Our God—He Is Alive [ Part III ]
[This is part three of a three-part series. Click here to view Part I, or here to view Part II.]
MORALITY, ETHICS, AND THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
It is a well-known and widely admitted fact that actions have consequences. But no less true is the fact that beliefs have implications—a fact that atheists and theists alike acknowledge. Well-known humanist Martin Gardner devoted a chapter in one of his books to “The Relevance of Belief Systems,” in an attempt to explain that what a person believes profoundly influences how a person acts (Gardner, The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher (1988, pp. 57-64). In his book, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics, the late theist Edward John Carnell remarked:
It is evident that we must act, if we are to remain alive, but we find ourselves in such multifarious circumstances that it is difficult to know at times whether it is better to turn to the right or better to turn to the left, or better not to turn at all. And, before one can choose a direction in which to turn, he must answer the question, better in relation to what or to whom? In other words, if a man is going to act meaningfully and not haphazardly, he must rationally count the cost; he must think before he acts. Right judgment, then, and proper actions always go together.... If it has not been evident to men before that we must be guided in our social life by universal and necessary ethical rules, it certainly is clear today (1948, pp. 316,315, emp. in orig.).
The points made by these two authors are well taken. What a person believes does influence how a person acts. Yet we must act in our daily lives. Furthermore, right judgments and proper actions do go together. How, then, shall we choose to do one thing while choosing not to do another? As A.E. Taylor wrote:
But it is an undeniable fact that men not merely love and procreate, they also hold that there is a difference between right and wrong; there are things which they ought to do and other things which they ought not to do. Different groups of men, living under different conditions and in different ages, may disagree widely on the question whether a certain thing belongs to the first or the second of these classes. They may draw the line between right and wrong in a different place, but at least they all agree that there is such a line to be drawn (1945, p. 83, emp. in orig.).
But where do we “draw the line”? By what standard (or standards) are our choices to be measured and judged?
One thing is for certain. The choices that we are being required to make today (and the judgments that those actions require on our part) are becoming increasingly complex and far-reaching in their implications. A slew of problems now sits at our proverbial doorstep—each of which requires rational, reasonable answers on how we ought to act in any given situation. Shall we encourage surrogate motherhood? Shall we countenance abortion? Shall we recommend euthanasia? We will not answer these types of questions, or even discuss them meaningfully, by relying merely on our own intuition or emotions. Furthermore, in many instances looking to the past provides little (if any) aid or comfort. In many ways, the set of problems now facing us is entirely different than the set of problems that once faced generations long since gone.
The simple fact is that morals and ethics are important. Even those who eschew any belief in God, and consequently any absolute standard of morality/ethics, concede that morality and ethics play a critical role in man’s everyday life. In his book, Ethics Without God, atheist Kai Nielsen admitted that to ask, “Is murder evil?,” is to ask a self-answering question (1973, p. 16). The late evolutionist of Harvard University, George Gaylord Simpson, stated that although “man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have him in mind,” nonetheless “good and evil, right and wrong, concepts irrelevant in nature except from the human viewpoint, become real and pressing features of the whole cosmos as viewed morally because morals arise only in man” (1967, p. 346, emp. added.). Wayne Jackson correctly observed:
All rational people are concerned, to a greater or lesser degree, about human moral and ethical conduct. How we act, and are acted upon, with respect to our fellow man determines the progress and happiness of mankind and, ultimately, contributes in one form or another to human destiny. The existence of, and need for, morality and ethics are self-evident. No sane person will argue that absolutely anything goes. The expressions “ought” and “ought not” are as much a part of the atheist’s vocabulary as anyone else’s. While it is true that one may become so insensitive that he abandons virtually all of his personal ethical obligations, but he will never ignore the lack of such in those who would abuse him (1995, 15:49).
