Ten Key Questions About Life
This study is dedicated to developing a Biblical world view by "girding up" or sharpening our minds with ten key questions about life. These are: What is man?; What is the real meaning of life?; How am I to make moral choices?; What is truth?; What is love and where can it be found?; Why is there suffering and how can we live with it?; What is death?; What hope is there for the human race?; What is real?; Is there any hope in fighting evil and injustice?
What Is Man?
What Is The Meaning Of Life?
How Are We To Make Moral Choices?
Is It Possible To Know The Truth About Ourselves And The Universe?
What Is Love And Where Can It Be Found?
Why Is There Suffering And How Can We Live With It?
What Is Death And How Are We To Face It?
What Hope Is There For The Human Race?
What Is Real?
Can Evil Be Defeated?
How Are We To Make Moral Choices?
by: Allan Turner
In his book, The Death of Ethics in America, Cal Thomas wrote: “The lack of any personal accountability to a moral code has made immorality respectable in our nation. There is at times little in the press, in the entertainment industry, or in our institutions of higher (lower?) learning that can lift us up or cause us to realize that we have fallen. All of the voices are coming from below, rather than from above.”
Thomas is right, but there is more. Immorality, which says, “Certain things are right and wrong, but I don't care!,” has now given way to amorality, which says, “There is no such thing as right or wrong!” According to the humanists' world view, morality is situational and autonomous. This means that what is right or wrong depends solely on the situation and what an individual thinks is appropriate in that situation. Consequently, personal pleasure has become the final arbiter of morality. Although we continue to act and talk like there are commonly accepted standards of right behavior, of fair play, of truth and honesty, of right and wrong, such is simply no longer the case in our culture.
For some time now, righteousness has been under attack! It has been under concerted, conscious systematic attack in our creative arts, in our popular literature and music, on our TV screens, in our educational institutions, and even in our churches. But, what do I mean by “righteousness”? Well, it is not without significance that in past generations such an explanation would not be necessary. [See Chart] However, today, it is often necessary to explain that what the philosopher calls ethics, the theologian calls morals, the educator calls values, and the man on the street calls goodness, the Bible calls “righteousness.”
This attack on righteousness or morality has produced the very worse results. Statistics prove there is more crime, more juvenile delinquency, more suicide, more adultery, more divorces, more homosexuality with each passing year. But then someone says, “What do you mean ‘worse’?” You see, when there are no standards, one can ask a question like this and many people will even think the questioner is smart. But, when one replies to the pseudo-intellectual's question with the remark, “By worse, I mean more immoral,” one had better brace for an indignant, “Don't you try to impose your narrow, moralizing views on me.” You see, in today's society, if one wants to convince Americans about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of something, one must not talk about morality. Instead, one must talk the language of a New Age. In other words, talk about health; talk about scientific facts; talk about self-esteem; talk about economic considerations; but don't ever talk about morality!
For example, consider the problem of AIDS. Watching the news some nights, we might imagine that the AIDS epidemic is a threat to all Americans—indeed, all humans. But keep watching. On another night, the same reporters emphasize that actually AIDS is nearly impossible to contract: we get it mainly from shared needles or from highly intimate sexual contact, we are told. One night we are meant to be extremely alarmed at the worst health problem in modern history. The next night we are reassured that we could hardly catch it if we tried. One night we are berated for not caring. The next night we are scolded for reacting hysterically. And although it has been empirically demonstrated that those who engage in homosexual acts and share needles serve as the primary breeding ground for AIDS, one of the things you never hear discussed—unless it is to condemn—is the morality of this issue. As a matter of fact, according to Dr. Walter R. Dowdle of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta: “This is not a question of morality. It's just a biological fact.”
