I Hate Values (Part 2)

21 May 2014 (continued from 21 May 2014)

(Curtis Crenshaw, from my book, NOT Ten Suggestions, available here)

From Fox News, from Bill O’Reilly, from CNN, to American Family Association, I’m constantly hearing about Christian “values,” even from Christian news media, with the assumption that values are based on natural moral law.

Last time we talked about natural moral law, what it is, and how that there is really no such thing. This time we shall look at biblical “natural” law, which is far different from what many think.

What Is Biblical Natural Law?

But in another sense we can say there is natural moral law if by that we mean that we are made in God’s image, consequently we have the “memory” as it were of His morality stamped in us. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel (Romans 2:14-16).

The passage teaches us several things. First, the law that Paul says the Gentiles have is nothing other than God’s commandments; that is clear from the context. In the verses that follow, Paul mentions stealing, adultery, idolatry, and perhaps other commandments. It is therefore not a different law, a “neutral” moral law that the Gentiles or non-Christians dreamed up or discovered.

Second, Paul does not say they have the law in their hearts but the “work of the law written in their hearts,” which is its effects. In other words, the very fact that they have a conscience that accuses and excuses indicates that they are made in His image. Animals don’t think about and debate morality. Accusations and excuses are activities that evidence moral consciousness, the only rationale of which is the effect of God’s law in their hearts.[1] And the fact that their conscience functions with the assumptions of God’s Ten Commandments indicates that they really know God, at least in one sense (Romans 1:21). But they don’t want to know Him because they love their sin (John 3:19-20) so they suppress the truth about Him and His morality. Here is how Paul put it earlier in Romans:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).

God’s existence and morality are “clearly seen” in creation, but they do not want it so they “suppress” it by means of unrighteous practices, saying that they are “free” to do as they like. Sinning boldly is a challenge to God that He is not in charge; they are, and they will have no consequences to their rebellion. Likewise, the Triune God is “manifest in them,” in their conscience as seen in trying to suppress His knowledge as they try to get rid of this constant reminder by giving themselves over to wickedness. Their sinful desires are driving their minds; they are not neutrally investigating morality. Their minds are enslaved to their immorality. What their hearts love, their wills embrace, and their minds justify. They suppress God’s existence by devising alternative theories for our existence, such as evolution, which leaves them “free” to devise alternative theories of morality. In the same passage, here is what Paul says they wish to practice:

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their [females] exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the [males], leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due (Romans 1:26-27).

Notice how I translated “women” and “men” above as “females” and “males.” There were several choices Paul the Apostle had in words for women and men, but he uses the rare word for “female” and the more certain word for “male” because he is making a deliberate connection to Genesis 1:27 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament where these same Greek words are used:

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

The original creation, Paul implies, was one male and one female. That is the standard.

Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, demonstrates from dozens of sources from classical Greek (Plato and others), from Jewish sources between the Old and New Testaments, and from those outside the New Testament who nevertheless lived during the time of the Apostles,[2] that “natural use” and “against nature” were set phrases that referred to heterosexual and homosexual behavior respectively with no known exceptions.[3]

But the point is that they cannot live in God’s world without assuming His existence and His morality, for they self-destruct (“receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due”). This “error” would seem to be apostasy from God, then “burning,” which is ever increasing and intense lusts that can never be satisfied, that finally leads to diseases from aberrant sexual practices (Exodus 15:26; Leviticus 26:16) and to final judgment at the Last Day. Moreover, such practices lead them to mental distress, depression, and to suicide, which is very high among homosexuals. LGBT insider Tammy Bruce reports that male homosexuals are pursuing unprotected sex even when they know it will lead to disease,[4] which is a death wish. This is a rebellion to God that they can do as they please without consequences. His response is to turn them over to their lusts for destruction and to a warped mind:

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves . . . 26  For this reason God gave them up to vile passions . . . 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting (Romans 1:24, 26, 28).

This dishonoring of God leads to the dishonoring of self. Though not every idolater gives himself (or herself) to same sex unions, Paul seems to be saying that just as those who reject God suppress the truth about Him (v. 18), so many who reject Him also suppress the truth about same sex unions. Therefore, three times we see that God gave them over to their lusts and to a debased and warped mind. If they reject Him, His creation, and His morality, He will reject them, but if they reach out to Him, He will forgive and heal (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

To put it another way, if one loses sight of the vertical, he loses sight of the horizontal. If one denies the Christian God and creation, he denies human relationships. If one cannot define the vertical, he cannot define the horizontal, for the vertical is the standard of measure for the horizontal. If there is no God who created us male and female and told us to fill the earth with children, then we can redefine the family to be two of the same gender who by definition cannot produce prodigy to fill the earth. Thus, their kingdom self-destructs.

