The early 21st century stands as a period of profound moral confusion. On the one hand, mothers and doctors are permitted to crack upon the skulls and suck out the brains of nearly-born babies with government sanction under the banner of partial birth abortion. Should these very same people hike into the woods and crack open a bald eagle egg, they could face serious prison time.
It would therefore seem that contemporary society is marked by two seemingly contradictory extremes --- that of extreme license and that of excessive control. However, upon closer inspection it could be concluded that these conditions are not as contradictory as the situation might originally appear. Rather, it would seem each is the result of the systematic removal of the ethical balance provided within the Judeo-Christian tradition with its emphasis upon transcendent standards provided by an infinitely just and loving God.
With the increasing complexity of knowledge and technology, those trained in the acquisition and use of this complex body of thought (those broadly referred to as “intellectuals”) have taken on increased levels of influence and responsibility throughout society. No longer does agriculture or manufacturing dominate society to the degree it once did.
Futurists from Alvin Toffler to Newt Gingrich have characterized the current sociological epoch as information-based, with those manipulating this information from government bureaucrats to Hollywood producers exercising unfathomable power over the composition of the contemporary mind. Therefore, it must be remembered, as Lord Acton is believed to have said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Through a historical process too complicated to detail to a significant degree in this brief analysis, the prevailing secular elite came to see the world around them and their own assorted intellectual systems as satisfactory explanations in and of themselves for the reality in which these thinkers found themselves. According to Phillip Johnson in “Reason In The Balance”, this way of viewing the world prevalent among the most influential intellectuals is naturalism. Naturalism is the idea that the material reality constitutes the totality of existence and the idea of God is merely a mental construct promulgated in an attempt to cope with the stark realities of the universe in which man finds himself (7).
The average person might naturally conclude that naturalism by its nature would confine itself to the issues of blunt observable scientific fact. However, naturalism has left the tedium of the laboratory and now seeks to influence fields as divergent from science as education, ethics, and government. It is through this set of paradigms embracing the present material reality as the highest criteria of judgment that the twin siblings of chaos and tyranny have become so prevalent throughout world society.
No matter what the secular elites call their particular systems or what concerns these systems emphasize, it is the goal of the secular elite to remake man in the image of the prevailing secular elite. According to Alister McGrath in “Intellectuals Don’t Need God & Other Modern Myths”, prominent ideologies competing for the minds of men include Enlightenment rationalism, Marxism, and scientific materialism (160).
Despite the shades of difference between each of these systems, at their core each shares the assumption that man is bound by no eternal standard beyond this reality and can be remade into whatever the powers that be see fit. It is from this effort to remake the fundamental nature of man that the sorrow of anarchy and tyranny flow.
Bound by certain God-ordained limits regarding behavioral standards and human relationships, man can expect nothing but heartache should he decide to ignore these warnings. However, those seeking to craft a cultural ethos standing apart from the moral will of God regularly ignore these moral stoplights like newly-licensed teenagers barreling down the Las Vegas strip.
Proponents of modernism originally hypothesized that man could retain a high degree of morality without reference to all that theological superstition. Yet without a clear theological reference by which to measure, the actions of man degenerate into the depths of unfathomable evil.
According to Norman Geisler in “Introduction To Philosophy: A Christian Perspective”, when man looks to himself as the source of right and wrong, the result is existential subjectivism and relativism where each person becomes a law unto themselves (404).
And while modernism attempted to maintain the illusion of objective standards apart from the revelation of God, the logical conclusion of such atheistic thinking --- postmodernism --- holds to no such delusions. In fact, political radical and literary critic Michel Foulcalt has stated there are no facts (though this assertion is itself stated as a fact) and his fellow travelers down the deconstructionist superhighway literally fancy themselves as “assassins of objectivity” according to Lynne Cheney in “Telling The Truth: Why Our Culture & Country Have Stopped Making Sense & What We Can Do About It” (91).
Such sentiments possess ramifications beyond settling the issue of whether or not hemlines will be low or high for the coming year. Such ideas determine the very shape and composition of human society and relationships.
This is particularly evident on college campuses where these kinds of ideas enjoy free reign having the status of orthodoxy and where no one bats an eye with anarchy and tyranny walking together hand in hand. For example, Dinesh D’Souza points out in “Illiberal Education : The Politics Of Race & Sex On Campus” that many college campuses distribute condoms and support the vilest profanity as art yet advocate a radical form of feminism just about branding traditional forms of sex as rape and enforce speech codes so broad as to punish “misdirected laughter” and “exclusion from conversation” (238).
