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The Bible: the only basis for objective morality

By and 

Published: 22 December 2015 (GMT+10)
Originally published in a CMI newsletter, June 2015
iStockphoto boy-reading-bible

A recent New York Times article1 lamented a troubling trend: many children in school do not think there is such a thing as a ‘moral fact’—otherwise known as ‘moral realism’. Traditionally in Western society, we have believed there are many moral facts—things that are objectively right or wrong. ‘Murder is wrong’, ‘Helping people is good’, and ‘Racism is wrong’ are just a few truths that express the idea that some things are objectively right or wrong.

But where do these ideas come from? Certainly not from evolution—if murder helps me survive and reproduce more than my competitors, then it is an evolutionary good. Lions often kill the cubs in a pride they’ve taken over, so that the pride’s resources aren’t ‘wasted’ raising another lion’s cubs. Even though some have suggested that altruism might be an evolutionary good, they can’t have it both ways. This is clearly inconsistent with an evolutionary worldview since helping others means fewer resources for ‘me’. Why should I help people who might be less ‘fit’? And racism is one of the most evolutionarily consistent views Darwin believed. If evolution is true, then the people more closely related to me are in competition with other people supposedly less closely related to us.

The sort of moral facts that have been accepted as more or less self-evident, and which form the basis of our law codes, actually come from Scripture. Western society traditionally held the Bible, e.g. the Ten Commandments, to be the standard for how we should act. Its teachings, and the concept of God as the moral law giver, became the most overarching influence of our civilization. But today, more and more people are completely ignorant of what it teaches and the important role it played in our history. And because the Bible, and in particular its foundational book—Genesis—is increasingly marginalized, so is the Bible’s authority in other areas such as its morality.

Evolution has no objective basis for morality

As the Bible becomes less of an influence in our society, people start to experience confusion regarding what used to be considered basic moral principles. The result is that many decide they can make up their own rules because there are no moral absolutes. This is exactly what the aforementioned survey found amongst young people, who, no doubt, are also ignorant about the Bible, its history and impact on society. And once the foundation of Scripture is rejected it is only a matter of time until the edifice of morality built upon that foundation crumbles.

If ‘feelings’ are the only thing that determines right and wrong (very much a youth sentiment today) then why accept what anyone else has to say about what is right and wrong? Moral anarchy on a societal level is the logical end of such a view.

Christians aren’t the only ones concerned about the logical moral outcomes of evolution. History is replete with holocaustic examples, and sadly, history has a habit of repeating itself. Former Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins is probably the world’s best-known anticreationist, but even he had to admit:

I’m a passionate Darwinian when it comes to science, when it comes to explaining the world, but I’m a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to morality and politics.”2

And Dawkins has a right to be concerned. Evolutionary beliefs underpinned actions such as the forced sterilizations of the ‘feeble-minded’ in America, to the killing fields of Cambodia, to the murder of Aborigines in Australia under the guise of science. The idea that we are evolved has led time after time to the idea that some of us are more evolved than others, and therefore the less-evolved or fit are expendable.

If we want our children to be able to tell right from wrong, and to have an objective basis for doing so, the answer is a wholesale return to God’s Word as the authority in our lives. And people of all ages must be able to defend what they believe and trust the Bible in everything it teaches. As Jesus said, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12). If the Bible’s history is wrong, why should we believe its morality?

CMI—giving you ammunition!

One of the reasons we publish Creation magazine is to give readers like you a tool to help you defend your belief in Scripture, and to help you in your discussions with others. Parents who receive the magazine often report that they don’t get to see the magazine until their kids have devoured every last article! Isn’t it encouraging to think that thousands of kids are growing up in the faith, and discovering that the Bible is trustworthy—and in so many areas?

But don’t let the effect stop with your family! We often hear from people who have had their lives changed as a result of someone passing along their copy of Creation magazine. Perhaps there is someone in your life who needs to hear that they can trust God’s Word—from the very first verse! Your support of CMI helps keep us churning out this important information.

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Further Reading

References and notes

  1. McBrayer, J.P., Why our children don’t think there are moral facts, 2 March 2015; opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/02/why-our-children-dont-think-there-are-moral-facts. Return to text
  2. The Descent of Man—Episode 1: The Moral Animal, broadcast on The Science Show on the ABC Radio National, 22 January 2000; abc.net.au/science/descent/trans1.htm. Return to text

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Readers’ comments
Nico B., Canada, 23 December 2015

It is interesting that the New York Times laments the troubling trend in moral decay. The Times is the name in Media. The mass media is probably putting the most effort in to destroy morality in the name of freedom and art.

Light Y., United States, 22 December 2015

However, the morality of the Old Testament how God treated every other civilization was fair? while I agree that Jesus teachings are anything but evil the same could not be said for the old testament. Our objective morality is not just from the bible and most of Jesus teachings can be traced back to many other philosophers about generally being a good person. These philosophers are way older than Judaism and Christianity themselves.

We certainly don't round an entire family up to be swallowed by the earth because someone stole a blanket. We also do not stone people to death for anything. Walk into a town and murder everything that breathes including babies whom several centuries later Yahweh will change his mind and tell Jesus that let the children come to him as the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

In summary, I will give it the author. Jesus teachings are exemplary. Yahweh "objective morality" is not that far off what Hitler, Stalin and Darwin

Shaun Doyle responds

Was the way God treated every other civilization before Christ fair? Yes, but that doesn't mean it was always pretty. But then, the doctrine of Hell, which is mostly found in the New Testament, is perfectly fair, though not very pretty. And a few things about culture and historical setting need to be understood before claiming that God's actions in the Old Testament were 'unfair'; see Is the Bible ‘evil’? for more information. Interestingly, though, the New Testament considers God's treatment of sinners before Christ came lenient: "Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:25–26; cf. Acts 17:30). And it makes no sense to contrast Jesus to the Old Testament, since He (1) taught more on Hell than anyone else in the Bible, (2) derived his ethic from the Old Testament, and (3) is Yahweh in the flesh! Please see The Christian foundations of the rule of law in the West: a legacy of liberty and resistance against tyranny and Can we be good without God? for more information.

John L., United States, 22 December 2015

Thank you again. It can not be said often enough. Evolution leads to moral relativism and it, moral relativism, leads to anarchy. This has been shown to be true throughout history. Sadly, even Dawkins acknowledges this, and yet he remains adherent to a poor understanding of science. Thank you Gary and Lita and the others at CMI for expounding the truth.

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