Lucia's Blog: ETHICS AND THE BIBLE
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, April 2, 2015

ETHICS AND THE BIBLE



"And He said to him, 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'  This is the great and foremost commandment.'"
Matthew 22:37-38 


Our generation has a difficult time finding a reason to condemn even the grossest of immorality.  They walk in darkness because they invent their own "ethics." Let us consider what God has to say about the "ethics of right and wrong."

In my previous worldview articles, I described two worldviews:  Biblical and secular.  A worldview is a cluster of all the answers to the big questions.  And according to this, there are three specific questions or classifications most people want to ask.  These questions are:  
  • What is true?  What is the basis for the Truth?  How do we know that something is true?  
  • What is real?  Is God real?  Am I real?  Is this world created real?  Where do we come from? Or where did everything come from?  
  • What is right and wrong?  Is there any right or wrong?   
All these questions have, but one purpose and that is to identify the fields of epistemology (the study of Truth), metaphysics (the study of reality) and ethics (the study of right and wrong).  Thus far, we have covered the first two fields, epistemology and metaphysics in my previous studies.  In this study, I will be considering the third area, ethics which is the study of right and wrong, as well as Christian ethics.

I would like to start out by posing the following questions: 
  1. What is right and wrong?   
  2. How do we know right and wrong?  
  3. What is good and what is evil?  
  4. Is love always the right thing to do?  
  5. What are the ethics of Christians?  
Let us consider each one.

I.   What is Right and Wrong

When studying the subject of ethics, one must carefully understand two different things, right and wrong.  We all know and believe there is right and wrong.  This is interwoven with our actions.  Likewise, some actions are right, and others are wrong.  Do you think that it is wrong to rob a bank?  We all would agree that it is wrong.  Do you think that adopting or helping a poor orphan is the right thing to do?  Again, we would agree that it is the right thing to do.  Do you think that a man such as Adolf Hitler was wrong when he executed so many human beings?  Do you think that his "final solution" was right?  Or that the behavior of pedophiles, serial killers, and rapists is completely wrong?  So, what makes such things wrong? 

It is indisputably true, and almost everyone will agree that there are things that are right to do and others that are wrong to do.  Today, we live in a postmodern society of moral corruption that rejects the concept of absolute and validated Truth.  Many will try to convince you that there is no such thing as absolute right and wrong.  But, when they see someone behaving in a non-ethical way that would cause harm, pain or suffering, they get very upset.  They would not hesitate to tell you that it is wrong.

We all as human beings are conscious of what is right and wrong.  The Word of God calls this a “conscience.”  Our conscience makes us feel sorrow when we do wrong.  It bothers us.  It makes us feel guilty until we ask for forgiveness.  Sadly, many people’s consciences are seared.  They deliberately refuse to accept that right and wrong originates with God.  They get so accustomed to sin that they ignore the cries of their conscience.  These people have hardened their hearts against righteousness, loving all lawlessness. 

The Bible tells us about the first sin in the Garden of Eden.  We know that sin originated with Eve when the Serpent's words tempted her.  She listened to the Serpent instead of obeying what God had said not to do.  "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate." Genesis 3:6.

The Bible account portrays man being created in all righteousness without sin.  Most theologians theorize that the first sin corrupted Adam and Eve and gave them the “Adamic nature” and “total hereditary depravity” which they have passed on to us.  Romans 5:12-20. This is the first of the five points of Calvinism and is commonly called “original sin.”   Although they will not deny that man was created without sin, they still affirm that because of Adam and Eve’s sin (also known as “the fall”), man is now a sinner.  "For as through the one man’s disobedience, the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous."  Romans 5:19. The book of Romans says nothing about a corrupted nature, yet they say that man by nature is always finding himself entirely "depraved" of the holiness or sanctity that is required in the Law of God.  They also claim that man is inevitably inclined to do evil and therefore under just condemnation, without defense or excuse.  This is what their church creeds and manuals state.  It is disturbing to say, but many of my brethren buy into this false teaching to one degree or another.

