Arbitrary Ethics

I took an introductory course in Philosophy when I was in my first semester of college. While I don’t remember a lot of what I learned at that time, I do recall our discussions about various theories of morality. Utilitarianism is one such theory that measures whether an action is right or wrong on a continuum of how much happiness it would produce. According to this theory, the most virtuous actions are the ones that produce the most happiness and least unhappiness. In a purely carnal sense, it sounds appealing. But it is troublesome to consider that there is no standard by which an action could be viewed as being right in an absolute sense. Morality is judged purely based on the arbitrary whim of humanly defined happiness produced in the individuals affected. This bothered me then, and it bothers me now. I never cared to take any additional courses in the field of ethics because to me it seemed that it was all baseless rhetoric.

Today we see the dominant ethics in our society disturbingly driven by what man judges is right, without any regard to an authoritative standard. Modern society wants to do what it wants, and condemns anyone who says that an action is wrong. As such, abortion, stealing, lying, and perversions of all sorts are confoundingly celebrated by so many. The ethics of mankind today seem to be based only upon hedonistic, self-serving desire. I find this quite disturbing.

We know from the pages of the Bible that behaving without the guidance of God’s immutable standard of law will lead to a disastrous outcome. “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:6). A sinful practice of life is one that ignores God’s commandments, choosing instead to be directed by personal desire. By way of contrast, living a righteous Way of Life requires learning and practicing obedience to God’s laws. But the carnal nature of people fights against this standard. Carnal desire is at enmity with God (compare Romans 8:7). Therefore, without God to set the standard of ethics, people are doomed to perish!

It’s unfortunate that such a simple Truth is so undesirable to man. Ironically, rates of depression and suicide are so high, yet people don’t consider whether their code of ethics based on maximizing carnal pleasure might be the root cause. The answer for how to make a correction is simple. God makes the path to joy, prosperity and success very clear: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Not only does obedience to God’s law lead to righteousness, it also leads to a truly happy life. Many of us who have decided to try this out have proven it to ourselves. God’s Way works.

We are privileged to know that God establishes the true standard by which we can discern between actions that are right and wrong. We don’t have to worry about figuring it out for ourselves or debating with our peers. We can be satisfied in knowing that the Truth was established long ago, and that it works then, now, and forever. “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth” (Psalm 119:142). The world around us might be lost, but we have a perfect standard to live by.

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