Friday, January 16, 2015

Every 30 seconds...

So, have you ever been sad and just wanted someone to be sad with you? Like not preach at you or try and cheer you up, but just kind of "be" with you? Like exist together under your gray cloud so you can fully feel everything you need to feel before deciding enough's enough and getting up and doing something about it? I felt that way a bit tonight and so I turned to Ecclesiastes because I knew Solomon would deliver on the "hanging-out-depressed-together" thing. And of course, what always happens when I read the Word happened: a verse popped out at me as if I had never read it before...

"For with much wisdom is much sorrow;
as knowledge increases, grief increases." (1:18)

I was able to kind of pinpoint where some of my sadness was coming from through it. If you didn't know already, working in the pro-life/abortion industry is hard on daily basis, because it it tears at your emotions and constantly brings the worst of the world before your eyes. You help women that are victims of rape or human trafficking, parents forcing daughters to kill their unborn grandchildren, married men forcing the other woman they got pregnant to get an abortion because they don't want any "evidence" around of their misdeeds (or married women wanting to get rid of the evidence of their own adultery), women with various addictions knowing they are not in the right state of mind to adequately parent, women that are homeless and don't want to bring a child into the world they can't give a safe home to, and a million other scenarios that are just as difficult. I read hundreds of client cases of women being forced into abortion and their situations just break my heart.

In pro-life ministry, you have these super highs with lives saved, but they are always coupled with super lows. We grieve so deeply for people we may have never met that are touched by abortion, and unborn children that will never see the light of day. You have to be called to this ministry, and oftentimes I question God on whether I am strong enough for it. You know you are making a difference with each life saved, but then you wonder if you will ever do enough to stop the thousands being slaughtered everyday, and you tend to get discouraged a lot, (so please remember to pray for  OFL as well as those working in pregnancy centers across the country).

You keep going though, because the alternative is unacceptable to you. You now know the truth, and you can't forget the names and the stories, and the fact that 3500 people are being murdered everyday. We are all in shock at what happened in Nigeria, over 2000 in one massacre, and rightly, we should be. It's a horrible and unspeakable evil. Yet no one blinks an eye (including the American church) at the 3500 a day being massacred daily in the US alone. Why is that? I honestly believe it has to do with the fact that no one is broadcasting about it. And if no one knows, why should we expect them to do anything about it?

About every 30 seconds a life is lost through the practice of abortion in the US. Can you imagine if a beep went off country-wide, every 30 seconds, all day long, to denote that a life has been snuffed out through abortion? It would constantly interrupt your day. You definitely wouldn't be able to sleep.  You think then someone might decide it's time to take action? I would hope so. Even if it's just to make the endless beeping stop, I'd take it! The problem however does not lie with the fact that we don't have people with the power to stop the beeping.

The problem is that no one is beeping. No one with a really loud voice is speaking for the voiceless. I wonder what would happen if a really famous person tweeted the hashtag "beep" every 30 seconds on January 22, the anniversary of Roe V. Wade?  The point is that we need more people with public platforms speaking out against and about abortion, using logic and love to make their case. As Brian Fisher, CEO of Online for Life, writes in his new book, Deliver Us From Abortion, "Ignorance about abortion may be bliss, but it's also fatal." You see, Solomon knew that knowledge about the world would bring grief and sorrow, because once you know the truth of how devastating evil really is, it brings a weight and responsibility into your life you never had before. You can no longer live in in blissful ignorance once you understand what 3500 babies a day means. 

Proverbs 24:11-12 states, "Rescue those being led away to death, hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?" 

If you have read this blog, you now know, and you are responsible for that knowledge. Take on as your own the pain and sorrow of those who are affected by abortion. Let it grieve you to the point where you decide to finally speak for those whose speech has been silenced. During the Nazi Holocaust, the Christians at the time simply sang their hymns louder to drown out the sound of the trains clattering by their church that were carrying the Jews to the concentration camps. Do not be like them. Know about the issue, grieve about the issue, then get up and do something about it. Basically...

