Morality – What is it good for?

SplatterFlagby Deana Chadwell11/13/15
As the chips continue to fly off the rock that was once America, little by little an icon takes shape – a double stone tablet bearing ancient Hebrew letters, the foundation on which people – ordinary, troubled, imperfect people – have built the most successful of human societies. The Ten Commandments stand as the base of all moral concepts, and morality is the only condition on which we can be a free nation. Why? Doesn’t “free” mean we can do whatever we want to do?

No. Because, you see, humanity is a mess – can we agree on that? Left entirely to our own devices we run amuck fairly quickly. Atheists and agnostics tend to blame God for that, which is logically puzzling, and shows a complete ignorance (or rejection) of Christian doctrines concerning the free will of man, his fall, and his salvation through Christ’s work on the cross. Even most Christians don’t seem to know much about the angelic conflict, which accounts entirely for the suffering and mayhem that is this world. And we are all anxious for explanation because each day’s news brings new horrors to light — a shooting in a school, a beheading on a beach, a baby force-fed to its own mother,.

So, if man is unlikely – as history clearly demonstrates – to manage on his own a benevolent, peaceful, prosperous existence, what are we to do? This is where morality comes in. You see, law can’t create a copacetic environment where everyone gets along, and no one hurts anyone else, and everyone gets a clean shot at successfully becoming all they can become. We’ve tried that. (I know of no way to get an accurate ratio, but I’d bet the United States of America boasts the largest number of laws, rules and regulations ever created by a nation.)  And we claim to be a free people. Free to do what?

Free to choose to obey God. But we don’t. And what if we don’t? Doesn’t the 1st Amendment guarantee us the right to make that decision?

Yes – but. Most atheists I talk to assume that because they don’t believe in an Almighty God and because our government won’t force them to, that there will be no ramifications at all for that choice. There’s no understanding that their refusal to recognize God in no way removes Him from existence, in no way erases His sovereignty, His perfect justice, His reaction to being rejected by those He created.

Ever walk into a party and spot someone you really didn’t want to see, someone – an old girlfriend, an ex-husband, a person you’d hurt in some way? What’s our first instinct in situations like that? We pretend he or she is not there, maneuvering around the room keeping distance between us, as if we can wish him out of existence. But, we can’t. We can turn and run, but she doesn’t vanish. We can gather our misguided sense of outrage and make a scene, but that only makes things worse.

My point here is that we can, as many folks do today, pretend God isn’t there, that there are no attitudinal or behavioral expectations, that we can make it up as we go. But the consequences do not go away and no number of gay pride parades, no amount of media disdain, no convocation of condescending college professors can protect us from either the natural consequences of our actions or from the wrath of God. God hasn’t gone anywhere.

The Decalogue, presented to Moses on top of Mt. Sinai c1440 B.C., was the first written codification of God’s preferences for a nation’s moral behavior. Other nations had laws, but these ten parameters were different; no legal consequences are listed; it doesn’t say Thou shalt not steal and if thou dost thy hand will be summarily removed. The 2nd Commandment threatens disaster, but not until the 4th “generation of them that hate me,” but these are societal sanctions, not personal. Both the 2nd and the 4th offer rewards – for, again, the whole society. Later on, in the remaining 603 laws, some punishments are delineated, but not in the Decalogue. The punishments for disobeying those laws are outlined in Leviticus 26 and are aimed at the nation, not the individuals; the penalties affect the entire society because these divine rules were designed to protect the entire society.

So morality appears to be both a personal and a national issue, which is sensible since a nation is made up of individuals. We are not, however, as John Donne pointed out, islands unto our own. One person’s behavior affects another’s. We all influence each other and in this day of mass media those influences travel at the speed of light.

We can almost make a flow chart showing the paths through which the moral decline of America has traveled: from the church (ironic and horrifying as that might be) which early on began replacing morality and the love of God with social justice, to the schools where all societies, and all individual choices have been declared morally equivalent, to science which no longer used empiricism to learn about God and His creation, and instead used a warped version of the scientific method to erase Him, to the newsmen who learned in their schools to see journalism as a calling to change the world, not to merely record its events. These elements are now operating in sync, with the government backing it all.