Thomas C. Mayberry summarized this point well when he wrote: “There is broad agreement that lying, promise breaking, killing, and so on are generally wrong” (1970, 54:113). C.S. Lewis used the somewhat common concept of quarreling to make the same point when he observed that men who quarrel appeal
to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about.… Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are (1952, pp. 17-18).
If: (a) every living person must act from day to day in one way or another—and he must; (b) during the course of our actions, choices must be made—and they must; (c) the range of those choices is broadening every single day—and it is; (d) the scope of both the choices in front of us and the implications of those choices is widening—and it is; and (e) morality and ethics are important—and they are (even to those who believe in no objective, unchanging standard), then by what set of rules, decision-making process, or knowledge system shall human beings determine what they ought or ought not to do? How shall we come to grips with, and evaluate, these “real and pressing features” of “good and evil, right and wrong”? Stated simply, by what ethical/moral system(s) shall we live and thereby justify our actions and choices?
As we begin this study into the importance and origin of morality and ethics, a brief definition of terms is in order. The English word “morality” derives from the Latin word mores, meaning habits or customs. Morality, therefore, is “the character of being in accord with the principles or standards of right conduct” (Jackson, 1995, 15:50). “Ethics” is from a Greek word meaning “character.” The standard dictionary definition of ethics is “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad or right and wrong; a group of moral principles or a set of values.” Ethics, then, “is generally viewed as the system or code by which attitudes and actions are determined to be either right or wrong” (Jackson, 1995, 15:50). Or, as Carnell put it: “Ethics is the science of conduct, and the fundamental problem of ethics is determining what constitutes proper conduct” (1948, p. 315). Moral or ethical philosophy, then, deals with right conduct, ethical duty, and virtue—i.e., how we ought to behave. The question now is: How ought we to behave?
If such concepts as “good and evil, right and wrong” are, in fact, “real and pressing features,” how, then, should moral and ethical systems be determined? Morals and ethics are universally accepted traits among the human family. Their origin, therefore, must be explained. Simply put, there are but two options. Either morality and ethics are theocentric—that is, they originate from the mind of God as an external source of infinite goodness, or they are anthropocentric—that is, they originate from man himself (Geisler and Corduan, 1988, pp. 109-122). Carnell asked in this regard:
But where shall we locate these rules of duty? That is the question. In answering the question, however, one has little latitude of choice. Since duty is proper meaning, and since meaning is a property of either mind or of law, we can expect to locate our rule of duty either in a mind or in a law. Either the law that rules the mind is supreme, or the mind which makes the law is paramount. These fairly well exhaust the possibilities, for, if mind does not make the law, it is law that makes the mind. The Christian will defend the primacy of the lawgiver; non-Christianity will defend the primacy of the law… (pp. 320-321, first emp. in orig., last emp. added).
The person who refuses to acknowledge the existence of God does indeed have “little latitude of choice.” Simpson was forced to conclude: “Discovery that the universe apart from man or before his coming lacks and lacked any purpose or plan has the inevitable corollary that the workings of the universe cannot provide any automatic, universal, eternal, or absolute ethical criteria of right and wrong” (1967, p. 346). Since man is viewed as little more than the last animal among many to be produced by the long, meandering process of organic evolution, this becomes problematic. In their book, Origins, Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin wrote: “There is now a critical need for a deep awareness that, no matter how special we are as an animal, we are still part of the greater balance of nature…” (1977, p. 256, emp. added). Charles Darwin declared: “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties” (as quoted in Francis Darwin, 1898, 1:64). A lion is not plagued by guilt after killing a gazelle’s infant offspring for its noon meal. A dog does not experience remorse after stealing a bone from one of its peers.
In 1986, British evolutionist Richard Dawkins [who has described himself as “a fairly militant atheist, with a fair degree of hostility toward religion” (see Bass, 1990, 2:86)] authored a book titled The Selfish Gene in which he set forth his theory of genetic determinism. In summarizing the basic thesis of the book, Dawkins said: “You are for nothing. You are here to propagate your selfish genes. There is no higher purpose in life” (p. 60). Dawkins then explained:
I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave.... My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop it being true (1989, pp. 2-3, emp. added).
