So far in these lessons our discussions have revolved around intellectual arguments. We have tried to demonstrate that a person can logically and intelligently believe in God and in the Bible as His Word. We have looked at a variety of issues that frequently are felt to be difficult to handle from the perspective of a believer in the Bible as God’s Word, and we have tried to demonstrate that when we have a problem it is either due to bad science, bad theology, or both. In the remaining lessons we would like to get down to some demonstrations that are far more pragmatic and relevant to daily living. All of these points will deal with man’s basic needs and problems and will try to show ways to successfully live in spite of the problems that come upon us. In this lesson we wish to discuss the way in which people make moral decisions.
How do we as individuals decide what is right and what is wrong and how to conduct ourselves in a way that is of maximum benefit to us individually and collectively? There are all kinds of extremes a person can take in a discussion like this. One position is to say there is no such thing as right and wrong. In such a view all acts are justified individually by the person making the decision. Your author was an atheist for 20 years and this was basically the basis on which I made moral decisions. I might rationalize my moral decisions on the basis of someone like Ayn Rand, but my moral life was based upon what I saw as best for me. I would like to suggest to you that this is, in fact, the basis of moral decisions for most, if not all, people who reject religion as a basis of making moral decisions. If we really believe that survival of the fittest is the rule by which all living things survive, then our decisions must reflect those choices that give us individually the best chance of survival.
Some advocates of sociobiology might argue that our moral decisions must be made on the basis of what will propagate our genes in the population, and not necessarily on individual survival. Social atheists might suggest that our moral decisions must be based on what we perceive as those choices best for the society in which we live. The fact remains that all of these decision-making processes assume that the individual has the ability to make foolproof judgments. Even a casual look at reality should convince us that this is not possible.
The Will of the People
If a person makes a moral judgment on the basis of what the majority of the people in the society feel is right, are they relying on a safe guide? Every crooked politician that was ever elected by the people of the United States was selected by the majority. Clearly the majority has frequently been wrong. It was the majority that crucified Jesus Christ. We even have laws in this country which make it possible to impeach an elected official because the law recognizes that the will of the majority is frequently wrong.
Another popular message about moral decisions is that they should be made on the basis of what the result of the decision is going to be. Sex education programs sometimes say to young people “just make sure nobody gets hurt.” The idea is that we should look at a moral act, consider its consequences, make proper preparations (such as birth control), and (then having made sure that no bad consequences will result) act out our ethic. The phrase situation ethics is a good summary of the mentality of this method of making moral decisions—look at the situation and determine your ethic on the basis of what the result of your decision will be.
The fallacy of such reasoning should be immediately apparent. Who is egotistical enough be believe that they can look at every possible moral decision that comes along, and know ahead of time what the results of that moral decision will be? How many times have men and women engaged in a sexual relationship believing that no negative consequences would come from it only to find that a venereal disease has been transmitted or an illegitimate child has been conceived? The incident rate of venereal disease in the world continues to climb because people continue to make bad decisions. Science has no capacity to make moral judgments. Albert Einstein has said “Religion without science is lame but science without religion is blind.” It is not within science to be able to determine what the result of its discoveries will be, or how the discovery will be used. The Nobel prize was set up by a scientist who was dismayed at what his discovery had been used to do to his fellow man. The AIDS epidemic is nearly totally the result of people making a decision about their life style and sexual choices that had results that have been catastrophic to them and to many other people. To say that result can be used as a basis of making moral decisions is naive and totally in contradiction to the evidence.
One of the frequently used phrases in discussing moral problems is the phrase times are changing. The idea is that science and technology have changed morality. Sexual freedom is said to have been produced by the discovery and production of various birth control procedures. We are told that times are different today because of the knowledge we have of drugs and of psychology which no longer makes us dependent on out-of-date moralities that do not meet the needs of modern man.
Have times really changed? Are the problems of today any different than the problems of Jesus’ day? How old is marijuana? How old is opium? How old is alcohol? How old is sex? Obviously, these problems as well as hundreds of others we could list are not new. Marijuana in the form of cigarettes has been found in ancient ships. Opium dens are as old as written history. Alcohol and sex are similarly problems of all times and all cultures. The forms may change, and some drugs may have become more powerful and more available, but the problems are the same. Jesus dealt with drugs, with alcohol, and with sex. Even a casual reading of His life shows that He was not naive about the problems men and women face.
Have we solved these problems? Unless you have been living in a cave for a very long time, totally isolated from the world of reality, you know that the answer is clearly “No!” The United States is in a full-fledged war against drugs. SADD and MADD and countless other groups are in a major battle to counter alcohol abuse. Sexual abuse and promiscuity fill our news reports and tabloids. To maintain that our technology has provided any answer to all our moral problems is to ignore reality.
