Christianity & Moral Foundations

PMT 2014-022b by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Our nation needs to return to its Christian roots for a very important reason: “if the foundations are destroyed, / What can the righteous do?” (Psa 11:3). Political rulers are important for insuring that we “may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim 2:2). They should not be “a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil” as they “they bear the sword” (Rom 3:3–4). Therefore, they must function “for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Pet 2:14). But secularism cannot even affirm morality, much less protect and promote it, because the non-Christian system has no sure base for it. Let me explain this (too) briefly.

The secularists’ reality is ultimately founded on nothing more than a gigantic explosion 13.5 billion years ago. Thus, in the secularist’s worldview knowledge is rooted in irrationalism in that reality is rooted in chance (the impersonal flux of a random universe). As a result, morality is necessarily reduced to pure relativism and because of this can be nothing more than personal preference. In such a system there are no ultimate, universal, invariant, obligatory moral standards — indeed, there can be none. As a consequence, non-Christian thought can offer no rational justification for any moral behavior whatsoever. Nor can it logically condemn any moral action, even one as heinous as the Nazi Holocaust.

For the Christian, morality is founded upon the all-good, all-knowing, everywhere-present, all-powerful, eternally-existing, infinitely-personal, and self-revealing God of Scripture. [1] His will, which is rooted in his being and nature, and is revealed in Scripture is man’s standard of morality (Rom 7:12). Since God is all-knowing (Psa 139:2–27; Pro 15:3) and everywhere-present (1 Kgs 8:27; Jer 23:24), moral principles revealed in Scripture are always relevant to our situation. Since God is all-good (Psa 119:137; Mark 10:18b) and eternal (Psa 90:2; 102:12), his moral commands are always binding upon men.

Many resist the Christian’s promotion of the Bible’s moral standards in society and politics. They claim that you cannot impose morality. But all law — secular or sacred — is by the very nature of the case an imposing of morality. In fact, moral imposition by law is important and necessary: The framing of laws against rape and murder imposes a morality upon rapists and murderers.

Furthermore, we must recognize that all law is implicitly religious. This is because all law is rooted in morality, and morality is based on ideas of ultimacy and value. And ultimacy and value are religious (transcendental) concepts which are not derived in the laboratory or effected by mathematical formulas. It is precisely to this principle that George Washington spoke in his farewell address on September 19, 1796 when he said:

“And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason, and experience both forbids us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” [2]


God’s Law Made Easy (by Ken Gentry)
Summary for the case for the continuing relevance of God’s Law
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com 


In this regard, famed historian Will Durant wrote: “There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.” [3]

For these reasons our social, cultural, and political circumstances demand a Christian witness and political engagement. We must be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” if we are to obediently follow Christ — and to retrieve our culture from ruin as an inheritance for our children

Footnotes

1. The Christian worldview is the only rational system of thought and action. This is because of the impossibility of the contrary. That is, given our presupposition of the God of Scripture, we can give an account of reality and justify knowledge and morality. But given the non-Christian’s presupposition of chance, they cannot account for reality, knowledge, and morality.

2. George Washington in William Jackson Johnstone, George Washington, the Christian (New York: Abingdon, 1919), 223.

3. Will Durant and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History Selection 6: 1968: Chapter VI; Morals and History; Page 51


Pushing the Antithesis (by Ken Gentry)
Sub-title: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com

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6 thoughts on “Christianity & Moral Foundations

  1. Blaine K. Newton February 19, 2014 at 11:11 am

    KG, a couple of comments/questions:

    (1) With respect to the political state, even the decision NOT to restrict certain behaviors is itself a moral position…

    (2) With respect to secular ethics, most unbelievers would readily and comfortably affirm that ethics changes over time, since times,and situations change, and since advancement in knowledge due to failed attempts of other systems (including the Christian one) in earlier times. Also, most would affirm a common sense view of basic ethical principles, i.e. don’t murder, steal, etc.

    I’m not saying I agree with this take, but if you approach them with the idea that an absolute standard beyond man is needed for ethics, they’ll just disagree.

