What Do We Know About Morality? Part 3

According to ethicist Francis Beckwith there are at least seven aspects of morality that appear to be true, based on mankind’s common moral experience.  In the previous post, we discussed the first four.  In this post, we will discuss the final three.

The fifth aspect of morality is that when we break a clear moral rule, our conscience bothers us.  Francis Beckwith explains that “when we break a significant and clear moral rule, it is usually accompanied by feelings of painful guilt and sometimes shame, for we are cognizant of our moral failure and realize we deserve to be punished.  Only sociopaths succeed in overcoming their conscience completely.”

Sixth, morality is characterized not just by an action or outward behavior, but by motive.   If a young man were to shove an elderly woman to the ground, we could not judge the morality of his action without knowing his motive.  If he were shoving her in order to steal her money, then his act is clearly immoral.  However, if his motive was to save her life because she was about to step in front of a bus, then we would judge his act to be morally righteous.  Motive, then, is a necessary component of any ethical system.

There is a seventh element that must also be part of any moral calculus, and that is intent.  There is a well-known parable within the bioethics community where two men separately intend to kill a young boy to get his inheritance.  One man sneaks into the bathroom and drowns the boy while he is bathing.  In the case of the other man, he sneaks into the bathroom with the intent to kill the boy, but the boy had accidentally hit his head and drowned just before the second man arrived.   It should be apparent that even though the second man did not actually murder the boy, his intention to do so makes his act morally reprehensible.  We would not say that the second man did nothing wrong, because his intent to kill, although not acted upon, is still evil.  Intention, then, is the seventh necessary component of morality.

If you put the two previous posts on morality together with this one, we have made a case for the following: 

  1. moral norms can be objectively known
  2. moral norms are immaterial
  3. moral norms are a form of communication
  4. moral norms are prescriptive
  5. moral norms affect our conscience
  6. moral norms include motive
  7. moral norms include intent

Now, armed with this basic understanding of the nature of morality, we can now evaluate ethical systems by judging whether they adequately account for the seven aspects of morality.  If they do not, then we have good reason to reject those accounts of morality.

In future posts, we will indeed put to the test various ethical systems that derive from naturalism and Darwinian evolution.

[quotation references can be provided on request]

What Do We Know About Morality? Part 2

According to ethicist Francis Beckwith there are at least seven aspects of morality that appear to be true, based on mankind’s common moral experience.  

First, objective moral standards are known.  Any form of total moral skepticism (a view that would deny the concrete knowledge of any moral truth) cannot be true because this view would deny the obvious fact that we do indeed know some unambiguous moral truths.

Second, moral norms are not physical, but immaterial.  We do not know moral norms by using our five senses (see, hear, touch, taste, or smell) or by empirical science.  We know them by intuition, or moral common sense.  This fact counts strongly against any philosophical worldview of naturalism or materialism which denies the existence of all non-material entities.  The epistemology of naturalism (naturalism’s theory of how we know things) dictates that knowledge can only be gained through the five senses, so if we have indeed discovered knowledge (moral norms) without the use of the five senses, we have dealt a serious blow to naturalism.

Third, moral rules are a form of communication and communication can only exist between two minds.  Moral judgments are found in commands, imperatives, and descriptions.   It is nonsensical to think of communication from an irrational or unintelligent agent to an intelligent and rational agent.  Both the transmitter and receiver of communication must be rational, intelligent agents.

Fourth, there is an “oughtness” to morality.  Moral rules make claims on us before we ever act and we feel their force before we make a moral decision.  Morality is prescriptive, not descriptive; it does not tell us only the present state of affairs, but it also tells us how we ought to act in the future.   Philosopher Norman Geisler notes that “a purely descriptive ethic is no ethic at all.  Describing human behavior is sociology.  But prescribing human behavior is the province of morality.”

There are three more aspects of morality that appear to be true, and we will discuss them in the next post.  After we establish these seven aspects of morality, we will use them to evaluate systems of ethics derived from evolutionary theory.

Hang in there!

[quotation references can be provided on request]

What Do We Know About Morality? Part 1

First, when one reflects on morality, there are certain objective moral facts that seem to be obvious; these facts can be known by intuition.  According to ethicist Greg Koukl, “Philosophers call this kind of knowing a priori knowledge (literally, ‘from what is prior’), that which one knows prior to sense experience.”   There are clear-cut actions that we know are wrong, such as murder, the torture of babies for fun, and rape. 

The great apologist, C. S. Lewis, argued forcefully that all men are aware of basic moral facts and that these moral facts do not vary from civilization to civilization or from time to time.  To prove his point he asked the reader to think of a “country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all of the people who had been kindest to him.  You might as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five.”  

