Part Seven: Morality
I was at the gym the other day with a buddy and I noticed this extremely attractive female, so I began carrying on about her and how I would like to hook up with her. Then my buddy had the nerve to tell me that’s wrong.
So I told him, what’s true for him isn’t necessarily true for me and what’s wrong for him isn’t necessarily wrong for me. So he says, “The bible says, ‘do not covet your neighbor’s wife.’” I told him that’s in the Old Testament and the Old Testament also says do not wear clothing woven of two different materials so what about your cotton polyester shirt? Besides, if you want to bring God into this, God made me this way; I like looking at attractive women, so if you have trouble with me doing that, take it up with God because I was born this way.
He said, okay, well, just because you’re wired a certain way and have certain preferences doesn’t exempt you from obeying God or make your preferences okay to carry out. Some people are talkers and wired to talk a lot but that doesn’t make it okay for them to slander or gossip. Besides, if you have a problem with the OT, then we will go to the NT. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5, Jesus clearly condemns lust and says that if anyone looks at a woman lustfully he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Know what I told him? Know what else Jesus says in the SOM? Do not judge.
Shut him DOWN! Can’t really say anything to that, can ya?
Now, that didn’t really happen, but it is certainly representative of the way conversations about morality can go.
As you have probably gathered, we are resuming our series on developing a biblical worldview, but I’m not going to do a lengthy recap, we are going to jump right into morality.
Morality pertains to right conduct, defining and living out what is right and avoiding what is wrong. It answers the question: what is one’s moral code?
Growing up I didn’t go to church and I didn’t read the Bible so I didn’t have a Biblical worldview on morality, but I did have a moral code. Whether from my parents, or my teachers, or my coaches, or television, I was taught that there is right and there is wrong.
- I learned from my teachers that cheating on a test is wrong.
- I learned from the TV show COPS that domestic abuse is wrong, that grand theft auto is wrong.
- I learned from my parents that lying is wrong.
Everyone seems to have a moral code and define certain actions as right and wrong.
While many people will agree that the things I mentioned above are wrong there are other things about which they might disagree. One’s moral code is part of their paradigm or worldview. Many people’s will view intersect in these basic areas, there are other areas in which they will be inconsistent, where they will differ.
Admittedly, morality isn’t always black and white.
But this morning, we are going to try to bring some consistency to our understanding of morality, and clarify our basis for a moral code. In short, morality is defined by God.
If there is a God who created all things, he gets to define what is good and evil, what is right and wrong.
God reveals his will through his chosen messengers, whose words are recorded in the Scriptures.
We can’t simply say, “The Bible says such and such.” It is a little more complicated than that and requires an understanding of proper hermeneutics or interpretive principles. Nonetheless, The Bible is our source for understanding right and wrong according to the God who created all things.
MORALITY & WORLDVIEW
How does morality intersect with one’s worldview? Consider, for example, the Naturalist or Materialist worldview (atheism). Recall our introductory message in this series in which I stated for the materialist, what matters is matter. According to that worldview, there is no God and we as humans, are not the pinnacle of God’s creation, created in his image to be his image-bearers, given dominion over animals, rather, we are all simply the result of evolution; we are essentially animals.
How do animals operate? Is it not survival of the fittest? Take what you want. How does the mating process work? Do they first discuss a covenant by which they will vow faithfulness until death do they part?
It is difficult to see how morality fits into the naturalist worldview. Naturalism has a focus on the material world as defined by science to the exclusion of theology and religion. There is no God and thus, science provides any explanation for the why and how.
The laws of nature may tell us why something is the way it is or why something will be in a certain state given the proper conditions, but this is different from explaining how things should be. And moral claims are statements about how things should be. The laws of nature vs the laws of morality are the difference between is and ought. Morality answers the question of what one ought to do, what should we do and not do.
It is difficult to understand how naturalists (atheists) would propose that one should do certain things or stop doing others. Because of their assertion that human beings are comprised of matter alone, the question becomes “can merely material beings have moral characteristics?” Would anyone claim moral attributes for raw matter? If a single atom is not a moral entity, how is a collection of atoms to be or become a moral entity, even if that collection of atoms happens to be a human being? How do beings consisting of nonmoral matter aspire to moral goals?
RICHARD DAWKINS is a brilliant outspoken atheist.
In River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life(P 133), he says, “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
Catch that? According to the materialistic or naturalistic worldview, there is no evil, no good. No sense of ought, no right or wrong. So nothing can be bad, right?
Apparently, Dawkins recently made some waves in the Twitter world, when he tweeted, “X is bad. Y is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of X, go away and don’t come back until you’ve learned how to think logically.”
How is something bad based on an atheistic naturalistic worldview (according to his own words)?
