The Foundation of Morality

Dan Lenington on January 10, 2013

American flag

While listening to a local talk show host on January 9th around 5:00 pm, I heard him tell a caller that the debate about homosexuality shouldn’t have to include God and the Bible. I found this statement to be highly amusing, for I have heard this same conservative individual talk to many callers and capitulate on this issue even when he disagreed with them because of a fundamental problem. Like this host, many conservatives desire traditional morality but fail to realize its absolute lack of basis without God and His authority behind it. Without a higher standard, debate is degraded to mere opinion. A conservative standard becomes impossible to logically defend. America has been left with a standard without a reason.

As a caller aptly noted that evening, referencing the Bible is valid even when discussing civil law in America since our country was founded with the Judeo-Christian ethic central to its legal system. However, as our society has become increasingly secular over the past 200 years, the population in our representative democracy has the right to establish its own basis for civil law as it begins to reject the Biblical one. This is especially true, since our constitution guarantees religious and nonreligious freedom. Our system is unfortunately at the mercy of the spiritual health of society which will not naturally adhere to God’s truth due to humanity’s sin nature. We can be thankful for the religious freedom we have enjoyed thus far, but societies will always decline due to man’s depravity. Alexander Tytler is credited with the following fatal sequence: “The historical cycle seems to be: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependency; and from dependency back to bondage once more.” Neither society nor government can be depended on to uphold biblical values.

The church must be the salt and light in this culture to show why biblical values are the only ones which create a strong society. We have a responsibility to vote for conservative values but also to teach God’s Word as the only possible and logical basis for those values. Some suggest that one's personal values should be absent from their public stance, but this assumes that no moral absolutes exist. While this is certainly debated, this doesn't change the truth that God has set the ultimate standard based on His perfect nature, which is the standard He requires from all of His creation (Matt. 5:48). So homosexuality is not specifically wrong because it is unnatural, but because God who designed, sustains, and rules life says it is, because it violates His perfect nature. Our natures are far from perfect and are inadequate as a basis for morality. This point addresses the fundamental flaw of nonreligious conservatives.

We may turn back the clock of America’s moral decline; however, all governments will eventually fail because they can only be led by flawed men. Therefore, we cannot expect or hope that the church will “bring in the kingdom” by creating a righteous society. Even during the perfect and righteous kingdom of God, a majority of people will rebel against the perfect and holy ruler Christ Himself (Rev. 20:1-10). The church’s job is to share the truth of God’s Word based on the authority of God Himself with individuals and not be dismayed when society rejects God. That is its nature. The church may be headed for persecution, but that has always benefited the church by strengthening its resolve and focusing its influence. Perhaps this is exactly what the church needs today. Society may need to enter self inflicted bondage to show it the relevancy of the Christian message, just as Israel did during the age of the Judges. May we face the future expecting God to do what is needed for both the church and society as a whole. A great read related to this topic is Can We Be Good Without God by Paul Chamberlain.