Pastor's Blog

It is patently obvious – when you look at the real world, at real people – that morality is not patently obvious.  Some cultures see murder as always wrong;  others see it as a justified and even honorable option in some unpleasant circumstances.  The same is true of many other practices that western society sees as criminal, including rape, child abuse, and spouse abuse.

These facts used to be understood the way the Christian faith explains it:  there is a universal moral code but humanity is either ignorant of it, denies it, or rejects it.  The secular view disagrees and says instead that there is no universal moral code.  There is no actual good or evil.  Morals are just rules made up by people for their own benefit.  What a group deems good for itself is “good”;  what it deems harmful for itself is “evil”.  Outside groups may see things in completely the opposite way.  My evil is your good;  my good is your evil.  This is how most secularists view the world. 

This is why when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “the evil empire” and George W. Bush spoke of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as “the axis of evil” the secular world rolled its eyes and mocked their perspectives as quaintly outmoded and naive.  The idea that there were actual “evils” was terribly simplistic and unsophisticated.  There are no evils;  only different perspectives and opinions.

As a result secularists have difficulty assessing evils.  Progressive attorney Sunny Hostin said recently on “The View” that the human rights violations of Saudi Arabia and North Korea – killing or imprisoning homosexuals for being homosexual, forcing women to have abortions against their will – are different from but not worse than the American government’s separating children of illegal immigrants from their parents at the border.  Hostin’s perspective won’t permit her to say anything else.  Hostin is an American.  How is she to know what’s good or evil for the Saudis or the North Koreans?  All she is able to safely say is that from her perspective things look evil – but she can only accurately judge within her own culture because that is the only perspective she really knows.

This is also why secularists are constantly revising American history which has usually been written from the perspective that America is the good guy.  Today’s approach is to take the perspective of the other side.  From the native American’s point of view the European settlers, our revered founding fathers, were the invaders, the bad guys.  Their white Eurocentric point of view is therefore the “great evil” for everyone with whom they come into contact.  Likewise, from the perspective of the radical Muslims the Americans have always been evil invading imperialists bent on taking away the comfortable traditional lifestyles of the Muslims, forcing them to accept western ways.

When I was tempted to leave the Christian faith for atheistic secularism I realized this would be the new perspective on morals that I would have to take.  It made philosophical sense and if there is no moral law it seems to me there is no other way to look at morals.  But in conversation and reading I found that not even secularists lived consistently with this point of view.  For example, all sorts of patience and understanding are extended towards the murderous Mao and Stalin and toward the jihadis and radical Muslim terrorists.  The same level of understanding is NOT extended toward Hitler and the Nazi Party of 1940’s Germany.  Hitler is just plain evil.  Not that I disagree with that assessment of Hitler – but how are you able to make that assessment if you don’t believe in absolute evils and are willing to look past far more egregious violators of human rights?

My problem with the perspective was not that it was intellectually fallacious – but that people couldn’t (or didn’t want to) live within its confines.  And that is one of the reasons I ended up rejecting it for myself.

Many years ago when I was experiencing serious doubts about Christianity an atheist friend asked me:  “Why do you need arguments to support your morality?  Why do you need God to tell you right and wrong?  Isn’t it patently obvious what is good and what is evil?”

I had never thought about that and felt rather silly when he asked.  How could I not see that everybody knows it is good to love others and bad to hurt others?  Isn’t it obvious?  Everybody knows that things like murder and rape are wrong, don’t they?

No, they don’t.  Not only do some people have no conscience about killing others, some cultures believe that killing others is morally justifiable.  The Nazis under Hitler and the Communists under Stalin and Mao had no qualms about mass murder.  You have to break some eggs to make an omelet. 

Some gangs require new members to harm or murder innocent people as an initiation rite – not to mention their willingness to harm or kill those who doesn’t respect their turf.  Presently we have in this country a developing sub-culture of “school shooters” that emulates Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine shooters of 1999, and that find the murder of random fellow-students fulfilling and enjoyable.  Outside of America some Middle Eastern and Eastern cultures maintain that it is honorable for men in a family to maim or murder women who shame the family by marrying someone not approved by the family – or who have been raped (yes – you read that right – their having been raped shames the family and therefore these victims deserve to die).