What these don’t want to accept is that Eve’s biggest problem was listening to Satan.  "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."  2 Corinthians 11:3.  Eve lusted, and sin was conceived.  "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren."  James 1:13-16.  It is lust that gets man in trouble, to sin.  Eve blamed the Serpent and Adam blamed Eve, Genesis 3:12-13.  The truth is that Adam and Eve sinned in spite of all their excuses.  The Serpent was cursed as well as the ground because of man, Genesis 3:17-18.  Adam and Eve were not cursed but sentenced with mercy and hope, Genesis 3:14-15.  We know that the woman was sentenced in Genesis 3:16.  Adam was also sentenced in Genesis 3:17-19.  They were cast out of the garden, Genesis 3:22-24.   

Many of these believe that there is a big problem with what is right and wrong because of the "fall." They say that the mind and conscience of men were impaired by that first sin.  And for this reason, the conscience does not work as well as it used to before Adam and Eve fell into sin.  This is absurd!  They seem to ignore what Romans 5:12 says. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." Genesis 8:21.  James 1:13-15.  Isaiah 59:1-2.  2 Corinthians 5:10.  Romans 2:6; 14:12,23. Ezekiel 18:4,20. Ezekiel 28:15.  Matthew 18:3.  Acts 17:28-29.  Romans 7:9.  Galatians 4:4.  James 4:17. I John 3:4; 5:17.  Ecclesiastes 7:29 and Ecclesiastes 12:14


II.  How Do We Know Right and Wrong

Another view of ethics is that right and wrong are fundamental to the Truth.  But we have a choice to obey the ethics or not.  Many Christians struggle with questions of right and wrong.  As a consequence of this we have a people who would call evil good and good evil, Isaiah 5:20.  Men from the very beginning have struggled with the question of what is right and what is wrong.  We have many examples of this in the Bible as in the case of Judges 17:6.  "In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes."

Consider the two following views: 

Right and Wrong Originates With God: 

This is the most common and logical explanation.  It makes moral standards objective.  So the question is, which god and which set of ethics?  Does God command things because they are right? Or are they right because He is commanding them? 

The Bible certainly affirms the Truth of what is right and wrong.  How do we know that we are right?  Well, there must be a fear of God in order to understand and respect the authority of God.  It is the fear of the Lord that will make a man submit or surrender to the will of God, to His teachings, to His statutes, to His Law, Eccles. 12:13. Moreover, we are to serve God with all of our heart.  True devotion to God and His Truth is necessary for us so that we may know what is right, the right way.  Proverbs 23:23.  So often, Christians profess a love for God’s Truth until that same Word, Truth, starts contradicting their own prejudices or beliefs.  They prefer to sell the Truth when it is not convenient any longer.  Instead of humbly submitting to that Truth, surrendering our will to the will of God.  The only way we know we are right is by testing everything we do in word and in deed with the Word of God.  Rather than being dependent on our own feelings, views, opinions, habits or traditions.  This is our sole standard, and we must trust in His will.  

"Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way."   Psalm 119:128
We are true to Him by testing all doctrines and practices with the Word of God.  It is in refusing, ignoring, or corrupting God’s Word that we are going to begin doing what is wrong. 

"But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil."   I Thess.5:21-22
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."  2 Timothy 2:15
On the other hand, there is the other view.

Ethics Are True Without Any Need of God: 

They go as far as saying that ethics are “true” just like any other field.  They use mathematics as an example to say that truth does not depend on God or His Word.  They say that the universe and truth are more than physical and that there is something metaphysical somewhere out there that they refuse to admit. It is difficult to see how these objective ethics can be known to be true.  The fact is that most atheists believe in the same ethical code of standards as we Christians confirm this to be true. 

These atheists forget that God is necessary for ethics because:  
  • He is the authority behind all ethics.  Therefore, we know what is true.
  • God has provided us with the Truth that one day He will judge all men according to their deeds, whether they were good or evil.  We will be called to account.  This is a fact!  These are two things nonbelievers, atheists, cannot be sure of.  But for us Christians we can certainly be sure of. 

