Can we be moral without God?

It made headlines that the majority of Americans believe that a person can be moral without God (Pew Research Centre, October 16, 2017).  According to the survey, ‘most U.S. adults now say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values (56%), up from about half (49%) who expressed this view in 2011.’ 

Religious ‘nones’ believe it is not necessary to acknowledge God for morality.  ‘Surveys have long shown that religious “nones” – those who describe themselves religiously as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – are more likely than those who identify with a religion to say that belief in God is not a prerequisite for good values and morality.’

We accept the findings of the survey.  However, the question is, what does the survey prove, and what does it mean for the Church in general?  There are a few questions:

1. Does ‘morality without God’ increase morality in a country?

Does the belief that you can be moral without God mean that pornography will die; that violence, crime, child and sexual abuse will decrease?  It should if it is true.  The future will tell.

2. What is morality?

The definition of morality according to the British English dictionary is, ‘principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good or bad behavior.  A particular system of values and principles of conduct. Goodness or rightness.’

  • The general public uses the word, ‘morality’ according to that definition, but we need to distinguish between ‘morality’ according to the world and ‘morality’ according to God.
  • The Bible refers to ‘morality’ as ‘holiness.’  Holiness is a prerequisite for eternal life with God, because that is the way people will live in God’s future Kingdom.  Holiness is possible for a child of God, because Jesus died for our sins and made us holy in principle. 1  That means we can be filled with the Holy Spirit.  He is the One who then works from inside us to help us to increasingly turn away from wrong behavior to the lifestyle God desires in His Kingdom.

3. Is ‘morality’ a substitute for ‘holiness?’

Being ‘moral’ will not persuade God to accept people into His kingdom as His children.  It is a crude misunderstanding of the Gospel.

  • The Ten Commandments illustrate God’s position beautifully.  The first 3 command us to love God.  It is the foundation that will cause us to obey Him and do the next 7 commandments.  Without love for the Lord, there is no reason to obey His rules that are indispensable for His future Kingdom.  Jesus said in John 14:15, ‘If you love me, you will obey what I command.’
  • So we need to distinguish between morality (good living without God) and holiness (the way the people who love God will live in His kingdom), ‘…Since we have these promises [that God will be our Father], dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.’ 2

4. What other differences between morality and holiness?

As we said, the Ten Commandments give us an idea of what is basically an acceptable lifestyle to God.

  • Some of them like, honor your father and mother, don’t murder, don’t steal, manifest very visibly.  Yet others concern your thought life, like don’t covet your neighbor’s wife or possessions?  Nobody sees your thoughts, but out of them come evil desires. 3
  • In addition few people know what you do behind closed doors.  That is why it is important to distinguish between morality and holiness.  The claim we make is that it is generally impossible to live a completely upright life without an inner restraint, the Holy Spirit.
  • If it was possible, God would not have insisted on holiness.  Then living a moral life would have been enough.  But, as we know, many ‘moral’ upright people do funny things in their minds and behind closed doors.

Conclusion

The essence of ‘true’ morality is, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind… Love your neighbor as yourself.’ This includes the soul, mind, heart and effort.  Yet we can only do it with Jesus’ ongoing Blood of forgiveness for our lapses and the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

References

  1. Hebrews 10:10
  2. 2 Corinthians 7:1
  3. Matthew 15:18-20
  4. Matthew 22:37-39

LGBTQs and the Church

The LGBTQ issue is big.  Countries have elections on it, lawmakers fight about it, others resist it, churches debate, argue, and split over it.  Some serious big money is spent to promote it, certain newspapers advocate it, politicians are either for or against it, et cetera.  Anybody who resists it is bound to get flack.  Regardless, we want to discuss some issues around it.  Remember that:

Humanity is divided into two groups.

  • One group are those who belong to God.  Jesus justified (just-as-if-they-never-sinned) them, the Holy Spirit continues to sanctify (set-them-apart-for-God) them as they are willing to live according to Scripture.
  • The second group wants nothing to do with God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  They are the ‘independents.’  They have no need for salvation (saved-from-punishment -for-their-sin) and they pretty much live as they like.

