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The power of gracious living

A young woman jumping in the air with joy in a field of green against a bright blue sky (Credit: Marcy Kellar via Flickr)In his recent column for the New York Times titled "The Structure of Gratitude", David Brooks offers his thoughts on the relationship between expectations and gratitude. He describes how, for example, he is often happier in a cheap motel because his expectations are lower and amenities that seem common place in nicer hotels become pleasant surprises in more economic accommodations. Brooks concludes that "Gratitude happens when some kindness exceeds expectations, when it is undeserved. Gratitude is a sort of laughter of the heart that comes about after some surprising kindness."

To that end, he argues that there are really two kinds of people when it comes to gratitude: those who express thanks when they feel it is deserved and those who seem to be "grateful dispositionally." The latter consists of individuals that do not take the good things in life for granted, never reaching the point where they feel entitled to life's blessings.

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Millennials: why the selfie?

A young woman  takes a selfie with friends and blossoming cherry trees in the background in the spring of 2014 in Stockholm, Sweden, April 15, 2014 (Credit: Patrik Nygren via Flickr)On a recent trip to San Francisco with my wife we laughed as we kept trying to frame our selfie with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.  Was it enough of the bridge?  How did we look?  Bike helmets on or off?  What was interesting was we were surrounded by hundreds of other tourists that were all doing the same thing.  We all would have been happy to take each other's picture for the opportunity of them then taking ours.  But, no!  We all sat on the same stone wall, arms outstretched, fumbling with which button to push to take our own selfie picture…why do we do this?  Why the selfie?  And why have they become the force majeure behind self-expression for the millennial generation?

For clarification, a selfie is a self-portrait picture (usually with others alongside) taken using a smartphone or webcam and then uploaded to social media.  But selfies aren't new.  People took selfies of their handprints millions of years ago using charcoal dust on the walls of their caves.  Vincent van Gogh painted his famous selfie before taking the time to cut off his ear.  And of course, Ellen DeGeneres and friends broke the internet with their selfie from the Oscars that was seen and re-tweeted by millions of people.

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What makes something moral?

In a recent New York Times opinion piece titled "Can Moral Disputes Be Resolved," Dr. Alex Rosenberg of Duke University seeks to answer the question of why it seems so difficult to find a decisive answer for many moral disagreements. He argues that religion would offer a helpful solution if everyone believed the same thing. However, that is clearly not the case and he thus discounts faith as a viable solution.

Rosenberg goes on to cite Plato's question of whether an action is moral because God commands it or if God commands it because it's moral as further demonstration of why faith is an inadequate source of definitive moral authority. He claims that most people believe the latter of those options, where morality is not determined by God but rather prescribed by him. That view results more in a sense of security for our moral beliefs than an explanation for why they are correct. Thus, he concludes that "religion may tend to enforce a certain morality, but it certainly can't show it's right."

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Love and marriage: infidelity and cohabitation

Young couple holding broken heart (Credit: WavebreakMediaMicro via Fotolia)Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, or so Frank Sinatra crooned in his 1955 hit. This relationship between love and marriage was ironically twisted in the 1987 sitcom, Married with Children. Serving as the intro music to the show, the Bundy marriage was more of prison saturated in regret than a house permeated with love.  For the sake of the show, Al and Peggy stayed together and were relatively faithful to one another. But the age-old axiom holds true in this situation: you can't believe everything you see on TV.

The Bundys would be an outlier in 2015, where infidelity is rampant, open marriage is a viable option, and co-habitation is a modern remedy to the "archaic institution" of marriage. We live and move in a type of sexual revolution in 2015. It is believed that sex sells things, completes individuals, and solves every problem according to 50 Shades of Grey.

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I wish I could affirm homosexuality, but can't

Sir Ian McKellan at The Gay Pride Parade in New York City after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages (Credit: AP Images/Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx)I want to affirm homosexuality. I really do. I want to tell people that have struggled their entire lives with the feeling that they were attracted to someone of the same gender that it's alright to embrace those emotions. That it's alright to live the life that feels most right to you. I want to say the same to the people that feel like they were born into the wrong bodies. I want to tell them that the surgeries and the hormone therapies will make their lives better and allow them to find the peace and sense of belonging that they want so badly. I want to say all of those things and I think every Christian should.

But I can't. We can't. At least, not unless someone can show us how our understanding of God's word is wrong. Personally, there's a part of me that hopes it is. There's a part of me that wants to be misunderstanding Paul when he calls such behavior unnatural in Romans 1. And there's a part of me that wants the prohibitions in Leviticus 18 and elsewhere to be contextually limited to that time and no longer relevant today. I've spent a lot of time researching and studying the subject hoping to find convincing, God-inspired evidence that that is the case. However, with every book, every prayer, and every minute spent in God's word seeking guidance, I simply become more and more convinced that the scriptures are clear on this subject and that acting on a homosexual orientation is against God's will.

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