Therefore, in two areas they suppress the truth so as to distort the natural law of their conscience: (1) they devise alternatives theories of our origin, denying creation and the Creator, (2) which in turn leads them to devise alternative theories of morality, denying their conscience, the image of God within them, and God’s morality.

Secularists accuse Christians of trying to impose “religion” on society, for wanting to impose our morality. First, as we in Part 1, there is only one morality—God’s. Second, if God’s morality is the only one, He has already imposed it. Third, the secularists are imposing their ungodly immorality on society, and they are doing so in the name of their god—secularism. It is not a question of imposing; it is only a question of WHO is imposing WHAT.

Of course we can argue for God’s morality to our culture without using Scripture, but we cannot argue for it without assuming Scripture.[5] Christians become embarrassed over believing the Bible so they want to distance themselves from it when dealing with non-Christians. It seems better to assume it and then argue one’s case, for that is what God Himself does in scripture. Non-Christians don’t get to determine the evidence or how we present it to them—God does.

Thus, there is no natural, morally neutral moral law that is for all faiths, for each law-giver would imply another god. We would then have many gods, all competing for worshippers.

Become like what they worship. If one worships secularism, he’ll impose that morality. If one worships the Triune God, he’ll recognize God’s law as the standard. Human nature is fallen, which means the hearts of all people are sinful so that there is no neutral moral law code in our hearts but rather a law giver over our hearts—the Triune God. To assert that there is neutral morality implies a god who is neutral, but we have seen that such thinking is rebellious to the one and only Triune God who is infinitely holy, not neutral. Muslims murder innocent people, treat women terribly, and “marry” little girls before puberty because Mohammed was a pedophile. Moreover, Allah does not love and with only one person in him (it), even he/it is not a person and does not value relationships.

Here is how Jeremiah put it:

The heart isdeceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9).

Amen. Ω

 

[1] John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1959), 1:55-56.

[2] Such as Philo and Josephus.

[3] Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Nashville: Abington Press, 2001), 500 plus pages. See especially chapter four.

[4] Tammy Bruce, The Death of Right and Wrong (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003), p. 96ff. The movement is known as “bareback,” risking and even seeking to get some disease as a badge of honor to one’s freedom and challenge to God’s authority. (See my comments on this book in the Bibliography at the end of the book.)

[5] John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), p. 242ff.

I Hate “Values”

20 May 2014

(Curtis Crenshaw, from my book, NOT Ten Suggestions, available here)

From Fox News, from Bill O’Reilly, from CNN, to American Family Association, I’m constantly hearing about Christian “values,” even from Christian news media, with the assumption that values are based on natural moral law.

But what is natural law? (1) With some, natural law is the right of the individual to decide moral issues without judges or legislation getting in the way. It is just the individual and his conscience. There is no static set of timeless truths, but each individual and each culture morphs into various standards according to the times. Thus for someone to tell a woman that she should not have an abortion is a violation of her right to choose for herself; it is forcing one’s morality on another. Of course, they don’t want to talk about forcing their morality of choice on a baby who then dies. This choice is especially demanded in the area of sexuality. This is what Judge Bork in his excellent book Slouching Towards Gomorrah calls a radical egalitarianism, which means no one can say anyone is wrong about their choices, for all are equal, and there is no God. But if each can choose, what should we do about murder? Government steps in, as it should, but this only reveals that it is impossible to have complete autonomy; there must be limits on what one can choose. How do we define those limits?[1]

(2) With others natural law is the government ruling according to social norms, and the Constitution must be interpreted by those norms. In this view, the Constitution is reinterpreted with each new generation, and this is the way it should be, they think. But this means the Constitution is not really a binding standard, just a wax nose to be manipulated.

(3) With still others, natural law can be an unchanging norm that is discovered by some human process that is devoid of divine input. They would say that there are moral absolutes, such as not murdering one another. But there are so many things that people cannot agree to that this is hopeless.