Speaking of rape, European countries like Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Germany are struggling with young male immigrants who are raping and gang-raping native European girls.  Such rape, it is argued, is a part of the native culture of these young men (the most recent I’ve read about have been from Pakistan) who “don’t know any better” and European thinkers, believing that all cultures are equal and must be respected, are having difficulty deciding on how to deal with this problem.  Prosecuting these immigrants would be intolerant – THE moral evil to be avoided in western cultures at all costs.

If all cultures are equal, then those that see killing and rape as evils are on a par with those that see rape as acceptable and “honor killing” as justifiable.  Both are right.  Now what?

It is patently obvious that morality is not patently obvious.  Those who think morality is obvious are failing to see the world as it really is.  There is a place, it seems to me, for providing reasonable arguments for your moral beliefs.

There is a lot of talk about “bringing people together”, but precious little of actually accomplishing it. I believe that is because the modern understanding of “bringing people together” is defined, not by standards that are too low, but ones that are too high.

These days many don’t consider people to have been “brought together” unless there is complete approval and complete agreement between the parties involved. If one person can’t approve certain practices or behaviors of another person, or one person disagrees with or dissents from another person’s beliefs, then the disapproving dissenter is deemed “intolerant”, “divisive”, and a “hater”. And if you’re a “hater”, you couldn’t possibly be loving others, and so you couldn’t possibly be a part of bringing people together.

But is “love” to be equated with complete agreement with and approval of others?

Love has to do with how you behave toward others – not with what you think about their beliefs. If this were not true God could not possibly require us to love our enemies (Matthew 5.44ff). Loving your enemies means not doing them harm and trying to do good for them despite your disagreements with them and your disapprovals of things they believe or practice. God gives sunshine, rain, and food to those who are hostile to Him – but that doesn’t mean that He approves of all of their beliefs and practices. Likewise, we can love others while still disagreeing with them and believing that they are wrong about things. Disagreement and disapproval are not “hate”.

Love doesn’t insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13.5). Demanding that others conform to all of your beliefs is insisting on your own way and is a lack of love. Real love allows room for differences, dissent, and disagreement. Real love demands a certain level of compromise – finding a way to behave civilly toward one another without demanding complete agreement or approval of one another.

Love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13.4). This is about behavior – not agreement or approval. Being unkind is a demonstration of impatience. Being impatient is a demonstration of unkindness. When people differ but have to get along, it requires patience and kindness because we are working apart from the luxuries of agreement and approval.  Anyone can love someone with whom they agree, as Jesus pointed out (Matthew 5.46). Tension between the two parties is a given in the passages on love. Love doesn’t need to eliminate the differences; it must navigate them selflessly and gracefully.

Love bears all things (1 Corinthians 13.7). Put into everyday speech: “love puts up with all things”. Once again it is a given that the two parties don’t agree with or approve of each other; they learn to put up with each other. They find a way to behave civilly toward each other without being friends, without coming to complete agreement, and without approving everything about each other. The phrase “putting up with” is not about enduring that which is pleasant and comfortable; it requires thick skin.

And bringing people together requires that the parties involved have thick skin – thicker skin than our society presently requires. Thick skin is not quickly or easily offended (neither is love), but everyone these days is quickly offended, and we insist that those who dare to offend couldn’t possibly be loving! But those who don’t “put up with” anything aren’t loving either. Preaching tolerance is not the same as being loving, patient, kind, and bearing all sorts of wrongs.

If people are going to be brought together, they have got to stop expecting perfect agreement between themselves and their neighbors. People can’t continue insisting that everything has got to be their way. They have to learn to put up with a lot more than they do and still be patient and kind, behaving civilly. Each person has got to look first at his own responsibilities in getting along with others – what can I deny myself and how can I bless my neighbor? – rather than constantly asserting his own rights and demanding that his neighbor concede, agree, and approve. This is not where love starts and love is what brings people together.

People who don’t accept these simple truths can’t be brought together.

People who accept these truths and practice them will not only start bringing people together, they will start growing in love – and they will be well on their way to destroying their enemies and making them friends.

Get In Touch

  • 68 Old Douglass Drive
    Douglassville, PA 19518
  • (610) 326-5856
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
VBS Registration Is Now Open Register For VBS