... stop singing and start beeping instead.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blogging Thru the Bible: Genesis 1

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Welp, that’s all you need to know here. Moving on…

Just kidding. Well, partly. Of course there is so much richness to Genesis 1:1-25, and it’s all valuable for study. But considering this is a blog, and there are many who have written enormous tomes and endeavored to explain the Creation account, I am not going to focus on it here. However, here are the key facts: God created everything. Look around you, everything you see, God created. The trees? God. The beach (i.e. heaven on earth)? God. Your dog Scooby? God. God. God. God. God. Goooooooooooddddddddd. The point is that no matter how you interpret Genesis chapter one, the point is that God created everything. We are not here by chance, the universe is not a product of a random[1] big bang, and we did not evolve from a lower species. The universe is finely-tuned[2], and the earth is placed in the perfect location to sustain life[3]. These things happening by chance are basically mathematical impossibilities. He is the Alpha, the eternal God that preexisted everything that is. He is the First Cause[4] of all there is. He created the heavens, the earth, and all the living things contained therein with purpose, including (and especially) you and me.[5]

Genesis 1:26-27 states,
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’… So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” HCSB

Um, what? We are made in God’s image? Why does it say “Our”? Hang on, I am getting there…

Yes, we are made in God’s image. But what does that even mean? It’s not like we are walking around healing people or creating things ex-nihilo[6]. We are not exact copies of God, meaning we were given all His power. We were made in His likeness, meaning we are finite versions of what God is like. This is how we are different from Jesus. Jesus wasn’t simply “like” God, He was God. 

So how are we like God?

1.  We are beings created with the need for relationship because God is a being in communion with Himself. That is what the Trinity is, three persons in one nature, all in relationship with each other. Man was not created to be alone; he needs his fellow man (or woman if you know what I mean… bowchickawowow). This is embedded in who God is, for He is not an absolute monotheistic deity like Allah is described to be, but a compound monotheistic deity. He is One, but He is also three. That’s why Genesis chapter one, verses 26 and 27 say, “Let US make man in OUR image”. There is a plurality to the unity that is God.  This is why our souls crave a relationship with the divine, because God has been in a relationship with Himself for all this time. So it’s natural for us to desire it since we are made in His image. And you can see evidence of it throughout history, I mean, how do you think religion started? It’s man reaching out for some interaction with the Divine. This is also why we crave relationship with others – because we want the perfect agape love that exists between the Father and the Son, but unfortunately we can’t attain that level of love for each other as human beings, so we settle for the highest care we can possibly achieve toward one another. This is why true satisfaction can only be attained through a relationship with God alone.

2.  We are beings created with an innate sense of absolutes, especially truth and morality. God is absolute, meaning that what He says goes, and it goes for all times, and in all places. God does not change and so if morality and truth flow from Him, they cannot change either. What is good has always been right, and what is evil has always been wrong. People will deny that there is an absolute sense of right and wrong across the board, but as CS Lewis states in his book Mere Christianity, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” Meaning you can’t call something evil or “bad” unless you know what good is, or what is supposed to be, to measure it against. Besides morality, truth is one of those things that we just somehow recognize as well. When we say “That makes sense”, exactly what sense are we appealing to? One inheritance we received from God when He created us was His sense of logic. Like morality, logic flows from God. Things are done with purpose, methodically, and in order. Have you ever finally figured out a math problem and felt profound relief that it was finally correct? Our heart and mind recognize truth, because we realize it is what is real. Truth is that which corresponds to reality so when we find it, it just simply sits right with us. (This of course, is assuming you live in reality with the rest of us. Some don’t and therefore their gauge is broken and should not be trusted.)

Chapter one ends with God saying, “Hey, go have some fun making a bunch of mini-humans that will grow up someday to inhabit and rule the earth.”

“Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31, NKJV

Application: You were created with purpose, in the image of the one true God, and to be satisfied by a relationship with Christ alone,(John 14:6). You have a high calling to live up to your innate sense of morality and truth, as well as train your children up in the same way. Be fruitful and multiply, but do not forget to equip them, and others, as well.

[1] The universe shows signs of an explosive beginning, so a type of “big bang” occurred.  However, it was not “random”, but God-ordained instead.
[5] Psalm 139:16
[6] Latin for “Out of nothing”

Blogging Thru the Bible: Intro

This is the introduction (Genesis 1 to follow in its own post) of many blog-posts in a series entitled, “Blogging Thru the Bible”. As a professional Apologist, I have spent many years in classrooms, or with my nose stuck in books, studying the (or about the) Bible. I have a degree in Biblical Studies. I grew up not just in church, but in ministry, and have read the Bible many times over, cover to cover. I have heard men like Calvary Chapel founder and my lifelong pastor, Chuck Smith, teach through EVERY book of the Bible, and written copious notes on each word. I have so many Bible facts in my head that I am quite difficult to beat at Bible trivia. But you know what? It’s not enough. I can never get enough of God’s Word. And I’m not saying that to be all “spiritual”…

What I am trying to explain is that God’s Word is so thirst-quenching and soul-satisfying, so deep and so profound, that I could be Billy Graham and I will still never have enough. No one ever will. Because it’s the Almighty God’s actual words to us and that is something that cannot be measured or have us be full of. The infinite can never be fully-encased in the finite; there will always be MORE to be found. Which, thank goodness for that, for if I could comprehend it all, it wouldn’t be from the Supreme Creator of the universe.

Now this is not to say that there will be variant readings or some secret, hidden meaning in the text that no one has ever thought of before. What it does mean is that you will get something fresh from it every time - not new, but fresh. Meaning it could be something you already know, but that timeless truth will become satisfying in a whole new way, and it can change your life all over again. This is what I hope to accomplish for myself and all my readers – to give us a refreshing look at what God has to say to us all over again. I plan to go through the Bible chronologically, historically, apologetically, and theologically; simply because that’s how I am wired. I like order, and I like evidence. But I also like story and God’s character, so that will be in there as well.  

I hope you come on his journey with me, with open hearts and minds, ready to hear what the Lord has to teach us in the next year, (at least!  I tend to get longwinded when I am passionate!). I am in need of this myself, to fall in love with the Lord all over again in a deeper way, and so here is my way of forcing myself to be diligent and work on my own personal study of God’s Word. So let us go back to the start, and see what the great Author has for us, beginning in Genesis chapter 1...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Shake It Off

I love music. I always have. When I was a kid I used to want to be a rock star like Jem, (which is a dead giveaway as to my age bracket). Not only do I love “doing” music (singing, dancing, and playing guitar), but I love music for a whole other reason.  Because in certain seasons of my life, it has truly had wholly other qualities for me. There is something to be said for the healing power of music. Or the fact that it can bring certain emotions to the surface that you were sure you had buried deep within.  This is why there is an entire Academy Award section for music, soundtrack, and mixing. Without it, some movies would be utterly ridiculous and would not get the emotions the makers of said movies were hoping to elicit.  Star Wars has one of the most epic soundtracks ever (duh, John Williams aka musical genius at work) and without the music, the end scene is seriously cheese-ball and just plain lame sauce… (See HuffPost article with video here). 

My life was insane for a while and music was put on the back burner. In the last few years, which have been the most difficult of my life, my love for music has been reborn, from classical (Piano Guys), to country (Brad Paisley’s Time Well Wasted) to modern pop-culture guilty pleasures. This blog-post was inspired by the fact that I was having one of my occasional dance parties, for one, in my bedroom, at midnight, when I realized that I only get the itch to start dancing around my room to my iPod when I have had a particularly stressful day/week and literally need to “shake it off”.  Of course, Taylor Swift’s latest single is number one on my guilty pleasures playlist now.  WHY IS THAT DARN SONG SO STINKIN CATCHY??? You all know what I am talking about, don’t deny it. Anyways, I also realized tonight why it, specifically, resonates with me so much.

