The Irreducible Reference Point of Diversity

November 12, 2009


Jean-Paul Sartre once said: “No finite point has any meaning unless it has an infinite reference point.”  I had never heard that quote before today, but I doubt I’ll forget it.  In Christian circles we are acutely aware of our finiteness.  Relating, as we do, through the lens of scripture, we see the reality of a just, holy and righteous God ever before us.  “Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (Psalm 139:5,6).  Thoughts of death follow us throughout our life.  Sin exists in our members; always in need of mortification.  We fail and succeed, learn and hurt; and often have great joys.  But through it all, our bearing is always made sure because we know our God never changes.  Our God is infinite and eternal, and complete in Himself.  He is our unifying force drawing all things together and His existence as three persons is the essence and genesis of mankind’s diversity. 

Standing on a mountain top and gazing out across the length and breath of America today, we can still see fruited plains with fields white for harvest.  God’s common grace still rains upon us all.  But in our universities and our seats of government, our industries and often our neighborhoods, a different course is charted; a course that is contrary to the rudder of Christianity described above.  While we believe we exist because of a personal God, most in society hold their existences up to a beginning of impersonal causes.  Energy, motion, mass, there are many discussions about what the beginning consisted of; the bottom line, though, is that it’s all not of a person; not of a creator.  Some of the difficulty with this line of reasoning is that anything in particular, say an appleseed, a bird, man can be reduced to the impersonal element plus time plus chance.  While this formula unifies existence, (if the absurdity can be ignored) it does nothing to explain personality; diversity.

We need an explanation for diversity because we see it around us all the time.  We live in an amazingly diverse universe that is populated by amazingly diverse people.  The Christian has the answer for this dilemma in the diverseness of the trinity.  The world, though, is without an explanation for this observation.  They may say that complexity needs to be added to the impersonal.  But the argument proves to be unreasonable.  How can personality come from something impersonal?  How can something greater come from something lesser? 

While the Christian holds that every person is a noble creation, the universal respect, however, doesn’t hold to every thought for tradition of man’s thinking.  Today, though, diversity is celebrated in all forms.  What is good diversity?  What is bad?  What is useful for society and what is destructive?  Clearly, society has no basis for rejection.  Without a moral baseline or without an infinite reference point, everything is embraced (at least an implication that everything should be embraced if you are a reasonable and good person with an open mind).  Much the same thing is seen in the relativizing of truth; man becomes his own reference point and develops his own truth paradigm. 

Our reference point as Christians, thankfully, is God and an infinite God never changes.  That is the irreducible concept. 

Much of the thinking for this post came as an exercise to paraphrase much of what Francis Schaeffer said in his book: “He is There, and He is not Silent;” pp 1-17; chapter one; Tyndale House Publishers.



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