I’d say Heaven have mercy on us, but we are, I fear, past that point. Let’s look at the last part of the 2nd law – “for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,…” To the third and fourth generations? How many generations have we seen since the sexual revolution in the 60’s? How many since we shoved God out of the schools? By my reckoning, time’s almost up.

What happens then? Look at the closing paragraph in Romans 1: 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, [v]haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

Sound familiar? Earlier I mentioned Leviticus 26, and though I don’t have space to quote it all here, and though, like the Mosaic Law it was first given to Israel, we can peruse the five levels of national discipline and see that we are experiencing a lot of this already. Israel felt the brunt of these levels of punishment three times, each time resulting in death, destruction and expulsion from their land.

The historical fact is that the more people who choose to live according to the divine code of morality the more stable, prosperous, and free a society will be.  The more people choose to denounce God (I think of the last Democratic convention) and refuse to live by His instructions, the less stable, less prosperous and less free it becomes. Less stable because life becomes unpredictable – words no longer mean anything, logic is totally lost, and behaviors become erratic; people take to walking into schools and shooting students or parading down the street naked; less prosperous because the work ethic dissolves and public thievery – by the government, no less – becomes rampant; less free because those who won’t control themselves need to be controlled.

And here we are cutting down monuments to God’s law and teaching our students to deny Him. Here we are — flagrantly disobeying every sexual restriction, killing our babies, shrugging it off when our leaders lie to us, and inviting into our land the very people who will administer the death blow to us all.


Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com and is a writing and speech professor at Pacific Bible College in Southern Oregon.
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Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I'm blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing -- and more keeps popping up -- needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation. I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.
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13 Responses to Morality – What is it good for?

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I see morality as long-term practicality, but the problem is that many people (and I suspect an increasing number, due to cultural failings) are (as Edward Banfield put it in The Unheavenly City) present-oriented rather than future-oriented. So they seek immediate gratification over the future advantages of being a moral person.

  2. Rosalys says:

    Deana, good article. The problem with our country is spiritual. We’ve turned our back on God and He has seen fit to let us go our own way to teach us the consequences of our world view. There is no political solution to the mess we’ve made. All one can do is play Cassandra to a people who will not listen. I’m considering withdrawing into a hunker down mode, hiding somewhere to wait out the deluge.

    That’s the pessimistic view. The optimistic view is that the darker things become, the brighter even the tiniest bit of light shines. I’m not sure I have the right to hunker down and withdraw.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Hunkering down won’t work anyway, because the libertinists (and to some extent the militant atheists) won’t allow even that. As Erick Erickson predicted several years ago (a prediction that has come true in the past year), “You will be made to care.”

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I can understand the human desire to avoid conflict, but it is a pipe dream.

        Never forget Trotsky’s words, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

        And in this case, I agree with the old saying, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Once again I’m impressed and sobered that Deana actual believes the Christian faith without the International House of Pancakes factor (endless waffles).

    The general belief out there is that “science,” combined with somewhat spiritually anointed Progressive bureaucrats (what we conservatives call “Big Government”), is the new and trusted authority for grounding civilization. Agree or disagree, this is how they see it and religion is cast off as a psychological or sociological phenomenon, at best. At worst (and many believe this is inherent and typical), it is the cause of much of the strife in the world.

    Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just telling it like it is. Perhaps now you understand why those on the Left, despite all evidence and reason, stick to their belief in global warming. The authority of their paradigm is at stake.

    Is the authority of a Creator at stake when bad things happen to good people, when there are endless wars, and when we noticed that much of the world indeed works on Darwinian principles even if “Darwinism,” proper, can’t explain the origin of life?

    Yeah. Sure. You bet. The hard thing to do is to believe in a benevolent Creator despite all the harsh realities of the world. And which Creator? That’s a fair question. The God of the bible or the madman who propels the totalitarian system of Islam?

    There are many things to consider as we live our lives and contemplate the features that contribute to a good society and the features that tend toward its destruction, no matter the short-term seduction. We used to live in a country in which questions such as these could be thoughtfully considered. But that time is no more. So I often suppose my thoughts are a complete waste of time…and they probably are.

