It has been put forth by Chris, our young atheist whose video series on You Tube I am presently considering as a theme for discussion, that, if the commands of God define morality, then God could command rape, murder and child molestation, and such things would become moral, simply because God said so. Moreover, if morality is being good, it would render being good meaningless. While I agree that what God says is moral, I don’t agree this renders morality meaningless, because the Bible claims God is good, and only he is good in his essence (Matthew 19:17). Therefore, morality can be defined as being like God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). So, if we know what good is, we know what being moral is. What, therefore, does it mean to be good?
In my previous blog I argued that morality in today’s world is what men say it is. Morals differ somewhat from nation to nation and from one religion to another. We simply cannot agree on what it means to be moral. I also argued against Chris’s college professor, in that morality is what God commands. Morality simply doesn’t exist apart from God. God is good, and, therefore, he is moral.
We may use other names for it, but morality in today’s society seems to mean a code that is admired by one’s fellows. It could refer to the business tactics of a particularly successful man. What he practices may not be what many would consider ethical, but his way becomes the modus operandi of other men in the business world, because he is successful. One’s business ethics are what he wants them to be. Similarly, criminals have a code which they admire among themselves. For example, in The Godfather movie series the business ethic is what was important and admired. The criminal’s business ethic might include murder, but, if it was done with finesse, it was admired even by the criminal’s enemy.
Therefore, in today’s worldly climate ethics, morality, being good is whatever men say it is. There is no supreme or “pure” moral code, which we could find out through reason. Morality doesn’t exist of and by itself. It is whatever we say it is, or, conversely, it is whatever God says it is. Being good—i.e. practicing good behavior—is either arbitrary (according to men’s opinions), or it is a single way of life, and that according to the word of God.
One might argue with this position, saying the behavior of some businessmen and all criminals simply are not ethical, and I would agree. They are not. However, in a world without God there is no supreme reference for good or for what is moral behavior, so by what authority can any of us claim another’s ethic or morality is wrong? What is one’s model for goodness or morality? Where is it? Who can we go to in a world without God in order to learn the real good or the real morality? Most of us seem to know a lot about being good and can even agree upon some things that are good, but this is only after nearly 2000 years of Christian influence. One tends to judge some business ethics and all criminal behavior as “immoral”, because of 2000 years of Christian influence. One may be correct, but upon what does one base his conclusion, especially when one denies our western Christian heritage? Doesn’t it come down to your opinion against theirs in a world without God?
In a world without God there is no reference or guide for being good. There is no “pure” moral code or modus operandi by which everyone could live their lives and agree that this, but not that, is truly moral or good. Morality has become an opinion—what men say it is. One group of men are able to agree on a number of things they consider appropriate behavior and incorporate such as the rule of their country. Other countries seem to agree on many but not all of those same principles. Yet other groups, perhaps within those same countries, disagree and develop a code of their own. Their morality might be immoral to others, but it is the way they live their lives—the way they practice their business (legitimate or criminal).
Still others, believe they have been led by God to embrace much (but not all) of what the nation embraces as moral. Nevertheless, the religious groups include still other things they consider virtuous, which might be rejected by the national, usually secular, authorities. If God is in any of this, he can be in only one of the groups doing it, because all differ among themselves in what they consider moral, and even religions disagree among themselves.
In a world without God morality is arbitrary, but in a world in which God exists there can be only one way that is truly good. Therefore, doing good or being moral is to be like God (cf. Genesis 1:27), whose essence is good. It is to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Mark 12:29-31), and if one truly wanted to be like God in his essence, one would prefer his brother before himself, as Jesus did concerning us (John 13:34-35).