Faith or Fanaticism: Faith in the Certainty of Moral Absolutes

We live in a world of moral confusion and darkness. Having set aside God and His Word, men grope blindly for truth. Each generation redefines “right” and “wrong” in its own image. The Word of God is our source of truth. Moral absolutes do exist.

In his excellent book “Right from Wrong,” Josh McDowell defines absolute truth as “that which is true for all people, for all times and for all places. Absolute truth is truth that is objective, universal and constant.”

What an excellent definition this is of the God of the Bible, the God Who is Truth! In the Bible this everlasting Person is referred to as the God “who does not change” (Malachi 3:6). His Son is always “the same” (Heb 13:8). Jesus Himself claimed to be “the Truth” (John 14:6).

It should come then, as no surprise, that this absolutely true, unchanging, constant and eternal God has values that are in keeping with His Holy Person.

William MacDonald, writing in his book, “Alone in Majesty – The Attributes of a Holy God”, makes the following observation: “The fact of the existence of God means that we as human beings are accountable. If there is a Supreme Creator and Sustainer, the creatures are responsible to Him. American statesman Daniel Webster said that the most profound thought he ever had was his accountability to God. If evolution were true, there would be no moral standards for society. If we were the product of blind chance, of a random assembling of molecules, no one could find fault with wars, murders, thefts, or any antisocial behavior. People would not be responsible to any higher authority.”

Some years ago, a survey among a large number of college students found that 90% of them believed in God, and 65% believed that He had an active role in the history of mankind. A recently released poll revealed that 71% of people who consider themselves “fundamental evangelicals” do not accept the fact of moral absolutes.

God has allowed mankind to write and impose his own laws, rules and regulations. These have widely varied among different cultures, and most have changed over the years. But the fact remains that there have been very few lawless societies that have ever flourished or been in existence for long. The natural tendency for all mankind is “to do that which is right in his own eyes.” Both the Bible and history record numerous times where this type of chaotic society occurred. The results were unrest, social anarchy and eventually, destruction. Part of God’s plan for mankind is that men and women submit and subject themselves to the laws and ordinances of man (1 Peter 2:13). If people have no absolute truth in their lives, they will live without standards or guidelines, and will not have a conscience that has been adequately and consistently programmed to help them make difficult moral choices.

Modern society quickly and tragically confirms this. The news has become so increasingly horrible over the past 25 years or so, that it takes more and more to now shock us. Our minds and consciences have become numbed. What was wrong for centuries, has now become “right.” What had always been considered right, is now “wrong.” Rowland Nethaway, writing for the Cox News Service recently stated, “Adults have always complained about their young people, but this is different. There have always been wild and rebellious kids who would go off the track and do something wrong. But they knew where the track was, and what was wrong. Many today don’t seem to know right from wrong.”

Modern thinking, or modernism, has formed the popular standards of the past few decades. But now, postmodernism is the pervasive set of thought processes that dominate the minds and souls of man. In the recent book “The Death of Truth”, author Dennis McCallum states that postmodernism has four significant aspects t it: mood, methodology, movement and metamorphosis. The mood is a deep distrust of reason, and a disdain for fundamental truth The methodology is simply a whole new way of analyzing ideas. The movement is a fresh onslaught and attack on truth that brings a more or less cohesive approach to all the knowledge disciplines of man, including history, politics, literature, philosophy, sociology, law, linguistics, education and science. And the metamorphosis is the daily change that it is ushering m every aspect of postmodern life through education, movies, television, radio, entertainment and the news media.

Mark Rutland, in his timely book, “Hanging by a Thread”, states, “Every society anchors its ideals in virtues. The real danger is not the absence of virtue. There is no historical evidence of an utterly virtueless society. The real danger is redefining virtue as evil and evil as virtue. When that happens, the very thread which holds civilization intact is threatened.”

What then, has been the thread which has held civilization intact? It is the absolute moral law of God, our Creator. He not only formed us and gave us each our own will to act and live as we choose, but He also was kind enough to provide us with simple yet profound moral absolutes, definite guidelines, certain truths and universal laws in which we could function.

Perhaps one of the easiest examples from creation to understand, in comparison to today’s chaos, is the truth of marriage. God’s plan was one man for one woman; simple, yet profound. In Scripture, some of the parallel truths and laws in connection with marriage are “thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex 20:14), “flee fornication” (1 Cor 6’18), “marriage is honorable … but the sexually immoral God will judge” (Heb 13:4) and “the Lord hates divorce” (putting away, Malachi 2:16). Yet today we have the highest divorce rate, ever, an almost universal cry about the breakdown of the family, a total of 57 known sexually transmitted diseases, some of them universally fatal, others inflicting lifelong pain and dysfunction. Millions upon millions of pregnancies are aborted, as a form of birth control. We have broken homes and broken hearts, fatherless and motherless families, multiple partners, aberrant lifestyles and loveless relationships.