Dawkins is correct in his assessment—a society based on the concept of godless evolution would be “a very nasty” place to live. Since no other animal throughout evolutionary history has been able to locate and live by moral standards, should we somehow trust a “naked ape” (to use zoologist Desmond Morris’ colorful expression) to do any better? Darwin himself complained: “Can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?” (as quoted in Francis Darwin, p. 282).
Matter—by itself—is completely impotent to “evolve” any sense of moral consciousness. If there is no purpose in the Universe, as Simpson and others have asserted, then there is no purpose to morality or ethics. But the concept of a “purposeless morality,” or a “purposeless ethic,” is irrational. Unbelief therefore must contend, and does contend, that there is no ultimate standard of moral/ ethical truth, and that morality and ethics, at best, are relative and situational. That being the case, who could ever suggest, correctly, that someone else’s conduct was “wrong,” or that a man “ought” or “ought not” to do thus and so? The simple fact of the matter is that infidelity cannot explain the origin of morality and ethics.
Whether the unbeliever is willing to admit it or not, if there is no God man exists in an environment where “anything goes.” Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in The Brothers Karamazov (1880), had one of his characters (Ivan) remark that in the absence of God, everything is allowed. French existential philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, wrote:
Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself.... Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimize our behavior (1961, p. 485).
Sartre contended that whatever one chooses to do is right; value is attached to the choice itself so that “...we can never choose evil” (1966, p. 279). These men are correct about one thing. If evolution is true and there is no God, “anything goes” is the name of the game. Thus, it is impossible to formulate a system of ethics by which one objectively can differentiate “right” from “wrong.” Agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell observed:
We feel that the man who brings widespread happiness at the expense of misery to himself is a better man than the man who brings unhappiness to others and happiness to himself. I do not know of any rational ground for this view, or, perhaps, for the somewhat more rational view that whatever the majority desires (called utilitarian hedonism) is preferable to what the minority desires. These are truly ethical problems but I do not know of any way in which they can be solved except by politics or war. All that I can find to say on this subject is that an ethical opinion can only be defended by an ethical axiom, but, if the axiom is not accepted, there is no way of reaching a rational conclusion (1969, 3:29, emp. added).
With no way to reach a rational conclusion on what is ethical, man finds himself adrift in a chaotic sea of despair where “might makes right,” where “the strong subjugates the weak,” and where each man does what is right in his own eyes. The late atheistic philosopher Ayn Rand even went so far as to title one of her books, The Virtue of Selfishness—A New Concept of Egoism. This is not a system based on morals and ethics, but a society of anarchy.
THE PRACTICAL IMPACT OF MORALS
AND ETHICS WITHOUT GOD
When Martin Gardner wrote on “The Relevance of Belief Systems” in his book, The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher, and observed that what a person believes profoundly influences how a person acts, he could not have been more right (1988, pp. 57-64). Nowhere has this been truer than in regard to the effect of incorrect beliefs concerning morality and ethics. And what a price we as humans have paid! One example (and there are many!) comes to mind immediately in regard to the value (or lack thereof) that we have placed on human life.
Having grown up under a father who was a veterinarian, and personally having served as a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University for a number of years, I have seen firsthand the fate of animals that have suffered irreparable injuries, have become riddled with incurable diseases, or have become too old and decrepit to control their bodily functions. I have had to stand by helplessly and watch my father, or my colleagues, discharge a firearm to end the life of a horse because of a broken leg that could not be healed. I have had to draw into a syringe the life-ending drug to be inserted into the veins of someone’s pet dog to “put it to sleep” because the combination of senility and disease had taken a toll that not even the ablest practitioner of the healing arts could reverse. It is neither a pleasant task nor a pretty sight. But while a pet dog or champion 4-H gelding may have held a place of esteem in a child’s heart, the simple fact of the matter is that the dog is not someone’s father or mother and the horse is not someone’s brother or sister. These are animals—which is why they shoot horses.
