Social change. Intolerance. Social justice. Accusations. Media bias. Social agendas. The answer to one simple question solves most of these problems: Who determines right and wrong? Examine the answer from the Bible in this Tomorrow's World video, and review the consequences of people choosing what is right in their own eyes.
[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]
Once-great nations are deteriorating right before our eyes. It seems half the people around us are enraged at the other half, and that other half is more than happy to return the anger and hatred. The voices shouting loudest for tolerance just so happen to be among the most intolerant of the bunch. But most significantly, social norms and fundamental understandings that have been in place for centuries—even thousands of years—are being overturned. What was once virtuous is now ridiculed and considered out of touch at best and downright evil at worst, while what was once thought perverse or morally wrong is now praised and promoted.
Our world is in chaos. And while it will surprise most, that chaos is rooted in civilization’s growing inability to answer one simple question: Who decides right and wrong?
Join us right now on Tomorrow’s World, where we will examine—and answer—this question together.
Greetings, and welcome to Tomorrow’s World, where we help you make sense of your world through the pages of the Bible. It’s a privilege to discuss today’s topic with you, for it really is the single question around which the entire world is turning today: Who decides right and wrong?
Today, we will look at three terrible but popular answers to this question, as well as the only true answer there could ever be.
Now surely you’ve noticed—we are living in a world of moral chaos.
Please understand—I’m not saying we are living in a world in which there are no “morals” of any sort. Quite the contrary—the world seems filled with “moral warriors,” ready to castigate you for your lack of morality and ready to pin a medal on their own jackets for their own upstanding behavior.
Actors accept awards and spend most of their time lecturing the television audience about the moral outrage of the moment. Politicians seek to convince us that any disagreement with the laws and regulations they seek to pass is the moral equivalent of siding with Adolph Hitler. And the stoic neutrality previous generations used to see in their news anchors is a relic of the past. Anchors today are some of the most passionate preachers you’ll find on television—more interested in passing judgment than passing on the news.
In all this moralizing, whose morals serve as the basis of all this virtue signaling and righteous lecturing? Well, that’s the problem. Everyone is busy determining his own moral code—his own collection of virtues and vices. In a way, Western civilization has come to mirror the ancient time of the judges described in the Bible. We find that description given very concisely in the book of Judges, chapter 21 and verse 25:
“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
Exactly. Everyone today is doing what is right in his own eyes.
But a world in which each man’s morality only depends on himself and his own, individual moral code is like having a world in which there is no moral code at all. And if you’ve ever read the book of Judges, you know what sort of world results from such a state: a brutal, chaotic world in which every man is out for himself.
Sure enough, a brutal, chaotic world is exactly what we see forming about us—corresponding more and more to the world of animals than it does to anything like a civilized society.
The world needs an answer to the question of who decides right and wrong.
So let’s spend our time today examining some contenders—some potential sources of morality that many would point to as the guide we need.
Now perhaps we should start by pointing out that many point to evolution as the source of humanity’s “morals”—but not in the way most of us think about “morals.” Evolution, as explained by those biologists who subscribe to the theory, only cares about the “survival of the fittest,” so those who say that human morality is simply a product of evolution are really saying that morality, good, and evil are all illusions. They’re saying that we only believe humans have morals because evolution has supposedly genetically programmed us to, say, be polite and civil to each other.
This is, of course, absolutely wrong for a whole host of reasons. For one, the theory of Evolution is a fairy tale, with little real evidence to show for itself. We have an abundance of material about that on our website at TomorrowsWorld.org.
But even putting that aside, take a moment to consider just how ridiculous it is to think that Darwin’s brutal, bloody theory of “survival of the fittest” could produce the noble qualities we consider to be moral behavior—such as honesty, humility, and protecting the weak.
One refreshingly honest atheist pointed this out in writing to popular apologist J. Warner Wallace, admitting that there is no real connection between morality and evolution. He noted, in part:
“We are Atheists…. While we acknowledge concepts like morality, politeness, civility seem to exist, we know they do not…. My only directive is to obey my genes. Eat, sleep, reproduce, die. That is our bible…. Outside of my greedy little gene’s need to reproduce, there is nothing in my world that stops me from killing you and reproducing with your wife.”
This atheist went on to say:
“Only the fear that I might be incarcerated and thus be deprived of the opportunity to do the same with the next guy’s wife stops me…. So be nice if you want. Be involved, have polite conversations, be a model citizen. Just be aware that while technically an Atheist, you are an inferior one. You’re just a little bit less evolved, that’s all. When you are ready to join me, let me know, I’ll be reproducing with your wife…. Maybe it’s time we Atheists were a little more truthful and let the chips fall where they may. At least that’s what my genes are telling me to say.”
