In the last blog I wrote about how morality is not a human construct. I did so briefly, and in very little detail. I am going to proceed with the assumption that morality is not a human construct. If you want to read more on the subject, there are many books on the topic. I personally recommend The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis.
If moral law is not human construct, one would suppose that it came from some entity beyond nature. Thus we need to look deeper at reality. We need to go beyond merely the physical world and into the spiritual and philosophical realms.
Millions before me have tried to delve into this topic, and we would be wise to read the thought of those who came before us. However, this is a blog not a book, so I do not have the space to delve deeply into the thoughts of even a fraction of the sage men and women of times gone by. Rather let me tell you what criteria I use to determine which teachings have the most authority. This will narrow down the list and expedite our quest.
I would want teachings that admit that morality does not come from man. I have already briefly demonstrated how this is a flawed assumption, and smarter men than me have done an even better job arguing this point. Therefore, I rule out any philosophy that makes humanity the source of morality. This essentially leaves us with religions.
I would next rule out any religion in which the supernatural entities are dependent on or derived from humanity. If such forces are dependent on humanity then humanity has a say as to what is moral and what is not because we can manipulate the supernatural to do our bidding. This would put us back in the realm of humanity being the source of morality. Thus animistic religions fall short, as do most eastern religions.
I would also rule out religions that claim the source of morality to be a non-personal entity. If the source was non-personal, the laws of morality would be mere facts of nature produced by random chance. They would therefore, have neither real power nor a compelling reason to obey them. This would leave us with a non-morality system which is, in essence, a human morality.
The moral law can find its origin in either one person or more than one person provided that those persons are in such unity that they never differ in their opinions on morality. A pantheon, like in ancient Greek or Roman religions, would not do because the gods in these stories are often depicted as being at odds with each other, and seem to have no set morality other than their own desires. A “deist republic” would not suffice to produce a stable moral system.
It appears that we would have to find our moral lawgiver in a monotheistic religion. This is somewhat problematic because there are several monotheistic religions. To narrow down the field further, the thing to look for is unity. Anyone can write a book about God and claim it to be true. What we need to look for is books that have unity despite being written over a great period of time and in different cultures and languages. This would demonstrate that the books find their source from something that transcends a specific culture and way of thought. I find this in the Bible.
To understand my reasoning, it is important to realize that the Bible is not just one book. It is 66 books. These 66 books were written by about 40 different authors. These 40 different authors did not all live at the same time either. The 66 books of the Bible were written over about 1600 years. They were also not all written in the same language. The Bible was written in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic). It was also written on three different continents.
So to sum up, the Bible is a collection of 66 books written by about 40 different authors over the course of 1600 years in three different languages on three different continents. Yet despite this great diversity in time, geography, authorship, cultures, and languages, these 66 books are unified in their overall teachings and story-line.
Such unity through diversity leads me to believe that these books were divinely inspired. Should anyone disagree I challenge them to duplicate this feat using any other books written throughout history, but remember the conditions: at least 66 books, at least 40 authors, at least 3 languages, at least 3 continents, and unity in content.
To further state my point, let’s look at a section of the Bible:
“He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
If you know anything about Jesus, you probably recognize that this passage is about Him. You would be correct. This passage is about the Messiah. Yet it was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
One might object at this point and say, “Sure, you claim that the books are diverse in origin yet unified in content, but how do we know that they were not doctored after the fact. How do we know that the prophecy about Christ you just presented was not written centuries after Christ to improve the legitimacy of Christianity and then falsely ascribed to an ancient prophet?”
This is a fair objection. None of the original manuscripts of the Bible exist as far as we know. Yet there are manuscripts that date to before the time of Christ. In the case of the passage above, the oldest existing manuscript (that I am aware of) dates to about 100 years before the birth of Christ. There may be debate as to when the above passage was written, but no scholar would date its writing after Christ’s birth.
Reflect again on the passage above. It was written hundreds of years before Christ was born. Can you think of anyone else it could possibly describe? If not, then we have a legitimate prophecy clearly pointing to Jesus as the Messiah. What does this tell us about the authority of the Bible, and the person of Jesus? I believe it demonstrates that they are both divine in their origin.
If the Bible provides us with God’s moral law, the next question is how we measure up to it. This is the question we all fear. I will answer it next time.