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faith-based morality

In a recent article, "By What Standard," Tom Ascol describes a book he and his fellow elders read together.  The authors were sociologists, and Ascol notes, "What we discovered is that the sociologists subtly turned ethicists throughout the book. That is, they went from describing what they observed to prescribing what ought to be."  He goes on to say, " sciences can be helpful to the extent that they accurately help assess the way things are. An honest, careful sociologist can help you see things in relationships and groups that you might otherwise overlook. But no Christian should ever look to sociology or sociologists for ethical marching orders."

Many today think that we Christians (specifically, evangelicals) are unscientific and narrow (more: bigoted and hateful) in our ethical standards.  Our morals are archaic and based solely upon an outmoded faith.  Apart from the religious position, there are newer moral standards, which are progressive, more enlightened, and more culturally acceptable.  Progressives are more scientific, and Christians are faith-driven. 

But first, Christians don't make a step of faith, much less a leap, without regard for reason and evidences and life experiences.  We have considered the claims of Jesus Christ, the Old Testament prophets, and the New Testament apostles.  We have felt the reality of a great design in creation, pointing us to the existence of a Creator and Designer and Law-giver.  We have considered the remarkable evidence of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible.   We feel his moral standards written on our hearts.  We have also experienced the subjective reality of the Holy Spirit making these things real to us.

Often, this has been accompanied by disillusionment with the moral pronouncements of scientists, entertainers, politicians, and cultural leaders. We have discovered that the evidence for God and his trustworthiness -- and the moral truths he has revealed in Scripture -- have been there all along, but it was our own willful blindness that refused to see it.  We have come to trust ourselves less.

Once we see the truth, that becomes our center point.  What God has revealed in his Son, and in his Word, becomes the moral compass for us.   Our faith is in a higher law, an objective standard for truth and behavior.  This is based upon God's revelation to us in the Bible, and is not a leap in the dark.  It's a leap from the dark into the light.  It's something brighter, something more certain, more stable, and more just, than what we see in this present age.  It becomes not just a belief, but a new worldview.  It may be ancient, but it is certainly not archaic. 

Not only this, but so-called progressive moral positions, those that are based on cultural prevalence, scientific studies, personal experience, or utilitarian concerns, are in fact faith-based morality systems in themselves.  Scientific and sociological studies only reveal what is there, not what ought to be.  Totalitarian societies and cultural trends are embraced and/or imposed because someone else -- someone in control, someone popular -- says so. 

Even the philosophy of utilitarianism is a kind of morality received by faith, because it supposedly works.  Or, works, at least, for the many, and according to somebody's definition of work-ability.   Are utility and numbers the final test for a moral system?  Again, who said so?

The philosophy of individualism says something is right because "I said so" or "it feels right to me."  It is faith in oneself.  But by what standards do we judge our own standards to be right?  

All these systems begin with assumptions that are embraced by faith (largely subconscious and implicit), such as... people are inherently good, humanity is its own measure, cultures evolve for the better, progress is good, you can be whatever you want, everything is acceptable unless it hurts someone, and the majority is right.  None of these can be shown to be empirically or rationally sound, apart from using a higher standard outside of ourselves.

There is no ethical system that does not begin with some assumptions which rest on faith and a particular worldview.  The issue is where the faith is placed, and what kind of world is being viewed.   


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