Well, let's see if we can make the application Dr. Dowdle seeks to impose on AIDS anywhere else. Imagine, if you will, the following hypothetical situation: The mayor of Big City, U.S.A. announces a major thrust to reduce the assault rate. He is at pains to emphasize that he is not questioning anyone's moral integrity. “We realize that some people are disposed to assault others, and we have no intention of harassing them in any way. This is not a question of morality. It's just a biological fact that muggers live under tremendous stress. They are a high-risk group in terms of heart failure, liver disease, and concussion. Also, property values fall in their neighborhoods. We're asking them to be good to themselves—to make an investment in their own health and economic success by not mugging, or at least by reducing the frequency of their mugging.” One mugger publicly thanks the mayor for his explanation. “When he talked about property values, hey, the light went on. I said to myself, ‘This guy's talking sense. From now on I'm keeping my gun in my pocket.’” If things continue going the way they are, then this hypothetical situation might not be so hypothetical!
Just fifty years ago, hardly anyone ever really questioned Biblical ethics or morality. Most people looked upon divorce as disgraceful. They thought pregnancy outside marriage was a disaster; that chastity was a good thing; that an honest day's work was the responsibility of any respectable and dependable man; that honesty was the best policy; etc. But not today! Our culture's present inability to make strong statements in the public arena about premarital sex, homosexuality, adultery, and the breakdown of the family derives from this moral void. Although some in our society may still be trying to teach their children how to act, this can never take the place of teaching them how to live. The Bible, of course, is the only thing that can effectively do this!
God And Ethics
We have been using the terms ethics and morality synonymously. This, we think, is correct, but there is a more formal usage of these two terms. It is to this usage that we now turn our attention. Ethics comes from the Greek and morals comes from the Latin. The roots of both mean “custom” or “habitual mode of conduct.” In formal English usage, morality has kept its original meaning of custom or habit. In other words, morality has to do with conduct as it is commonly practiced in the everyday affairs of life. On the other hand, ethics has come to mean the formal, philosophical pursuit of general, systematic standards for evaluating human conduct in general. What this all means is that ethics is “What should I do?” and “Why should I do it?” and morality is “This is what I actually do!”
As we have already indicated, the two basic questions associated with ethics are, “What should I do?,” which has to do with the norm, and “Why should I do it?,” which has to do with the obligation. Furthermore—and here is the real crux of the matter—apart from Creation there are no real ethical obligations; no such things as absolute norms for conduct—no real moral absolutes.
Jehovah says, “You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you” (Deuteronomy 6:17). God, the Father, says, “Obey my voice” (Jeremiah 11:7). God, the Son, says, “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). In fact, in Isaiah 33:22, God claims that He is king, lawgiver, and judge. In other words, in an ethical sense, all three branches of government reside in Him—the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. We see, then, that God is commanding us to do what He thinks ought to be done. He is setting up His statutes as the ethical norm. Therefore, the next logical question is, “Why should we have to do what God tells us?” The answer, of course, is, “Because Jehovah is the Sovereign of the universe; He is the Creator, we are the creatures; He is the potter, we are the clay!” Because Jehovah is the Creator, we are obligated to do exactly as He says. The whole duty of man is to properly venerate God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Consequently, one does not have to be a member of the church of Christ to be morally responsible before God, the Creator—all he has to be is a member of the human race. Every single human being is obligated to do God's will because such is the obligation of the creature to the Creator. Apart from any other consideration, the Creator-creature relationship forms the basic context for the ethical life of all men.
The Creator, realizing that it is not within man's ability to direct his own steps (Jeremiah 10:23), has provided His creation with a special revelation. In this special revelation, which is called “the Scriptures,” He has given us those things that are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16,17). God-centered ethics is built on the nature of God, the will of God, the way of God, and the Word of God. A Biblical world view believes that God has identified in the Bible certain things that are inherently right or wrong. This world view says that there are ethical absolutes and that eternal consequences are attached to the decisions men make in regard to these ethical absolutes. Furthermore, the truths taught in the Bible are designed to live within human skin, to be seen and read by unbelievers, as God's people bring to bear His mind, His will, and His purposes in the everyday decisions of their lives.
How are we to make moral choices? By knowing God and His Word.