    (3) Do you think a passage like Exodus 35:2 should apply to us today?

    Ex;35:2 – Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.

  2. Kenneth Gentry February 19, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I am challenging the unbeliever’s own system. From within his system he cannot account for morality. Matter in motion simply will not result in morality.

    What is “common sense” to one man is not common sense to the next. Hopefully you don’t think morality is based on common sense? The common sense of fallen man who is futile in his imaginations (Eph 4:17-19)?

    All biblical references (such as Exo 35:2) must be interpreted in terms of their context. Given that the Sabbath was a sign of Israel’s special covenant with God (Exo 20:12, 20; 31:3), we must search the contextual setting of the various Sabbath regulations to see whether they were intended as universally applicable, or as covenantally-restricted. This does not undermine Scripture’s establishing universal, invariant moral principles.

  3. Blaine K. Newton February 19, 2014 at 11:41 am

    No, Ken, I don’t base ethics on common sense. Just so you know where I’m coming from, I am a Reconstructionist, so I readily support the Van Tilian approach to apologetics, as well as the theonomic ethic. Sometimes, although not always, I try to raise points and/or questions that I think others might benefit from or which may generate helpful discussion. , Other times I am simply asking the question in order to learn.
    ~~
    The secularists will affirm that common sense on each ethical point is not universally shared by all. However, most would say that since the vast majority of people think it’s wrong to murder, then it is. Evolutionary progress creates improvement in ethical systems, as well. It’s why, as a society, we don’t engage in the activities of head hunters in Africa. Again, I’m not saying I agree with this. I bring it up to demonstrate the response that these people might bring up as a defense.
    ~~
    On the other point regarding the Sabbath… I know the Ex. 35:2 reference was a bit off topic, but I was really interested in your opinion on it. I get all the distinctions and hermeneutic principles you articulated. But, the question still remains. Is God’s moral command given in Ex. 35:2 a direct standing law, or was it meant to apply situationally, that is, only to Old Covenant Israel? Ken, I’m honestly not trying to entrap you with this question. I raise it because it’s a verse that was cited in an online news article regarding “Christian sharia law”.. You can probably google to find the article…

  4. Patricia Watkins February 20, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Exodus 35:2 was meant to be a picture of predestination and election principles that operate in our salvation. The stringent “no work” requirement is supposed to represent the fact that there is absolutely no effort of our own that can earn our place in Christ’s kingdom. Christ as our “rest”, is the theme that Hebrews 4 covers so thoroughly. It wasn’t so much that God cared if the man picked up sticks on the Sabbath – He was trying to get His point across that salvation, or “entering into His rest” involved NO HUMAN CONTRIBUTION whatever. It’s the same reason He didn’t want them making His alter of cut stones, or the touch of their tools would pollute it.

  5. Blaine K. Newton, a.k.a. "The Real BK" February 24, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Patricia:

    I don’t think anyone disputes that there is a redemptive element to the Sabbath command. Deut. 5:15 makes this rather explicit, I think. But, the question remains:

    Is the actual command in Ex. 35:2 a standing law and, therefore, meant to apply today, or was it specific only to the OT Jews?
    ~~
    Maybe the reason KG is reluctant to answer this question is because it is probably one that deserves treatment within a more disciplined study of the law of God and ethics, in general. To just put it out there without any supporting context, other than his broad discussion, was probably a bit unfair on my part. I only raised the point originally because someone actually cited this verse in an online article as a reason to simply dismiss the Christian faith.

  6. Kenneth Gentry February 24, 2014 at 11:47 am

    It certainly would require fuller research and discussion. And unfortunately it would require time that I do not have available due to a long list of writing obligations.

    However, I would mention that I follow Gary North’s analysis of the penal sanctions. Some penal passages REQUIRE the death penalty; some present it as a maximum penalty. Those verses requiring the death penalty use pleonasms to press the point. Those are generally translated into English as “shall surely die,” whereas in Hebrew they literally read: “dying he shall die.” See a free version of his book at: http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/sidefrm2.htm

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