16 January, 2006

Morality came from somewhere...

My son seems to be the lone voice of Christian thought on his AP Lang forum. It makes for some interesting discussions here at home. :-)

Evidently a militant Hindu attempted to disprove Christianity to him on the basis of the origin of morality. My son asked me, "Why did God create morality?"

Now that is a cool question.

I thought about it for a second, and told him that God did not invent morality. Sitting there at the dinner table with him, I was amused at myself, because I don't know how many other Christians would say those words. I have been around a number who would consider that almost blasphemous.

Anyway, God did not invent morality. The man and the woman were naked and were not ashamed until they disobeyed God. When they disobeyed God, they did not just disobey Him, either. In doing so, they took into themselves the "knowledge of good and evil."

God forbade morality to Adam and Eve.

God made us to live by love, by His love. Morality was introduced in the tree of knowledge, but it was forbidden to us. It is only in the fall that morality became a thing of value to us. In the same spirit that God blocked Adam and Eve from the garden with that flaming sword, He set morality before fallen man to protect us from our dying natures. Now our consciences speak a truth to us that we would never have needed had we learned to love instead of trying to ascend to be equal with God.

We wait now for the day love again makes morality extraneous.


Travis said...

So are you saying that disobeying God is not inherently immoral? And that God is not inherently moral?

codepoke said...

Interesting way to phrase the questions.

To your first question, no, I didn't say anything remotely like that. I said that morality is a function of our fallen nature, but even our fallen nature should know that disobeying God is a bad thing.

Your second question, though, touches on the nature of God.

And that God is not inherently moral?

Are you saying that God is moral? Because that would be a pretty low, and completely unnecessary thing for God to be. God fulfills the law by His nature, and God on earth fulfilled morality by His nature, but God is love, not morals. So, why did God create morality? He didn't. He forbade it to Adam, but religion sure makes a heyday with it.

Scot said...

I appreciate your point, but I think the terms cause confusion.
God created Adam with the ability to choose obedience or disobedience. To choose not to eat of the tree would have been a moral choice, but instead they made an immoral decision to eat. There was only one rule, hence only one moral dilemma. The fall did introduce a host of new moral dilemmas for man to encounter as you cite.
Morality is relative to the standard applied. Christians choose to use God's standard. The world chooses their own.

Travis said...

We must be working out of different definitions of the word, "moral"...

Please define "moral" (in the sense you mean when you say, "God did not invent morality" and "God forbade morality to Adam and Eve").

codepoke said...

As I thought about your comments, travis, and now that I read yours, scot, I questioned our definitions of the terms too.

Here is my definition of morality.

Exercising the knowledge of good and evil.

The definition you linked, travis, agrees.

1) Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character

God forbade Adam to partake of the knowledge that would allow him to make a judgement between good and evil. Adam was forced to rely on pure love to guide him, and he was found lacking there as well.

codepoke said...

scot says:
To choose not to eat of the tree would have been a moral choice, but instead they made an immoral decision to eat.

I agree that Adam's decision can be judged morally by us, after the fact, but Adam lacked the tools to judge morally. Adam was naked and unashamed. He did not know that public nakeditity was immoral. Immediately after eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, he knew, and was ashamed.

Adam fell without the tools of moral judgement, because God did not give them to him. God, in fact, prohibited them to him.

I believe God did this for a VERY good reason.
Jhn 5:26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;

We are to live by life, not by morality. In the garden, the choice offered to Adam was whether to live "like" God, with a knowledge of morality, or "with" God by Life. Would Adam know what he should do to please God, or would he abide in the Vine?

Adam did not have to make a moral mistake. He could have "lived" by taking the Tree of Life into himself. Instead, he amorally chose wrongly.

Morality killed us all.

codepoke said...

oh yeah,

Morality is relative to the standard applied.

Can't buy this. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not a relative thing. What was evil 6+ thousand years ago is evil today. No changes. Immorality is as immoral in our age as it was in Adam's. A false standard of morality is just and only that.

Today's sloppy idea of morality is in itself immoral.

Travis said...

I agree with you, I think. =)

Now... is "morality" (in the sense of "the judgment of the goodness or badness of [an intelligent being's] action and character") an objective thing, or is it based on the knowledge of God's character?