First, it’s from an album titled 1989, which is right around the time I was actually discovering music for the first time as a kid. As a good Christian girl, I was only allowed to listen to Amy Grant, so you know what that means baby… baby… I’m taken with the notion… Sorry… I got distracted for a second there… where was I? Oh yes. I was reared on such classic albums as Heart in Motion and Unguarded. In a moment of kismet, Amy’s song, “Love of Another Kind” was shuffled (ahem) into line immediately following “Shake It Off”. They both have that distinguishable quick kick-drum beat right off the bat, because that was the thing in late 80’s music. If this was Taylor’s way of broadening her appeal to 30-somethings instead of just teens, she definitely hit her target demographic (if you don't believe me, click here!). I realized in that moment exactly why it appealed to me so much.

However, it’s not just the beat and the catchy tune that gets me dancing like no one is watching (and thankfully no one actually is because I am a serious white girl and it’s just as cringe-worthy as the way Taylor dances in the actual video). It’s the idea of literally shaking off all the stress and hurt that days in my life often bring. Having been in multiple ministries your entire life, you kind of get used to a certain amount of spiritual warfare and attack on a daily basis. When you spend the majority of your time on the frontlines, however, it starts to get hard to ignore. In my case, I might as well walk around with a giant bullseye on my back because there are quite a few reasons why Satan probably hates me.  But besides that, people in ministry tend to walk around feeling as though the weight of the world is on their shoulders. Which it probably is, since we often grieve for the state of mankind on a worldwide scale.

Taylor’s song reminds me of that verse in Matthew 10 where Jesus tells his disciples, “Hey, like do the best you can, but dudes, seriously, if you fail to get through to someone, just shake the dust off your feet and move on.” (Valley Girl paraphrase of verse 14).  I get my fair share of discouragement everyday because for every baby we save, there are tons more that I read about that don’t get the chance at life. I didn’t realize until recently how much that affected my spirit and mood. I get so focused on my anger at the mothers and fathers for deciding to abort for various selfish reasons that I don’t realize at the same time that I am shoving down the grief of that lost baby, and story after story can get to you after a while (especially if you are a mother because having even just one kid gives you that "mom to every kid in the world" mindset).  The thing is that the Lord realizes we can’t save everyone and He never expected us to. We just need to be available and do what we can, and let Him take care of the rest. And, we need to find some way to be okay with that. 

So, if you are in ministry, or just have stress in your life, I encourage you to find your way to “shake it off”. It will make you a better minister, leader, and servant to occasionally release all that stress and remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing in the first place. Don't let Satan immobilize you with attacks, whether they be emotional, spiritual, physical, etc... Keep cruisin, don't stop moving, it's gonna be alright, cause the haters gonna hate, hate hate, hate, hate... just shake it off, shake it off... Ok, ok. I will stop now...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Be Still and...


You weren't expecting that, were you? You thought I was going to finish that very famous psalm the right way. But no. And it's not because I forgot the rest of it either. You see, it's my life verse, so it's basically burned into my brain. Some people scoff at the idea of having a "life verse" but I can tell you that this verse has been supernaturally infused into my life from the very beginning. When my mom found out she was pregnant with me, she went to the doctor and learned that I may not survive because I had been in with the IUD too long. She was told to get an abortion, but my mom chose instead to listen to that still, small voice that told her to be still instead. Around that same time, she randomly won a painting that said, "Be still and know that I am God. Ps. 46:10". She hung it up in the house, and didn't think much of it. I was born a few months later.

Years later, when I was a little girl, I was sitting in the hallway one day, under the picture playing or something. My mom did a double-take. The picture was a painting of a little girl sitting by a pond, with the verse at the top, and she looked identical to me with her short red hair in a ponytail with bangs and big brownish eyes. She realized that God had told her to be still and trust Him with me, and even gave her a promise of what I was going to look like. Fast-forward to my high school years, and God gave me this verse as an answer to a specific prayer. I mentioned it to my mom, and she told me about the picture, which was still hanging in our house at that point, and I realized it had been the answer to most of my problems for as long as I could remember. Who would have thought it would be extremely fitting for the rest of my life as well?