This is only one tragic example of the results of mankind discarding one of God’s laws. There are dozens of others. The pervading thinking of today is that to a degree, everybody is right. It is bigotry or narrow-mindedness to disagree with a proposition advanced by anyone, even though it is in complete opposition to the laws of God.

In his book, “If I Were an Atheist,” Wilbur Nelson quotes a college professor who says “morals are relative; what is morality in one place is obscenity in another.” Mr. Nelson then says, “And many people, welcoming a way to rationalize their wrongs and excuse their excesses, happily accept this comfortable and contemptible viewpoint.” There is no clearer explanation of this phenomenon in Scripture than Paul’s writings in Romans 1. There he says, after clearly showing that God has revealed Himself to all mankind through creation, that man himself has changed the glory of the incorruptible God into idols, and has changed the truth of God into a lie. As a result of this terribly wrong set of choices, God “gave them up unto vile affections, and gave them over to a de raved mind.” All of this, because mankind did not want to retain God in their thoughts, knowledge and actions, and as a result, “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous-ness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18).

The Christian, however, who has placed saving faith in the work of God’s Son, has also placed daily trust in the truth of God’s Word. While society vacillates in its standards and deteriorates in its values, the truths of God’s Word are abiding and unchanging. They provide moral absolutes for every aspect and phase of life. There is a clearcut delineation between right and wrong. Not only are there warnings about avoiding wrongdoing, but the positive commands, if obeyed, are often followed by promised blessing to the obedient.

God’s commands accomplish our good two different ways: provision, and protection. God told Jeremiah that it was His plan and will to “prosper” us, and not to “harm” us (Jer 29:11). In other words, obedience to His laws allows Him to provide for us, and at the same time, to protect us.

Yet today, sadly, and through the centuries, mankind has often removed itself from the provision and protection of God, by willfully ignoring His laws and “rewriting the books.” In the 1973 book, “Whatever Became of Sin?”, psychiatrist Karl Menninger noted that every American president mentioned the subject of sin by name in speeches or addresses while in office until the year 1953, but that thereafter, the concept or the word was not ever mentioned. Is it because there is no sin anymore? Or instead, is it simply being ignored? Webster defines ‘moral” as “pertaining to the principles of right and wrong.” He defines “immoral” as “wicked, inconsistent with purity or good morals.” But he defines “amoral” as “neither moral or immoral – being outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply” By avoiding the subject of sin altogether, men and women have become amoral, without any standards whatsoever. Sadly, the world at large has adopted an amoral stance; everything is relative, and everything, if rationalized, is acceptable.

In contrast to the decay around him, the Christian is very satisfied to rest “within the sphere to which moral judgments apply”, as stated by Webster. Because of a consistency of faith based on the moral absolutes of God’s Word, the child of God is content to follow those standards which bring peace, safety and protection. No manmade laws can promise these blessings. No rules or regulations written by Congress or Parliament can afford such life-sustaining values. The frequently changing boundaries, rules and regulations of man can only bring hopelessness and confusion; the eternal, unchanging truths of God and His Word are the best guidelines any human being on earth can adopt.

The Bible makes some uniquely significant claims about its importance in the lives of men. It claims to provide light, when our pathway is dark (Psa 119:105,130). I obeyed, it promises safety and freedom from the fear of evil. (Prov 1:33). It is able to save the souls of men and women, if received (James 1: 21). It has been given as the inspired word of God, and is profitable for all things (1 Timothy 1:16-17). And the hope that it promises is nothing less than an “anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:18-20). What other set of values, standards or laws would even dare make these phenomenal claims? Only the Word of God, and only because of the character of God. He is unchanging. He is truth. He cannot lie. And He will never compromise Himself.

Is the Christian faith then, in light of what has been considered “blind faith”? Is it unrealistic or too constraining? Is it outmoded or outdated? On the contrary, it is STILL exactly what the human race needs, for it has been prescribed for us by our Creator. Obedience to His laws and accountability to Him are accompanied by His promises of blessing and protection. No other standards come with these guarantees. It is obvious that the standards of men have failed miserably, and things are getting worse instead of better. In this upside-down world of no rules, no boundaries and no accountability, there still is a beacon of hope, an unwavering light. It is the Word of the God of Heaven, to Whom we are all accountable. And it is this God Who promises in His Word, “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you…” (Isaiah 55:3) It is no wonder, then, that in a clueless, aimless and peaceless world, this God promises those who obey Him, “In the world you shall have tribulation, but in Me you shall have peace” (John 16:33).