He goes on to say: “Mild pedophilia is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of mild pedophilia, go away and learn how to think.”
But wait a minute. Who ultimately says? Who says that pedophilia is bad in any capacity? Was it those original primordial atoms that make us what we are today?
Dawkins went on to write:
“Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.”
Gary DeMar wrote an article in which he deals with some of Dawkins’ claims. DeMar points out the following: But in our long distant past, rape was a way of life. We are the result of “good rapes,” genetically speaking, if evolution is true and scientifically sacrosanct.
If animal behavior is a template for human behavior, then why can’t a case be made for rape by human animals? As hard as it might be to imagine, the connection has been made.
Randy Thornhill, a biologist who teaches at the University of New Mexico, and Craig T. Palmer, an anthropologist who teaches at the University of Missouri-Columbia, attempt to demonstrate in their book A Natural History of Rape that evolutionary principles explain rape as a “genetically developed strategy sustained over generations of human life because it is a kind of sexual selection — a successful reproductive strategy.”
Again, how do animals procreate? Aren’t we just animals? Isn’t rape, therefore, okay?
Crowd participation. Let me ask you: Do you think pedophilia is wrong? Do you think rape is wrong? Why? On what grounds?
Is it because you don’t like it? If not, why not? What if the rapist likes rape? Who are you to tell him what he likes is wrong?
Cody and I were discussing this and he pointed out Ravi Zecharias’ argument on such matters.
You know what’s key to this? Dawkins is just being consistent to HIS worldview. The funny thing about morality is that it belongs exclusively to the Christian worldview. Any secular humanist, moral relativist, atheist, or the like must borrow from the Christian worldview in their attempt to disprove the existence of God – and (like Dawkins) any honest atheist must admit that his worldview does not allow for belief in things such as good or evil.
We hear it all the time. They say, “how could there be a God if there is so much evil in the world?”
Granted, this is one of the hardest questions to answer. How can we account for all the suffering and injustice that appears to go unaccounted for day after day?
But, the question self-deconstructs when we look at it closely. When you ask the question correctly, we understand that a Godless worldview doesn’t lend itself to morality at all.
Let me phrase it like this –
(1) When you assume there is such a thing as good, aren’t you assuming there is such a thing as evil? Well, yes, of course.
(2) When you say there is such a thing as evil, aren’t you saying there is such a thing as a moral law by which to differentiate between good and evil? Well… Yes, granted.
(3) If you posit that there is a moral law – you must posit that there is a moral law giver – and that is who Richard Dawkins is trying to disprove.
(4) If there is no moral law giver – there is no moral law. If there is no moral law, there is no good. If there is no good, there is no evil.
No evil, no grounds on which to ask the question, “If God exists how do you explain all of the evil?”
Without some absolute moral authority, we are essentially so-called moral relativists. That means we see morality as relative rather than absolute.
Back to my question, If pedophilia and rape are wrong, why?
From the perspective of a Biblical Worldview, here is how I would answer that question:
The Bible is our source for understanding right and wrong according to the God who created all things. WHY is the Bible is our source? All arguments start from a presupposition. Christians should start with the Scriptures.
According to the Bible sex is to be reserved for marriage; it is the act which consummates the marriage covenant, so any sex outside of marriage is not right.
That is the precept that answers sexual questions in the broadest terms. Rape is wrong because it is sex outside of marriage.
Jesus takes the issue to the heart and deals with lust, saying that even entertaining the desire for sex outside of marriage is wrong.
Pedophilia is wrong because it is fantasy for sex outside of marriage.
Homosexuality is a hot-button topic these days. I see all kinds of heated discussions in Christian circles regarding homosexuality. So is homosexuality right or wrong?
Let’s define terms here. By homosexuality, I mean sexual acts with someone of the same sex.
A man should not covet his neighbor’s wife but may struggle with lust, he is to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. While lust is wrong, he should fight those desires and thoughts in order to honor God. He should say to himself, this woman is not my wife. I should not think of her in this way. In the same way, one who has a homosexual desire should take his thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. He should say to himself, this man is not my wife. I should not think of him in this way.
Many will reply and say that homosexuality cannot be wrong because they are born that way. They may be born that way. But so is the man who struggles with lust. He can’t justify going to the strip club, or buying sex from a prostitute because after all, he just has a thing with lust for women, hey he was born this way. That’s how God made him so it can’t be wrong. For every sin listed in the Bible, there is somebody who was born with a proclivity toward that sin.
Biblically speaking, many will point to the OT and say that it calls homosexuality an abomination. Well, it also calls eating shellfish an abomination. We have to be careful not to dig into the OT and reach into the Law of Moses to define what is moral for the Christian in the NC.
