I am broken.
I am not alone though. You are broken too. In fact, the whole world and everyone in it is broken. We recognize that there is the way things are and there is the way things should be and the two are not the same.
What shall we make of this universal awareness of our own brokenness in particular and the world’s brokenness in general? Denying the awareness exists does no good. It is there. It is glaring. It stares each of us in the face every day. Denying it is foolish because such a denial is not only false; it is obviously false and convinces no one.
So there it is; our awareness of our and the world’s brokenness. It exists and any thinking person must try to account for its existence. It cannot be ignored. How did that awareness come to be? Is the awareness based on something real or is it an illusion?
For Jews and Christians, of course, these are easy questions. We believe in a transcendent moral standard rooted in God’s character. God has not established the Good. He is the Good, and all goodness flows from him. Each of us (whether we say we believe in God or not) innately understands that Goodness exists and that we all fall short of measuring up to it. I don’t understand why the doctrine of original sin is so controversial. Of all the doctrines of Christianity, it is the one that is supported by what I would think to be undeniable empirical evidence based on our own personal day-to-day experience and thousands of years of recorded history.
For the materialist, however, it seems to me that the question is all but unanswerable. At least since Hume we have known that “ought” cannot be grounded in “is.” The materialist believes that “is” is all there is. It follows there is nothing on which to ground “ought.” This is what Dawkins means when he says there is no good and no bad. On materialist premises – if there really is no good and no bad — there is no reason to believe I and the world are broken. As Lewis famously said, a man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. And the materialist denies the existence of straight lines.
Yet that awareness of our own and the world’s brokenness persists nevertheless even for materialists. The standard Darwinist line, of course, is that the moral impulse is an evolutionary adaptation, and they delight in making up just so stories about why this or that altruistic behavior is adaptive, when they are not making up stories for why the opposite of that behavior is also adaptive. Altruism is adaptive. Sure. But so is rape and murder. Hmmm.
But when it comes to our awareness of our and the world’s brokenness, none of those stories matters. We are not talking about individual behaviors that may or may not have been adaptive in the remote evolutionary past. We are talking about the fact that we all know that a straight line exists and therefore we can call crooked lines crooked, even when we deny knowing any such thing. I suppose some Darwinist will be able to make up a just so story to explain why this is the case; after all the Darwinist capacity for story telling seems to be limitless. But I doubt any such story will convince anyone who is not already convinced. For those of us who are unable to muster the tremendous leaps of faith necessary to become and remain a materialist, the story is likely to be implausible to say the least.