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Neither a borrower nor a lender be

It all comes from you, it all belongs to you.

(Pastor Rick Warren’s inaugural prayer.)

The Christian world-view holds that all human virtues are a loan from God.  The secularist responds: “Quite the opposite.”  Compassion, love, and mercy are human predicates; we confer them on God. Human beings are the sole source of meaning in the world; history is our story, not God’s story, as Rick Warren has it. 

Many believers assume that this human-centric sense of life must lead to nihilism.  “Secular humanism  . . . founders on its own perception of the meaninglessness of human life,” writes Michael Novak in No One Sees God.  I’m puzzled by this stance.  The world is awash in meaning, more than anyone can possibly take in.  I don’t need God to be slain by the exquisiteness of Don Giovanni or a Chopin nocturne.  If life’s beauties, conflict, and cooperation leave believers looking elsewhere for significance, it is they, not skeptics, who live in an empty world.

But Warren’s speech reminded me of one important power of religious rhetoric that is not easily replicated in a secular setting: divine petition. (more…)

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