Now, I know many atheists would not agree with this individual—yet on what basis can they disagree? Even if it were true, Evolution would be no guide to what is morally good and right. Survival of the fittest, the strongest, and the most devious is no source for morality, so we must look elsewhere.
We’ve already seen that, even if Evolution were true (and it’s not), there’s no reason to think that a system of moral virtue would arise in the brutal struggle for survival and reproduction.
But what about science? Could science help us discover moral laws of “right” and “wrong”?
Science has allowed mankind to discover many of the laws of nature itself, and much of what we enjoy in our modern world has been built on those discoveries. We’ve uncovered laws of physics and chemistry. Science has allowed us to peer into the deepest parts of our universe and into the inner world of the atom. But can science reveal for us more than the natural laws of our world—of what is and is not? Can science also reveal the moral laws of life—what should and should not be? Can science tell us what is morally good and evil—right and wrong?
This is the view of famous atheist and neuroscientist Sam Harris.
In his book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, Harris argues that moral values can be discovered through science, with no need at all for God or religion:
“Meaning, values, morality, and the good life must relate to facts about the well-being of conscious creatures—and, in our case, must lawfully depend on events in the world and upon states of the human brain….”
“I am arguing that science can, in principle, help us understand what we should do and should want—and, therefore, what other people should do and should want in order to live the best lives possible” (pp. 6, 28, 2010).
Harris notes that science can help us understand what can help conscious creatures to flourish and be healthy and productive—and to a certain extent, that’s true. Just like science can help us formulate the healthiest dog food and cat food for our pets, it can help us examine the effects of various choices on our lives and the lives of others.
But it can’t tell us why we should care, or why any of us should feel obligated to do anything. Science can explore and examine the impact of my choices on my neighbor, but it can’t tell me why I should care for my neighbor in the first place.
In fact, it can’t even tell me why I should care for my neighbor more than I care for my dog or my house cat. Why is the benefit of humanity a “moral good”? Why should I morally seek the benefit of humanity versus the benefit of any other species—chimpanzees, or zebras, or, for that matter, cockroaches? Many scientists, such as Harris’ atheist peer, Richard Dawkins, have argued that humans have no moral priority or value above other animals, such as the great apes.
But we know there is a difference, don’t we? A moral difference. Some chimpanzees kill and eat their young—yet we would all agree that it would be a moral outrage for any human being to do so. But why? What would make it a moral evil? Science cannot tell us. Because science is limited to telling us only the natural facts—what is and is not—and cannot access moral facts about what should and should not be.
History records the terrible scientific experiments the Nazi regime performed on captive Jews in the concentration camps. Yet science is powerless to tell you why such experiments are immoral abominations. After all, according to many scientists, we’re just one more kind of animal, and if those experiments were eventually going to benefit humanity at large, well then, hey, who’s to say they were wrong?
That’s the point: Science can’t tell us that. And yet, thankfully, most of us know those horrific experiments were, indeed, wrong—no matter what could have been learned from them.
No, “science” is not the answer to our question, “Who decides right and wrong?”
But we still need an answer. After all, if science cannot tell us why the experiments of the Nazi concentration camps were a moral evil, surely something else must, for we know that they were—just as we know that acts such as rape and murder are morally wrong. So, who decides they are immoral?
An increasingly popular answer to that question is society. That is, they say that we simply agree, as a civil society, that such things as rape, murder, and torturous experiments on imprisoned human beings are “wrong,” and it is society, as a collective whole, that determines what is right and wrong.
According to this idea, acts such as rape, murder, human trafficking, or slavery are morally wrong because society rejects these acts and declares them “immoral.” They violate society’s sense of what should be right and moral, and so—according to this theory, anyway—it is society that declares them wrong and evil. In the eyes of those who believe this idea, society becomes, then, the ultimate moral authority.
They say that society collectively decides that rape is wrong and that we don’t want people murdering each other, so we pass laws to make those things illegal and imprison or execute those who do them.
It all sounds very democratic, doesn’t it? And, frankly, it has a certain appeal to our human, sinful nature. It implies that we’re not responsible to any sort of divine being, like God—that we are only responsible to ourselves. And from mankind’s very beginning, that is what humans have sought: the freedom to define for ourselves what is good and what is evil.