In the evolutionary scheme of things, however, man occupies the same status. He may be more knowledgeable, more intellectual, and more scheming than his counterparts in the animal kingdom. But he is still an animal. And so the question is bound to arise: Why should man be treated any differently when his life no longer is deemed worth living? Truth be told, there is no logical reason that he should. From cradle to grave, life—from an evolutionary vantage point—is completely expendable. And so it should be—at least if Charles Darwin is to be taken at face value. In his book, The Descent of Man, he wrote:
With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skills to save the life of everyone to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed (1870, p. 501).
In Darwin’s day (and even in the early parts of this century), some applied this view to the human race via the concept of eugenics. By January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court, in a 7- to-2 vote, decided that the human embryo growing within the human womb no longer is “human.” Rather, it is a “thing” that may be ripped out, slaughtered, and tossed into the nearest garbage dump. And the lengths to which some will go in order to justify such a position defy description. As an example, consider the position of the late atheist Carl Sagan and his wife, Ann Druyan. In an article on “The Question of Abortion” that they co-authored for Parade magazine, these two humanists contended for the ethical permissibility of human abortion on the grounds that the fetus, growing within a woman’s body for several months following conception, is not a human being. Their conclusion, therefore, was this: the killing of this tiny creature is not murder.
And what was the basis for this assertion? Sagan and Druyan argued their case by subtly employing the concept known as “embryonic recapitulation,” which suggests that as the human embryo develops, it repeats its evolutionary history, going through ancestral stages such as an amoeba-like blob, a fish, an amphibian, a reptile, etc. So, watching the human embryo grow is like watching a “silent moving picture” of evolution. They stated that the embryo first is “a kind of parasite” that eventually looks like a “segmented worm.” Further alterations, they wrote, reveal “gill arches” like that of a “fish or amphibian.” Supposedly, “reptilian” features emerge, and later give rise to “mammalian...pig-like” traits. By the end of two months, according to these two authors, the creature resembles a “primate but is still not quite human” (1990, p. 6).
The concept of embryonic recapitulation, which first was set forth in the mid-1860s by German scientist Ernst Haeckel, long since has been discredited and shown to be without any basis in scientific fact (Simpson, Pittendrigh, and Tiffany, 1957, p. 352). But so desperate were Sagan and Druyan to find something—anything—in science to justify their belief that abortion is not murder, they resurrected the ancient concept, dusted it off, and attempted to give it some credibility as an appropriate reason why abortion is not murder. Surely this demonstrates the lengths to which evolutionists will go to substantiate their theory, as well as the inordinate practices that the theory generates when followed to its logical ends.
According to Darwin, “weaker” members of society are unfit and, by the laws of nature, normally would not survive. Who is weaker than a tiny baby growing in the womb? The baby cannot defend himself, cannot feed himself, and cannot even speak for himself. He (or she) is completely and totally dependent upon the mother for life. Since nature “selects against” the weaker animal, and since man is an animal, why should man expect any deferential treatment?
Once those who are helpless, weak, and young become expendable, who will be next? Will it be the helpless, weak, and old? Will it be those whose infirmities make them “unfit” to survive in a society that values the beautiful and the strong? Will it be those who are lame, blind, maimed? Will it be those whose IQ falls below a certain point or whose skin is a different color? Some in our society already are calling for such “cleansing” processes to be made legal, using euphemisms such as “euthanasia” or “mercy killing.” After all, they shoot horses, don’t they?
