Ready for the error? Here it is: trying to define what is right and what is wrong without referring to God’s laws. Ethicists and philosophers (such as Kant) have written treatises attempting to prove that it’s possible to find a universal moral code solely by the use of reason. It does seem plausible at first, until you really sit down and think about it. Most people, even atheists, agree that it is bad to hurt other people. But without God there is no authority to make that rule a rule. Why is it wrong to hurt others? Also, there is no way to specifically define “hurt” and “others”. Is it hurting someone to abort a baby? How about euthanasia for the old or disabled? If it is wrong to kill humans, is it also wrong to kill monkeys? Cows? Mice? Flies? Trees? Is it hurting someone if a poor man steals $10 from a millionaire? Is it hurting someone to destroy an embryo to use the stem cells for medical research?
When a government tries to define morality without basing it on God’s law, it will eventually devolve into a power contest, because it has thrown out the only possible fixed point of reference. The only thing left for the politicians is to fight it out and let the most numerous group, or the most powerful group, or the most wealthy group rule.
You might be wondering, “If men by themselves cannot discover or establish absolute moral laws, why do so many politicians refuse to acknowledge the existence or authority of God’s laws?” Because politicians, like most of us, would rather do what we want than what God wants. In order to justify our behavior, we rationalize it in our minds, seeking to paint the moral bull’s-eye around our own arrow. Most people can’t succeed in totally silencing their conscience, though, so they don’t draw the bull’s-eye with their own behavior right in the middle. That would be too obviously a manipulation of the target. Instead they draw it so that they land just inside the “good enough to go to heaven” line.
The laws of God are so demanding and penetrating that most of us settle for a watered down version that we can keep more easily. Just take the Ten Commandments for example. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Do you use God’s name as a curse word to express disgust? Even Hitler’s name is not used as a curse word. In God’s eyes, that makes you a blasphemer. “You shall not steal.” The value of the item is irrelevant. If you steal, you are a thief. “You shall not commit adultery.” Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). “You shall not murder.” God says that “whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). Lying, coveting, being disrespectful to parents – all are repulsive to God, and the penalty for each of them is hell. I don’t say that lightly, and please don’t read it lightly. “But God is good!” you say. What would happen if you used that argument the next time you got a speeding ticket? “Yes, your honor, I really was speeding. But I don’t believe you’ll fine me, because you are a good man.” The judge would probably say, “You’re right, I am a good man. And because I am good, I must punish your violation of the law.” God is good, and He punishes violations of His law because He is good.
The only hope for the salvation of a sinful person or a sinful nation is bowing to God’s authority and trusting in Jesus’ death on the cross as the payment for those sins.