Furthermore, much of twentieth and twenty-first history has been a running commentary on the chaos and tyranny that result from attempting to undermine the insoluble union between morality and divinity. The former Soviet Union perhaps stands as the primary example of this kind of experiment where in an attempt to better himself man turns his back on God and reaps the consequences in abundance. That particular society experienced bloodshed and misery rarely repeated in human history except perhaps in its sister dictatorships of Nazi Germany and Maoist China.
Without an objective standard as provided by the moral revelation of God, the state as embodied by the Communist Party was free to do as it pleased such as changing the law at the drop of a hat and then violate the law when it suited without any degree of institutional recourse available to the Soviet people. In his monumental Understanding The Times, David Noebel quotes a Communist functionary who said, "There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do as we wish. I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all of this evil in my heart (104). Few Evangelical thinkers have been able to express the moral dangers of atheism in a more succinct manner.
Standing in marked opposition to atheism and its law of the jungle and inherent antinomianism is belief in God and the corollaries of morality flowing from God's existence. From the heartaches and confusion mentioned previously in this exposition, it is evident that mankind is incapable of establishing a satisfactory moral system of his own accord.
Instead, man must be provided one by an objective outside source yet one familiar with the conditions under which man is capable of thriving. Furthermore, it is only through God as revealed in Scripture that one is even justified in speaking of morality in the first place.
Try as he might, C.S. Lewis points out in "Mere Christianity", man cannot escape the encompassing embrace or rebuke of morality. For even in the attempt to flee from its more traditional formulations, one must invoke the structure of its dialogue in order to appeal to a competing set of standards (3).
For example, D. James Kennedy points out in "Character & Destiny: A Nation In Search Of Its Soul" that tolerance is the last virtue of an immoral society since this moral principle in invoked to cover over a plethora of popular abominations ranging from pornography to abortion to sodomy (78). The issue is not so much that man will live without some degree of morality, but rather by whose standards will man live and the consequences resulting from such decisions.
Westminster Seminary Professor John Frame elaborates in "Apologetics To The Glory Of God" that, in order to exist as objective standards beyond the level of subjective sentiments, morals must stem from an absolute source; and since these principles govern personable entities, they must exude from an absolute ultimate personality (100). If morality exists in a transcendent source apart from man in God, morality is granted a degree of liberation from the murky fog of subjectivism yet is accessible to man and can be said to exist in all situations even if finite man refused to disentangle himself from the passion of the moment to view these conundrums from the crisp peaks of objective detachment.
Since these divinely legislated standards stem from God, they exist as part of the underlying fabric of the universe. Try as he might, man cannot escape the lure of morality, such a situation further attesting to the power of the God standing behind these principles. Romans 2:14-15 says, "Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts...(NIV)."
Even those who actively choose to suppress and undermine this universal order appeal to it when it suits their interests. C.S. Lewis writes in "Mere Christianity", "Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining before he can say Jack Robinson (5)." Norman Geisler illustrates this point in "Christian Ethics" in the story of a student professing antinomianism who appealed to objective standards upon receiving a failing grade from this ethics instructor regarding a trivial matter (384).
At this point, readers not normally enchanted by the banter of academic dialogue may concede that morality does indeed flow from God but may wonder what practical impact such a truth may have in everyday existence. Actually, quite a bit.
Since God is both the legislator of traditional morality and the loving creator of man, it follows that the traditional moral system established by God and set forth in the revelation of the Holy Bible is the system of morality best suited to the nature of humanity, both protecting him to the greatest possible degree from the rampant evil plaguing a fallen world and allowing him to enjoy whatever goodness that remains in it through the grace of God.
For example, God did not establish the rules surrounding marriage in order to toss a wet blanket over the fornication follies. Rather, confining the act of human intimacy within the context of marriage balances both the desire for physical pleasure and the need for lasting love, to say nothing of protecting the individual against the proto-apocalyptic pestilences now ravaging millions. Instead of withering away like a forgotten memory as predicted by some, Tim LaHaye hypothesizes in "The Battle For The Family" that the family will in reality provide a foundation of stability in times of unprecedented social turmoil (237).
The moral argument for God is far more than a dry academic proof found in seminary textbooks. Its reality is being made more concrete each day throughout the culture as the nation continues to drift away from its Judeo-Christian foundations.
In "Turning The Tide: The Fall Of Liberalism & The Rise Of Common Sense", Pat Robertson describes the two possible futures that await the United States (293-296). Americans can either repent of their wickedness and return to God and His standards, experiencing national renewal, individual well-being, and eternal salvation in the process. Or, the American people can continue in their sin and deny God's very existence, risking national decline, personal suffering, and eternal damnation as a result. The choice is up to you, with your eternal destiny and the welfare of your family hanging in the balance.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.