When George Gaylord Simpson commented that “morals arise only in man” (1967, p. 346), he acknowledged (whether or not he intended to) the fact that morality is something unique to humankind. No two apes ever sat down and said, “Hey, I’ve got a good idea. Today let’s talk about morals and ethics.” On the same page of his book, Simpson thus was forced to admit that “the workings of the universe cannot provide any automatic, universal, eternal, or absolute ethical criteria of right and wrong” (p. 346). In their book, Why Believe? God Exists!, Miethe and Habermas observed:
At every turn in the discussion of moral values, the naturalistic position is weighted down with difficulties. It has the appearance of a drowning swimmer trying to keep its head above water. If it concedes something on the one hand, it is condemned on the other. But if it fails to admit the point, it appears to be in even more trouble. It is an understatement to say, at the very least, that naturalism is not even close to being the best explanation for the existence of our moral conscience (1993, p. 219, emp. in orig.).
What, then, is the “best explanation for the existence of our moral conscience”? John Henry Newman assessed the situation like this:
Inanimate things cannot stir our affections; these are correlative with persons. If, as is the case, we feel responsibility, are ashamed, are frightened, at transgressing the voice of conscience, this implies that there is One to whom we are responsible, before whom we are ashamed, whose claims upon us we fear...we are not affectionate towards a stone, nor do we feel shame before a horse or a dog; we have no remorse or compunction on breaking mere human law...and thus the phenomena of Conscience, as a dictate, avails to impress the imagination with the picture of a Supreme Governor, a Judge, holy, just, powerful, all-seeing, retributive (1887, pp. 105-106).
Theistic philosopher David Lipe wrote:
In conflicts of moral judgments, some judgments are recognized as better than others.... If it is not the case that one moral judgment is any better than any other moral judgment, then it is nonsensical to prefer one over the other. However, every person finds himself preferring one judgment over another, and in this admission (that one is better than the other), it is claimed that one is responding to a law which, in effect, measures the judgments…. I am convinced that all men have the moral experience of feeling “obligated” in a certain way, and that this sense of “moral obligation” is connected with God. This idea is consistent with the meaning of religion itself. The word “religion” is a compound of the Latin re and ligare, meaning “to bind back.” Thus, for the religionist, there is a bond existing between man and God. This bond is the feeling of being morally obligated to live up to a specific moral law or standard which is the expression of the commands of God and which presses down on everyone (1987, 7:40,37).
In the long run, morality simply cannot survive if its ties to religion are cut. W.T. Stace, who was neither a theist nor a friend of religion, nevertheless agreed wholeheartedly with such an assessment when he wrote:
The Catholic bishops of America once issued a statement in which they said that the chaotic and bewildered state of the modern world is due to man’s loss of faith, his abandonment of God and religion. I agree with this statement.... Along with the ruin of the religious vision there went the ruin of moral principles and indeed of all values (1967, pp. 3,9, emp. in orig.).
This “ruin of moral principles” is what Glenn C. Graber referred to in his doctoral dissertation on “The Relationship of Morality and Religion” as the “cut-flowers thesis”—a concept that explains what happens to morals and ethics when they are divorced from their religious moorings based on the existence of the “Supreme Governor”—God (1972, pp. 1-5). Perhaps Leo Tolstoy provided an early statement of this thesis when he suggested:
The attempts to found a morality apart from religion are like the attempts of children who, wishing to transplant a flower that pleases them, pluck it from the roots that seem to them unpleasing and superfluous, and stick it rootless into the ground. Without religion there can be no real, sincere morality, just as without roots there can be no real flower (1964, pp. 31-32).
In discussing the cut-flowers thesis, Lipe remarked:
Tolstoy’s conclusion is a matter of grave importance to those who take religion seriously. Thus, on the cut-flowers thesis, those who believe morality is a valuable human institution, and those who wish to avoid moral disaster, will make every effort to preserve its connection with religion and the religious belief which forms its roots. The apologetic force of the cut-flowers thesis becomes even stronger if the religionist makes the additional claim that morality is presently in a withering stage. This claim takes on a sense of urgency when the decline in morality is identified with the muddle in which civilization now finds itself (1987, 7:27, emp. in orig.).