    We see crazy and irrational becoming normal and accepted. And what eternal principle can you have in a culture that has come to accept the disposability of yesterday’s groovy technology? The best is always in front of us. No need to look behind.

    So even if I believed as Deana does, and I don’t, I’m quite out of my element in trying to say that The Ten Commandments are a better guide for society than the various conceits and bumper-sticker slogans of the Left. Not only is my case weakened by a lack of certainty in that grounding in the Big Ten (not the football conference, the tablets) but the idea of the kind of moral sphere the Deana is talking about is irrelevant to most lives, including many pseudo-Christian lives.

    Who actually acts and lives as if the God of the bible exists? Most people act as if Al Gore or the various mobster-like PC police were the “deity” looking over their shoulders. So I commend Deana for her no-holies-barred statement of her faith. But does this stuff still matter?

    Perhaps as Rosalys said, “The optimistic view is that the darker things become, the brighter even the tiniest bit of light shines.” That’s probably the best case one can make and the best way to look at it. And if others care to look in the same direction, I suppose we’re here to be the guide.

  4. “…but the idea of the kind of moral sphere the Deana is talking about is irrelevant to most lives, including many pseudo-Christian lives.” For the most part, Brad, that’s exactly my point — that such absolute morality is irrelevant to most people is what is killing this nation. It is the fact that a solid connection with our Creator is irrelevant, and even repugnant, to most people that is killing this nation. And the irony is that most who reject God do so because either they do not want to obey Him, or they blame Him for the pain and suffering of the world in spite of the fact that such pain is either the direct or indirect result of the aforementioned disobedience. When God finished each stage of creation He said, “It is good.” “Good” in the Hebrew actually means “joy” — so incredibly good that the observer/partaker will be filled with joy. Let me pass on one of my favorite poems from Wendell Berry’s “Sabbaths” —

    III
    To sit and look at light-filled leaves
    May let us see, or seem to see
    Far backward as with clearer eyes
    To what unsighted love believes:
    The blessed conviviality
    That sang Creation’s seventh sunrise.

    Time when the Maker’s radiant sight
    Made radiant everything He saw
    And everything He saw was filled
    With perfect joy and life and light.
    His perfect pleasure was sole law;
    No pleasure had become self-willed

    For all His creatures were His pleasures
    And their whole pleasure was to be
    What He made them; they sought no gain
    Or growth beyond their proper measures,
    Nor longed for change or novelty.
    The only new thing could be pain.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Deana, before entering the fine-grained arguments regarding morality, our at-home listeners would be good to read these two articles:

    The Scientific Evidence for God is Growing, Not Shrinking by Jonathan Witt

    The Origin of Life and the Origin of Science Point to God

    Anyone should read the two article in full before commenting. The gist of it was articulated by Witt:

    This grand progress narrative runs like this: Humans used to attribute practically every mysterious force in nature to the doings of the gods — lightning bolts, plagues, etc. They stuffed a god into any and every gap in their knowledge of the natural world, shrugged, and moved on. Since then, the number of gaps has been shrinking without pause, filled with purely material explanations. And all the movement is away from God and toward purely material explanations. The lesson: Always hold out for the purely material explanation, even when the evidence seems to point strongly in the other direction. Philosophical materialism, in other words, is our manifest destiny. Get used to it colonizing everything in the world.

    I quite agree. And on the other side, theists need to understand that none of this suggests an ironclad knowledge of what God is, does, or wants. The point is that a Creator is legitimate and, despite the propaganda form the Left, has not in any meaningful way been marginalized.

  6. One of my favorite books is also by Jonathon Witt (and Benjamin Wiker) called “A Meaningful World.” Had I run into that before studying upper level math and physics I would today be a much different person. Alas. Good suggestions, Brad.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I might add that one to the Bookshelf, Deana. One of the articles I read recently (that supplied those two link) I think mentioned it. Or maybe it’s up there already.

      Not sure how the book intersects on your math and physics studies but I’m sure that will make for a good story! 🙂

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