Could Life be Inherently Just? The Significance of the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man

This is one of the most important pieces I’ve written that gets to the very heart of my soul. It was also the last post I ever did on Mormon Matters; someone promptly tried to turn it into a discussion about past racist views of an apostle… and I knew my time on Mormon Matters was coming to an end.

Could Life be Inherently Just? It seems like a silly question. We all know life isn’t fair. Its cliché, isn’t it?

There is a long time “proof” that God does not exist that goes like this: “If there is a God, how could there be such injustice and evil in the world?” What they really mean is that they can’t rationally fathom the possibility that all the evil and injustice in the world could somehow be part of a greater justice or morality. Without this further explanation, the “proof” is meaningless.

There is also a “proof” that God does exist that goes like this: “Why do we all — even those of us that claim we believe otherwise — treat morality as if it’s an absolute (that is to say, not merely a construct of convenience of situation) if morality really just rose from an inherently unjust universe?” What the asker really means is that they can’t fathom the possibility that morality really is merely a construct. (I have never met, and believe I never will, a person that isn’t outraged over immoral conduct towards his or her self rather than just saying, ‘oh, morality is just a construct anyhow, so to each their own.’”)

It seems morality is the main — perhaps only — point of contention over God, and it’s a sharp point that pierces both ways.

Now consider the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man:

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The Parable of the Merciful Judge

Another reprint from Mormon Matters. I came up with the following parable to explain to a Born Again Christian friend why I felt his belief that our actions plays no role in salvation at all was setting up a false dichotomy between influence and merit. It floated like a lead balloon, of course. He didn’t even bother to comment back to me. I later reused it with a carpool of Mormons that all seemed to enjoy it quite a bit more. In case you are wondering, yes, it’s a true story too. (Note: because I’m getting questions about this, I’ll add this – this is not a parable about the atonement nor is the judge here meant to represent Christ. This parable, as with all parables, is limited in scope with the point it makes.)

Once there was a young teenaged boy that was inexperienced at driving and made the mistake of driving home at night without his headlights on. He had turned on his parking lights but had failed to pull the switch just a bit further for the headlights. The roads were well lit, so it was not obvious to such an inexperienced driver that something was wrong.

When a cop pulled him over, he was shocked to find that he had driven the whole way without his lights on. When he was required to go before a judge he immediately admitted his guilt and expressed gladness he had not hurt anyone.

The judge, sensing that this teen would not benefit from having to pay the ticket nor the additional insurance costs, threw the ticket out. The judge added “I’ve made the same mistake before myself. Just be careful in the future.”

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