And civilization is indeed in a “muddle” identified by a definite “decline in morality.” With guns blasting, children (some as young as 10 or 11 years old) bearing a grudge or desiring to settle a score walk into school hallways, classrooms, and libraries, shoot until they have emptied every round from all chambers, and watch gleefully as shell casings, teachers, and classmates alike fall silently at their feet. Then parents, administrators, and friends congregate amidst the bloody aftermath and wonder what went wrong. Yet why are we shocked or enraged by such conduct? Our children have been taught they are nothing more than “naked apes”—and they are intelligent enough to figure out exactly what that means. As Guy N. Woods lamented, “Convince a man that he came from a monkey, and he’ll act like one!” (1976, 118:514). They have been taught that religion is an outward sign of inner weakness—a crutch used by people too weak and cowardly to “pull themselves up by their own boot straps.” Why, then, should we be at all surprised when they react accordingly (even violently!)? After all, “nature,” said Lord Tennyson, “is red in tooth and claw.”
The truth of the matter is that only the theocentric approach to this problem is consistent logically and internally; only the theocentric approach can provide an objective, absolute set of morals and ethics. But why is this the case?
True morality is based on the fact of the unchanging nature of Almighty God. He is eternal (Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17), holy (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8), just and righteous (Psalm 89:14), and forever consistent (Malachi 3:6). In the ultimate sense, only He is good (Mark 10:18). Furthermore, since He is perfect (Matthew 5:48), the morality that issues from such a God is good, unchanging, just, and consistent—i.e., exactly the opposite of the relativistic, deterministic, or situational ethics of the world.
When Newman suggested in the above quotation that we as humans “feel responsibility,” it was a recognition on his part that there is indeed within each man, woman, and child a sense of moral responsibility which derives from the fact that God is our Creator (Psalm 100:3) and that we have been fashioned in His spiritual image (Genesis 1:26-27). As the potter has sovereign right over the clay with which he works (Romans 9:21), so our Maker has the sovereign right over His creation since in His hand “is the soul of every living thing” (Job 12:10). As the patriarch Job learned much too late, God is not a man with whom one can argue (Job 9:32).
Whatever God does, commands, and approves is good (Psalm 119:39,68; cf. Genesis 18:25). What He has commanded results from the essence of His being—Who He is—and therefore also is good. In the Old Testament, the prophet Micah declared of God: “He showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8). In the New Testament, the apostle Peter admonished: “As he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, ‘Ye shall be holy: for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15).
The basic thrust of God-based ethics concerns the relationship of man to the One Who created and sustains him. God Himself is the unchanging standard of moral law. His perfectly holy nature is the ground or basis upon which “right” and “wrong,” “good” and “evil” are determined. The Divine will—expressive of the very nature of God—constitutes the ultimate ground of moral obligation. Why are we to pursue holiness? Because God is holy (Leviticus 19:1; 1 Peter 1:16). Why are we not to lie, cheat, or steal (Colossians 3:9)? Because God’s nature is such that He cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). Since God’s nature is unchanging, it follows that moral law, which reflects the divine nature, is equally immutable.
