Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Moral Foundations, Necessary or Not?

All laws must have a moral backing, that is, a moral law as their foundation. Contrary to those who say that "You can't legislate morality," I say, "If you don't legislate morality, what do you legislate?" Without that moral foundation, any legislation is simply argumentum ad baculum, or (paraphrased) in English, "persuasion from the barrel of a gun." You will do what we say simply because we want you to do it. The only obligation that you have is to the government and there is no one greater than us to whom we are accountable. And if you don't like it, lump it.

Without some higher authority morality is reduced to ice cream; you like vanilla, I like mocha almond fudge. Except we're talking about morality here, so it becomes, you prefer not taking other peoples' stuff, I like to help myself to any of your possessions that catch my eye. Who's to say who's right? In fact, without that objective, authoritative moral standard, even asking the question "who is right," is nonsensical. If there is no higher standard there is no right or wrong, just personal preference; your decision not to steal is no better than my decision to steal.

Some people who want to deny the necessity of an objective, authoritative (thus God-based) moral foundation argue that we get our morality through periods of trial and error, discovering what works.

But who's to say what works for any given society? Certainly, cutting the hearts out of living victims kidnapped from other local tribes by the thousands seemed to work quite well for the Aztec civilization. African slavery worked great for most of the world (including most of Africa) for hundreds of years. Purging their society of the aged, the handicapped, and the Jews looked like it might "work" for the purposes of the Nazis. Without a moral standard outside of human government and culture, these atrocities cannot be judged as "wrong." Without an authoritative moral standard, the strongest statement one can make about these events is, "Personally, I don't like that." Seems pretty weak to me.

"But," the secularist argues, "all those examples involve hurting other people. Thus, we can say such actions are immoral." Really? Where does one, outside of an objective, authoritative moral standard, have the ability to say that hurting people is wrong? Let me put it another way: You claim there are no transcendent moral standards, but we shouldn't hurt people. If that's true, then isn't "not hurting people" a transcendent moral law? To say that there is not an authoritative Law Giver who we are obligated to obey, but at the same time claim that we are obligated not to hurt people is a contradiction. May I also point out that if we agree that "not hurting people" IS a transcendent moral law, then couldn't there be other transcendent moral laws as well?

The strongest statement the secular legal scholar can make is, "I don't like being hurt, therefore I chose not to hurt other people." Wonderful! That's an excellent reason for you not to hurt people, not for anybody else not to hurt people. What if I like hurting people? By what authority, other than one's personal preferences, could I then be told to change my behavior? There is none.

Without a God, who is The Moral Authority, people have no obligation to help or be concerned for others, all societies from the most violent and degraded to the most kind and altruistic are on the same level, one can't be said to be better than the other (the idea of "better" implies an objective standard). Words like "corruption" and "justice" become meaningless. There can never be such a thing as a moral reformer, such as Martin Luther King, Jr.; in fact, in what 99.8% of people would surely consider a bizarre twist, in a world where culture, society, or government truly was the highest authority, M. L. King, Jr. would be considered immoral (I'm not going to take up more space here demonstrating why that would be).

Without God, the whole philosophical basis for a justice system or a legal system breaks down completely. And the result are truly ugly to behold.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

God and Your Job

Recently, I have handled a number of questions from friends and acquaintances asking about "God's will for their life" with a particular emphasis on jobs and vocation. Does God have a specific job he wants you to do, or a specific company He wants you to work for?

The question is closely tied to the common Christian assumption, widely held today, that God has some special blueprint for your life; where you will live, who you will marry, what job you will have, etc., etc,. Certainly God knows all of these things, but the question is whether God is making these decisions for you and if you need to figure out what His choices are before you can make a move.

Does God have this blueprint for you and He's dropping little hints here and there, trying to get you to figure out what He wants you to do?
Personally, I have a hard time thinking of a more hurtful or confusing teaching within the mainstream Christian Church today than this one.

Having studied the Bible with the same questions in mind, I found that the Bible communcates God's will in
two different and distinct ways; what many have come to refer to as "God's Sovereign Will," and "God's Moral Will:"

God's Sovereign Will: What God designs or decrees. We can only discover what God's sovereign will is in two ways, through hindsight and through what is revealed in scripture. We see what happened yesterday and realize that what occured did so by God's sovereign will. God establishes rulers and authorities, kings and kingdoms; He has supreme authority overeverything that happens. It is God's sovereign will that lost be condemned and the saved be sanctified and redeemed; we see this in scripture. There are a number of prophesies in scripture which inform us of God's sovereign will for the future. That said, the vast majority of the time we don't have access to God's sovereign will for the purpose of decision making.

God's Moral Will: What God desires. This tells us how we should live: that we should submit ourselves to His authority, that we should live righteously and not sin. God's Moral will is completely revealed to us in Scripture. It does not give individual guidence to Christians, but applies to all Christains equally.

As far as what many Christians call "God's Individual Will" for each one of us, I can't find that taught anywhere in scripture. I know of many passages which are used to justify such a teaching, but when read in context they don't actually have anything to do with such an "Individual Will".
It appears clear from the Bible that God doesn't decide things like occupation, spouse, and living location for us, He dignifies us with the responsibility of making significant choices ourselves.

Please don't misunderstand, I am not saying that God doesn't care about the decisions that we make, but that he allows us to make the decisions that are best for us,
and is pleased with our choices as long as they are in accordance with His moral will as revealed in scripture. As far as how to apply God's will to your life, it really is very simple: The Bible doesn't tell us where we should live, but what kind of neighbor we should be. It doesn't tell us what job we should take, but what kind of employee or employer we should be. It doesn't tell us who we should marry, but what kind of spouse we should be. The Bible doesn't tell us who we should have a freind, but what kind of friend we should be.

In short, if you think that you need to change occupations...DO IT! If you truly desire to honor God, you will honor him whether you decide to stay in your current position, or leave to do something new, as long as your decision is in line with His moral will as clearly communicated in the Bible.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why Not Civil Unions?

My last post was addressing the inherent errors most people who are for same-sex marriage make when forming their argument. This week, I want to address a problem nearly everyone on the side of keeping marriage one-man one-woman makes, the problem with so-called civil-unions.

Nearly every time I hear anyone from the pro-opposite sex marriage side argue this issue (please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to imply that those who would like to see same sex marriage are anti-opposite sex marriage), I hear them say things like:

“Marriage should remain one-man, one-woman, but I would be in favor of some sort of civil unions for gay people.”

This thinking always bothered me, and I just recently figured out why:

I don’t care about the word ‘marriage;’ for all I care, we could make up any name for it we wanted. Why not start calling marriage the ‘perpetual state of intense personal togetherness” (as in, “Meet John and Martha, they were recently joined in a perpetual state of intense personal togetherness.”); aside from being incredibly cumbersome and a complete pain in the neck, I mean.

I don’t care about marriage the word; I care about marriage the thing. That’s what we are really trying to protect: the institution, not it’s title.

Marriage is worth protecting because of the reasons I went over in my previous article. If we, as a society, create another differently named but otherwise exactly the same institution, we’ve given away the farm. We will have provided the gay lobby with everything it wants but the word, and in doing so we’ll have given them an excellent place to argue from for that as well. Within a couple years of creating ‘civil unions,’ the activists will be saying, “Why not just call it marriage? It’s the same in every other way already.”

And they would be right. Civil unions and marriage are a distinction without a difference. At that point, we, the defenders of the so-called ‘Nuclear Family’ would have given away all the cards, and there would be no more argument to be made in our defense.