the Godhead (the triune nature); the foundation for all meaning. He introduces Himself to mankind as: “I am the first and I am the Last, and there is no God besides Me,” 18 and, “I AM WHO I AM.” 19 This is the creator of all things, the One to whom all creation owes its existence. The Christian cannot relegate Nature to the natural; rather he/she sees a supernatural explanation in all things.

 

God created Man in a unique way as compared to the rest of Nature, for He made Man in His own image, 20 with a capacity to create, love, nurture, with the desire to fulfill the Cultural Mandate; 21 to multiply and fill the earth. This is, in a sense, the everyday work and existence of life; marriage, raising a family, the creation of new inventions, the assembly of cars or landscaping. He gave this capacity to all men regardless of their belief in or acceptance of Him.

 

Christians believe that because they are created in the image of God, they have a capacity to recognize and understand truth. It was Augustine who said: “Truth is not individual, but universal; truth did not begin when we were born, it has always existed.22 To the Christian, truth came to mankind in two major forms. The first is through general revelation; which holds that, “...since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that [mankind is] without excuse.”  23 The other form is through special revelation; God’s Word, given to mankind for his benefit: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. 24

 

Since God loved mankind, He gave him the capacity to make choices regarding whether or not to “honor Him as God.” 25Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures,”  26 so “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity [sin].”  27 Mankind had “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator;” 28 the very thing espoused in humanist theory.

 

Because man turned his collective back on God (sinned against Him), He needed to develop a way for man to be redeemed, so that their relationship would be restored.

God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” 28 It was Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (His sacrificial death) that was the only acceptable way for the broken relationship to be restored.

 

Christians desire to live lives worthy of this sacrifice made to restore the relationship between God and man. They do this by discovering God’s standards (values) as revealed in His specific revelation. They desire to live according to these standards for God says; “You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy.”  29

 

To the Christian, the focal point for the genesis of values can be found at the Creation; “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” 30 Shortly thereafter, mankind rebelled against God; touching every part of creation, especially his mind, “which subverts [one’s] ability to understand the world apart from God’s [redemptive power].” 31 This mottled view of the world keeps mankind from truly uncovering God’s values and knowledge. Those who do not believe still function in God’s world, bear His image and are capable of uncovering certain of His values, 32 but their overall system of values will be false for it is not built upon the proper foundation; that being the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Conversion is the end result of personalizing Jesus’ redemption, and promises a new direction to man’s thoughts, actions, beliefs, and ethics; no longer obscured by mottling brought on by sin.

 

 

                                                      Application of Christian Values

 

As we discussed above, Christians desire to live lives that honor the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but sometimes they fall short of God’s expectations or claim that certain practices are being done in the Name of God, when they certainly violate God’s principles. There is a general misconception that Christians who fail to live lives of perfection (read: never violate God’s principles) are nothing more than hypocrites. The process of spiritual growth is not an easy one. Jesus said: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” 33 This means that anyone who desires to be a follower of Christ must crucify his or her desire for success, power, prestige and self-righteousness. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  34 The process is that of a regenerative nature, day-in and day-out.

 

Nancy Pearcey summarizes this spiritual formation process well:

 

We should expect the process of developing a Christian worldview to be a difficult and painful struggle–first inwardly, as we uproot the idols in our own thought life, and then outwardly, as we face the hostility of a fallen and unbelieving world. Our strength for the task must come from spiritual union with Christ, recognizing that suffering is the route to being conformed to Him and remade into His image.35

 

                                 Why Does This Matter to Today’s Organizational Leader?

           

Some Christians are driven by the creed...’do everything as unto the Lord.’ They have absolute values that do not change with time. If they are committed to becoming more like Christ in their everyday lives, they would be excellent and trustworthy employees. Take, for example, the ramifications of an employee who follows Jesus’ statement: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 36 They see the importance of their daily work, regardless of its prestige, for they work for the One who created their ability to work...God. They would be humble before Him, accept His rules, His standards and His plan for their lives by putting their will second and His first. 37 These employees would attempt to apply these practices in every interaction with others. They would give their employer a full day’s work even if they felt that they were underpaid, or they would greet their customers with a cheerful spirit even when they had just been chewed-out by their boss.

