Morality is concerned with establishing and disseminating principles of right and wrong in conduct or behavior. Morality and ethics are closely associated. “Ethics is that branch of philosophy which is concerned with human character and conduct. It has to do with life or personality in its inward dispositions, outward manifestations and social relations (Alexander, 1013). “Ethics is that branch of philosophy that deals with how we ought to live with the idea of the good, and with such concepts as right and wrong” (Pojman, Xiii).
Free To Choose
Morality is real only if mankind is free to choose. In a world of fate or determinism, in which all things are predetermined and fixed, mankind has no responsibility. “Freedom is an absolute essential to a truly moral universe” (Greisler). The Bible clearly shows man is a creature of choice, free to choose whatever he wills (Acts 10:35 ff; Deut. 11:26-28; Josh. 24:14, 15). Early in time, when God rejected Cain’s offering, “… the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen. 4:6, 7). Cain was instructed that he had a choice between right and wrong and was responsible for his choice. Also, Cain’s choice would determine whether or not he would be happy.
God”s Word is the Standard
The biblical morality is rooted ultimately and inseparably in the unchanging nature of God. When God ordained the standard by which man should live, he set the standard in himself. To have done otherwise would have been a denial of his own character and a denial of an absolute standard. Man may be unfaithful (unbelieving and immoral) but “he (God) abides faithful; for he cannot deny himself ” (2 Tim. 2:13). Right does not exist as something apart from God upon which he arbitrarily decides or upon which he stamps his approval.
God has revealed to man how man ought to live based on his own character. “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Pet.1:3, 4). God’s nature or character revealed in the Bible is that God is holy (1 Pet.1:15 f; Lev. 11:44); God is Light (1 John 1:5); God is love (1 John 4:8, 16 f; Matt. 5:48); God is righteous (1 John 2:29); God is good (Psa. 118:29); God is merciful, gracious, kind and true (Psa. 116:5 f; Ex. 34:5-7). What God “is” we “ought” to be.
Jesus the Messiah, God’s Son, came to this world and gave us an example of moral living. And, “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 Jn 2:6). The apostle Peter stated, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21, 22). The apostle Paul said, “Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1).
False Standards of Morality
Might is right. Ancient Greek philosopher, Thrasymachus, is supposed to have held that “justice is the interest of the stronger party.” This makes right to be defined by “power.” There are many powers which are exercised upon others; political power, physical power, psychological power, and economic power to name some.
Morals are mores. Right is determined by the group. In our schools, value clarification is this method whereby students themselves determine what is right in any circumstance. “…Evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:13). Morality in America has long left center stage and has been replaced with immorality, vulgarity, and wickedness. Let me put it more plainly, America is wicked and none of us are totally exempt. We have allowed homosexuals to exist in society, to marry, and to rear children. We have allowed adulterers to enter into the church and to take leadership roles. People used to get married to avoid fornication. Today they commit fornication to see if they want to get married. Our leaders have become immoral and decadent and we keep defending them and electing them over and over again. As the old folks use to say it, “America has gone to hell in a hand basket”. Remember the words of the Psalmist David who wrote, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Ps 9:17).
Right is whatever mankind determines is right. This was the error in the day of the judges when “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 17:6; 21:25). Right is whatever brings pleasure in today’s society. In America there is no right. Right is in the eye of the beholder. We deny that anything is right or wrong.
Conclusion: God has revealed to man the absolute standard of morality, which is rooted in his own character, exhibited by his own Son, and contained and explained in the Bible.
Today’s church must believe in, defend, and live up to the standard God has given. The great moral questions of today are all answered in the Bible.
God’s people discredit themselves and dishonor God when they complain the moral standard is too high. What the church ought to do is to do their best to bring their lives up to the standard. The church should never allow compromise on God’s moral standard.
Alexander Campbell summed up the standard of morality in seven words, “One God, one moral system, one Bible”. If we want to get back to God we must “…continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:14-15).