In Genesis chapter 2, we’re told that God created the first human being and placed him in the Garden of Eden with some very specific instructions;
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2:16–17).
God told mankind what was right—not eating from that tree—and what was wrong—eating from the tree. But Adam and Eve decided to ignore God’s instruction and eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, choosing to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong. And we have all been repeating Adam and Eve’s choice in our own, individual ways for the last several thousand years.
This idea of society as the decider of right and wrong reflects this thinking. We, “the People,” decide what is right and wrong, and we use our governments to enforce our collective morality.
Yet, such an approach is fraught with contradictions and produces truly horrific consequences. For instance, consider the horrors of slavery in the pre-Civil War American South. We now universally recognize that slavery was a moral stain on American history. But if society determines what is “right” and “wrong,” then slavery was supposedly moral in the 1700s and 1800s because society approved of it, but it is now immoral because society does not? That’s utter nonsense.
Consider, too, the Holocaust of World War II—one of history’s greatest immoral campaigns, in which millions of human beings were exterminated like animals. Was the Holocaust somehow a moral good in Nazi Germany but is now an abominable moral evil because the Nazis lost? Would it have remained a moral good if Germany had won the war? Does morality change based on who wins and gets to run society?
Of course not. The slavery of the U.S. South was immoral, and the Holocaust was a great evil, and it’s irrelevant whether their nations’ societies agreed at the time.
Even today, there are societies in the world that condone forcing women and children into sexual prostitution and servitude—that morally sanction rape and murder.
And yet we know that those societies are wrong. Rape is wrong. Murder is wrong. And protecting women and children from sexual abuse is good.
We know these things are so regardless of what those societies might approve of in their own nations.
The fact is that societies change over time, and even in a given moment, societies differ from location to location. What is considered “evil” and “immoral” by one society in one place or time may be considered “upright” and “virtuous” in another.
But does that mean what is truly morally good or evil varies across time or based on your geography? Is rape, murder, theft, or torturing the weak and defenseless ever a moral “good” in any society at any time? Should we ever accept the Holocaust, the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge, or the antebellum slavery in the U.S. as anything other than moral evils, regardless of the decisions of their governments or societies—and regardless of how our own society may change in the future?
Of course not. We do not determine standards of “right” and “wrong” based on the decisions of society. Rather, we judge societies by those standards. Societies and cultures change, but what is right and wrong never does.
For instance, that’s how chattel slavery was defeated in Western civilization. Men such as William Wilberforce, at the turn of the 19th century, compared the practices of society to the eternal moral principles of the Bible and saw chattel slavery as the terrible moral sin that it truly was.
No, society is not the final authority in what is right or wrong. We will reveal that ultimate and undeniable authority in just a moment.
But first, let’s take one more moment to give you an opportunity to request today’s free booklet. Most people have no idea how Jesus Christ focused on the Ten Commandments in His ministry and spent a great deal of effort telling us how to keep them. It was Christ, Himself, who said,
“If you want to enter into life, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS” (Matthew 19:17).
The only answer to the question “Who decides right and wrong?” is that the Eternal God of Creation decides. His very character is morally pure and good, and His commands reflect that perfect character!
The Apostle Paul, speaking of the commandments and law of God, says in Romans 7 and verse 12 that…
“… the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”
The commands of God flow from His perfect moral character, and out of His goodness, He shows us what is right and good. As King David wrote in Psalm 25,
“Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He teaches sinners in the way” (v. 8).
That’s why we have a certain, limited, natural sense of right and wrong that you find in cultures all over the world—not because of Evolution, but because of our common Creator. Paul says in Romans 2 and verses 14 and 15 that to a certain extent, all humans created by God have a sense of what is right and wrong, but it’s not the whole.
Understanding the whole of right and wrong requires a relationship with our Creator—allowing Him to instruct us and Jesus Christ to lead us.
The Bible prophesies a time when the whole world will seek the knowledge of God, to understand what is good and what is evil. In Micah chapter 4 and verse 2, we read of one such prophecy:
“Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”
That time will come with the return of Jesus Christ. But you and I don’t have to wait until then. We can begin learning the divine difference between right and wrong and putting it to work in our lives right now if we’ll only let God teach us that difference.
Thanks so much for watching today! [We] really do appreciate you coming by. We here at Tomorrow’s World strive very hard to try to make sense of your world through the pages of the Bible. We hope this has been beneficial. If you’d like today’s free offer, there’s a link in the description. If you enjoyed this video and would like to see more, then please do hit the subscribe button, and if you want to be notified, then just click on that bell. Thanks again!