Almost everyone will agree that there is good and there is evil.  But many will disagree on what is right and wrong.  They often change their views or opinions on what is good or evil.  One good example of this is Adolf Hitler.  Many Germans thought that he was a good leader.  Today many Germans believe he was an evil man.  You see, man cannot agree on who is evil or good.  The absurdity is that they blame Adam’s fall, original sin, for this lack of understanding, when there is no such claim in the Bible, and there was no original sin.  Period! 

III.  What Is Good And What Is Evil?

This is a crucial question.  Why?  Because if you don’t know what is good or evil, or right and wrong, then you are going to do the wrong things.  You are going to sin and live your life as a lawless person, a sinner.  So, how can you answer the question of what is good or what is evil? There are several possible answers.
  1. Our consciences.  That part of our minds that makes us feel bad and sorry when we do wrong or sin.  Without a doubt, the conscience can be helpful.  But it is not very reliable to the man who does not love righteousness but loves lawlessness.  Our minds or hearts can deceive us. Therefore, this technique will not work. 
  2. Our opinions or views.  As I pointed out earlier, one’s opinion or view can change all the time.  Also, we must be aware that such views are often established by those who have power over us, such as our media and the public schools.  Imagine these powerful, evil and lawless people who deceive millions of people every day telling them what to believe.  Sadly, many come to believe what is wrong and sinful.  This is happening in our nation so very often. As you can see, this is not a good way to decide if something is right or wrong. 
  3. Telling everyone to do those things that make them happy.  The problem is that many are happy when they hurt others.  If we only do those things that make us happy, then we definitely are not going to care about the happiness of others.  At the same time, man does not always know what makes them happy.  Therefore, this approach does not help either. 
  4. Telling everyone to do those things that would make others happy and that would bless them.  This idea seems to be more reasonable than the other ones.  But there is still a problem.  Why?  Because no one seems to be aware of what kind of things would make some people happy without making others unhappy.  It is true that we may do things hoping that others will be happy and blessed.  However, making people happy is not always good.  For example, one can give a child a lot of candy to make him happy, but it might make him sick as well. Therefore, this is not a good way to determine right and wrong. 
The problem with all of the above answers is that man wants to rely on himself to determine what is right or wrong and good or evil.  This is called “humanism.”  Why?  Because when men control what is right and wrong, they become gods themselves.  They are replacing God with themselves.  One of the problems with “humanism” is that God is the only One Who has absolute power to dictate what is right.  It is not for man to decide what is right or wrong.  Period!  Those that make their own system of laws are becoming their own “god.”  This is precisely where “humanism” is wrong. 
So, what is the best route to determine what is evil?  The answer is simple, the Word of God, His revealed Truth.  God has revealed His will to man through His inspired Word.  
“Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.”  Romans 3:4
This Truth, if accepted, would solve all the confusion, problems and contradictions of ethics that plague our society today.  When one abandons what He has said, there are drastic consequences. Consider the following text.  Isaiah 5:20-21. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!”

God has demonstrated His righteousness by instituting a system of laws that define what is right and wrong.  The righteousness of God contains ethics and summarizes it.  His Word expresses and establishes His righteousness. The world is at war and in conflict with Truth and right.  They don’t seem to realize that the Bible has all the answers concerning the issues of war, sexual behavior, drug use, civil responsibilities, gender roles, tolerance of opposing views and a multitude of other moral issues. 
 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”   John 3:19-21.
The man who lives by the ethic supplied in the revealed Word of God is a law-keeper.  Why?  Simply, because he is behaving in a way that is in accord with the laws of God.  That means he is going to abide by the law of the land as long as these don’t conflict with God’s laws, Romans 13:3.  The Word of God simply resolves all matters of ethics in our society. 