 

So what is the bottom line for leaders? They need not fear having Christians in their workplace. When their Christian employees fail to live up to their standards, leaders need to hold them accountable for their shortcomings and be reminded that there is a disconnection with respect to the application and operation of their values. Additionally, leaders would want to empower Christians to live out their values in the workplace. Economist Warren Brookes’ summarizes the benefits quite well:

 

“The spiritual values they celebrate are universal and fundamental, and without them, even the most conceptually efficient economic system will fail. Democracy itself could disappear into tyranny. After all, economic activity is about the adding of value. But in its essence, value is spiritual, the expression of qualities of thought: self-discipline, order, self-respect, honesty, integrity, purity, loyalty, principle, genuine pride, love and respect for others...Societies with strong spiritual values tend to generate economic value and expand. Societies with too materialistic values ultimately fall into disrepair and decay. Those that have tried to abandon religious or theological support for moral values, which are key to self-government, have generally declined into despotic deprivation.” 38

 

                                                                       Endnotes

 

1.         View of God can reveal your values and politics. Baylor University Study. USA Today, September 12, 2006. pg. A-1.

2.         Ibid.

3.         Joas, H. (2000). The Genesis of Values. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. pg. 116.

4.         Maslow’s Theory of Self-actualization

5.         Closson, D. (2002). How Do You Spell Truth? Probe Ministries. http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/spelltru.html. Retrieved: 9/1/06.

6.         Joad, C.E.M. (1955). The Recovery of Belief. London, England: Faber and Faber. pg. 240.

7.         Thompson, B. The Christian Response to Humanism. Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press. pg. 5.

8.         Kurtz, P. (1980). Humanist Manifesto II. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus. pg. 16.

9.         Sellars, R.W., Farber, M., McGill, V.J. “The Quest of Modern Materialism,” in American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, ed. Paul Kurtz, pg. 504.

10.        Huxley, J. as cited in The Best of Humanism, ed. Roger E. Greeley. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1988. pg. 194-5.

11.        Sellars, R.W. (1973). “The Humanist Outlook,” in The Humanist Alternative, ed. Paul Kurtz, Buffalo, NY: Prometheus. pg. 133.

12.        Humanist Manifesto II. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus. pg. 15-17.

13.        Ibid.

14.        Lamont, C. (1982). The Philosophy of Humanism. New York, NY: Frederick Ungar. pg. 145-146.

15.        John Dewey. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dewey. Retrieved: 9/1/06.

16.        Genesis 1:1, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version, Anaheim, CA: Foundation Press.

17.        John 1:1-2, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

18.        Isaiah 44:6, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

19.        Exodus 3:14, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

20.        Genesis 1:27, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

21.        Pearcey, N. (2004). Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. pg. 48.

22.        Clark, G. (1952). A Christian View of Men and Things. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. pg. 321.

23.        Romans 1:20, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

24.        2 Timothy 3:16, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

25.        Romans 1:21, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

26.        Romans 1:22-23, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

27.        Romans 1:24, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

28.        John 3:16-17, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

29.        Leviticus 20:26, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

30.        Genesis 1:31, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

31.        Pearcey, N. (2004). Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. pg. 45.

32.        Ibid. pg. 46.

33.        Luke 9:23, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

34.        Romans 12:2, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

35.        Pearcey, N. (2004). Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. pg. 51.

36.        Luke 5:3, Holy Bible, New American Standard Version

37.        Zigarelli, M. (2000). Faith at Work: Overcoming the Obstacles of Being Like Christ in the Workplace. Chicago, IL: Moody Press. pg. 25.

38.        Brookes, W. “The Key to Well-Being,” The Washington Times, December 25, 1989, p. D-1.

 


Copyright 2006 – Barry Doublestein

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