Editorial: What is Good?

I recently read a critical review of a film which said, “Moral ambiguity is at its peak, making this movie the best of recent productions.” Satan has succeeded in obscuring moral values. Isaiah’s lament is all too true, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20).

Everything we read, hear or see is influenced by the ethical system of the writer or speaker, based on a personal view of what is right or wrong. Therefore, it is necessary that every believer should have some understanding of the systems that are behind the moral or amoral views of this age.

Most of what passes today as a correct ethical system goes back to the great Greek philosophers, Socrates, Aristotle and Plato, therefore to the pagan world. These systems are called “speculative ethics” and originate from human reasoning. When men invent a system, it is one he thinks he has kept or can keep. College studies in ethics are based on these human reasonings, completely ignoring revelational ethics that come from God.

Speculative ethics fall into two classifications: naturalism and idealism. The first views man as purely physical, therefore he behaves on a natural plane. This has given rise to the self indulgence which permeates the world, a Hedonism that says, “It pleases me, so it is right for me.” Libertarian philosophy claims that free will should dictate actions.

Most people who think they are moral follow an idealistic system, that man is both physical and spiritual. They are altruistic in that they believe they are working toward the common good. Socialism claims as it’s goal, the good of society; communism’s goal is the good of the state. There is a major problem: who is to say what is the greatest good for the greatest part of society?

Teleological ethics claim that the end is all important. This is a pragmatic philosophy that says, “If it works, it is good.” A murderer or robber may make his plan work, but it is far from being good. Naziism which believed that the end justified the means was of this school.

A much more common view is based on the principle that if the motive is right, then the actions are good. This has given rise to situational ethics where there is nothing good or bad in itself; there is no absolute righteousness. Things are good or bad depending on circumstances. A major flaw in this system is that results are not always immediately evident. For example, an unmarried couple may believe that whatever they do out of “love” is right. Illegitimate children, the grief that follows, tell us that this is a lie.

From these systems has come our modem world of pornography, sexual promiscuity, abortion and euthanasia. God’s laws are absolutes. Paul wrote, “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good” (Rom 7:12). Denying that God’s law is supreme, men flounder to find an authoritative, right standard. The choice is between Absolute Authority or total chaos.