Morality — of God or Man?

Pastor James
March 9, 2023

“Two things fill the mind with every new and increasing wonder and awe...: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me” (Kant). Each is awesome in itself: scientists will tell you about the former and philosophers, the latter. But the two existing together in the same universe is even more amazing. In nature, everything behaves according to its physical properties--except man, who has in him this mysterious sense of how he ought to act, not just what he wants to do.

We may say that our morality is just a product of societal indoctri-nation, a set of rules, which was established by social consensus to ensure the survival and prosperity of our societies. This pragmatic, utilitarian moral impulse is best represented in the Golden Rule—"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

You may say that the Golden Rule is self-evident, ingrained in Nature itself: it seems like the best way to ensure our survival and well-being as a species. But, if it were ultimately for our benefit and survival, why should we abide by it to the point of sacrificing our (only) life? What if our morality goes deeper than any external social contract? C.S. Lewis says, "Supposing you hear a cry for help from a man in danger, you will probably feel two desires--one a desire to give help (due to your herd instinct), and the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away."

Do you think there is this “third” thing? Without it, there’d be nothing heroic about a person risking his life to rescue someone; his herd instinct happened to be stronger than his survival instinct--he was merely dancing to his DNA. And there’d be nothing terrible about a person doing the opposite; he was overcome by his survival instinct--he too was just dancing to his DNA.

Our whole being and experience militate against such a view. What makes us human is that we try to do what we ought to, often contrary to our "natural" instincts for self-preservation—this, when we are made up of lifeless, thoughtless atoms like the countless stars and planets that fill our universe. Could it be that our moral capacity is "supernatural" in its origin--a sign pointing to a moral God, who made man in His moral image, unique among all creatures in this physical, non-moral universe? After all, there is no right and wrong or good and evil in the laws of physics and the animal kingdom!

If we are moral beings because we are made in our Maker’s image, we are accountable to Him for how we live. He did not just give us a moral capacity to have a sense of right and wrong but He also gave us His law—both in the Bible as well as in our conscience (though imperfect): “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law” (Romans 2:12). Your conscience will testify against you on Judgment Day--every violation of your conscience, including checking up your phone when your inner voice said you shouldn’t!

We all have reasons to fear. But the Bible declares that God has provided redemption: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This promise is true because Jesus sacrificed Himself for sinners like you and me. If you believe this, you will not perish but have everlasting life. This is why the Christian message is called the gospel (i.e., good news). Accept this good news, and start living the eternal life God has given you according to His good and wise design in gratitude and joy.