Mar 1 2009
Jesus was asked to name the "great commandment in the law." His reply lays the foundation for obedience to every commandment from God: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Mat:22:36-38). Adding an essential explanation of true love, Paul declared, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love [charity], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal....Though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing" (1 Cor:13:1-13).
"Science falsely so called" (1 Tim:6:20) has lately decided to debunk human love under the guise of supporting it. "Science" claims to have identified a part of the brain where "lasting love" resides. Scientists have located the same in the brains of swans, voles, and grey foxes. Is it supposed to be an encouragement to a couple who, for example, has been married for 25 or even 50 years to know that there is a "scientific explanation" for what they had thought, all these years, was genuine love? Am I suggesting that if there is a scientific explanation for love, therefore love cannot be genuine? Yes! That raises the question, "What is genuine love?"
Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the language in the DNA molecule, was so enamored with science that he declared in triumph, "You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules."
Does it make one happy to have this epitaph pronounced on what one thought were genuine experiences of joy, altruism, sacrifice, satisfaction, and so forth? Why do I say that a "scientific" explanation of these emotions, which are so real in our lives, pronounces their death?
One is reminded of the man who, every time he went to a friend's home and was offered a drink of water, would throw the contents in the host's or hostess's face. After this happened several times, his bewildered friend said, "Do me a favor and go to a psychiatrist. I'm not going to allow you back into my house until you've been cured of this outrageous habit!"
Hearing that the man had been in intensive psychotherapy for six months, the friend invited him to dinner again. The hostess was a bit wary when she put some water at his place setting, and, sure enough, in the middle of the meal, he suddenly threw the whole glass of water into the hostess's face.
"I've never been so humiliated in my life!" she exclaimed. "This is a new dress. It can only be dry-cleaned and now you've ruined it!"
The apologetic guest explained, "I've been under intensive psychotherapy for six months and the psychiatrist said I was cured!"
"Cured? He must be crazy!"
"I am cured. I used to feel horrible about doing this, but now that he's explained why I do it, I don't feel guilty anymore!"
Psychologists want to create a guilt-free world where no one is ever at fault. Defense attorneys can always plead for their clients, "He couldn't help himself — it's in his genes!" Of course, this is simply a modern version of "The devil made me do it."
This ready excuse clearly does not hold true in everyday living. Leading atheist Richard Dawkins seems bewildered by real life. It doesn't follow the rules according to his understanding of natural selection. For example, in his book The Selfish Gene , Dawkins writes:
Anything that has evolved by natural selection should be selfish....If we find that...human behavior is truly altruistic, then we shall be faced with something puzzling...that needs explaining. 1
"Any thing ?" Things are neither generous nor selfish. Yet a major thesis of Dawkins's first book was that genes are selfish. 2
Why does Dawkins say "if"? Can he possibly be ignorant of the well-known fact that there are thousands of examples of altruistic behavior on the part of humans? Quite a number of them even illustrate what Jesus referred to when He said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John:15:13). Consider the following example, which is only one out of many:
President Bush awarded the military's highest honor to a 19-year-old soldier who was killed in Iraq after falling on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers. Private Tom McGinnis, of Knox, Pa., was killed in a Baghdad neighborhood on Dec. 4, 2006, when a grenade was thrown into the gunner's hatch of the Humvee in which he was riding....Private McGinnis had enough time to jump out and save himself but instead dropped into the hatch and covered the grenade with his own body, absorbing the fragments. He was killed instantly. All four crew members were saved. 3
History records many such acts of self-sacrific, including quite a number of them in recent years. Dawkins has "explained" none of them. Certainly none of the heroes was controlled by "selfish genes."
We know by experience that human behavior is not consistent. One can be very generous today and much the other way tomorrow. That fact explains why the booming and lucrative psychology industry was doomed before it began. It is impossible to make a science of human behavior. Why? Because the subject of the experiment is hopping about capriciously with a free will, and one never knows what it might do next! If human behavior could be explained "scientifically," we would no longer be humans but stimulus-response mechanisms.
Of course, that would make atheists happy. If there were no soul and spirit, no free will, and if nothing but matter existed, then human behavior would have to be covered by scientific laws. That would destroy man as God made him and as our experience and intuition tell us we are. Gone would be free will and everything else that makes man a moral agent. We all intuitively know that human behavior cannot be explained by what one's genes may be doing, yet this is the "hope" of atheists, who of necessity deny free will.
No wonder the atheist flounders badly. He finds his ship sinking, and he can't bail out the water fast enough to keep it afloat. As the other psychiatrist in the film What About Bob? remarked as he turned his former patient over to Dr. Leo Marvin, "We're a dying breed, Leo!" In spite of this fact, the number of psychology's victims continues to grow.
Psychologists and psychiatrists have struggled for years to have their profession recognized as a science, apparently unaware that if their ambition were fulfilled with a general acceptance of this wish, man would no longer be the free-will agent that God created him to be.