Every time I am facing a particularly difficult situation in my life, God speaks this verse to me. He just calmly brings the words, "Be Still" to my mind and most of the time I look up in exasperation and say, "No. Please no. Not this time. C’mon God, I got this. I. can. fix. this." You see, I don’t want to be still. I am a doer; I do things. I don't sit around and wait for things to happen. If I want something, I go after it. I make a plan, and execute it. I am also a fixer. If something is broken, I fix it. Not being in control and being helpless are not easy for me. So you can imagine that when I am going through something difficult, and there is nothing I can do but sit and wait for God to resolve it, I am usually completely and utterly miserable during that time.

However, there is also something so peaceful about being completely dependent on the Lord during that season. Because I normally cannot sit still, I pile obligations and things on in my life and overcommit to everything. I mean, there’s so much to be done for God’s kingdom, who has time to sit around?! More than once I have had students and colleagues tell me I am Superwoman. Well, you know what? Being “Superwoman” is exhausting. You take on the weight of the world and try and save it all on your own. But you can’t, because you are only natural, not supernatural, so eventually you will burn out. God knows this. So He takes things out of our lives for us, and we are forced to our knees to recognize that He alone has the control and will work things out according to His will, not our own. We just have to be still and let Him do His thing. Currently it seems as though every part of my life seems to be falling into a heap at my feet. Apparently I am not as good of a juggler as I thought and once again, I am realizing I can't do it all.  While it is extremely humbling, it’s also strangely wonderful to take that weight off my own shoulders and drop it at His feet instead. This time though, I think I am finally done picking it back up as I try to walk away.

We need to relearn the beauty of letting God be in control because there is literally nothing we can do to fix or change things sometimes. We can pray for what we want to happen, but ultimately He knows best, and what’s supposed to happen, will happen in His timing. Acknowledging His complete sovereignty can bring an incredible amount of peace amidst an incredible amount of pain. We are not strong enough, but He is, and no matter what is going on, we can be still and know that HE. IS. GOD. He will be exalted among the nations, and He will be exalted in the earth, simply because of who HE is, and not because of anything we have done. Thank... well you know who... ; )

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Moms as Metaphors

I watched both ‘Mom's Night Out' and 'God's Not Dead' this afternoon. In MNO, I laughed harder than I have in a long time, I cried like a baby, and for the first time ever watching a faith-based film, I didn't roll my eyes once. It is an excellent movie. This is the difference between having a faith-based film where the talented actors happen to be Christians and not just a bunch of Christians that can (kind-of) act. The message of the film was something that everyone (even non-Christians) can get behind: that moms work hard and that we can put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. As a single mom, I know this more than anyone. I beat myself up on a daily basis for the fact that I have to work full-time and I feel guilty all the time that my son has to go to daycare. I feel like a failure as a mother all the time. Just like Ally (the main character), I look at those perfect moms when I am at church or dropping my kid off at school and go, “Well yeah. If I had a nanny and didn’t have to work, I wouldn’t have bags under my eyes either.”

The message was universal which is what made the plot totally work. That and the fact that every mom has been in situations like that at one point or another in their life. The faith of the characters came out of it organically (i.e. their belief that that we don't have to be perfect for Jesus to love us) but it was not the point of the film (that moms are awesome and occasionally need a break). The message of moms unconditionally loving their kids, no matter how hard they are to take care of, is an allegory for God’s love toward us, so it came out of the plot organically. Metaphor is powerful and anyone who has read Tolkien or Lewis knows that. This is different from other faith-based films that go in with an agenda to share the gospel, and throw together a poorly-written/edited movie as the vehicle to present it to the audience. An example of this would be the other movie I watched, 'God’s Not Dead’.

