God and the Value of a Mother
May is the month when we in America honor mothers and motherhood with our observance of Mother’s Day. I well remember from graduate study days how the late Dr. Thomas B. Warren, the apologist for whom Warren Apologetics Center is named, would say, “Fellows, the world will never be the same when you awake one morning and realize your mother is no longer a part of it.” The absolute value of a mother!
There is a very interesting story reported about the skeptic David Hume and his mother. First, note some background on David Hume (1711-1776). He is called the father of modern naturalism. Naturalism is the worldview that says there is no need to “go beyond the world of experience and scientific explanation for an ultimate account of the meaning and value of reality in general and of human existence in particular” (Masterson, Atheism and Alienation 99). Naturalism and Anti-Realism, which spawned Post-Modernism, are the viewpoints that dominate the contemporary philosophical landscape (cf. Conway, The Rediscovery of Wisdom 6). These viewpoints possess a marked disdain for belief in anything beyond the natural world (i.e. anything supernatural). Thus, they deny the existence of God.
David Hume made one of the most fundamental attacks on natural theology (general revelation of God in creation—Psalm 19:1-2; Romans 1:20, et al.). Hume is also well known for his classic assault on miracles in his famous essay (1748), which Wilbur Smith calls “the most powerful attack on the whole conception of miracles that has been delivered in modern times, claimed by some philosophers to have forever prevented any further belief in miracles” (Therefore Stand 9). However, as Blanchard says, “Even Hume came to see that his ideas were leading him down a miserable cul-de-sac, which is where huge areas of modern society are to be found” (Does God Believe in Atheists? 52). Listen to Hume’s confession:
I am ready to reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no other opinion even as more likely and probable than another. Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? . . . What beings surround me, and on whom have I any influence, or who have any influence on me? I am confounded by all these questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, environed by the deepest darkness, and utterly deprived of every member. (qtd. in Matthews, The Bible and Men of Learning 155-56)
Let us now return to Hume and his mother. Ernest Campbell Mossner, called by many the most authoritative biographer of Hume, shares an incident from David Hume’s life that shows how atheism utterly fails to be consistent with the implications of its basic proposition. Mossner shares a story about Hume following the death of his mother to whom Hume was deeply devoted. Finding Hume “in the deepest affliction and in a flood of tears,” because of his mother’s death, Patrick Boyle, a minister, said to David, “My friend you owe this uncommon grief to your having thrown off the principles of religion; for if you had not, you would have been consoled by the firm belief that the good lady, who was not only the best of mothers, but the most pious of Christians, was now completely happy in the realms of the just” (174). Hume replied, “Though I threw out my speculations to entertain and employ the learned and metaphysical world, yet in many other things I do not think so differently than the rest of mankind as you may imagine” (174).
Mossner observes, “David Hume had long since renounced the Christianity of revelation and acknowledged ‘the character of an infidel’ . . . [but] he retained the characteristics of a good and moral nature . . .” (174)! David Hume, in the attempted defense of skepticism, lived in one world but thought in another. When it came to the treatment of his mother, his awful skepticism provided not a shred of evidence for consistency with the implications of atheism. Instead, there was ‘a good and moral nature’ that he had retained in his actions. Good? Moral? How could there be such if naturalism is true? Here are metaphysical matters that naturalism cannot explain. Early in the 20th century,
W. H. Fitchett authored an apologetics text, The Unrealized Logic of Religion, in which he answered the skeptics of his day. His words still provide an adequate reply to the foolishness of all forms of skepticism (atheism, agnosticism, etc.) even in this the 21st century.
. . . If men are mere ferments of chemical forces, with no more of free will, and of the responsibility born of free will, than, say, the effervescence of an acid and soda compound, what room is left for pity or morality? What obligations of help or forbearance [as those provided by a good mother or given to a good mother] does one bottle of chemicals on a shelf in a laboratory owe to the bottle beside it? . . .
This creed is a direct menace to morals. According to its teaching, all moral qualities—courage, goodness, pity, self-sacrifice, [and love for, and devotion to, one’s mother] are nothing better than labels on the jars of a chemist’s shop. A mother is a mere combination of carbon, phosphorous, lime, and water, with a few salts thrown in. The whole interval betwixt greed and love, betwixt the love that prompts to sin and the conscience that rebukes sin, can be measured in the terms of chemistry. A few grains, more or less, say, of mercury, make the whole difference betwixt the saint and the harlot. Why, then, should we admire the saint or blame the harlot? (177-78, emp. added)
Would any right thinking person anywhere dare say that there is no difference between a bottle of chemicals on a shelf and his own mother? And would anyone dare say that the difference was mere social convention or nothing more than mere instinct, which might urge one person to love his mother but another to value more a bottle of chemicals? The truth is that all of us really do know that it is better to lovingly care for, and be devoted to, one’s mother than to mistreat her. It surely is the case that we can know that there is absolute right and wrong as surely as we can know anything! And in knowing such to be the case, one can also know that there must be the ultimate absolute good (God)! “. . . [D]o not despise your mother when she is old. Buy truth, and do not sell it . . .” (Proverbs 23:22-23, ESV).
Warren Apologetics Center is set for the affirmation and defense of the Christian worldview which honors mothers and motherhood. The Warren Center exists to challenge the growing global influence of atheism, which, if true, implies there are no absolute values. However, a good mother (even a bad one) is of more value than a glob of matter. You and I know that. David Hume knew it. We are here to remind people of the absolute truth of these values and, therefore, God exists.