ICP Curriculum - Philosophy
God’s Offspring and Ethical Standards
“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28).
“Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device” (Acts 17:29).
Assumptions about God. Any worldview begins with some assumptions. The Christian assumes God is an eternal, self-existing being. He is the all powerful, sovereign God who created everything that is in existence including all forms of life. Because we were created by God, Christians are considered to be His offspring.
Nature of God.
God reveals His nature in creation, called general revelation, and in the Bible, called special revelation. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1 KJV). Anyone can look at the beauty of God’s creation—the mountains, the streams, the birds and the fishes—and know that God is awesome. Both the vastness and order and immensity of heavenly bodies and the intricate detail and order of microscopic organisms declare the glory and greatness of God. Natural laws, as we call them, were set and empowered by God. God created “the beast of the earth after his kind, . . . and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25). Goodness is one of the many attributes which define the very nature of God. The essense of God’s goodness is His holiness. The character of God is defined by His holiness or righteousness. Creation of the cosmos was an act of God, but moral or ethical character emanates or comes from the nature of God, Himself. Biblical Christian ethics cannot be separated from theology. Ethics are the result of a determination of the character of God. To identify good and evil, learn the character of God.
Failure of Man.
God created man with certain attributes of Himself. Among these are the ability to reason and make responsible decisions. God’s purpose was for man to be the link to worship God for all creation. God created man in His image: man has a spiritual dimension. He also has a physical body formed from the dust of the ground, giving him the ability to contact God and to enjoy the awesomness of God. The first man, Adam, was placed in the world to have dominion over the world. He could choose to praise God for creation, or he could choose to consider creation his own dominion. When he followed the recommendation of Satan, Adam voluntarily gave himself over to the control of Satan, thus denying God His rightful place. This became the beginning of evil among mankind and the struggle between good and evil. This struggle is an extension of the struggle between God and Satan.
Good and Evil.
The question, “Where does evil come from?” can be answered only through theology. Marxists rely almost exclusively on their economic philosophy, while Secular Humanists use their naturalistic philosophy to determine ethical norms. Cosmic Humanists assume that everyone acts morally by following innner truth determined by the individual. Postmodernists think that morality is based on shared “community” values. Christians understand the ultimate, concrete truth that standards of ethical goodness come from God’s nature. They maintain that these standards are absolute and eternal, never subjected to the whims of society. Christians are committed to a specific moral order as revealed through both general and specific revelation.
God’s moral or ethical order is the only valid source of morality. It is impossible to establish any other standard of order in ethical behavior. “The human mind,” according to C. S. Lewis, “has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary color, or, indeed, of creating a new sun or a new sky for it to move in.”1 The moral order is no less real than the physical order. Indeed, Scriptures point out that the physical order is temporary but the “not seen” order is eternal. It reflects the character and nature of the eternal God.
As to the question of what is good, it is that which is in agreement with the character of God. Evil may be defined as that which is not in agreement with the character of God.
Universality of Morality.
In almost every society there is and has been a general acceptance of some rules for acceptable moral behavior. Even those who deny the existence of evil, cringe at the idea of the Nazi holocaust, the Japanese treatment of “pleasure women” during World War II and the “inhumane” execution of prisioners by radical Muslim extremists. Indeed, without some sort of standard, there could be no justice at all for any member of the human race. Without some sort of ethical absolute, morality could not exist. Societies would be forced to accept anarchy. No person would be safe in his person or property. When Peter attempted to defend Jesus on the night the soldiers came to arrest Him, Jesus told Peter, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
Christian morality is based upon the conviction that an absolute moral order exists outside of ourselves. This morality is a part of the conscience, that is, the general revelation of God, which causes a person to realize that there is good and evil, acceptable and unacceptable behavior. “At the core of every moral code,” writes Walter Lippman, “there is a picture of human nature, a map of the universe, and a version of history. To human nature (of the sort conceived), in a universe (of the kind imagined), after a history (so understood), the rules of the code apply.”
Jesus is “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” John wrote in John 1:9 (KJV). The Apostle Paul calls it a “work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Romans 2:15). It is not unnatural for one’s heart or conscience to give rise to thoughts of good and evil: of a moral code which is universal for all mankind.
God’s Ethical Offspring.
Every ethical system devised of man contains some truth and may be of some help in establishing an orderly society of people. However, only the ethical system given by God’s special revelation, the Bible, can claim to be the whole truth. Christians recognize the truth of God’s law and endeavor to give themselves to obeying it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and anti-Nazi dissident, asks, “who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God—the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people?” Bonhoeffer was such a man. Such a man, also, was Daniel, who, when challenged to bow down before the world’s king, in complete disregard for his own life, demonstrated his loyalty to the God of all morality by going quietly into the den of the lions. Daniel was followed by thousands of Christian men and women who went to certain death in the pagan arena or were burned at the stake for the sake of God. Daniel and these faithful martyrs were God’s ethical offspring.
The purpose of this series of lessons is to present the basis of Christian ethics in such a way as to help young men and women resolve early in life to commit to the absolute moral principles of God’s special revelation, the Bible. It is our prayer that these studies may aid in the transformation of society to one in which people are protected by their own commitment to Christian ethics and by the pure laws of the government which might be based upon this sure law of order.
God’s moral law implores us to live peaceably among our fellowman, respecting the personhood of everyone and enjoying the presence of one another as if we were in the presence of God Himself.
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