Does Christianity Provide A Practical Foundation For A Decent Ethical System?

Christians believe the Bible. Christians don’t believe in the Bible. Christians believe the Bible is the Word of God. That is, Christians believe God exists and that the Bible is His divine revelation to us.

Why do Christians believe God exists? The Book of Romans provides a good condensation of Christian theology. Consider this observation about the existence of God.

Romans 1:18-23

New American Standard Bible

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth [a]in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident [b]within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not [c]honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible mankind, of birds, four-footed animals, and [d]crawling creatures.

Why don’t some people believe in God? The Bible says we don’t want to believe in God. In “The Passion Translation”, that later portion of verse 18 is translated this way.

For the wickedness of humanity deliberately smothers the truth and keeps people from acknowledging the truth about God. 

Romans 1:18-23 TPT – God Reveals His Wrath – For God in – Bible Gateway

Some will say we no longer worship images or idols made in the form of corruptible mankind, of birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures, that this verse is archaic nonsense. However, idols represent the things we desire before God, and many of us still put our desires before God. We put sexual pleasure, the stuff we want, our “scientific” excuses, the power of the state, and our self — our pride — before God. This is no different than the idol worship of old. The idols of old were just manifestations of the desires of their owners, their desires represented as wood, stone, and metal statues decorated with jewels.

Why do Christians believe the Bible? There are various arguments. Here are some.

Why do Christians believe the Bible? In the end it comes down to believing Jesus is real, and He saved us from our sins. We believe in Jesus because we know He existed, and nothing else makes sense without Him.

Can we show the Bible is scientifically true? We cannot even show science is scientifically true. In fact, science blossomed in the West because Christians had confidence that God’s Creation was orderly, and science depends upon this confidence as an assumed truth.

Because science itself depends upon the proposition that the universe must behave in an orderly, predicable manner we cannot prove the proposition that the universe must behave in an orderly, predicable manner using science. The reasoning would be circular. We cannot even use science to prove or disprove the existence of the God who makes His creation behave in an orderly, predicable manner. We can model the cause and effect relationships we find in the natural world, but without a belief in God we cannot say why predictable cause and effect relationships must exist. Without God, we just have a supposition the ancients had little reason to make. The ancients believed in many gods and spirits because these gods and spirits provided seemingly logical explanations.

Still, because His existence offends our pride, we don’t want to believe in God. So, how does God bring some to the point of believing He exists and turning to Him in faith? Christians believe we must hear and study His Word. How did Jesus put it? Just before His death on the cross, Jesus comforted His disciples.

John 14:1-6

New American Standard Bible

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

14 “Do not let your heart be troubled; [a]believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many [b]rooms; if that were not so[c]I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; how do we know the way?” Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. How do we come to the Father through Jesus? We keep Jesus’ commandments because we love Him (John 14:15 NASB – “If you love Me, you will keep My – Bible Gateway).

Where are the commandments of Jesus? They are in the Bible. To understand what Jesus wants us to do, we must read the Bible, and we must obey its teachings.

What kind of ethical system does the Bible provide us. Instead of what would seem obvious, an ethical system based upon what man considers good and evil, the Bible tells us that it is good to obey God, and it is evil to disobey God. The Bible also tells us something that makes obedience to God far more palatable than it otherwise might be. The Bible tells us God loves us, and He wants what is best for us.

Is it always easy to obey God? No. One reason is that the wisdom of God can seem very strange and odd to us. Faith in God requires us to obey a Being whose wisdom is beyond us.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

New American Standard Bible

The Wisdom of God

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who [a]are perishing, but to us who [b]are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

And the understanding of those who have understanding, I will confound.”

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God [c]was pleased through the foolishness of the [d]message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for [e]signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach [f]Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than mankind, and the weakness of God is stronger than mankind.

26 For [g]consider your calling, brothers and sisters, that there were not many wise according to [h]the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the [i]insignificant things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no [j]human may boast before God. 30 But it is [k]due to Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, [l]and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Plainly, Christians doubt the wisdom of this world. Why? Because we understand we are slaves to sin (Romans 7:14-25 NASB – The Conflict of Serving Two Masters – Bible Gateway). We may wish to do the right thing, but the desires of our flesh will betray us. What man would choose to love his enemy (Matthew 5:43-48 NASB – “You have heard that it was said, – Bible Gateway)? Yet this is the wisdom of God. Without the guidance of our Lord — without His Holy Spirit — we will too often call what is actually evil good and what is actually good evil (Isaiah 5:20-21 NASB – Woe to those who call evil good, and – Bible Gateway).

Thus, we have now arrived at this question, does the Bible provide us a practical foundation for a decent ethical system? Christians say yes, and they point to the Bible as the foundational document of Western philosophy and law. Secularists say no, arguing that the Bible is just ancient mythology. As noted in the first post in this series, Part 4 will address the conflicts that arise from the differences between the Christian worldview and Secular morality. In Part 4 we will also consider whether these differences form the basis of our growing national divide.

Additional References


  1. Tom,

    “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:17-18).

    There is a need for motivation to want to read and believe in the Bible. At an early age we need to be taught to fear God to avoid punishment, not from God, but from ourselves by making foolish choices in life.

    As we mature, we learn the Bible guides our paths making use of Spiritual Wisdom and Love……as the above verse ending sentence…” But he who fears has not been made perfect in love”

    Without motivations of fear and love teachings, such as secular beliefs that do not need God to be moral lack substance and motivation to truly desire to want to walk on the path of righteousness when we experience both good and bad times in life, in my opinion.

    In other words, there is no fear in love as the above verse’s states…. “But perfect love casts out fear.”

    All righteous roads will lead to Jesus Christ because, as He said, …. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

    In my opinion, King Solomon proverb fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom was spot on and over time made perfect understanding by Jesus Christ teachings of love.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

  2. Tom,

    I found particularly enlightening what you wrote about the limitations of scientific epistemology here.

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