Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Christian’s Confusion: Where Does Morality Originate

At one time I was a Christian… Very much a Christian and I wondered how I would behave if I weren't a "believer". Would I have sex with everything that walked? Would I do every drug? Would I only be about making money and material success? Would I even be nice to other people?

As a Christian, I was taught that Christianity/Bible was the foundation of "morality". To me the bible was everything and I believed that I based all of my actions on Jesus... or God... or are they the same thing?... I digress – I thought I acted morally because I was following the teaching of the bible.

Now that I am no longer a Christian – I am asked the same question over and over: "How do you determine what is right and wrong?"

In my head I am thinking 3 things:
  1. Do you really think that because you are a Christian - you do what is right?
  2. And… since all of you have different versions of what is right… Why is this question even relevant?
  3. Do you really think you have to be a Christian to do right?
Now – I was in their place once, so I understand where they are coming from. BUT now I see the  condescension in this question.

See, from my understanding, there are 3 Christian authors that many evangelical Christians (whether they are aware or not) are influenced by concerning the morality discussion. They fall under the category of apologists.
  1. C.S. Lewis – the most intelligent of the three
    1. Book: Mere Christianity
  2. Josh McDowell – The least intelligent of the three
    1. Book: Evidence that Demands a Verdict
  3. Lee Strobel – Somewhere in between the two
    1. Book: The Case for Christ (also see: Case For Faith)
The argument goes:
  1. All cultures at all times believe in right and wrong
  2. All beliefs about right and wrong can be boiled down to the "Ten Commandments"
  3. The "Ten Commandments" are ordained by God in the bible
  4. All culture's concept of right and wrong is inherent because it is ordained by God
  5. Jesus/God/Bible are real because everyone believe in a moral code
Because the bible is obviously true – we can work backwards
  1. The bible is true and is the basis of morality
  2. You don't believe in the bible
  3. You have no reason to be moral
Anyone who is not a Christian can see the flaw in the line of reasoning. Philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists have found many reasons why people behave morally. Sociologists highlight the way in which Christian morals are actually cultural norms that are given spiritual meaning. Giving spiritual meaning to profane ideas, people, and things provide significant importance to peoples' lives. The religious man needs concrete answers about life. If he can't explain it, his fall back answer is "it is because god said it is."

Religious man thinks profane things are spiritual

Non-religious man thinks spiritual things are profane.

In the end – morality is predetermined by society and circumstance.

I don't sleep with every girl because:
  1. Not every girl will sleep with me
  2. I might catch a filthy disease
  3. It is emotionally draining
I cannot drink all the time and do every drug because:
  1. I would die
  2. It cost too much
  3. I would lose my job
  4. I would go to jail
  5. I would feel like shit
I try to be nice to people because:
  1. Being nice is nice
  2. Being nice feels better than not being nice
  3. I like having friends
I think you get the point… You don't have to believe in Jesus to be moral.

Book suggestion:

The Sacred and the Profane


Unknown said...

What brought about your transition from believer to non-believer? Do you have a new set of beliefs?

Krisi Kiser said...

For believers, the reason I see morality coming from God is because the Bible says in Titus 2: 11-14, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Continuing, Titus 3:1-8 says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”

As a Christian, my basis for morality does come God, through the Bible. I personally don’t believe that a belief in God is necessary for morality to exist, but He is the source driving how I view morality. Humans are blessed with discernment and have always had the ability to decide between right and wrong. Christians aren’t perfect, but strive to live a life like Christ, who we believe is perfect.

Any view points that I hear from pastors, writers, movies that I am exposed to, still have to coincide with the Bible in order for me to believe as truth from God. If we look for answers to these questions outside the Bible then we are getting a human perspective on the question. If you aren’t a Christian, and don’t believe in the Bible as the word of God, then I can see why the connection wouldn’t be put together that morality comes from God.

I don’t know where the basis of morality comes from for non-believers? Is this based on feelings, culture, circumstances? Why wouldn’t we live by our feelings if we aren’t being called to a higher level of responsibility from God? For me, this wouldn’t be as outwardly showing as the lure of sleeping with everyone in sight or drinking continually. This would look more subtle and inward, like holding a grudge against someone who hurt me. Grudges aren’t considered morally wrong when looking at the world’s morality as a whole, but as a Christian the Bible says in Leviticus 19:17-18
 “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

Maybe, morality as a Christian and non-believer could in some circumstances look the same; I just know, as a believer, that the guidelines of morality come from God not from my own judgment. And I suppose for me, I need to listen to the last of the Titus verses I included and avoid arguments about the law:)

Natalie Grace said...

I love critical thinking! Great to hear (read) your thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Jesus did not come to change our behaviour- that is a by product- He came to pay a price (death) so that we can enjoy eternal life
If you dont believe in eternal life- than what other hope have we ?