IV.   Is Love Always the Right Thing to Do
"And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'  This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.'"  Matthew 22:37-40 

There is no doubt that love is always the right thing to do.  Again, almost everyone would agree on this.  The problem is that love has different definitions for many people.  This leads me to two important questions:  What is love?  And who am I supposed to love?  Again, the Bible has all the answers to these questions.  First of all, we are to love God and to love our neighbor as our self. Second, we are to love His Word with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.  It is the revealed Word of God that teaches us how to love Him and our neighbor.  All this can be accomplished by keeping His laws.

In the 60’s there was a band called “The Beatles” who sang a song called “All You Need is Love.”  Everyone would agree, except that they used the word with a double meaning.  The type of love they express is not the kind of love our Lord and Savior spoke of in His Law.  We all agree that love is good.  Yet, many misinterpret what love is.  God defines love differently.  We know that we love God when we keep His commandments, precepts, statutes, His Word.  How do we love our neighbor?  By keeping His commandments.   

The one who loves God and His commandments is well thought of even by those outside the church, I Timothy 3:7. He practices the Bible concept of love.  He seeks the welfare of all. He behaves in a manner worthy of his calling.  He is a giver, selfless and generally well-liked and respected by others, even by those who are not Christians.  Such a person will always do the right thing because they love and obey God’s laws.  He will manifest such love in his marital relationship, his home, and children, as well as in his community as a law abiding citizen.  The one who claims to love God also avoids all types of destructive behavior: alcoholism, drunkenness, drug abuse, infidelity, promiscuity, enmity, covetousness and all licentious behavior.  On the contrary, he is sober-minded, patient, kind, merciful, gentle, godly, well respected by those who acknowledge a true concept of love, as it demonstrates right and wrong, good and evil.

V.   What Are The Ethics of Christians

We live in a culture that has been morally corrupted.  As time has passed, our values, morals, and attitudes have strayed from and clashed with the Divine Norm.  

Why do many Christians struggle with questions of right and wrong?  Because our neighbors call evil good and good evil.  Those who reject the faith of Christ, mock God just like Goliath mocked David and are not interested in what Christianity has to offer.  They have become antagonistic toward Christian values, which are simply God’s laws.  Witness the current attitudes toward homosexuality, homosexual marriage, and abortion.  Our society considers these values as hateful, intolerant and destructive.  Ironically, what once was accepted by almost everybody as moral, honorable, law-abiding and upright, is now reproved, reprimanded and scolded.  I am sorry to say, but many Christians are abandoning these values that set apart their faith.  They have embraced the ethics of the world, just like the ancient Israelites who adopted the idolatrous practices of their pagan neighbors. The same was true of the Corinthians, who tolerated fornication, I Corinthians 5

Man has always struggled with what is right and wrong.  In the book of origins, Genesis, God had instructed both Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil lest they die. Eve disobeyed when she was enticed by the Serpent, Satan, Gen. 3:4-5.  He called evil good.  Eve was deceived, and sin entered her heart. 

Throughout human history, man has always done what is right in his own eyes.  The study of ethics has been perverted and dominated by philosophical schools of thought that originate in the minds of men.  The Bible defines this as folly.  Why?  Because it is foolish for a man to allow his philosophical efforts to determine or define what is right or wrong.  Proverbs 14:12 states, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death.”  It is impossible for any man with little discernment of the Bible to righteously decide what is good and what is evil.  Jeremiah declares, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.” Jeremiah 10:23. 

It is imperative for Christians to respond to all the conflicts between worldly morals and Bible morals with a proper understanding of the origins of our ethic.  The Christian ethic is established by the God of heaven.  He is the only authority that can proclaim what is right and wrong, good and evil. And we as Christians must accept His divine norm.  

