The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 2 asks,
What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
Wow, there’s a way to win an audience! But seriously, who/what is the proper authority to prescribe how I ought to govern my life?
One of the most fascinating inquiries taking place within American society today is that of ethics. Have you heard any lectures lately? How can we do medicine ethically? How can we do healthcare ethically? How can anyone determine ethical norms when we have abolished absolute values?
Who/what speaks the truth about ethics? If not the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, what?
Alert Americans may be listening to the narrative, but miss the real dilemma. Each time we are hit with a piece of news, we are told what individuals or groups believe in matters related to science, medicine, geo-politics, technology, education, health care, etc. Yet we too often miss the underlying questions: Who is right–absolutely right? How can we know absolutely?
Instead, at the end of the news story we are told that we can weigh in with our own opinions at their blog. We are encouraged to draw our own conclusions, rather than have them fed to us. And, subsequently, shared or corporate opinions somehow weigh more than personal or individual ones. Okay, fair enough.
Where, then, in our society should we turn for a standard of justice?
It is a worthwhile study for anyone who is curious about finding a basis to ethics to examine the relationship between law and grace. As an American in the 21st Century, we are quite familiar with grace, but not so much, law. Why?
I guess for starters, we’ve never know any law to be absolute. We’ve only been introduced to laws that change as often as public opinion changes.
For example, one may be legally bound to pay a mortgage which they can no longer afford, and we expect grace. We have sick people who cannot afford medical insurance/treatment and again, we expect grace.
But rather than discuss moral relativity vs. moral absolutes, I want to explore the relationship between thinking and obeying—the relationship between the mind (intellect) and the will.
If Scripture is the norm, or standard by which all right and wrong is established, then it doesn’t sway with my attitude or opinions. This is the offensive nature of the cross. This is the sermon that your pastor (most likely) didn’t preach on Sunday. The message of the cross is exclusive in nature and, therefore, offensive. It states: “failure to obey what has been commanded is not an intellectual problem but a moral one.”
Bottom line: if one prefers free (or autonomous) ethical norms vs. submission to those already prescribed (revealed) by the Triune God, one’s problem is not cognitive, but ethical. One willfully suppresses a knowledge of God in order to make choices which do not submit to His norms, according to Romans 1.
Failure to glorify and enjoy God as he prescribed in Scripture is not an intellectual failure, but a moral one.
…and nothing comes of it. God is not glorified, we are not made complete and absolute law hasn’t waned as a result. The only tragedy is the life of the one who did what was right in his own eyes.