The city of Scranton has been abuzz since last Friday (May 23) after citizens had some time to take in the news of the latest murder. 47 year old cab driver Vincent Darbenzio was found dead in his cab in the city’s south side after not responding to the company dispatcher. Darbenzio was killed by suffering two gunshot wounds to the head. Scranton Police were able to act quickly and arrested 16 year old Aazis Richardson. As shocking and senseless this act was, nothing prepared the public or the victim’s family for the reason the teenager gave for his actions.
After his arraignment on Friday night, reporters were able to shout some questions and Richardson’s responses give us some insight into his mindset. Reporters asked Richardson, “was he ripping you off?”. Richardson said, “yes”. Reporters then asked Richardson, “is that reason to kill someone?”. Richardson responded, “to me it is”. When asked what Richardson had to say to Darbenzio’s family he responded, “f*** them”. Richardson claims that Darbenzio was “ripping him off” and he got what he deserved.
As disturbing as this is, there is still a major worldview issue that is at stake. In the introduction of Death in the City, Francis Schaeffer wrote, “There is death in the city when the understanding of the human being about himself is no longer related to an actually existing God” (Schaeffer, 13). Schaeffer goes on to make a very clear argument (from Jeremiah and Romans) that when an individual or even a society abandon their moorings with God the worst of evils are possible. So, what has happened?
Our culture has been working very hard at relegating truth to categories. We hear all the time that religious “truth” belongs in the category of personal feelings or values. In other words, they are subjective – left up to each individual to decide on their own. “Real truth”, on the other hand, is dictated by science and the scientific method. This half of the view says that the only thing someone can really know is what is proven by math and science. This dichotomy is what is known as the fact/value split (see Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey for a more in depth look at this issue).
When truth about ethics and morality becomes purely subjective, this is what you get. It is the natural downward spiral of evil. If there is no objective truth (right or wrong whether one knows it or not) anything is possible.
Our culture also works very hard at trying to get us to understand that belief in God is fine as long as it is only personal. If you hold to the fact that God exists and that his moral law is true for everyone, you get branded as intolerant. If there is no God then everything, the cosmos and EVERYTHING in it, has to be explained by the hard sciences. What must necessarily be jettisoned if this were the case? God – obviously – angels, miracles, souls, consciousness, and universals to name but a few. “Morality” – what is right and wrong, are then left up to…who or what? If there is no objective law-giver, there cannot be a universal right and wrong for all people in all times. The material universe cannot develop something that is immaterial. It has not and cannot be proven in a laboratory or math equation. No inanimate object ever produced something non-material like a soul.
If you are a Christian, I urge you to think this issue through. If God did not create the things mentioned above, where did they come from? If you are not a Christian, I urge you to think this through. What is the authority for morality in your life? Why is it superior to anyone else? If there is no objective truth about right and wrong, what authority is there to prevent or punish senseless acts of evil?
I often point out to my students a normal happening at just about every high school graduation. There is usually at least one speech where this philosophy comes to the fore. Someone will say something like, “Graduates, you are the captains of your own destiny. Do not let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. You decide for yourselves the best path and have the courage to follow it”. My students have all heard something like this and from many different sources. After discussing the implications of consistently following such advice, I ask my students if this is the kind of world they really want to live in. Most of them assure me it is not.