The problem with natural law in each case is that man discovers it based on who he is rather than it being revealed based on who God is. Suppose all morality was just natural law, which means we just discover it by ourselves, or make it up as we go along. (a) The first problem is the source for it, for if the world is just molecules in motion, how could immaterial morality arise from matter? If nature is all there is, then the way things are is the way they should be.[2] Thus if one is born homosexual, that is the way it should be. Of course, we deny that one is born homosexual but that people choose that lifestyle.

(b) A second problem, if morality is just discovered, is that morality is only conventions agreed to, for the moment. How do we get others to “discover” it, and who will enforce it? What happens if we can’t agree? If no one enforces it, then we have nothing. If we just discover it, how do we explain that all cultures punish people for murder and theft, and look down on adultery? This flux of morality would be like the murderer who thought it was unfair to be prosecuted because he was doing what was “natural,” according to what his wisdom had discovered. Some were predators and some prey. He was a predator, so why punish him for doing what was natural? We don’t punish wolves for being wolves, do we? Moreover, if morality was just a product of people thinking it up, whose thoughts would prevail? It would seem that we would be subject to majority vote so that the next time a Hitler arose, if he had enough votes, murdering Jews and Christians would be acceptable. But we all know that no amount of rational argument can justify murder, or can it? (Can you say “abortion”?)

(c) A third problem is that if moral law is based on human nature, whose human nature? The position usually assumes evolution, which means human nature is constantly changing as it evolves. In fact, some will be more morally advanced than others in their genetic evolution, and all will be different a thousand years from now. What will morality be like then? By contrast, we can trace God’s absolute moral law back thousands of years from now, and it has not changed because He has not changed.

“Modernist lawmaking is based not on morality but on ‘utility’ and ‘rights.’ ”[3] In other words, it is very subjective; it is not concerned with righteousness but with what makes people feel good, what people want. When we give up the objective standard of righteousness, society goes to war to fight over whose rights get upheld and whose rights are violated. This view creates moral civil war. People will say dumb things like “two people can do what they wish as long as it does not hurt anyone.” But that is just the point: All sin hurts those who do it and consequently those around them with whom they have interaction, both public and private. Since morality is a revelation of the character of the Triune God, it is not discoverable; He must reveal Himself to us.

Natural moral law has so far led us in the West to abortion, and is leading us to the destruction of the family with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transsexual). It is time we Christians stop catering to the arguments of those who hate God and stand for His law-word. The world has values that constantly change. Christians are adopting their language, trying to appease them, and imposing a Christian standard of “values” on the world. Rather, we Christians could not impose a standard on the world if we had the opportunity; God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, has already imposed His moral standard, His character, and that is the standard by which we shall be judged. It has been clearly revealed to us in Holy Scripture.

The world tries to have “values,” which reveals that they hate God and are in rebellion. They self-destruct against the rocks of God’s law. Moreover, Christians do not have values either, but only the law-word of the great King. In other words, there is only one morality: God’s character, which does not change.

Another way to say the same thing is that morality is persons in relationship. Morality does not exists in the abstract, but it is assumed by persons who are in some relationship, as employee, spouse, sibling, citizens, and so forth. Thus, to speak of natural law as if it exists apart from persons is nonsense. There is only one perfect moral character, God’s, and thus only one moral law code, God’s. Every law enacted by mankind is either an application of God’s character or an act of rebellion against His character. There are no other options. There are no “values” that we can pick and choose but only the Ten Commandments of the Great King—nothing else. His character rules because He rules. Therefore, let us not talk of the world’s values or the Christian’s values but only the absolute, unbending and unchangeable moral law of the one God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. People are always bellowing that Christians are trying to impose their standards on the world, but the fact is that God has already imposed His moral character on the world. In fact, no one can be in any relationship without a moral standard, and each person seeks to make his moral standard the norm. The irony is that at the same time that liberals accuse us of imposing their morality on them, they are doing the same with their immorality. It can’t be otherwise. Every law enacted in Congress is someone’s morality (or immorality) imposed on the minority.

(to be continued next time) Ω

 

[1] Another way to say this is to ask if law is normative or descriptive? If it is normative, there is an unchangeable standard; but if it is just descriptive, then it only “describes” what people do. Those who take surveys to see what people and do and make standards from those surveys are idolaters, using man as the measure of morality.

[2] Philosophers say it this way: What is, is the way it ought to be. Watch for my booklet Is, Can, Ought on my website (www.ftstl.com).

[3] Philip E. Johnson, Reason in the Balance (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), p. 139.