The Core Values of GodSeptember 9, 2011
During World War 2, Corrie Ten Boom’s family hid Jews escaping the Nazis. Corrie’s father was a follower of God and could not stand to see the devastatingly cruel way the Jews were being treated. He was caught in the horns of a dilemma though. He also did not believe in lying, even if passively (i.e. withholding the truth). Therefore, when regular sweeps were done by Nazi soldiers, he was sometimes asked if he knew the location of certain Jewish families. On more than one occasion, they asked him about people hiding in his house.
This used to be referred to as “Situational Ethics”. In Situational Ethics, the ethical beliefs are not absolute, but change to match the situation. These kind of ethics are frowned upon by Absolutists who believe you should always tell the truth, always be faithful, always keep to your value systems.
But the Ten Boom family did not have a changing value system. What they had was a Conflict of Values. Though it does not happen often to people with strong moral and ethical convictions, there are times when two or more of a person’s core values come in conflict with each other. That is an awful moment. I think of the movie “Chariots of Fire” where sprinter Eric Liddle is competing in the Olympic Games. He is also a preacher and son of missionaries. A Fast Christian. On the boat to the Olympics in Paris, Liddle learns he must run his first heat on a Sunday, which would violate his belief that one should not violate the Sabbath.
He had a conflict of values: The value of representing King and Country versus the value of keeping one of God’s commandments. This conflict is much different than situational ethics. With situational ethics a person decides whether or not they want to apply their ethical principles in a given situation. With Conflicting Ethics, a person has to decide which ethical value carries more weight than the other.
Liddel was asked by the Prince of Wales if he would honor his King and Country above the Commandment. He chose the commandment. Ten Boom was not asked, but he had to choose between Telling the Truth and rescuing someone oppressed by evil forces. He chose to abandon truth-telling.
The more ethical a person is, the deeper they hold their convictions, the more painful the conflict will be when their values collide. In the Lord of the Rings, Bilbo has to choose between preserving his life and saving all of Middle Earth. Almost every great hero of literature has to choose between two values and decide which one carries more weight.
No one has greater and more consistent core values than God. Therefore, no one has a greater problem in reconciling those moments when God must sacrifice one of those values for another. Let me show you how this works by listing seven of the most prominent core values of God:
1. Free choice for man
2. The Will/plan of God
3. The holiness/justice of God
4. The love of God
6. To create a family for Himself
7. To reveal himself to all creation
As we will see in the articles following this one, God does have several junctures where he has to choose between two core values. We can observe through the Bible and through our experience exactly which ones God has chosen. And because God has all of these values, there must come times when He has to weigh his own value system and choose which ones are weightier.
If you look at the list above, I believe this is the order of weight God places upon each value. This weighted system only exists now that there is a being that can freely choose (man) and did not exist before we were created in exactly the same way. Just so you can see this weighted value system in action, let me mention some very simple points in time when God had to choose between two values.
Creation of Adam and Eve: Adam and Eve were created with the ability to freely choose anything they wanted. God gave them a moral choice in order to test the value the two of them placed on this abillity to choose. They were forbidden to eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. God is a holy God and his holiness is something He wants to see in all the universe (Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven). But a holy God, allowed Adam and Eve to exist as sinners. He allows the Devil to exist as a sinner. Therefore, even though God’s plan is that all creation live in righteousness and stay away from sin, the moment Adam and Eve sinned, God allowed it. If God had not allowed it, sin could not have existed. Therefore the Free Choice of Man is weightier than God’s justice when God has to choose.
Revelation and Truth: We are told in Deuteronomy 29:29 “The hidden things belong to our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” This means that God has a lot more knowledge than he has ever revealed to us. In fact, historic Christianity believes and teaches that God revealed his truth slowly over the centuries after the Flood. This is called Progressive Revelation. Instead of instituting the Cross right after mankind sinned, God brought about a teaching program that included animal sacrifices. He did not let them in on the full truth until much later. Therefore, the plan of God to bring about understanding of Himself with mankind was more important than a full revelation of who God is to all of us.
God has very clear value systems. Next time, we’ll see that God brings all of them together in the Cross without losing any of them. The Cross is the one place in the Universe where all of God’s values were accomplished.