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Moral Living: Part II
Bible study on morality.

During part one of this series of articles, we defined philosophy and Humanism. We noted that philosophy is used to develop the "belief system" of Humanism which comes strictly from the imaginations of men and appeals to no higher authority than mankind. In continuing, let us study the relationships between morality, ethics, law, society, and God.

Review the following definitions from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary:

  • moral 1a: of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior: ETHICAL

  • ethic 1... :the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation 2a: a set of moral principles or values b: a theory or system of moral values ... the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group

  • law 1a (1): a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority (2): the whole body of such customs, practices, or rules

Notice that a set of morals make-up an ethic. So, an individual's ethics are simply the sum total of all moral principles maintained by an individual. This helps us to understand the relationship between morality and ethics, but we must determine the thing that constitutes morality, and therefore, constitutes ethics.

Let me suggest that laws determine morality and ethics. Laws are created by different authorities such as federal, state, and local governments. Laws (otherwise called rules) are also created by schools, employers, and businesses. And, we cannot neglect the fact that God has created laws. The Old Testament created laws which dictated morality for Jews (Rom. 7:7) as is evidenced by the Ten Commandments. And, the Old Testament Law was a tutor to bring the Jews and mankind to faith in Christ (Gal. 3:24). Likewise, the New Testament creates laws which dictate morality for those who are Christians. Although the New Testament does not put forth a coded law as did the Old Testament, the New Testament Law is referred to as "the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:2) and "the perfect law of liberty" (Jam. 1:25).

The fact that laws dictate morality may be easily illustrated. If a school teacher has a rule (law) that notes may not be used in taking a test, then it is immoral for a student to use notes in taking one of this teacher's test - it is not ethical. But, if another teacher has a rule (law) that notes may be used in taking a test, then it is moral for a student to use notes in taking one of this teacher's tests - it is ethical. Likewise, in some states a driver may turn right on red after stopping, and in other states a driver may not turn right on red. The laws of the state dictate whether it is right or wrong, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical to turn right on red.

The problem is that social laws overlap with God's laws. In many instances, social laws (including government) coincide with God's laws. As a matter of fact, God's law commands Christians to obey society, government, husbands, and parents (Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 3:1-6; Eph. 5:22-24; Eph. 6:1). But, when a social law conflicts with one of God's laws, we must decide whether to obey God or man.

Peter was faced with this problem when he stood before the Sanhedrin and was questioned as to why he and the other apostles disobeyed their command to no longer teach in the name of Jesus. Peter answers: "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29) So, if we are faced with any other law which dictates a different moral standard (ethic) than God, we are to obey God rather than men.

One example of social laws conflicting with God's law is abortion. Society (government) has said that it is moral to kill an unborn child in the womb, but with God this is immoral. A Christian must stand with God and allow God's laws to dictate the moral standard by which we live. Something may be socially moral, but religiously immoral.

What is the relationship between morality, ethics, law, society, and God? Both God and society establish laws that dictate morality and ethics. Many times, social laws and ethics coincide with God's laws and ethics. But, when they differ, Christians must follow God at any cost. Furthermore, if we determine to live by God's laws and allow God to dictate our standard of morality, we must appeal to the Bible for authority to distinguish between morality and immorality.

What shall we say in regards to the ethics espoused by Humanists compared to the ethics we have received from God? A Humanist and Christian appeal to different authorities for what is right and wrong. You must first understand that Humanists are self-proclaimed atheists (one who denies the existence of God -Webster). Paul Kurtz, who was editor of The Humanist, says: "Humanism cannot in any sense of the word apply to one who still believes in God as the source and creator of the universe. Christian Humanism would be possible only for those who are willing to admit that they are atheistic Humanists." (Paul Kurtz, The Humanist Alternative, p. 177) Secondly, remember that Humanists appeal to their human philosophies but, Christians appeal to God. So, Humanist's ethics and Christian's ethics are opposed in every way since they appeal to different authorities. To which authority do you appeal in setting standards of morality - God or men?