As an apologist, I was EXCITED for ‘God’s Not Dead’. I had a similar idea as a college student a decade ago and even wrote a five-page treatment for a short film idea, revolving around a college student who defended their faith to an Atheist professor. Of course it never got made, because it requires this thing called “money”. The biggest beef that most reviewers had was the harshness of the Atheist professor. They said it wasn’t realistic. That didn’t bug me because I went to a secular school and that happened to me. I would argue with my biology teacher at high school about Evolution until I was blue in the face. He would be condescending to me, act like I was ignorant because I believed in God, and handed me a giant stack of papers, filled with Bible contradictions and told me that if I could answer them all, he would listen to me. That’s actually how I started to find apologetics (I became obsessed with answering them) and when I ran into him a year or so ago at a debate, I thanked him for challenging me because it made me the equipped Christian I am today. Unfortunately, he is an Atheist to this day (reality check- not everyone who hears the evidence for God accepts it as truth.) Because of my own experience, I did think that the scenes between Shane Harper and Kevin Sorbo were pretty good. I could have watched two hours of just them as they had great chemistry onscreen. And I do think, despite what some snobs in the apologetics world think, Dr. Rice Broocks chose some great material for the debate.

So what bugged me the most about ‘God’s Not Dead’ (the film) was not the professor’s attitude but the odd cutting back and forth between scenes and cramming in of too many storylines (I always follow my own version of K.I.S.S. – keep it stupid-simple when trying to get a point across). The rest of the movie seemed like it was pointless and unnecessary and just a bunch of appeals to emotion. Also, the fact that EVERY student stood up at the end. It elicited the emotional response it was hoping for, I mean I was grinning ear to ear as an apologist, but it was unrealistic and unbelievable. You could be Ravi Zacharias (who in my opinion is one of the greatest living apologists) and still not every person leaving your lecture will have become a Christian (which is why I appreciate the last scene with Dean Cain's character tossing the cellphone in the backseat, it felt like an action his character would have actually done.)

One huge issue I have with faith-based films is that they don’t portray reality. They portray what they want to happen in a perfect world where everyone who hears the Gospel receives it, not what actually would happen. If truth is that which corresponds to reality, and we are sharing truth, should we not try and reflect reality as much as possible? In Art and the Bible, Francis Schaeffer said that, “The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars”. Our stuff should be the best stuff out there because as Christians, we are studying and emulating the greatest Storyteller of all time. Let us reflect God's effect on reality. Life is hard and not perfect, but we can have hope because He is enough. Let us be real, leave mediocrity behind as Christians in the arts, and start striving for greatness. Kudos to Patricia Heaton and ‘Mom’s Night Out’ for doing exactly that. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Case for the Greater Good - Pt. 7