As Christians in the New Covenant, we are not under the Law. And while there is a continuity in the moral teaching from the old to new covenants, we cannot impose the law upon ourselves or others, or it becomes bondage and/or legalism. Thus, in light of the covenantal contexts, historical contexts, and audience relevance, it is important to rightly divide the word. Hence, our church’s focus on hermeneutics, proper interpretive principles. We will discuss hermeneutics more in depth as we bring this series to a close.
If we are going to point to the Bible as a source for understanding homosexuality as wrong or right, we must turn to the NT.
1 Cor 6:9-11 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Tim 1:8-118 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
In both passages, homosexuality listed along with sins as sin. That was then and cultural? That was to gentiles for new covenant life according to the words of God’s apostle with the authority of God to speak on his behalf.
Bottom line: this issue goes back to the fact that Biblically speaking, sex outside of marriage is wrong. The bible defines marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. While the NC redefines Israel, circumcision, the temple, the land, the law, the Sabbath, does away with Kosher dietary laws and animal sacrifice, never in the New Covenant is marriage redefined as a man and a man or a woman and a woman.
Since marriage is consistently and always defined as being between a man and a woman, sex outside of that context is consistently wrong.
One will say, so are you saying that a person attracted to the same sex never gets to have their sexual desires fulfilled? But that question springs from an earthly worldview, a 21st century selfish, worldview driven by a culture that is saturated with sex and puts sexual gratification on the highest pedestal possible, a culture that has a beautiful resource in the internet, but is unfortunately permeated with pornography shouting you need to have your sexual desires fulfilled if you want to be fulfilled.
In response, a Biblical worldview says first, your ultimate longings and desires will be fulfilled in Christ.
Second, if God created sex to be good and to be enjoyed for marriage, then that is where it should be enjoyed.
Third, what about all of the people who are wired in such a way that their deepest sexual desires are for children? Are you going to deny the pedophile of his deepest sexual desires?
So…can a Christian be attracted to people of the same sex? I think I have already implied that yes, in the same way that a Christian can be attracted to people of the opposite sex to whom they are not married. But that doesn’t give them license to commit sexual acts with those people outside of the context of marriage and since marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, sex between two men is never, Biblically speaking, right.
If one does think homosexual thoughts or commit homosexual acts, is he condemned and banished from the presence of God forever? Only if homosexuality is the one sin for which Jesus’ blood cannot atone! Only if gossipers, liars, cheaters, thieves, greedy people, and slanderers are condemned and banished. We cannot cherry-pick pet sins and bash on them.
A lot of the damage that has been done has been in presentation by Christians. Christians have been judgmental hypocrites who have condemned people for sin though they themselves are sinners. It’s easy for Christians to condemn a sin they don’t struggle with.
It has been the practice of many Christians to condemn homosexuality publically, carrying signs that say, “God hates fags.” Those sign-bearers are guilty of their own sins. The very act of their condemnation is the judgmental and legalistic ways that Jesus condemned most ardently; oddly enough we don’t have one written record of him condemning homosexuality.
Such selective condemnation of certain sins to the neglect of others has caused a kneejerk reaction in some toward moral relativism. But they are only partially relativist.
A so-called moral relativist doesn’t say it’s all relative, what’s right for you is right for you when you steal something from them. They say that’s wrong. They don’t say what’s right for you is right for you if you rape them. They say that’s wrong.
Why do what is right?
- God said so (and he’s God) – consider parental direction
- It’s good for us, by design
- Not because of fear, but because we love God
If there is a God and if that God sent his son Jesus to reveal himself to humanity and if that Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to Love that God with all your heart, and if that God has revealed a standard of what he desires in our conduct, then is it not a great expression of our love for him and fulfillment of our life’s purpose to conduct ourselves according to his revealed standard?
And if what is right is good for us, then isn’t it an expression of love for our neighbor, the second greatest commandment, to guide them into what is good for them?
CONCLUSION / WRAPUP
Before we close, I want to stress that an important thing to remember when it comes to morality: we are not the sin police. Our job is not to be on the lookout for sin, ready to condemn our brothers and sisters. We are to bear our brother’s burdens, not weigh him down with more guilt, shame, and condemnation. We are to have the freedom to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed.
When it comes to morality, Yahweh is the source and he reveals what is moral through the Scriptures. And not only is Yahweh the source of morality, he is also the source of salvation from the harm caused by falling short. The reality of good and evil takes us to the cross of Christ. In the message of the cross, evil was dealt with, sin atoned for, forgiveness offered, and the Spirit of God given to empower us to live for God. Outside of God, not only is there no answer, even the question is in a sense problematic. With God, the question is valid and with his provision in the cross, the answer is perfection, for we are washed clean in the blood of Christ, enabled to come before God with a clear conscience, and forgiven of our sins.