WHAT IS MORALITY?
by Bob Wheeler
What is morality? What makes a given action right or wrong? Is there such a thing as a moral absolute?
In recent times it has become increasingly popular to view morality as a purely personal and private thing. In the debate over abortion, for instance, it has been common for women’s rights advocates to argue that pro-lifers are trying to “impose their morality” on everyone else. But if morality is merely a matter of personal opinion, then what is there to say that women have “rights”? Who gave them these “rights”? A 5-4 majority on a human court? The same court that once said that black people do not have rights?
What lies behind the question of morality is the question of God Himself. If God actually exists, if we were created by an intelligent Supreme Being, then everything He made exists for a specific reason. Life has meaning and purpose. The will of the Creator is supreme – it overrides every human law and decision. “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29; NKJV).
But how do we know that God exists? Space is too limited to give a detailed answer here, but very briefly, the answer that the Bible gives is this: Writing 3,000 years ago King David, who started out in life as a shepherd boy, was struck by the awesomeness and grandeur of the night sky. “The heavens declare the glory of God; / And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).
What should strike even the casual observer is the rational order of the universe. Common sense alone tells us that were there is order there is an intelligent Designer. Order does not spontaneously arise out of chaos. Thus the wisdom of the Creator is displayed in the things that He has made. Furthermore, the sheer size and dimensions of the universe, the vast distances involved, speak of the awesome power need to create it all. Surely the Creator must be far more powerful and intelligent than anything we can comprehend!
At this point some scientists are sure to protest. The universe, they say, can be explained in purely natural terms; there is no need for the “God hypothesis.” But science itself is a testament to the sublime rationality of the cosmos, and it is the very rationality that points to a rational Designer behind it. In reality the scientist is merely thinking God thoughts after Him – and it has taken the scientist thousands of years just to come to his present very imperfect understanding of the universe. The more we discover, the more complex we realize the universe is, and the more we should stand in wonder. If all we have been able to accomplish all these thousands of years is to just barely scratch the surface, as it were, how much infinitely wiser and more powerful must be the God Who created it?
But then how do we know what God’s moral law is? David goes on to answer: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul . . .” (v. 7). “The law of the Lord” here is the Torah*, the first five books of the Bible, much of the content of which reflects information given directly to Moses by God. All of the Torah was inspired by God.
But, you ask, how do we know that it really came from God? The answer is, because it bears the stamp of the divine. David could say that the Torah is “perfect,” “sure” (v. 7), “right,” “pure” (v. 8) and “true and righteous altogether” (v. 9). Part of it is the effect that the Scriptures have on us: they “convert the soul” and “make wise the simple” (v.7). They “rejoice the heart” and “enlighten the eyes” (v. 8). In other words, the Bible has an intrinsic quality that points to a source that is above human. Millions of people down through the years have made a point of living by its precepts, and as a result have found real happiness in life. The “proof is in the pudding,” as they say. Or, as David put it, “More to be desired are they than gold, / Yea, than much fine gold; / Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (v. 10).
The bottom line is that we live in a rationally ordered universe created by an intelligent Supreme Being. As human beings we were created for a purpose, and we can find happiness and fulfillment only when we conform to God’s purpose for our lives. In the end life without God is a dead-end street.
Morality, then, is not just a set of taboos imposed by society; it is a matter of conforming to the will of our Creator. It is a universally binding set of norms that ultimately come from God Himself.
*The perceptive reader will not that the Torah was already in existence in David’s time, contrary to much modern criticism.