Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Is God the Standard of Morality?


Below is the transcript of my opening statement from my debate with Benjamin Watkins regarding the topic, Is God the Standard of Morality? You can listen to the debate here.

The Creator is absolutely free to glorify Himself by governing His creatures according to His will alone.

This is a debate about authority. The title, “Is God the Standard of Morality?”, is full of implications. It assumes that God is, that morality exists, and that there are appropriate standards by which we judge the world around us. All three of these implications are right and true, and all people are held responsible for recognizing them.

God is ultimate authority. There is no standard above God Himself. What He wills, what He says, and what He does is only perfect always. All of His judgments and commandments are right and pure. He can do no wrong in any way whatsoever. He is the only true and good authority.

Morality has to do with the discernment of good and evil; therefore, any conversation about morality naturally assumes the existence of good and evil. As human beings made in God’s image, we recognize these categories because, at a fundamental level, we recognize the presence of certain eternally unchanging immaterial realities. We embrace and employ logic, mathematics, scientific laws, and a whole host of other actualities. These eternally unchanging immaterial realities come from the eternally unchanging immaterial God. Thus, if we understand who God is and what morality is, the only reasonable position that one can hold is that the Lord Himself is the standard of morality.

A naturalistic worldview is completely insufficient in explaining the fact that good and evil exist. In fact, many atheistic materialists deny categories of good and evil because the very categories demand the existence of a standard outside of themselves. Atheists cannot even consistently affirm their own position over and against other positions since doing so would destroy their claims. It is self-refuting to claim that naturalistic morality is better than any other view of morality since it cannot account for the categories of “better” and “worse.” Materialists are unable to assert with any measure of authority that another person’s values or actions are evil.

Who sets the rules concerning what is right and what is wrong? If these are legitimate categories (and they are), there must be a totally authoritative Source who is free and able to govern all of creation as we participate in these categories. Only the Lord can perfectly establish righteousness and justice. Only God can establish Law, perfectly defining good and evil for His creatures. Only the Lord is truly authoritative.

If God is not the standard of morality, we go on to assume that position for ourselves. Like the rest of us, Ben is fallible. He changes. He caters to his own desires. He, like all of us, is prideful, selfish, and sinful. Furthermore, Ben is utterly bound by his limited nature, preventing him from having perfect understanding and wisdom. His judgments could never be pure if he’s left to his own devices. We can’t have a consistent understanding of good and evil if we reject God as the Standard.

If we assume the position of God in being our own standards of morality, we end up with just that – standards. Plural. Differing standards of right and wrong then create chaos and absurdity. It could be right, for instance, to encourage or even demand murderous actions in one place and equally right to prohibit murder in another place. Two completely contradictory sets of values and axioms would be seen as totally correct at the same time if God is not the standard. This is utter absurdity and it is one of the evidences of the Christian worldview. Without God, we can’t possess a consistent moral standard.

Since God is the standard, He is the One who is always right and all of His creatures are obligated to submit to Him. He cannot deny Himself. He cannot sin. He is not the Author of sin. He is perfect and infinite. The chaotic and absurd worldview of atheistic materialism can be traded for genuine truth, flowing from the only true authority.

The Lord is the reason we recognize the absurdity of the materialistic system of morality. God has created a universe full of consistency and has placed within each of us the knowledge that He exists. He has given us consciousness and a conscience. We live in a designed and ordered planet where contradictions and chaos are understood as things the way they shouldn’t be. When we repent of our desire to be the standard and submit to Him as the only perfect and authoritative Standard, we start to experience true knowledge and wisdom.

As a Christian, my worldview begins with God as He has revealed Himself. That is my starting point. Ben has his own starting point that must be put on display so that we can discern if the alternative to the Christian position is, in fact, possible or reasonable. What I hope we’ll see today is just how impossible the atheist’s worldview is. There is no foundation in this system. There is no standard for any objective claims. In the atheist’s worldview, that which we embrace today as right and good may be rejected tomorrow because there is no true certainty whatsoever. This alternative to the Christian worldview must be examined.

Additionally, I desire to see this debate stay on-topic. We are not here to discuss the question, “Do We Approve of God’s Actions Based on Our Preferences?” Instead, we are discussing whether or not God is the standard of morality. We are debating whether or not God has the right to do as He pleases. We are debating whether or not God is absolutely free to glorify Himself by governing His creatures according to His will alone.

As we hear a contradictory and evil worldview presented, over and against the Christian worldview that proclaims God’s total and comprehensive Lordship, let us remember that Ben embraces fallen, earthly wisdom because he is spiritually blind. He has no sensitivity toward gospel truth because the totally free Creator has not caused him to be born again to a living hope. I am not here to convince him with my own cunning – I could never do that. I am here to testify of the true and living God – the standard of morality.

People deny the Creator as the standard of morality because they hate the Creator. Many people are very angry that the Lord has authority to establish good and evil. They have no basis whatsoever in critiquing the judgments and actions of God – yet they do. And they do so because of their sinful condition. Why would a creature ever say to the Creator, “You are wrong”? The answer is because men love darkness rather than light. God is Light and He is absolutely free to govern His creatures according to His will alone.

Not only is God absolutely free, but He is the definition of good. Any time God freely acts, He is acting righteously and perfectly. When God condescends to interact with His creation within time and space, He demonstrates all of His perfections. His pure and holy attributes are on full display as He makes known His glory and power. This is evidenced quite clearly in His relationship with Israel in the Old Testament.

God put His grace on display by making a nation out of sinful men and women, His enemies.

God put His justice on display by giving this nation holy and good commands about how to live and by destroying His nation’s enemies – a fate Israel itself deserved were it not for His grace.

God put His covenantal love on display by continually caring for and protecting Israel, though they were a rebellious people who often rejected Him and His commands.

As we read the Old Testament, we see how the Creator brought glory to Himself and taught humanity about His nature as He governed His creatures according to His will alone.

These events found in the Hebrew Scripture served yet another purpose, though. Galatians 3:24 states that the Law was a guardian intended to lead Israel to Christ. First Peter 1:12 states that the prophets of the Old Testament had the Spirit of Christ and were prophesying as a service to Christians who live today. The book of Hebrews teaches us that the sanctuary, the priesthood, and the Old Covenant were all foreshadowings of something better: Jesus Christ.

The absolutely free Creator freely chose to be born in the likeness of a man. Being found in human flesh, Jesus lived a perfect life on behalf of His people and died on the cross on behalf of His people. He endured what we deserve – a brutal punishment and death. Our sinfulness demands the death penalty and eternal suffering, but grace and mercy are found at the cross where eternal life is purchased. Three days after His death, Christ rose again, fully proving His Lordship. And all who trust in His work alone will be saved from their sin, justified by the holy God, and given newness of life.

So, for all of us who have believed this message, let us submit ourselves completely to God. Let us be careful about finding something we don’t like in Scripture and saying “I don’t like this; therefore, I reject it.” God is God and we are not. Let us imitate Job and put our hands over our mouths, yielding to the absolutely free and good God of the universe.

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