I have come to a startling conclusion. Words are losing their meaning. Important words. Words like morality, Christianity, and American. The most frightening thing is that if the meaning of these words have changed, than much of my identity as a person has changed, not to mention our identity as Americans, (not that I’m implying that this dilemma isn’t found in nations around the world.)
In a recent post, I asked the question, “Is there a morality outside of Christianity, and if so, what are its standards based on?” According to the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary, morality is: The relation of conformity or nonconformity to the moral standard or rule; quality of an intention, a character, an action, a principle, or a sentiment, when tried by the standard of right.
Who determines this moral standard or rule, this standard of right? If we determine this rule, which human is good enough and wise enough to make this determination? I just can’t help wondering, if there is a morality apart from Christianity who is it that determines its rules? Isn’t this why we’re in the pickle we’re in? Because we’ve trusted our own moral rectitude, which apparently changes with the breath of the wind, or maybe more honestly penned, changes based upon what we feel like doing? Isn’t this the very philosophy many of our college professors and students are challenging with their “situational ethics”? If we determine our own morality, who are you to impose your morality on me? You can see why young people resent being told by someone else what is right and wrong for them.
In my life time, what is considered moral has changed drastically. It was considered immoral for a man and a woman to live together outside of marriage, for a woman to have a baby outside of marriage, for men to swear in front of a woman and for people to cheat on their taxes. Now these practices are not only common, but even those calling themselves “Christian” regularly participate in these lifestyles. Clearly, what has been considered basic morality has changed. These changes are not providing for a more disciplined, unselfish life, but rather a life that declares, “I will do what is best for me!”
I agree that there are many moral people who are not Christians, and there are many people calling themselves Christians who are not moral. Is it possible that morality was instituted by the Jewish law? Is it possible that there is a moral compass in every man, but that it seems to be degenerating with each generation?
My pastor, Dr. Robb Thompson always says, “Pride is robbing God of his Divine right to determine right and wrong, good and evil, true and false.” Doesn’t it seem like a better plan to let someone wiser and selfless, even Divine, determine morality? Don’t you think that right must be right all of the time, not some of the time? After all, morality according to the Webster’s dictionary is conforming to a moral standard or rule. Which rule? The Golden Rule? Who wrote that? So is there truly morality apart from Christianity?
Next Monday…The ever changing American definition of Christian
22 thoughts on “Is There Morality Apart From Christianity?”
Ultimately, I don’t think there is, although there are certain aspects of morality in many people and cultures, and as you said, many Christians themselves live an immoral lifestyle. Your post certainly caused me to stop and think as a Christian and to re-evaluate certain thought lines. Many thanks!
You’re welcome! That’s exactly what I’m trying to do, because I certainly don’t have the answers either. I just wonder if a higher authority doesn’t make the rules, who does?
“There is a way that is right to man, and a way that is right to God,” I think is how the verse goes. Or at least the general idea.
While I agree that morality for the secular United States is changing, I also know that the morality God institutes is never-changing. We Christians need to be continually looking to Him for our moral compass…not the secular world. Not the government.
As for the specific sins you listed, the only one I disagree with is the baby thing. I don’t think that just having the baby itself out of wedlock is the sin. The process of having sex outside a marriage? Sure. The baby itself? Most definitely not. There’s all sorts of perfectly Godly situations in which a child would be brought into the world through no sin of the mother: A husband passing away suddenly, adoption, or even rape.
The cursing thing is…well, that’s just another topic for another time. The “not cursing in front of women” thing was also based on the assumption that women were pure as the driven snow, and would *certainly* never curse themselves. But if the stories I heard about my grandparents are anywhere near accurate, this simply wasn’t reality. 🙂
I’m actually glad for the changes. After a few decades of holding in secret sin, the Church is finally becoming human again. It’s saying “Look, I’m not perfect, but I want to be.” rather than trying to ignore the pink elephant in the room.
I could, however, be wrong. 🙂
I agree with you about the baby outside of wedlock, the only reason I brought that up is because of the cultural changes in having children outside of marriage. Celebrities do it all of the time. It’s almost fashionable, like having one of those cute dogs in the Versace bag…Your comments are always wonderful, thanks!
Dang … I drop by to say hello and you posted on a deep topic. 🙂 So I will ask, is it possible that morality is a human trait that can be positively and negatively influenced by culture? Meanwhile … hi there!
Sorry! I’m looking forward to lightness and sweetness soon!!
I would argue that you don’t need Christianity specifically, to come up with morals. From the (admittedly limited) knowledge I have of non-Christian religions, most agree that killing others is wrong, stealing is wrong, you should honour your ancestors, and so on. I was involved in a discussion of morality elsewhere, and put the following argument forth. “I would prefer if you don’t kill me, and I’m sure you’d prefer I don’t kill you. Do we need ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ to make that true?”.
In other words, I believe you can be raised (as I was) with morals outside of a religious foundation. I will DEFINITELY agree that religion helps define and delineate those morals, and at it’s most fundamental level, provides a “carrot and stick” to “enforce” those morals. I will, however, also state unequivocally that a religious background is better (in general) than a non-religious one for assuring those morals stick. (I like to think both my parents and I were capable of understanding morals while maintaining an open mind to determine the existence of God for ourselves.)
So, in short, you can have morals without religion (in my humble opinion), but it definitely helps having a religious model to fit those morals into. Does it have to be Judeo-Christian? That one I’ll gladly hand over to someone more knowledgeable in other religions like Buddhism, Shintoism, or whatever else.
OK, I’ll shut up now. 😉
I would like to hear from other religions as well, John. I would love to hear their take on these things. In addition, I’d like to see when these morals were instituted…before or after Jewish law…
When man turns away from God, he turns to evil deeds, there is no good in him.
Amen my dear sister!
I definitely agree with Pattisj….
Makes two of us…
You don’t have to be a Christian or part of any religion to have a moral compass. Being a part of a religion ensures that certain morals will be taught, however. The fact that there are Atheists, Agnostics, and probably even Scientologists that are good, moral, upstanding citizens should tell you that religion is not required to have a conscience.
I think its interesting that you’ve brought up conscience. I think conscience is different from morals. I’m gonna have to think about that one! Thanks for the brain food!
A couple of thoughts from C S Lewis: On Right and Wrong. “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 “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties don’t matter, but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong…in other words, if there is no Law of Nature…what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else? It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table. ” …..and then… “First..human beings, all over the earth, haved this curious idea that they ought to behave in a cerain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly…they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.”
I love, as you know, C. S. Lewis…I remember this quote. Is it from Mere Christianity?
“Is it possible that there is a moral compass in every man, but that it seems to be degenerating with each generation?” Yes, I believe there is a moral compass in every man, no matter what religion or even if he follows no religion. I’m with C.S. Lewis. I even think God put it there. Whether man follows it or not is another matter. Difficult topic.
Some one very wisely brought up the word conscience here. I think conscience and morality are different don’t you. I whole-heartedly agree that God has put a conscience in every man. Morality is a standard. To live by a standard is a choice…and I guess my question is, “If there can be a morality apart from God’s Word, who is qualified to determine these standards? Even by the world’s terms? and isn’t that the problem?”
🙂 (My son wanted to make that smiley)
Interesting subject and dialog. I have met many non-Christians who have more morality and sense of right and wrong than Christians…but then again, I could argue that those so called “Christians” are anything but!
That is the question, isn’t it?
LOL, Are you serious?
Wow! That is an attention-grabbing slant.