Here's what I'm thinking: God isn't "good" because he conforms to some outer standard of "morality"; rather, "morality" is a reliable standard of "good" insofar as it matches God's nature.

If that's the case, God is the pinnacle of "moral" insofar as He is the standard by which "morality," in its truest sense, is measured.

I guess I'm trying to speak of "morality" as a pure concept, rather than the abomination fallen minds make of it.

codepoke said...

Cool, Travis. Yes, we just might agree.

Morality is an absolute, derived from the standard of God's own character. It never has changed, and it never will. So, I agree with your point, God is at the pinnacle of morality, and depraved man corrupts it to one degree or another.

The observation I add is that the highest morality is still lower than the simplest love. A man can could conceivably always pick good over evil, and still never love successfully. God cannot. God loves, and for that reason never is tempted to do evil, so God doesn't need morality at all.

Morality is like counting on our fingers. God can do it perfectly, but He never needs to.

codepoke said...

BTW - this discussion has definitely moved my position a little bit, and I like that. Thank you.

Scot said...

Sorry for the delayed response. You may have already tired of this discussion, but I need to make myself more clear.
I was not arguing for relativism, quite the opposite. When I say, morality is relative to the standard applied, I'm speaking of the different sets of morals, or belief systems, that men have for themselves in the same way that C.S. Lewis did in Mere Christianity. Different people do have different morals that help them separate what they believe is good from evil. The extreme case that Lewis cited was that the morals held by the Nazis were quite different from Christian morals. When we compare two sets of morals and judge one to be better than the other, we judge them by a third separate standard, or a Real Morality. This Morality is based on how God divides right and wrong. So, let me be clear. Regardless of however moral your belief system may seem to you or me, what God deems evil is evil.
So back to Adam. The problem I have with you assertion that Adam had no morality before the fall is that it would lead me to the conclusion that Adam and Eve did not willingly disobey God. If he did not have morality, or a way to discern good or bad behavior, could he be justly punished for not obeying God's command. Or why would God give a commandment not to eat of that tree if Adam lacked the capability to understand that eating of the tree would be evil.
Here's my contention. We understand from the Bible that prior to Mosaic Law, that there was a law written upon man's heart. This is an ingrained sense of right and wrong, or conscience. If it makes you feel better, we can call it morality. This existed in Adam, but only in a more limited form before the fall. His only knowledge of evil that would influence his conscience or set of moral(s) was the one command of God not to eat of that tree. He had to understand that eating of the tree was evil or God would not have made it a commandment or punished him. So, the extent of his morality was just one law without an understanding of experiencing sin/evil or its consequences. At that time, Adam only knew Good.
Once he ate of the tree, he had a knowledge of Good and Evil. I think this was an experiential knowledge or a "biblical" knowledge in the same sense that a man "knows" or experiences his wife. Once the knowledge of Evil came, also came the shame for his behavior.
God did create morality, but calls it righteousness. He made it very simple, though. One rule. Man's willfull disobedience made in complicated. Even with the law written on our hearts with a conscience was not enough though. The Bible says that God had to create the Law so that sin would increase so that we would understand the true condition of our soul.
Sorry for the length. Hope I made myself more clear this time. You may still disagree, though, and I welcome your comments to what I have written.

codepoke said...

I like the subject, and this seems like a profitably discussion to me. Have at thee!

I was not arguing for relativism, quite the opposite.


... prior to Mosaic Law, that there was a law written upon man's heart. This is an ingrained sense of right and wrong, or conscience.


This existed in Adam

Now you are postulating the point you are trying to prove. That's cheating.

I think God spoke that one law about which tree to avoid into Adam's ear, into his mind - it did not go all the way to Adam's heart. He does not even seem to have memorized it well, because Eve quotes God incorrectly. Eve learned "the law" from Adam, and she learned it wrongly. Moreover, Adam did not correct her error (he was standing right there at her side the whole time.)

None of this points to a rightly functioning conscience, and if it was there at all, it would not yet have been fallen. It should have worked.

I don't see any text that proves that Adam had a meaningful knowledge of good before eating of the tree. He saw good in everything God had done, but I don't see anywhere that it says good was in him.

So, let me ask you, do you think we will need morality in the new heaven and the new earth? I believe it will be left behind, just like the law, and replaced by the reality of which it was a dim shadow.