Does Christianity lead to true morality or just obedience from fear?
Published: 11 August 2012 (GMT+10)
Flickr: D Sharon Pruitt
Is Christianity a religion of fear?
S.A. from the United Kingdom wrote in response to our article Is God watching?:
Looking at this article, it doesn’t sound like morality comes from Christianity, only obedience and fear. I don’t steal or murder people because that is wrong, not because I might be punished for it.
And to suggest evolution and random mutations would be all it took to make murder, adultery or theft acceptable just makes you sound like you don’t truly value human life.
CMI’s Dominic Statham responds below:
‘Looking at this article, it doesn’t sound like morality comes from Christianity, only obedience and fear. I don’t steal or murder people because that is wrong, not because I might be punished for it.’
In the Bible, the ‘fear of God’ has a number of meanings. There is the fear of God, meaning the fear of judgement, ‘if we’re bad’. With this is also the hope of reward ‘if we’re good’. Unfortunately, most people think that Christianity has little more to offer than this. There is, however, much more to it.
In Christ, the son of God became a perfect man. When He died on the cross, He paid the penalty for our sin so that we could receive the forgiveness of God. He then rose again from the dead so that we might be empowered to live a new life. Just as we became one with him in His death, we become one with Him in His resurrection. (See Romans 6.) Our new life is His life. We can then start to know His goodness and perfect nature lived out in us. It’s not that we become more like Him, but that He becomes more manifest in us. (See Galatians 2:20.) According to the Bible, this is the only answer to our problem with sin.
Just as we might fear dropping a priceless vase that we own, and take great care when moving it, so we fear doing anything that might show disrespect towards God.
As Christ is formed within us (Galatians 4:19), a different ‘fear of God’ becomes known, arising from a much more adequate God-consciousness. We become aware of God’s true nature and begin to glimpse His holiness, beauty and goodness. The clearer we see God, the more unthinkable it becomes to sin against Him. Just as we might fear dropping a priceless vase that we own, and take great care when moving it, so we fear doing anything that might show disrespect towards God. This knowledge then turns an immature fear of God (the fear of punishment) to a mature ‘fear’, which is really ‘a labour of love’. God becomes so wonderful in our thinking that we grow to love Him and desire to serve and bless Him. The apostle John wrote, ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love’ (1 John 4:18). According to Proverbs 9:10, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One [God] is understanding.’
You also wrote ‘And to suggest evolution and random mutations would be all it took to make murder, adultery or theft acceptable just makes you sound like you don’t truly value human life.’
Surely, if there is no God and there is only matter and energy, we are no more than biochemical machines. As Richard Dawkins put it, we are no more than ‘survival mechanisms—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.’1 Moreover, if we are just survival mechanisms programmed to preserve our genes, then we are not responsible for our actions.2 Can you imagine a society in which people behave as if this is really true?
Referring to Adolf Hitler, the prominent British evolutionist, Sir Arthur Keith wrote,
“The German Fuhrer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.”3
In chapter 4 of Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler argued that Darwinism was the only basis for a successful Germany and, in a party rally in 1933, he proclaimed that “higher race subjects to itself a lower race … a right which we see in nature”.4 It is hard to deny that, in seeking to subjugate Eastern Europe to the ‘superior Aryan race’, and in his attempts to wipe out the Jews, Hitler acted entirely consistently with his beliefs.
It is surely evolution that devalues human life, rather than the Christian belief that we are all made in the image of God.
- Dawkins, R., The Selfish Gene, 1989, p. 5. Return to text.
- Cashmore, A., The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of human behavior and the criminal justice system, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(10):4499-4504, 2010; http://www.pnas.org. Return to text.
- Keith, A., Evolution and Ethics, Putnam, NY, USA, 1947, p. 230. Return to text.
- Bergman, J., Darwinism and the Nazi race holocaust, Journal of Creation 13(2):101-111, November 1999. Return to text.