Hitler, Jesus, and Us: A Moral Conundrum

I ponder about morals quite a bit.  Because… believe it or not… I take to heart the comments made denigrating Christians for their “judgmental” opinions.  I’m even willing to set aside the irony of the commenters and their statements actually being just as close-minded and judgmental.  Honestly, I’m tired of the endless rabbit trails it leads us down.

What will it take to discuss ideas rather than attack the people who espouse the ideas?

How about we discuss a post-modern culture that can’t seem to get its story straight on any consistent basis with regard to morality?  Maybe we could dive into the fact that without a foundation, ALL morality is relative.  Relative… meaning not “real” in any objective sense… meaning that any ethic you hold is just as “correct” as the exact opposite ethic held by someone else.  So… yea, let’s dive into that.


** Initial caveat – What I write below is not an attack on “you” personally.  It’s an evaluation of certain positions and ideas.  For all of our sakes, I’d like to deal in logic and reason.  Yes, THOSE words that a great many claim to be the sole possessor of in these types of exchanges. **


Josh_and_Laura_Engagement004
Photo Credit: Apricity Photography

Society has a moral conundrum on a few levels…

I

We want to uphold the pragmatic value of morals, but refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of views where pragmatism crosses the boundary of our sensibilities.  Therefore, we are led to inconsistent and illogical moral application.  Don’t believe me?  Example: Society will argue for the pragmatism of terminating the life of a baby in the womb if the parent(s) cannot/refuse(s) to properly care for him/her.  It begs the question… why is this option not given to parents of infants/toddlers?  Furthermore, if the value of life is solely determined by the amount of care that can be provided, should we not look to terminate ANYONE who is shown to be a “drain” on resources?  Sounds disgusting and cruel… because it is.  But without a moral foundation, how is this not legitimate?


II

We want to espouse the “relative” nature of morals, but immediately abandon relativism when our morals are met with those who disagree.  Again… inconsistency prevails and chaos ensues.  Society will argue that individuals are responsible for their own moral realities.  We are told that everyone should do as he or she pleases.  Of course, the reality of this breaks down when met with the very first person that believes the exact opposite.  One will say to treat others as you would like to be treated, but no concession is made for the individual who believes in an ethic that will profit at the expense of other people.  Because encroaching upon others is “wrong”?  According to whom?


III

With our heart of hearts, we want to believe that if Heaven exists, we will be on the upper side of the cut-off.  Somewhere on the perceived moral scale between Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler, we’ve drawn a line separating those who we believe will make it into paradise, and those who should definitely not be allowed in… and wouldn’t you know… guess which side everyone believes they’re on!  “I mean… I’ve tried to be a good person.  I have really good intentions; I’ve just made a few mistakes along the way.  But my good deeds definitely outweigh my bad.  That guy over there, though!  No way should he be there!”  As if living by our own standard has really produced ideal results.  I wonder what ‘That guy over there’ would say about his own destiny…

Two things about this.  First of all, I have the AMAZING privilege of letting you know that the weight of the hypothetical I just mentioned is NON-EXISTENT for the Christian (I’ll get to that later.)  Secondly, for those who loathe the idea of Heaven or deny its existence, I get it.  You can choose to ignore the hypothetical above; however, you cannot ignore the next point.  If we are going to tackle the existence of any moral standard, it’s vitally important to understand the REAL conundrum in which all of creation finds itself.


IV

We refuse to accept that ONLY in a THEISTIC worldview can objective morals exist.  On the surface, this one seems like a stretch.  But before anyone comes pounding down my door with angry diatribes about how this hypocritical Christian says non-Christians are evil, sinful, despicable people… please understand the deeper point.  I would never for a second try to prove that.  Nor do I for a second actually believe that.  Some of the most morally upright people I know do not follow Christ.  Notice, though, that the point is NOT that we believe objective morals exist or that we attempt to live moral lives.  The point is… WITHOUT a personal God, whose moral standard is a reflection of His ultimate character, objective morals DO NOT EVEN EXIST.   No matter how much we want to believe in the goodness of humanity or personal ethics or the innate value of the community/herd, without a good and just Creator, they are illusions supported only by pragmatism, those in power, or the majority influence.  And you may be fine with that on the surface or give lip service to it in conversation, but I have yet to see someone live that out consistently.  Have you been on social media lately?  Have you driven a vehicle in heavy traffic?  Has someone offended you… ever?