People may subconsciously use other ways of dealing with moral decisions. Conscience may be used, not realizing that conscience is totally controlled by experience and environment. Many people justify immorality by the frequency with which they engage in it. You hear people justify the use of a recreational drug, by stating that they do not use the drug very often. People will justify gambling or even sexual misconduct by the number of times that they engage in the practice. The old cliché how many times do you have to shoot a man for him to be dead, surely applies to such logic. As is the case in all of the standards we have looked at, the logic is faulty to the point of absurdity. How many people would stand before a civil magistrate and justify going 100 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone by saying “Everyone breaks the speed limit,” or ”I didn’t hit anyone or anything and I got home real fast, the results were fine” or “My friends don’t see anything wrong with it,” or “This is the first time” or “My conscience is clear”? No thinking person would attempt to justify such a simple thing as breaking a speed limit on such a basis, but will live a life that is based on just such simple logical absurdities.
Now that we have seen the inadequacies involved in making moral decisions based upon human judgments and reasoning, it is logical to ask is there any other way to do it that is any better? The answer is clearly “Yes!” The Bible gives a moral system that works! Let us emphasize in this discussion that we are not attempting to legislate morality—in other words, we are not appealing to a legalistic system of thou shalt nots that are designed to rob men and women of the real joys of life. What we have in the Bible is a system designed to provide maximum joy, maximum happiness, maxi- mum pleasure, maximum satisfaction, and the best of life.
We start out with sex because that seems to be a preoccupation of people who like to discuss morality. The Bible clearly puts sex in a limited format. Sex is, first of all monogamous, reserved for marriage, heterosexual, and singular in nature. Sex before marriage, adultery, homosexuality, and sodomy are a violation of the biblical moral code. This does not mean that the Bible only sanctions sex for the purpose of procreation. Recreational sex is not only sanctioned in the Bible, but is encouraged. (See Proverbs 5:19; Song of Solomon 1; 1 Corinthians 7:1-5.)
Is this system wise? In spite of the increased sexual activity in our culture, sexologists like Masters and Johnson continue to tell us that all clinical studies show that the most satisfying and meaningful sexual relationships are found in relationships where there is no competition and where a single partner is involved. The soap opera mentality that says that hopping from one bed to another with multiple partners brings ultimate pleasure, simply is not borne out by the facts. Fulfilling sexual relationships take commitment, time, and a loving relationship that motivates the partners to meet one another’s needs. In addition to providing greater joy and satisfaction, the biblical system avoids venereal disease and produces a base for the nurturing and development of children. From every aspect the biblical system makes sense.
How do we live on this earth? How do we get along? Does the old evolutionary concept of survival of the fittest work? Is this how people should interact with others? We have all heard that mentality translated into the phrase do unto others before they have the chance to do it unto you and many people seem to live it. Jesus taught a completely different system. Christ tells us to love our enemies, to do good to all men, to not allow ourselves to get angry with our brother or sister, to go the extra mile, and to not allow our minds to be filled with thoughts that will lead us to actions that violate the absolute standard set before us (see Matthew 5-7).
Let me ask once again that we analyze these teachings in a logical way. Will a person murder if they do not hate first? Will a person commit an adulterous act if they do not fill their mind with the thought first? The best way to avoid committing an immoral act is to avoid the thinking process that leads to the act, and that is what we are told to do in the teachings of Christ! What kinds of a world would it be if all men turned the other cheek? How would our lives be changed if everyone did good to those who hate them, and if everyone went the second mile.
We do not wish to construct a Pollyanna world that is outside of reality, but in our relationships, our families, and our social interactions this kind of a life style is possible—and it leads to the maximum joy and fulfillment in life.
Pain and Suffering
The tragedies of life fit right into what we an saying here. Those who hold to human wisdom and philosophy have no real answer to the tragedy that inevitably invades our lives on earth. I am the father of a mentally retarded, blind son who has muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. I cannot say I am or have ever been happy that this problem has been forced upon me. I do believe that my understanding of why God created me can enable me to deal with the situation intellectually. The support I have enjoyed of people who try to live the principles I have just discussed, has lifted me and enabled me and my son to find joy and meaning in life that I would have never dreamed possible.
How does a person who rejects the existence of God and follows the standards of human wisdom and philosophy deal with such a situation? My experience has been that euthanasia, abortion, institutionalization, and in one case, out and out murder and suicide have been the only solutions that the followers of such logic have been able to find. In fact, without the possibility of life after this life, the problems of this life become of major importance. If we believe that this life is only a small part of what constitutes our total existence, then the problems are greatly lessened. A good analogy is what we do when we go to a dentist. Why do we get a Novocain shot from the dentist? Because we are willing to gamble 30 seconds of the needle against what seems like three hours of the drill! How much will 75 years of pain and frustration on the earth mean in the context of eternity? I suggest it will not mean much—and our existence on the earth can be so very happy and meaningful if we will live according to the design that God has given us.
It is not our purpose or right to legislate mortality. What we are talking about here is the very best way to meet our needs. The Bible gives us the key to meeting our needs, and the way to do it. The wisdom of these teachings and the obvious consequences of not following them is a very powerful argument for the inspiration of the Bible. It has been said that I would rather see a sermon than hear one. Looking at the fruit of living the way God has told us to as contrasted with the lives of those who reject God’s teaching holds a powerful message to the objective observer. Jesus said, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
Our next subject deals with the Church. Does the Church have anything to do with all this, or is it just an institution that is removed from reality and promotes things that have no real relevance to life and the struggles of men and women?
Lesson 11 Questions
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