Lesson #3 - Why is Man Moral?

Bible student

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Download PDF

Immanuel Kant wrote, “Two things fill the mind with ...admiration and awe…the starry heavens above and the moral law within.” In our last lesson, we illustrated the design of the universe with the heavens above. The sky, with the sun by day and the moon and stars by night shows the glory of God continually. In this lesson, we look within ourselves at our moral nature to find evidence to support the existence and greatness of God.

As we examine this evidence, let us remember that indirect proof is the basis of “faith” as defined in the Scriptures. While we have not seen God, we can have a rational confidence that He does exist. “Faith” is not an irrational, emotional, gullible leap into what we wish to be true.

MAN HAS A CONSCIENCE

Every man has an “inner voice” we commonly call the conscience. The conscience aids us in making decisions about what is “right” to say or do. And, not only does our conscience help us to determine the proper moral course ahead of time, it also has the ability to reflect back on our behavior and judge it as “right” or “wrong”. If we judge ourselves to have done “right”, then we have a good conscience. If we judge ourselves to have done “wrong”, then we have a guilty conscience.

In Romans 2:14-15, we read about how the Gentiles’ conscience worked. God did not give them the written Law of Moses to guide their behavior. Yet the work (or content) of the Law was written on their heart. If their actions were in line with what God wanted, then their conscience excused or defended them. If their actions were in violation of God’s moral requirements, then their conscience accused them of doing wrong.

For the conscience to work properly, it must be trained according to God’s law, His moral standard. Only then can we make the proper decisions about what is “right” or “wrong” to do. Only then can we review our actions after the fact and judge them to be “right” or “wrong”. Paul held the coats of those who stoned the righteous man Stephen to death (Acts 7:58) without any pain of conscience (Acts 23:1; 24:16). It was not until he learned the truth about Jesus that his conscience convicted him of the sinfulness of fighting against God and His people.

But, our main point is this- even men who refuse to learn or pay attention to God’s law still must admit that they have felt guilt. Why? Because they have not always lived up to whatever standard of behavior their conscience has been trained by.

Man Has a Sense of Morality

Men live according to a universal, unwritten moral law. This might be referred to as man’s “sense of ought”. Men everywhere live by an unwritten standard of what “ought to be done”. If you do not believe it, then listen to people quarrel. You will hear statements like: “I was here first, don’t cut in the line in front of me”; “How would you like it if some-one did the same thing to you?”; “Give me some of your popcorn, you ate some of mine!”; and “Come on, you promised!”

Without a sense of morality, man could fight like animals do, but he could never quarrel. When we quarrel, we seek to show someone that they are “wrong”. We do so by appealing to a standard of behavior that we expect the other person to know about and accept. That standard is not the written law of the land, but a universal, unwritten code of morality.

We would not want to live in the chaotic world that would result if men lived without a sense of morality (Think of just a simple example- no sense that you should wait in line at the grocery store!) Without a sense of morality, there could be no such thing as civilization because civilization cannot exist without order. Though written standards of morality vary from culture to culture, common unwritten laws regulate society everywhere.

As C.S. Lewis put it, “Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five … Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.” (Mere Christianity, pp. 3-4)

Man’s inborn sense of ought can also be seen in how he reacts in an emergency situation. A man sees a boy drowning in the raging current of a flash flood. One impulse says, “You can swim. Jump in and save him.” Another impulse, perhaps stronger, says, “Don’t jump in, you might drown yourself.” Yet, often the weaker impulse wins and a lifesaving at-tempt is courageously made. Why does man often go with the weaker impulse? His sense of what should be done- of what is the right thing to do- his sense of morality overrides his fear.

The conscience and the sense of morality is part of what makes man unique from the rest of the creatures of the earth. If an bear kills a man, we do not hold the bear responsible in the way we would a man who kills a man because an animal is incapable of moral judgment. Animals do not have a conscience. They do not have a sense of right and wrong. We might kill the bear to keep it from harming another man, but we would not put the bear on trial and then convict it and punish it for doing “wrong”. But, if a man kills another man, because he is capable of moral judgment, we do try him, judge his action to be “wrong” and punish him, possibly even by taking his life (see Gen 9:6; Rom 13:3-4). Man can be immoral, but he is not amoral (without morals) like an animal.

Where Does Man Get His Moral Nature?

As we consider our conscience and our sense of morality, we must ask, “Why are we moral beings?” We have two possible answers: 1) Our conscience and morality came from an amoral source- from matter, from which everything has come according to the special theory of evolution or 2) Our conscience and morality came from a moral source- God, for we are made in His image (Gen 1:26).

Matter is amoral. If we have a flat tire, do we blame the tire? We may kick it in anger, but we do not hold this piece of round rubber responsible for us sitting at the side of the road. The man who made the tire…the company, yes, but not the tire! The special theory of evolution must say that something incapable of knowing and acting “right” and “wrong” one day became that way- somehow. But think about the tire. There is no logical way for it to ever become moral!

Think even of the impossibility of one of the higher animals evolving a moral nature as it changed ever so slowly to become a man. When was the day that some of the monkeys started standing in line and waiting their turn at the banana tree?

Man’s moral nature comes from His moral Creator. He thinks in terms of “right” and “wrong” and has made us so that we would do the same. Our moral nature is bound up with our purpose for living- to fear God, our Creator, keep His commandments, and prepare for judgment (Eccl 12:13-14). We will find the ultimate happiness here and in eternity by living according to our Manufacturer’ specifications. If we will only tune our conscience according to our “owner’s manual”, the Bible, we will find peace with our Creator and therefore peace within ourselves.

Generated with MOOJ Proforms Basic Version 1.3
* Required information.
Questions for Lesson #3
Contact Information
Name
Email *
True or False?
The design we see in this world gives us a reasonable confidence that God exists even though we have not seen Him.
True
False
Some people do not have an “inner voice” to govern their behavior.
True
False
The conscience helps men to make judgments about how to behave.
True
False
The conscience reviews our behavior and then judges it right or wrong.
True
False
Paul often did things that went against his conscience.
True
False
The way that the Gentiles lived was guided by the written Law of Moses.
True
False
The Gentiles are an example of the working of the conscience to review and to judge men’s behavior.
True
False
When our conscience decides that our behavior is wrong, we feel guilty.
True
False
In order to guide us in what is right, our conscience must be properly trained.
True
False
Those who have not trained their consciences by God’s law do not feel guilt.
True
False
If an animal kills a man, we say that he has done “wrong”.
True
False
Since man is capable of moral judgment, we are justified in punishing him when he does wrong.
True
False
The arguments that people use when they quarrel prove that men live under an unwritten moral law.
True
False
In some nations, men do not have a sense of morality.
True
False
It is logical to see how an animal that one day did not think in terms of right and wrong would suddenly start thinking in terms of rights and wrong the next day.
True
False
We are moral beings because we are created in the image of God, who is Himself a moral being.
True
False
Living a happy, meaningful life has nothing to do with morality.
True
False
God has not revealed a standard of morality for men to train their consciences by.
True
False
Short Answer
Give an example (other than those used in this lesson) that shows that all men have a conscience and/or a sense of morality.
Comments
Do you have any comments, questions, or disagreements with this lesson?
mad4media user interface design