Philosopher William Lane Craig has argued that people who can not see clear-cut cases of moral truth are morally handicapped and can be safely ignored when debating ethics.   Greg Koukl summarizes by claiming “all moral reasoning must start with foundational concepts that can only be known by intuition, which is why one doesn’t carry the burden of proof in clear-cut examples of moral truth.”

Clear-cut moral cases are then seen to be objectively true by intuition, by a priori knowledge.  A person may want to reject the existence of objective moral truth by arguing that people often vehemently disagree about particular difficult moral situations, and that this fact, therefore, demonstrates that morality cannot be objectively known.  Christian apologists Norman Geisler and Frank Turek respond to this argument by stating that “the fact that there are difficult problems in morality doesn’t disprove the existence of objective natural laws.  Scientists don’t deny that an objective world exists when they encounter a difficult problem in the natural world (i.e., when they have trouble knowing the answer).”  

In other words, the fact that there are disagreements over complex moral issues fails to prove that objective moral truth cannot be discerned by moral intuition.  The point to be understood is that there are straightforward instances of moral judgments – killing innocent humans is wrong, acting unselfishly is a virtue, and so on – that can be known by virtually all people.

Given the existence of objective moral laws, there are other attributes of morality that can be grasped upon further reflection.  According to ethicist Francis Beckwith there are at least seven aspects of morality that appear to be true, based on mankind’s common moral experience.  

We will review these seven aspects of morality in future posts, so stay tuned.

[quotation references can be provided on request]

The Melchezidek Priesthood and Hebrews

In my Sunday School class we are currently studying the book of Hebrews.  While I was involved in the LDS Church (especially while I was an investigator) the book of Hebrews was often referenced as support for the doctrine of The Melchezidek Priesthood and having earthly high priests serve in this priesthood. Over the past several years my view of what Hebrews is actually saying about The Melchezidek Priesthood and earthly high priests has dramatically changed.  It is as if the Lord has opened my eyes and I can really see what He is saying now… and it is nothing like what the LDS Church teaches.

Chapter 8 is full of so much information… verses 1 & 2 say:

“The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.”

This verse tells us 3 things:

1)  “The point of what we are saying is this…”  The writer of Hebrews is telling us here that EVERYTHING he has been saying up to this point leads to the ONE CRUCIAL POINT he is about to share.  In other words, we should really listen!!

2)  We have a High Priest now who has sat down at the right hand of The Father.  Why does He sit?  Because His work is done.  Unlike an earthly high priest who had to go into the Holy of Holies year after year to offer animal sacrifices, this high priest has finished His work and is able to sit down in a place of honor, having done a perfect work which is now complete.

3)  He serves in a PERFECT SANCTUARY/TRUE TABERNACLE and not in a man made temple.  The need for earthly temples is now gone!!  Wow… how profound is that??!!

So, who is this one High Priest he is referencing?  Verse 28 in the preceding chapter tells us:

“For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”

Our High Priest is Jesus Christ!! 

What is interesting is according to the law there can be only one high priest at a time.  Hebrews says nothing to change this position.  In fact, it actually confirms this by telling us that the earthly high priest could not fulfill the law and that we now have a perfect High Priest in Jesus Christ who will remain our High Priest forever.  We no longer need earthly high priests!  We have Jesus Christ as our High Priest who serves us in the Perfect Sanctuary/Tabernacle in Heaven!!

All praise be to my God, Savior, Lord and High Priest Jesus Christ!

Darrell

Blog Break

To our readers,

I will be unable to blog for about a week, but I will be back to it after that.  We really appreciate your faithful reading of the blog, and we know how irritating it is for a blog to go silent for long periods of time.  That is not the case here!  Darrell will continue in my absence and I look forward to getting back to the blog in a week or so.

Thanks again for your support!!
Bill

YHWH and Mormonism

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Isaiah 43: 10-11. It reads:

“You are my witnesses” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed , nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.”

This scripture helped me when I was struggling with my belief in Mormonism.  Reading and pondering upon it pretty much solidified for me that Mormonism is false.  Let me explain why.

In these verses “The Lord” is actually the modern translation for YHWH or Yahweh.  The Israelites were told by God that this was His name.  In fact, the Israelites considered this name so sacred that they refused to speak it out loud. 

In modern English Yahweh has been translated as Jehovah.  When Mormons go to the temple they learn that God the Father’s name is Elohim and Jesus’ name is Jehovah/Yahweh.  So, why is this a big deal?  Well, this teaching CONTRADICTS Isaiah 43: 10 -11.  Let’s look at these verses again…

Verse 10:  “Before me no god was formed , nor will there be one after me.”