What does this all mean?  It means that without God, rather than being IMMORAL creatures, us humans would be AMORAL.

Let that one sink in for a minute.

The problem is that post-modern thought is untenable and unlivable.  Its arguments cut out their own knees in attempts to retain individual autonomy by either purposefully or inadvertently trampling on others’ autonomy.  Although it maintains that no one should be tread upon, the very espousal of any moral “ought” is washed over by the impossibility of ANY ethical position being obligatory.  It’s as logical as making the truth claim that truth does not exist.  In other words… it is logically absurd.

We should live more coherently than this… or at least pretend to.

Here’s the awesome and rational reality.  The Christian worldview provides a consistent set of moral principles, both presented and demonstrated by God through Jesus Christ.  This man lived and taught that God alone is good and just.  He taught that access to God is gained simply by acknowledging what we already know to be true!  That acknowledgement being Jesus’ Truth, the moral nature of our existence, and the reality of grace.  Grace that brings together goodness and justice.  Grace that allows us to recognize our humanity while growing in the knowledge of morality through continual sanctification.  Grace that abounds more and more, while the world around us abounds in moral and ethical insanity.

ONLY the Christian worldview integrates grace with our human condition.  All others require earned attainment of some end, the results of which being entirely unknown.  So… what’s the point of morality if by simple acknowledgement of Jesus and repentance we are forgiven?  Paul sums it up beautifully in his letter to the Romans.  Pardon the lengthy passage, but I would be doing this entire topic a disservice by not posting the entire chapter.

ROMANS – CHAPTER 6

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

 12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

 15 Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! 16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

 19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.

 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

In light of these claims… WHAT IS OUR RESPONSE?  Do we sit on the knowledge in apathetic indifference?  OR do we actually seek to find out if the claims of the scriptures square with reality?  I opt to face and test the authenticity of Christianity because the alternatives are wholly inadequate in comparison.  And living contrary to my actual claims about reality is exhausting and illogical.

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4 thoughts on “Hitler, Jesus, and Us: A Moral Conundrum

  1. Hi Josh, I got here through the Wintery Knight site. Anyway, I wrote this little proposal:

    a) You say that without God, objective morals don’t exist.
    b) How do you define “objective”? I want to define it as “not depending on anyone.”
    c) Thus, there aren’t any objective morals, because morals depend on God.

    How do you think about this?

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  2. Thanks for commenting, John! I think the most important point I didn’t explicitly articulate in my post was the fact that I am appealing to our moral experience to identify proper foundations for morality. Absent any arguments against these experiences, I don’t think there are grounds for denying them. Essentially, we all experience and act within the framework of a moral reality, so if we truly want to deny God’s existence (and consequently remove the foundation of “objective” morality), then we logically must deny the actual objectivity of morals.

    So, to respond to your proposal:
    a) I agree with this statement and clarify a “Theistic” God, which would exclude Deism, Pantheism, etc.
    b) I would define “objective” as “independent of anyone’s opinion”, which your statement I think catches the essence of.
    c) I disagree with this statement because of our moral experience. Unless a person is a sociopath, we all live “as if” morality is meaningful. Attributing it to human flourishing, the herd, etc. only pushes the issue of “subjectivity” up a level, but makes morality no more objective or meaningful. The point of my post, though, is to demonstrate that no one can consistently live this out. To be consistent would mean being willing to be deemed an immoral sociopath.

    I think the last thing I’ll say is that simply asserting the “objective morals do not exist” is not in and of itself an argument showing its own truth. I think to argue for its truth, would require undercutting our entire experience of reality and relational interaction. It’s a burden too heavy to bear, which is why many will give lip service to its truth, but not actually act on it or live that way.

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  3. I certainly agree with you that morality is meaningful and important. I’m not a moral relativist. I was just trying to figure out what “objective” means. Is something objective if it never changes? If it applies always to all people? Would morality still exist even if there were no people? I have so many questions to ponder …

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    1. I completely agree with you that there are so many questions to ponder, haha! I personally have an appreciation for how Dr. William Lane Craig treats this topic because he, in many ways, is able to separate the emotional issue from the logical issue. He addresses the definition of “objective” vs. “subjective” and “absolute” vs. “relative” very well in one of his Q&A’s on his Reasonable Faith website.

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/objective-or-absolute-moral-values

      I appreciate your thoughts and feedback, John!

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