Atheist Sam Harris, one of the leaders, like Dawkins, in the New Atheist movement, tries to sound authoritative but fails miserably:
While we do not have anything like a final, scientific understanding of human morality, it seems safe to say that raping and killing our neighbors is not one of its primary constituents. Everything about human experience suggests that love is more conducive to happiness than hate is. This is an objective claim about the human mind, about the dynamics of social relations, and about the moral order of our world. It is clearly possible to say that someone like Hitler was wrong in moral terms without reference to scripture. 4
Moral order of our world? What is that, and who decides what it should be? Is it in our genes or in our conscience — and why? What is the conscience? Groping for a psychological, and thus presumably "scientific," explanation, atheists speak of "love" in purely utilitarian terms. What would be the relationship of love between an engaged couple or husband and wife or mother and child if each party were only interested in one's own happiness? The initial "happiness" would degenerate (as it so often does) into quarreling over who was not being fair with whom.
Researchers at Stony Brook University in New York...scanning the brains of people who have been together for 20 years...found that about one in 10 couples still display elements of "limerence," the psychologists' term for the obsessive behavior of new lovers....Scientists call them swans (swans mate for life).... Arthur Aron, leader of the researchers...and his team have established a biological basis for romance...hav[ing] found identical brain patterns in lovers from New York to Beijing. Unromantically, they say love is born in the brain's reward-seeking circuitry, not the heart, but we are no worse off for that. Love matters. 5
The Bible states quite clearly, and our common sense agrees, that the heart is the appropriate term to use when speaking of love. This has been the intuition of mankind from the beginning. I can still remember when a young man would carve his initials in a tree, place a plus sign with his girlfriend's initials just beneath, then surround the whole thing with a heart. As long as Valentine cards have been sent, the heart has always been a symbol of true love. And now, "researchers" tell us that for all of these centuries men and women have been victims of a cruel hoax: it's not the heart that matters but certain concentrations of molecules in various parts of the body. According to this new view from "science," it doesn't really matter.
If that is the case, then the Bible is wrong. If the psychologists are right, then why would God command that "Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart , with all thy soul , and with all thy might"? (Deut 6:5). Why did Paul declare, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved"? (Rom:10:9). Of course, by "heart" the Bible signifies "sincerity," and this has always been the common understanding of mankind.
An article in Science Daily (9/8/08) tells us that scientists at Karolinska Institute [outside Stockholm, Sweden] claim to have found a link between a specific gene variant and the way men bond or don't bond to their partners. Then they admit that the effect is relatively modest and cannot be used to predict future behavior with any real accuracy.
Why would anyone pursue research in something that will have no predictive value? Clearly, the research has no other purpose behind it than to prove somehow that God is not needed to explain human behavior — or really anything else. Yet scientists all over the world persist in trying to catch this will-o'-the-wisp of a scientific explanation for human behavior. And when they think they've caught it, they find they really have nothing. Having gone to all the effort of locating a "specific gene variant" that "explains" romance and love, we're told that its predictive powers aren't really that accurate or significant. In other words, the researchers have wasted their time and ours because of their desire to prove that there is no God. One could liken this experience to the discovery by a sculptor that the huge stone he'd been carefully carving and polishing was not marble after all but ordinary fieldstone.
These "scientists" are trying so hard to support their atheistic view of man that they overstate their case. It has been the common opinion in every generation that the greatest movies, operas, music, and poetry have one thing in common: they are all claiming, though in a variety of ways, that love is the greatest experience one could have. Who would dare to argue with that?
There are problems, however. "Love" can quickly turn to hate. This fact is demonstrated more clearly every day as the divorce rate climbs ever higher. A young couple stands before witnesses and swears their undying love "till death do us part." Six years — or it could be six months, or in some cases, six weeks or even six days — what each party had thought was genuine, lasting love has turned to quarreling, accusations, bitterness, and in some cases, even threats of violence. That pledge, "till death do us part," becomes worse than empty. How is this possible?
Will the answer to this enigma be found in the genes or somewhere in the brain? On the contrary, the answer is not found in any part of the anatomy but in the soul and spirit and will. Perhaps each one thought that the pledge of lasting love they gave to one another would never grow cold, much less turn to hatred. They discover that true love is not just a passing emotion; it involves a commitment for life. If those who later develop what the world calls "marital problems" honestly examined their hearts, they might be forced to confess that they had never really intended to establish an unbreakable bond.
Not just Valentine cards that come from mankind's common understanding, but the Bible itself has much to say about the heart. Jeremiah tells us that the " heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." David, in Psalm 139, says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart ." Proverbs commands, "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart ...;" Luke:8:15 tells us, "On the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart , having heard the word, keep [it], and bring forth fruit with patience"; and Luke writes in Acts:2:37: "Now when they heard [this], they were pricked in their heart , and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men [and] brethren, what shall we do?"
To answer the question, "What is true love?" the last place we should look is to psychologists. They are very good at explaining love away by giving us a psychological definition but very short on what we need to know. We need rather to consult God's Word. True love comes only from God, as we yield to Him and allow Him to pour His love through us to others. "We love him, because he first loved us," (1 Jn:4:19); "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins" (1 John:4:10).
None of us is the wellspring of love. We are at best empty vessels that He can fill with His love and make us conduits of that love to others. Many of us are too full of ourselves to have any room left for loving God or genuinely loving others. It doesn't have to be this way. We can make it a continual prayer: "Lord, help me to love You with all of my heart, mind, and soul. Then pour Your love through me to others."
True love is God's love and is described like this:
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love [is] strong as death; jealousy [is] cruel as the grave: the coals thereof [are] coals of fire, [which hath a] most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if [a] man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned [rejected with disdain]. (Song:8:6-7) TBC
[ To be continued ]
- Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 4.
- Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2006), 24.