The Gay Group is also divided into two groups.

  • One group belongs to the world and has nothing to do or to say to God.  They are not interested in the ways of the Word and care more or less zero.
  • The other group claims that they believe in God.  They say that God loves and accepts them as they are, and that the Church should do the same.

The Church has no say over those who do not belong to God.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, ‘What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?’  We are to judge those inside the Church. 1  ‘God will judge those outside [the church].’ 2
  • This means that no follower of Jesus has any right to accuse non-believing people of sinning.  What about those in same sex relationships who say they love God and the Church should accept them?  We don’t want to discuss that specifically, but look at some issues.

What is the function of the Church? 

By Church we mean the universal Church of God, composed of many individual churches.  The Church is like school for the saved. It teaches God’s ways as He revealed them in the Bible.  The Church, just like individual believers, should be led by the Holy Spirit, with the Holy Scriptures as basis.  It is logical, since the Church are people, not buildings.  Yet there are many different interpretations of the Bible.  The ‘normal’ way to understand the issue, is to take it from God’s creation of male and female and try to understand His ways of doing things.

Scripture’s teaching about male and female

  • On day six God created male and female.  The man would cleave to his wife, they would become one, reproduce and fill the earth.  Adam and Eve would procreate and their offspring would continue with the process.  We are the offspring of Adam and Eve.
  • There are so many problems in marriage and the gay issue, why didn’t God just immediately fill the earth with people?  He is all-powerful and could easily have done it.  Then we could have skipped all these male/female issues.  We could have been like the angels (as we will be on the new earth in future).  The answer is that God has a purpose with male, female and marriage, and it has to do with His own glory (made in His image) and His Son, Jesus.

God’s design 

  • A man and a woman would form the basis of the human race: ‘Has not [the Lord] made them one?  In flesh and spirit they are His.  And why one?  Because He was seeking godly offspring.’ 3  The ‘godly offspring’ refers to children created in His image (that is why God detested child sacrifice to heathen idols in the Old Testament – smacks a bit of abortions in our time).
  • All people have a chance to choose to become children of God.  It is from the ‘pool’ of humans through the ages that God gathers His children.  They will be the citizens of His eternal country.  Since it is usually only a small percentage who submits to God, history has to go a long way before God has the required number of citizens for His Kingdom.
  • God’s Kingdom revolves around one very important person, Jesus.  The first Adam is a pattern of the last Adam, Jesus.  The first Adam was head of the human family and the second Adam (Jesus) is Head of God’s Family.  There is a direct correlation: the physical gave rise to the human family, the spiritual gives rise to God’s Family (Jesus was both God and Man, so that is why the Family of God will be physical, eternal beings with flesh and bones).
  • Adam is a type of the great Bridegroom, Jesus.  Eve is a type of the Bride, the Church.  In God’s creation order man and woman represent the Bridegroom and the Bride and one day we will celebrate that great marriage, ‘Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready….’ 4
  • Note that the Bride includes all saved males, females, Greeks, Jews, or whoever.  Thus the Bride is made up like our bodies of billions of different kinds of cells.  But they form one body, the Bride of Christ.
  • God will bring an end to the normal process of marriage to produce offspring when He has His desired number of citizens.  Till then, His creation order stands.  A man will be united to a woman and they will produce children.  Obviously there are those couples for whom it is physically impossible for various reasons.  Or some don’t get married.  God does not discriminate against them.

Same sex marriages and relationships

How is the Church to handle the issue of people who claim they love the Lord and are in same sex relationships?

  • If homos or lesbians were ‘fixed’ (they can never change because they were born that way) one can understand their complaint.  However there are many testimonies of the gays who changed with the help of Jesus.  Often they get married and have children.  The issue around gays is not a physical one.  As said, if it was, no gay person could ever be ‘reformed.’  Many gays and lesbians have had terrible experiences, especially with fathers or mothers and often early in life.  They were abused in different ways, and have been wounded.  It is Jesus’ speciality to heal ‘…the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds.’ 5
  • All people, including gays, are born of a man/woman union.  God equipped a man and a woman to produce children.  So a same sex relationship cannot produce children, except by artificial means.  Except in the case of infertility or some other valid reasons, it is normal for couples to produce children.  Children are made in the image of God, as said, an important aspect to God.
  • It is debatable, but few people accept that males and females are the same.  As much as they differ physically, they differ psychologically.  God created a woman to be her husband’s helpmeet and the husband to be the responsible head of his family and to provide for them.  Since their functions differ, their psychological make-up also differs.  Together they are supposed to love and care for their children.  So in a same sex marriage one of the parties will have to give up his or her privileged God-given gender attributes.  It is not normal.

