The New Morality

Dr. Anthony W. Adams
Dr. Anthony W. Adams

Jesus made an interesting statement to His disciples.  “If you really love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15, Williams).  You might ask, what is so interesting about that?  Although, to the disciples of His day this might have seemed noteworthy, it certainly would not seem as strange to them as it would have been if this statement had been given directly to people of this generation.  I would direct your attention to the fact that Jesus did not say, “keep my suggestions.”  Jesus said, “If you really love me, keep my commands.”  The Greek word for keep is τηρήσετε which means- to attend to very carefully.  So, what Jesus said was, “If you really love me, attend very carefully to my commands.” This generation, and I am writing in general terms, recoils at authoritative language.  The idea of someone imposing a command runs contrariwise to the accepted normal behavior of this generation.  The people of this generation believe we live in a new age.  They believe (again I am speaking in general terms) that the moral guidelines, the precepts and practices of previous generations, are no longer relevant for this new enlightened generation. Therefore, this generation seeks to create and promote a new morality.  One of the main features of this new morality is the rejection of authority, the throwing off all restraint, and even the words “right” and “wrong” are rejected.  Any statement of morality that comes with a note of authority is rejected.  Their inclination and belief are in moral relativism. This is the reason I said that this statement of Jesus was so interesting.  Jesus declared that there are certain things He requires.  In this blog I want to talk about this new morality and how the church needs to address it.

A Command from God

Before going into this subject, there is something that we need to remember.  Jesus did not call his disciples (I am speaking of believers and followers of Christ today) to only reach people who are saved or likeminded.  Rather, Jesus said, “Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptize them into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to practice all the commands that I have given you.  And I myself will surely be with you all the day, down to the very close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, Williams).  This is the generation that we have been entrusted by God to win.  You might find their perspective strange or different from your own, but this is the harvest field.  And by the way, I would imagine that the generation before you thought that you and your ideas were a bit strange too.  My point is, we must reach out to this generation and find a way to compel them to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Some Ideas the New Morality Promotes

One idea this New Morality encourages is that wrong-doing is most harmful to the wrong-doer.  With many, this attitude forgets the wrongs done to the victim in concern for the psychological, physical, and social well-being of the wrong doer.  Of course, this is dependent on if the issue is politically correct or not.  The Prodigal son did not say, “I am the victim of my circumstances and therefore, it led me to violate the law or to commit wrong doings.”  Rather, he said, “I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight.”  The bible recognized that there were victims from this sin, namely, God and the young man’s father.

Another idea that is promoted is situation ethics.  This has grown out of a popular philosophy of existentialism.  People who promote this idea do not believe in truth or absolute right or wrong.  The contention is that situations and circumstances must guide our moral choices.  This type of thinking inevitably leads to every man doing what is right in his own eyes.  Jesus believed that there was such a thing as truth.  He declared, “But when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into the whole truth” (John 16:13, Williams). The Bible also states, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17, NIV). While it is true that every moral decision takes into consideration the situation, the circumstances, and everything that is involved in moral action, if there is no other normative guide than the situation, then we are indeed headed for moral chaos.

A third ethical theory propounded by the advocates of the new morality is what is known as “consensus ethics.” Basically, it says that we make up our own minds by a kind of majority opinion on what is right and what is wrong.  How many times have you seen a poll on abortion rights or same sex marriage?  There is a Latin expression, Vox Populi, Vox Dei- The voice of the people is the voice of God.  When the disciples were confronted by the council and commanded to stop preaching, they boldly, and in defiance of the popular opinion, said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, Williams).  

Finally, a fourth idea is that true Christian morality proclaims that nothing is prescribed to be Christian but love.  However, the question is, are they really using the idea of love like Jesus would use it.  Their belief is that everything is permissible, if you love.  To suggest that someone is doctrinally wrong or that his actions are contrary to acceptable Christian conduct, is seen as legalistic and contrary to “true Christian morality- love.”  On this premise, everything is permissible.  The Christian and the sinner can conduct their lives the same, the only difference being that the New Morality proponents claim their actions are justified, acceptable, or overlooked because of their idea of Christian morality- love. 

There are two reasons I would like to suggest as to why this is simply wrong, although many more could be cited.  First, it is inaccurate to say that nothing is prescribed for Christians but love.  Open the New Testament at almost any point and you will see how much more is prescribed.  The love that we are to exercise is expounded upon in the Sermon on the Mount.  It is here that Jesus teaches a standard of conduct for believers. Paul also discussed this when he said, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolator), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:2-5, RSV).  Second, this idea ignores the basic doctrine of the new birth.  The Bible recognizes the basic inherent corruption of human nature.  Jesus, who gave the commandment of love, also taught that “Out of the heart comes evil thoughts- murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19, KJV). Therefore, the first thing that Christ says to us is that we must be born again. The foundation of his teaching is, “Except you be converted you shall never enter into the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 18:3, NIV). This idea that, as long as what I do is in love makes it alright, is simply wrong. 

Conclusion

This brings us back to our first scripture.  “If you really love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15, Williams).  God still demands Holiness.  I am not writing this so that we might have a club to beat people on the head with.  Rather, I am wanting us to recognize the thoughts and ideas that many in the generation are embracing.  It is critical that we rescue these pilgrims from the broad path because it leads to destruction.  Samuel Bolton said, “The law sends us to the gospel that we may be justified, and the gospel sends us to the law again to inquire what is our duty, being justified.”