Notice how Paul preached to the Athenians, in Acts 17:18-30.  Epicureans and Stoic philosophers confronted Paul, v. 18.  These Epicureans believed in hedonistic ethical philosophy.  They thought that true pleasure harmonized with virtue.  Their primary goal was to pursue pleasure.  Paul’s answer to these philosophers was that God “commands men that they should all everywhere repent.” Verse 30. I am sure this sounded foolish to them.  Why?  Because their standards of right and wrong were governed by their own impulses or pleasure.  The Stoics viewed peace of mind as the greatest virtue, the mastery of the will.  The problem with their philosophy is that if one cannot control his emotions and desires, he will never have the necessary peace for self-fulfillment.  It is an absurd philosophy! And while there might be a little bit of truth in their concept of "self-control," as in I Corinthians 9:25, "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable," they are still distorting the concept.  They believed that intimacy and fleshly desire were the greatest impediments to peace and to be avoided, instead of acknowledging the virtue of fidelity within marriage, I Corinthians 7:3-5; Hebrews 13:4. 

Paul addressed the issue of their asceticism saying, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”  Colossians 2:23. 

In our culture today, many sympathize with these Stoic philosophers.  They keep creating new ethical philosophies. They think that something is virtuous if the end justifies the means.  If the result of any act is positive, even acts such as lying, stealing and murder, they consider it just and right.  The good news is that the Bible is filled with examples of moral absolutes.  In Galatians 5:19-21, we have an extensive list of things which are absolutely unacceptable.

Today, postmodern philosophers believe that the whole idea of ethics is absurd.  They argue that the concept of right and wrong is misguided.  As a tragic result, many will accept whatever is dictated by those who are in power, without judging the fundamental moral rightness or wrongness of their dictates.  Abortion, for example, is accepted and right because it is lawful.  The same is true with euthanasia, homosexuality and other similar issues.  If the majority of society allows it, it is accepted as right.  Our culture describes homosexuality as a mental disorder, alternate behavior, or simply a normal expression of sexual behavior.  God’s absolute standards become a joke.  His laws are reduced to no more than suggestions where lawlessness and confusion rule. 

Without a doubt, our society’s view of ethics has completely changed the cultural values of our nation and the world.  In fact, it has evolved to the point of denying all traditional Christian views of righteousness.  Sacred morals are widely criticized by the majority as hateful and destructive.  Our Lord Jesus was so right when He said to his disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” John 15:18-19.  But thanks be to God, we have His everlasting Word that is available to all men who will heed His words.  “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” I Timothy 4:16.  

We as Christians must hold fast to our ethical conduct, values, morals, as the faithful generations who have gone before us.  What was right back then, defined by God, is right today, and what was wrong then, defined by God, is wrong today.  We must not forsake God’s Word which is able to establish what is right and wrong, His righteousness.  Christians cannot escape being criticized, mocked and perhaps persecuted for all those divine morals or standards which we deliberately embrace from God’s Divine Word.  It is unavoidable!  But we must be like those true and faithful Christians of the first century.  Jesus said, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John 3:19-21

Let us embrace what the Psalmist said, “As for the deeds of men, by the word of Your lips I have kept from the paths of the violent. My steps have held fast to Your paths. My feet have not slipped.” Psalm 17:4-5.   


Conclusion:  The Bible addresses every aspect of life. Anyone who accepts God’s inspired Word will be able to hold the same ethical conduct, morals, the perfect standard.  The Word of God is our only source of Truth for discerning right and wrong, good and evil.  But we must fear Him to understand and honor His authority with complete surrender to His will.  We must test all doctrines and practices against that Divine Word.  This is the only way we are going to remain faithful to Him.  It is when we rebel against that Word that we begin to do wrong or sin.  Let us embrace His Word heartily and not be condemned.  That is the key to our salvation.  In His infinite love for us, our God has revealed His plan for our salvation.  We can know for sure what church is the right one because He has described it to us.  The same is true of the right kind of worship, the right way of living, what is sin, what is righteousness.  God has revealed all this to us in His divine Book.   And yes, we can know with certainty who is right and wrong, good and evil!  God has given us His absolute, perfect laws which are intended to be used by all men at all times.  It is wrong, sin, to disobey them.  His laws are the foundation of the Law of Christ.  We must use them to govern our societies and ourselves lest we perish.  Let us listen to them!  
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17
May the Lord help us to discern right from wrong, and good from evil according to His Sacred Word.

Luci