What about updating the Bible? 

There are endless debates about what the Bible means by ‘homosexual offenders?’ Did the ancient writers know God’s will in the matter?  Weren’t they too ignorant for modern lifestyles?  Since there are many different interpretations regarding the issue, can’t one ask God to update Scripture so that people are convinced that God knows about our ‘modern’ problems?  There are some problems:

  • The 66 books of the Bible are an integrated whole.  All the different Bible books work together to bring one unified message about God’s Kingdom.
  • Heterosexuality is God’s creation design.  For example, the whole Song of Solomon is about the love between a man and a woman.  Updating means updating all the books of the Bible.
  • An update is dependent on the Holy Spirit who inspired the original writers to write down God’s words. 6  It begins and ends with God, since it contains His words.  Since God is eternal, we have God’s word on it, ‘…the Word of the Lord stands forever.’ 7   To change that means God lied when He said Scripture is eternal.  So we can’t trust Him.  How ridiculous.
  • The Bible was ‘produced’ over a period of 1,400 years, because God’s revelation took place in history.  To duplicate that God will meticulously have to call new writers through the Holy Spirit (they will be like a modern Moses, Isaiah, Matthew and Paul, et cetera).  The original writers wrote the present Bible in different eras to prove there was no collusion between them.  This will have to be repeated over a long time period.

The problem the Church faces.

  • An update of the Bible is not an option.  We don’t have the time to wait that long.  So the Church has to either accept God’s creation design of a man and a woman, or reject it.  What then about the charge that the old writers did not understand the issues? There are some aspects we have to take into account:
  • If the Church rejects it (it’s no use to hope for an update) they declare that Scripture is wrong in some places.  That means the Church, which should be led by the Holy Spirit, accuses the Holy Spirit that He is obscure, homophobic, spiteful, or whatever.
  • If the Church does decide on its own to change Scripture’s teaching on what marriage is, it accepts responsibility for those people’s eternal destination.  For example, just say that at Judgment Day, the verdict is that Scripture was clear, and unchangeable?  Furthermore, that those who lived in rebellion against the normal male female roles are not part of God’s Kingdom?  What a terrible, irreversible tragedy for them.  According to Scripture, the blood of lost people will be on those who misled them.
  • Scriptural teachings should be in accord, meaning it should all agree with each other.  This means, if God created male and female, what other Scriptures are there to support it?  Think about Song of Solomon.  All through the ages the family was the foundation of society.  But the Bridegroom Bride message is the clincher.
  • If the Church begins to be selective that some Scriptures are not correct, which parts of Scripture are then right?  If one part is wrong, why not other parts?  Who are then included or specifically excluded from God’s Kingdom?  Scripture gives lists of people who are excluded from God’s Kingdom:
  1. ‘Do you not know the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God.’ 8
  2. ’The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.’ 9
  3. ‘No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.’ 10

Can the Church change God’s Word at will?

  • If it is true that the term ‘homosexual offenders’ had a different meaning in the Bible’s time, why did ‘murderer,’ ‘adulterer,’ ‘greedy person’ and ‘thief’ not also have a different meaning?  Eventually the whole of Scripture just falls down.  It is like dominoes.  If they are stacked like the Bible’s teachings, when one begins to fall, they all fall.  If one Bible verse is not right, it affects many other verses and eventually they all fall down.
  • If people in same sex relationships insist that they are part of the Church, does the Church take responsibility for them?  What about idolaters, drunkards, swindlers, male prostitutes, et cetera?  Shouldn’t the Church then accept them also?     