This verse tells us 3 important things about God.

1)  That God is the one speaking

2)  There are no Gods before Him

3)  There will be no Gods after Him

 So, the next logical question might be, “Who is this God?”  Verse 11 answers that question…

“I, even I am YAHWEH , and apart from me there is no savior.” 

Here we learn two more things about this God.

1)  His name is Yahweh/Jehovah.

2)  He is our Savior.

This knowledge creates a few problems for Mormons. 

1)  Contrary to verse 11 Mormonism teaches that God the Father’s name is Elohim not Yahweh.    

2)  Contrary to verse 10 Mormonism teaches that Yahweh is NOT the only God.  He is actually the spirit born son of another God, Elohim.

3)  In Mormonism since Yahweh is a spiritually born God there was a God prior to Him… Elohim.  This violates verse 10.

4)  Contrary to verse 10 Mormonism teaches that there will be God’s after Yahweh.   Mormonism teaches that men can progress to godhood.

5)  Verse 11 teaches us that our God, Yahweh/Jehovah, is also our  Savior.  Under Mormonism, Elohim is God the Father but Yahweh/Jehovah, his spirit born son, a separate God, is our Savior.  BIG DIFFERENCE!!

These points show that the Mormon teaching on the nature of God does not match the teachings of the Bible.  Mormonism teaches “another Jesus” and is “another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4, Galations 1:6-9).  It has been so liberating for me to learn that my God is Yahweh, Jesus Christ, and that He is the One and Only true God!!  He is my Savior and I will praise Him forever.

Darrell

Pro-Life Commercial Featuring Obama (sort of)

Check out this short TV commercial (thanks to my friend John for tipping me off) ready to be aired by CatholicVote.com.  Those who argue that we should consider aborting children who might be born into “bad” homes might want to think again (and yes, many in the pro-choice community make this argument).  Of course, numerous other examples of outstanding and successful people who “should” have been aborted due to their mothers’ circumstances exist, but this one really hits home.

Are Christians Thinking About Christianity?

No, not many of them.  I suspect that this just mirrors the fact that most people aren’t thinking about anything.  But it shouldn’t be that way for those who call themselves followers of Christ.  He called us to love God with our mind .  Read these quotes below and see if any of them apply to you or someone you know.  If so, what are you going to do about it?  (Hint: reading this blog might be a great start!)

“We are having a revival of feelings but not of the knowledge of God.  The church today is more guided by feelings than by convictions.  We value enthusiasm more than informed commitment.” – 1980 Gallup Poll on religion

“We live in what may be the most anti-intellectual period in the history of western civilization.”  – R. C. Sproul

“Ignorance is the mother, not of devotion, but of heresy.”  – Puritan Cotton Mather

“For many, religion is identified by subjective feelings, sincere motives, personal piety, and blind faith.”  – J. P. Moreland

“I’m always encouraged to use my intellect in how I approach my vocation, select a house, or learn to use a computer.  But within the sphere of my private, spiritual life of faith, it is my heart, and my heart alone, that operates.”  – J. P. Moreland

“Most Christians would rather die than think – in fact they do.”  – Bertrand Russell

Thee, Thou, Thine and Thus in Prayer?

One of the teachings of Mormonism is that one should use reverence in prayer to Heavenly Father. It is taught that when you pray you should not use the language of our day.  Rather you should always use Thee, Thou, Thine and Thus. If you address God in common language (you, me, them, us, etc.) you are NOT being reverent.

I simply ask, why? What justification is there to support this position?  Is Old Modern English really MORE REVERENT?  If so, when the early Christians prayed in Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic were they being IRREVERENT?

Don’t get me wrong… I fully believe that one should approach God with awe and reverence. He is the ONE and ONLY TRUE God and He does deserve respect. However, why do we need to use Early Modern English to show respect? I believe that the only reason this is taught within Mormonism is this was the language used in the King James version of the Bible. Joseph Smith taught that the King James Bible was the “most correct” version of the Bible on the earth. In fact, it is the only version used by the Mormon Church today… despite the fact that we have MUCH BETTER translations available.

When my wife and I left the LDS Church one of the things we dropped almost instantaneously was the use of Early Modern English in our prayers. We began to address God in Modern English. We both feel that this has contributed greatly in our communication with God. We no longer have to struggle for words that simply do not feel natural.  We are able to address God in a natural manner and are able to concentrate on what we want to say to Him and not how we say it.  We believe that we can now approach Him as we really are and can communicate with Him reverently in the language of our day.

God has told us in the Bible that He already knows the groanings of our hearts.  In fact, He knows them before even we know them.  I really don’t think He cares what language we use when addressing Him.

Darrell

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