During part one of this series of articles, we defined philosophy
and Humanism. We noted that philosophy is used to develop the "belief
system" of Humanism which comes strictly from the imaginations
of men and appeals to no higher authority than mankind. In continuing,
let us study the relationships between morality, ethics, law, society,
Review the following definitions from Webster's New Collegiate
moral 1a: of or relating to principles of right and wrong in
ethic 1... :the discipline dealing with what is good and bad
and with moral duty and obligation 2a: a set of moral principles
or values b: a theory or system of moral values ... the principles
of conduct governing an individual or a group
law 1a (1): a binding custom or practice of a community: a
rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized
as binding or enforced by a controlling authority (2): the whole
body of such customs, practices, or rules
Notice that a set of morals make-up an ethic. So, an individual's
ethics are simply the sum total of all moral principles maintained
by an individual. This helps us to understand the relationship between
morality and ethics, but we must determine the thing that constitutes
morality, and therefore, constitutes ethics.
Let me suggest that laws determine morality and ethics. Laws are
created by different authorities such as federal, state, and local
governments. Laws (otherwise called rules) are also created by schools,
employers, and businesses. And, we cannot neglect the fact that
God has created laws. The Old Testament created laws which dictated
morality for Jews (Rom. 7:7) as is evidenced by the Ten Commandments.
And, the Old Testament Law was a tutor to bring the Jews and mankind
to faith in Christ (Gal. 3:24). Likewise, the New Testament creates
laws which dictate morality for those who are Christians. Although
the New Testament does not put forth a coded law as did the Old
Testament, the New Testament Law is referred to as "the Law
of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:2) and "the
perfect law of liberty" (Jam. 1:25).
The fact that laws dictate morality may be easily illustrated.
If a school teacher has a rule (law) that notes may not be used
in taking a test, then it is immoral for a student to use notes
in taking one of this teacher's test - it is not ethical. But, if
another teacher has a rule (law) that notes may be used in taking
a test, then it is moral for a student to use notes in taking one
of this teacher's tests - it is ethical. Likewise, in some states
a driver may turn right on red after stopping, and in other states
a driver may not turn right on red. The laws of the state dictate
whether it is right or wrong, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical
to turn right on red.
The problem is that social laws overlap with God's laws. In many
instances, social laws (including government) coincide with God's
laws. As a matter of fact, God's law commands Christians to obey
society, government, husbands, and parents (Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet.
3:1-6; Eph. 5:22-24; Eph. 6:1). But, when a social law conflicts
with one of God's laws, we must decide whether to obey God or man.
Peter was faced with this problem when he stood before the Sanhedrin
and was questioned as to why he and the other apostles disobeyed
their command to no longer teach in the name of Jesus. Peter answers:
"We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29) So,
if we are faced with any other law which dictates a different moral
standard (ethic) than God, we are to obey God rather than men.
One example of social laws conflicting with God's law is abortion.
Society (government) has said that it is moral to kill an unborn
child in the womb, but with God this is immoral. A Christian must
stand with God and allow God's laws to dictate the moral standard
by which we live. Something may be socially moral, but religiously
What is the relationship between morality, ethics, law, society,
and God? Both God and society establish laws that dictate morality
and ethics. Many times, social laws and ethics coincide with God's
laws and ethics. But, when they differ, Christians must follow God
at any cost. Furthermore, if we determine to live by God's laws
and allow God to dictate our standard of morality, we must appeal
to the Bible for authority to distinguish between morality and immorality.
What shall we say in regards to the ethics espoused by Humanists
compared to the ethics we have received from God? A Humanist and
Christian appeal to different authorities for what is right and
wrong. You must first understand that Humanists are self-proclaimed
atheists (one who denies the existence of God -Webster). Paul Kurtz,
who was editor of The Humanist, says: "Humanism cannot in any
sense of the word apply to one who still believes in God as the
source and creator of the universe. Christian Humanism would be
possible only for those who are willing to admit that they are atheistic
Humanists." (Paul Kurtz, The Humanist Alternative, p. 177)
Secondly, remember that Humanists appeal to their human philosophies
but, Christians appeal to God. So, Humanist's ethics and Christian's
ethics are opposed in every way since they appeal to different authorities.
To which authority do you appeal in setting standards of morality
- God or men?