While there have been times in human history when each man “did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6), that never was God’s plan. He has not left us to our own devices to determine what is right and wrong because He knew that through sin man’s heart would become “exceedingly corrupt” (Jeremiah 17:9). Therefore, God “has spoken” (Hebrews 1:1), and in so doing He has made known to man His laws and precepts through the revelation He has provided in written form within the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:11ff.; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:20-21). Thus, mankind is expected to act in a morally responsible manner (Matthew 19:9; Acts 14:15-16; 17:30; Hebrews 10:28ff.) in accordance with biblical laws and precepts. In addressing this point, Wayne Jackson commented that the Bible “contains many rich principles which challenge us to develop a greater sense of spiritual maturity and to soar to heights that are God-honoring.... Our Creator has placed us ‘on our honor’ to grow to greater heights.... [Biblical] morality runs deep into the soul; it challenges us to get our hearts under control” (1984, 4:23, emp. in orig.). Herbert Lockyer discussed this concept in vividly expressive terms when he wrote:
Being made righteous before God, it is imperative for us to live righteously before men. God, however, has not only a standard for us, He intends Christians to be standards (I Timothy 4:12; James 1:22). Think of these manifold requirements. We are told to be different from the world (II Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:4; 12:1,2). We are to shine as lights amidst the world’s darkness (Matthew 5:14-16). We are to walk worthy of God, as His ambassadors (II Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 5:8). We are to live pleasing to God (I Thessalonians 4:1; II Thessalonians 1:11-2:17; Colossians 1:10). We are to be examples to others in all things (I Corinthians 4:13; I Timothy 4:12). We are to be victorious in temptation and tribulation (Romans 12:12; Colossians 1:11, James 1:2-4). We are to be conspicuous for our humility (Ephesians 4:12; Colossians 3:13; I Peter 3:3,4). We must appropriate divine power for the accomplishment of all God wants to make us, and desires us to be (Philippians 3:13; 3:21; II Peter 1:3)....
Throughout all of the epistles are scattered rules and directions, covering the whole ground of private and social life. The apostles taught that as a man believes, so must he behave. Creed should be reflected in conduct. Virtues must be acquired (Galatians 5:22,23; Colossians 3:12-17; II Peter 1:5-7; Titus 2:12), and vices shunned (Galatians 5:19,20,21; Colossians 3:5-9). Love, as the parent of all virtue must be fostered (Romans 5:1,2,7,8; I Corinthians 13; II Corinthians 5:19; Hebrews 11). Christ’s image must be reflected in the lives of those He saves (Romans 8:37-39; 1 Corinthians 15:49-58; 11 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 3:8-14).
Truly, ours is a high and holy calling. Belonging to Christ, we must behave accordingly. Having accepted Christ we must live Christ, which is not a mere fleshly imitation of Him but the outworking of His own life within. If His law is written upon our heart (Hebrews 8:10), and His Spirit enlightens our conscience (John 16:13); then, with a will harmonized to the Lord’s will (Psalm 143:10), and affections set on heavenly things (Colossians 3:1), there will be no contradiction between profession and practice. What we believe will influence behavior, and creed will harmonize with conduct and character (1964, pp. 221-223, emp. in orig.).
Lockyer’s last point is one that I have tried to make over and over within this discussion: “What we believe will influence behavior, and creed will harmonize with conduct and character.” If a man believes he came from an animal, if he is consistent with his belief his conduct will match accordingly. If a man believes he was “created in the image and likeness of God,” if he is consistent with his belief his conduct will match accordingly.
David Lipe, speaking as both a philosopher and a theist, has suggested that for quite some time certain philosophers and theologians generally have “turned away from” standard textbook arguments for the existence of God, not because the doctrines were weak or had been disproved, but because “morality has furnished the main support” (1987, 7:26). Indeed it has. Miethe and Habermas were correct when they suggested that “naturalism is not even close to being the best explanation for the existence of our moral conscience” (1993, p. 219). Man’s moral and ethical nature, as Newman proclaimed, “implies that there is One to whom we are responsible...a Supreme Governor, a Judge, holy, just, powerful” (1887, pp. 105,106).
Eventually, each of us will meet “the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his works” (Romans 2:5-6). It therefore behooves us to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age” (Titus 2:12) for, as Carnell put it:
Death is the one sure arch under which all men must pass. But if death ends all—and it very well may unless we have inerrant revelation to assure us to the contrary—what virtue is there in present striving? Job...expressed [that] man lives as if there is a sense to life, but in the end, his mortal remains provide but a banquet for the worms, for man dies and “The worm shall feed sweetly on him” (Job 24:20).... The only full relief man can find from the clutches of these “tiny cannibals” is to locate some point of reference outside of the flux of time and space which can serve as an elevated place of rest. In Christianity, and in it alone, we find the necessary help, the help of the Almighty, He who rules eternity (1948, pp. 332-333).
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