Morality is the belief that certain behaviors are correct and acceptable while others are not. The issue of morality has always been widely debated in philosophical and religious groups all around the world. Believers of morality are divided into two polar opposites. The first group upholds that there are absolute and universal truths that influence morality. This means that regardless of one’s culture, upbringing, and other personal experiences, these truths dictate what is right and wrong. The other group believes that morality is relative or subjective. This means that there is no absolute truth and that one’s moral beliefs are not based on truths but rather on subjective experiences.
The teachings of the Bible are very clear on these matters. Jesus Himself said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, which means that right and wrong are determined by Him. Before we further look at what the Bible says about Modern Morality, it is good to have a quick glance at what it is.
Quick Overview of Ancient and Modern Morality
The most prevalent misconception concerning ancient ethics and current morality is that modern moral theories solely address the questions “What should one do” or “How should one act,” whereas ancient ethics solely addressed the question of “What is the good life.” Numerous stereotypes undoubtedly have some truth, but there is virtually always space for improvement in our comprehension of the specific issue’s peculiarities and commonalities.
While it is true that ancient ethics addressed the crucial topic of how to lead a decent life and develop into a virtuous individual by acting in accordance with the ethical qualities, it is does not follow that virtue ethics does not address actions and is therefore unable to offer specific solutions to ethical issues; other moral theories also address actions. According to Aristotle, an ethical virtue must be fully assimilated by its agent by numerous actions of the same kind in order for the individual to achieve a firm disposition.
In Philosophy, ancient ethics aims to answer the questions: What is the good life? What is happiness and human flourishing? Its focus is the person’s interest and good, that is why it is often viewed as egotistical and narcissistic by those who uphold modern morality. In contrast, modern morality asks the question: What should I do? Where the question of the good life plays a subordinate role. It is where the interests of others are central and held more important. Ancient ethics states that the goals of human actions are objective while modern morality believes that the goals of human actions are individually defined by the people or is subjective.
But a careful examination of these schools of thought would lead to a realization that the crucial question of how to have a decent life is inextricably linked to the fundamental query of how one should behave. Regardless of whether the theory is of ancient or modern provenance, both questions are conceptually and intellectually intertwined, and a full ethical theory will always be concerned with both problems.
While the ancients and modern philosophers strive to develop a set of beliefs in order to live a good and meaningful life by observing the world and the inner self, the Bible presents clearly stated laws and principles that are applicable in every person of any background. The philosophers of the world, ancient and modern, venture in discovering the true and real meaning of life, that is, getting the most out of your life by making the best decisions possible that are aligned to your personal values. Ironically, what the philosophers try to search for is readily available in the ancient text of the Bible.
Biblical morality is basically the belief that God and His Word is the ultimate source and standard of what is right and wrong. Any action or desire that is in contrast to His character and written Word is called “sin”. An idea that is greatly opposed by the different beliefs of the world.
Ancient and modern morality attempt to differentiate what makes a good and meaningful life and how one achieves it. The Bible teaches about both and is summed up in one verse written by James:
17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Biblical morality unites the central teachings of ancient and modern morality but it hinges not on man’s ability to be good but on the goodness of God as shown in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. A deeper study at biblical morality would lead to a conclusion that the Christian faith is not just about what is right and wrong but fulfilling the purpose and calling of God in one’s life. Biblical morality is important not only because it makes us better people but because it teaches us how to be like Jesus.
It is important to look at the moral teachings of the world and the one that Jesus taught, while obviously there is a lot to write about it, the difference of the centrality of the teachings is obvious: Ancient and modern morality centers on Man, Biblical morality centers on Jesus. This helps us to answer the question: Would God be proud of who we are today?
This is not the kind of pride that exists in the sinful hearts of men but the kind of warm feeling of wanting to boast about what is perfect, good and noble that is found in God alone. An action that God showed in the account of Job. Amazingly, this is the same account where we find the answer to our question.
What would make God boast about us? The answer is found in Job 1:8
8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
If we are like Job, regardless of where we are in history, whether ancient or modern times, God would certainly be proud of us. This kind of life is summed up in the submission under the rule of Jesus Christ. A kind of submission that is marked with joy, satisfaction and sacrifice; values that for ancient and modern philosophers, are difficult to marry. If we have Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are given the very words that God uttered for Jesus during His water baptism with John the Baptist:
“ … and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
However, if we embrace a different kind of morality, whether it is ancient or modern and Christ is absent, we do not have the privilege of receiving His warm affirmation that He boasts about before Satan himself. Rather, we have His divine disdain and displeasure that will never go away unless we acknowledge Him as King and embrace His morality.
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