Offered in 7 Parts 
By Sarah Ankenman

The Crucifixion as the Greatest Precedent
As one can see, over and over again throughout Scripture, God chooses to deliver and/or bless His children when they choose His will, the greater good, when faced with moral dilemmas. However, God’s precedent of choosing the greater good is the most evident when seen in light of the crucifixion of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. In his book, The Lost Message of Jesus, Steve Chalke likens Jesus’ work on the cross to “a form of cosmic child abuse - a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed.”[1] Is this true? Is the cross nothing more than a punishment placed on an innocent God-man by a vengeful Father? The author would say no, and so would many others. The fact that God Himself had to come down and be united with a human nature in order to suffer an excruciating death shows that it’s possible Jesus’ death was completely necessary and that what was done was the greater good. In the next paragraph, the reason why that was so will be explored.
In the Old Testament when men placed their hands on the head of an animal to symbolize a transference of sin, the sin did not actually, literally transfer to the animal. The animal was not all of a sudden sinful, as they cannot sin since they lack a soul, and did not deserve to die. The people were still dying in their sin even though they were anticipating salvation through their belief in the future Messiah. This is why they did not go immediately to be with the Lord, but instead dwelt in Abraham’s Bosom, a place of waiting until the work was finished on the cross, in real time, through Jesus Christ. Jesus was the only one who could take away the sin of the world for good. In John chapter eight, Jesus said, “I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”[2]
The “He” Jesus is speaking of is the prophesied Messiah. Jesus fulfilled “more than three hundred predictions concerning the Messiah through His birth, life, death, and Resurrection. What would be the odds of one person fulfilling all of these by chance? The number is so astronomical, that it puts chance out of the picture… [it is] one in ten to the seventeenth power.”[3] There is no question in the author’s mind that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, due to the evidence. If Jesus was indeed the Messiah, then at this point it is imperative to examine the need of the Messiah to die a death such as Jesus did. Why did He have to die for the sin of mankind? Could not God have simply wiped the slate clean in His Sovereignty? This will be inspected in the next paragraph.
Scripture itself states that an innocent person will never be held responsible for a guilty party[4], and man is guilty due to his genetic, original sin nature. So how can God justify sending His innocent Son to die for humankind? Geisler answers this question in his encyclopedia of apologetics: “A virtually universal human practice is to consider commendable the actions of one who dies in defense of the innocent. Soldiers are honored for dying for their country. Parents are called compassionate when they die for their children. But this is precisely what Jesus did. As the apostle Paul puts it, ‘very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:7-8).”[5] As Jesus Himself has said, greater love hath no man than he who lays down his life for his friends.[6] There is no one on Earth who would argue that it is wrong from someone to sacrifice their life for another. 
The second point that bears examination is the fact that the cross was no form of “forced cosmic child abuse” as Chalke purports. Jesus had what was considered a “hypostatic union”: a uniting of two natures in one body. Because Jesus had a full human nature alongside His divine nature, He had free will. He could have decided not to go to the cross. In the Garden, we even see Him praying to His father in heaven asking if there was any other way. He asks, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”[7] However, there was no other way, and so He agreed to do what was necessary out of love. Jesus chose love, the greater good, all by himself. It was a choice of free will to go to the cross for mankind.
 This is the opposite of ethical egoism, or morality based on self-interest. Graded absolutism is based on self-sacrifice. When the Nazis come to the door, one must put the Jews before themselves because that’s what Christ did for mankind. He decided to be obedient to His father in Heaven before a man, even a man like himself. Why? Because there was no other way to accomplish the forgiveness needed to bridge the gap between God and man that was created when sin entered the world. Paul writes in Romans, “So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone.”[8]
Jesus chose to go to the cross for the greater good of mankind, for without Him, mankind would be eternally lost. He was temporally wounded so we could be eternally saved. We see that through God’s actions of choosing to send His Son to die, and in turn, Jesus’ recognizing it as the only way and being obedient to it, God chose the greater good in the greatest moral dilemma of all time. Geisler states, “Indeed, God Himself faced a moral conflict in the cross – should he sacrifice His Son or should He allow the world to perish? Thank God, mercy triumphed over justice. Surely the sacrifice of Christ was not a lesser evil; it was indeed the greatest good God could do.”[9]
Biblical ethics are not pluralistic in the sense that each moral commandment is absolute. Biblical absolutism is monistic, meaning that it is the one basic principle as the foundation of reality, in the sense that one should always do what God commands them to do. However, built into that principle is the idea that such commands include doing what is the weightiest good. Thus, in effect, God commands us to always do the greatest good, and that never gets violated. In conclusion, that specific command to do the greater good is not just a “graded” absolute but is, in actuality, simply an unqualified absolute.

[1] Chalke, Steve. The Lost Message of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003, p. 182.
[2] John 8:24, HCSB.
[3] Smith and Eastman.  The Search for Messiah. Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, 1993, p. 163.
[4] Ezekiel 18:20, HCSB.
[5] Geisler, Bakers Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 146.
[6] John 15:13
[7] Matthew 26:39, HCSB.
[8] Romans 5: 18, HCSB.
[9] Geisler, Christian Ethics, Chapter 6, Kindle 2 Edition.