have, in this column, expounded on "anthropic coincidence," physical balances in the cosmos so finely tuned for human life that one could be excused (almost) for thinking that the entire universe had been made exclusively just for us. It's as if creation is maintained by numerous dials so precariously adjusted that with the slightest fidgeting human life as we know it could never have arisen. The ratios, such as 1:1037 or 1:1060, are usually translated into analogies like this: Imagine filling a billion earths with silver dollars piled 1,000 feet high and then asking a blindfolded person to find, on the first try, the one pink silver dollar hidden in the mix. The point being that these balances are painfully unforgiving. God's physical laws, it seems, allow for little violation.
Whatever powerful fodder for the eutaxiological argument, these "coincidences" might point to something in the realm of morality as well.
"The orders of nature," wrote theologian Paul Tillich, "are analogous to the order of moral law."
Suppose, for instance, that God's moral law is just as precise, just as finely tuned, as His physical ones? It's one thing for a physical law to be precise to 1:1060. But a moral law with a margin of error just as refined? Where would that leave us--beings whose default mode is often looting, beings known to steal everything from their neighbor's water bucket to their neighbor's spouse, beings who, wrote Frenchman Jean-Jacques Rousseau, can "only live together by obstructing, supplanting, deceiving, betraying, and destroying one another"?
It leaves us condemned, where else, especially when you consider these words: "The condition of eternal life," wrote Ellen White, "is now just what it always has been--just what it was in Paradise before the fall of our first parents--perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness" (Steps to Christ, p. 62).
How perfect that obedience? How perfect that righteousness? Is the moral perfection and righteousness required for eternal life reflected by the kind of physical perfection required for life now? It's not unreasonable to think so. After all, didn't Christ say something about lust as adultery, anger as murder--words that hone in and refine the requirements of the law? And though we can't directly compare an adultery to lust-in-the-heart ratio to a 1:1060 ratio, the principle is there: God's moral law doesn't allow for violation any more than His physical laws do.
If the obedience that the law requires is as precise as these ratios, it's no wonder Paul wrote that "by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight" (Rom. 3:20, NKJV). How could any flesh, even the saintliest among sinners, meet the requirements found in numbers like that?
Or suppose, too, that all your past sins were forgiven. The slate's wiped clean so that all you have to do, in order to ensure your salvation, is keep the law perfectly, that is, with the kind of perfection reflected in these "anthropic coincidences." How well would you fare?
Please! Before even a crude, loose reading of the law, we're condemned; how much more so by the razor precision seen here. That's why salvation comes only through the righteousness of Jesus, which is equal to the "righteousness of God" (verse 21), and which is credited to us by faith. It couldn't be any other way, not with a law refined to an exactitude that we can't imagine much less, as sinners, meet.
Jesus alone met the conditions of eternal life--"perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness." Jesus alone kept the moral law with a precision even greater than what's been revealed in these physical laws, and it's through God's grace that His perfect record is credited to us by faith, the only way we can meet the conditions of eternal life.
Is the God who placed such precision in His physical laws going to do any less with His moral ones? Hardly. That's why for beings like us--whose moral ratios come much blunter than what the law requires--salvation must be by grace alone, or not
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book, The Mules That Angels Ride, is a collection of his columns for the Adventist Review, and is available at the Review and Herald Publishing Association.