Conclusion 

  • The Church was never given the right to decide on its own what is right or wrong.  It is one thing to force a church or denomination to accept gays who refuse to change their ways.  It is another thing to force God to change His clear teaching. 11
  • What will the Church say about Jesus’ words, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of God [heaven], but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform miracles?  Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you.  Away from me, you evil doers.’ 12  In the end, Jesus decides.  Eventually the leading of the Holy Spirit, based on Scripture, is the final authority.

References

  1. 1 Corinthians 6:12
  2. 1 Corinthians 5:13
  3. Malachi 2:15
  4. Revelation 19:6-7
  5. Psalm 147:3
  6. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13
  7. Isaiah 40:8 1 Peter 1:24-25
  8. 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10
  9. Galatians 5:19-21
  10. Ephesians 5:5
  11. Genesis 2:24-25; Leviticus 18:22 and 1 Corinthians 6:9
  12. Matthew 7: 21-23

God and women’s rights

Many people have written books and articles that accuse God that He does not care about women.  They contend that Scripture suppresses them and regards them as inferior, et cetera, et cetera.  The problem with those people is usually a lack of Bible knowledge.  Scripture says, ‘…pay attention to what I [God] say; listen closely to my words…’ 1  That means,

  • You have to read the Bible very carefully, otherwise you might jump to your own conclusions and not discern God’s character.
  • God is only revealed in the 66 books of the Holy Bible.  Information from outside the Bible is just that, information or personal opinions that often don’t accord with what Scripture reveals about God’s character.
  • Let us look at what an easily missed Old Testament portion teaches about God’s attitude towards women.

God’s attitude towards women

  • There are many ‘Christians’ who claim that they are ‘New Testament’ Christians.  For them, the Old Testament is of no use at all.  Where they get that idea, nobody knows.
  • Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith was an Old Testament scholar.  He, the omniscient Son of God, quoted from the Old Testament because it was relevant to what He taught (of course the New Testament was not yet written).
  • The Holy Spirit never threw the Old Testament into the dustbin.  It is part of God’s revelation to us.  So, what does the Old Testament teach about women’s ‘rights?’

Zelophehad and his five daughters

We meet Zelophehad from the tribe of Manasseh in Numbers 27:1.  He had five daughters who were so special to God that the Old Testament mentions their names (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah) four times in Numbers 26:33; 27:1; 36:11; Joshua 17:3.  1 Chronicles 7:15 also mentions them.

They had an interesting history.

  • Their father, Zelophehad, died without sons.1  According to the law at that time, daughters could not inherit land.  As members of the tribe of Manasseh, they refused to be deprived of their right to an inheritance.
  • They approached the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly. 2  There they stated that their father died because of sin and had no sons.
  • They thought it unfair that their father’s portion of the promised land should be lost, since they could not inherit land.  Their plea for justice was, ‘Give us property among our father’s relatives.’ 3

Moses discussed the issue with God.

God’s answer was fair and without favoritism, ‘What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right.  You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance over to them.’ 4  Scripture is clear, ‘This is to be a legal requirement for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.’ 5

Five daughters who insisted on their rights

When it was time for the allotment of the different tribes, the five daughters went to Eleazar the priest, Joshua and the leaders, and said, ‘The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.’ 6  Joshua obeyed, ‘Manasseh’s share consisted of ten tracts of land besides Gilead and Bashan east of the Jordan, because the daughters of the tribe of Manasseh received an inheritance among the sons….’ 7

The lesson?

  • The lesson of Zelophehad’s daughters carries through to the New Testament.  In God’s Kingdom men are not superior to women, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ 8
  • Peter also writes, inspired by the Holy Spirit, ‘Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.’ 9

Conclusion

Godly women need never fear that they will ‘inherit an inferior portion’ to men on the new heavens and earth.  Our wonderful Lord will see to it.

References

  1. Proverbs 4:20
  2. Numbers 27:1
  3. Numbers 27:2
  4. Numbers 27:4
  5. Numbers 27:5
  6. Numbers 27:11; Numbers 36:1-11
  7. Joshua 17:4
  8. Joshua 17:6
  9. Galatians 3:28
  10. 1 Peter 3:7