Friday, November 21, 2008

Morality and Conscience

We all make decisions every day that impact us in a negative or positive way. These can be financial in the form of how we spend money, social in the form of how we choose to interact with people, or political in the choices we make to be informed about strategic issues and write our representatives, cast our votes, and let our voices be heard. These are just a few of many examples, but all of these decisions have logical consequences that are beneficial or not so beneficial; if I choose to spend my pay check on DVD's, my kids won't have enough to eat, but if I carefully make a budget and stick to it, my family has all we need to get along.

Aside from the obvious and practical consequences, we are also subject to the tyranny of our own conscience. If an atheist chooses to break God's law by murdering another or stealing his goods, even if he is not caught by the authorities and punished, his own conscience will condemn him! That is not to say that over time, one practicing theft will not grow callous and have an easier time committing the crime.

Conversely, the individual and society as a whole benefits from living according to Biblical principles and listening to their conscience, whether they are trying to glorify God or not.

The Bible explains the role of the conscience this way:

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
Romans 2:14,15

I can't help but think of O.J. Simpson who for all intents and purposes did get away with murder by escaping legal consequence. But his life since then reflects a man who is certainly not content and I am inclined to think he carries a very guilty conscience with him wherever he goes and maybe even wishes he had been convicted and been sent to prison to pay for his crimes. As anyone who has violated their conscience knows, it can be terrible.

The fact is our actions have consequences and these consequences apply universally, and we are aware of right and wrong from a very early age. My toddlers remind me daily of this as they demonstrate an awareness of what is sin. In their childish folly, they choose to do what they know is wrong because they simply enjoy it! It is then my job to introduce a consequence that is proportional to the pleasure of that act so they choose not to go that route next time around. This is done in hope that they will choose to avoid much more serious consequences later in life.

Whether you acknowledge a Creator or not or have any belief in a universal literal moral code such as the Bible, this awareness of sin proves that morality exists. As to where the laws come into the picture, this can be treated as a "chicken and egg" problem, as some believe the laws of our land establish a moral code. I don't believe this moral code was created as much as our laws reflect and reinforce existing social taboos that originate in the conscience. That conscience that is created by a very real and all powerful God.

I believe morality is created by God and designed to preserve our precious liberty and this is absolutely universal. So essentially, you are living by the "rules" whether you believe in them or not.


TAO said...

So, there is no morality in non Christian countries? So, only atheists kill people? Both of which you have stated in your post.

Since OJ killed someone that obviously means he is an atheist.

Lets say, that tomorrow, we find out that the Bible is not the word of God. Lets say tomorrow that we find out that there is no God. Would that in anyway take away from the teachings and the logic of the Bible?

Do the ten commandments make as much sense on their own as they do as being the word of God?

Why is killing a person as an individual a sin but killing a person on behalf of a state not a sin?

So, when your toddlers do something wrong you fit the punishment to match the "pleasure" they experienced. Are you actually punishing the wrong or the pleasure?

Think about it Bullfrog....

Bullfrog said...

Everyone; buddhist, hindu, Christian is born with a God-given conscience, which is the law written on their hearts described in the Bible verse I shared. This gives us a sense of what is moral or immoral apart from religion. Christianity reinforces this and calls those who belong to God to acknowledge this and obey so that we may glorify our creator and enjoy Him.

I actually gave O.J. more credit than some might be inclined to by suggesting he does have a conscience and is probably experiencing the consequence of his actions internally every day. Whether he is an atheist or not I will not say because I do not know the man.

Since the Bible is God's word, if there was no God there could be no Bible. If you want me to measure the value of the Bible apart from Him, I suppose we would arrive at the same conclusion as our founding fathers when, aside from their individual beliefs about God, they decided it was an excellent guide for living well and built this country on those principles.

Killing a person is not a sin according to the Bible, but murder is. If a man breaks into my house in the middle of the night to harm my family, I would likely shoot him. If he were to die, I would not be guilty of murder, as murder is done with premeditation and malice.

I suppose those who support war in that sense do so under the assumption that it is self-defense.

Sin is pleasurable and enjoyable. When I set a guideline for my children, they naturally are enticed to do it more. Have you ever told a child not to touch a lamp, and they do it immediately after or when they think you are not watching? That is the sinful nature at work.

When I discipline my children, it is to guide them in the way that they should go, which is to obey me. When they are old enough, having gained a respect for my authority and the consequences of sin, they will have a better understanding of God's authority and life's consequences.

"Think about it Bullfrog..."?

There is nothing I have considered more carefully in my life than how to guide my children.

Beth said...

I was recently refelcting to myself on how God being called our Father is so fitting, because he does of course love us, but allows us to make our mistakes and learn from them, and we do have this inner voice that knows right from wrong. God works through parents on earth to help teach the children right from wrong, too.

Good post!

Bullfrog said...

Beth: Glad you liked it. I believe whole-heartedly that, as His people, we are agents of God's will on earth, and that includes raising God-centered children.