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Should Christian Hold a Higher Moral Standard?

The question of whether Christians should be held to a higher moral standard is one that has sparked various emotional responses due to biblical illiteracy of many who claim to be Christian today. The main argument would proceed as: since Christians are saved by grace they are not under the law thus they have liberty to do as they want according to their conscience. This idea leaves morality of a professing Christian to subjectivism with the premise that if the individual has no conviction of a specific issue than he is free to act as he chooses. This essentially comes down to a rejection of objective truths coming from God’s word being understood with properly apply hermeneutical methods and a fervent desire to know truth through the studying of the Bible. The majority of professing Christians today are guilty of “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness,” which Jude expresses as equivalent to “denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4)

The Bible teaches “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12). That is because they are a reflection of God’s Holy character and nature. Christians as representatives of this Holy God, are commanded to “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:8; 1 Peter 1:16). Obedience to the law is not a matter of salvation but rather, “that ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God” (Numbers 15:40). This is in a stark contrast to the immorality of pagans that imitated the immorality of mythological pagan gods.  Consider how Paul expressed that when men truned to paganism they turned to the most debased activities imaginable. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things… And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:22-23, 28-32).

Consider one of the attributes of God is perfect truth. Scripture teaches that God “is a God of truth and without iniquity” (Deuteronomy 32:4). God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2) for it is “impossible for God to lie” (Hebrew 6:18). God commands us: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16). Paul wrote about the well-known reputation of the pagan culture when he said, “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true” (Titus 1:12-13). Compare this to what the Greek author Herodotus wrote about lying: “When it is necessary to lie, lie. For we want the same thing, liars and those who tell the truth; some lie to win credence and advantage by lies, while others tell the truth in order to obtain some advantage by the truth and to be more trusted; thus we approach the same ends by different means. If the hope of advantage were taken away, the truth-teller would be as ready to lie as the liar to tell the truth.”1)Herodotus, The Histories, 3.72.4-5; with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920. Accessed at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126%3Abook%3D3%3Achapter%3D72%3Asection%3D4 The pagan mentality was the ends justifies the means so if lying would be profitable for you, do it.

What the pagan authors had to say about drunkenness is also revealing in comparison to what a Christian culture should be. Antiphon wrote, “First, let me tell you that young men are more likely to be the aggressors and make a drunken assault than old. The young are incited by their natural arrogance their full vigor, and the unaccustomed effects of wine to give free play to anger: whereas old men are sobered by their experience of drunken excesses, by the weakness of age, and by their fear of the strength of the young.”2)Antiphon, Third Tetralogy 4.3.2; K. J. Maidment, Ed. Accessed at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0020%3Aspeech%3D4%3Atetralogy%3D3%3Asection%3D2 Notice that this expresses that both young and old drink to excess but since the young have not developed a higher tolerance due to long years of such excessive drinking, they are likely to become violent when drunk. This is quite diverse from what the Bible teaches about drinking alcohol. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverb 20:1). When Hannah prayed quietly to God but her lips moved, Eli accused her of being drunk. “And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial…” (1 Samuel 1:14-16). So drinking in the Biblical culture is viewed as synonymous with being involved with idolatry. The phrase “son of Belial” or “children of Belial” is a termed used for homosexuals and rapists (Judges 19:22-25), lying murders (1 King 21:10), which Christians should be separated from (2 Corinthians 6:15). The name Belial essentially is to identify with Satan himself. The Damascus Document found among the Dead Sea Scrolls express the term in conjunction with such: “For in ancient times, Moses and Aaron arose by the hand of the Prince of Lights and Belial in his cunning raised up Jannes and his brother when Israel was first delivered.”3)Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Penguin Classics (New York: NY, revised edition 2004), p. 133 Another scroll pronounces curses on Belial, stating the community “shall damn Belial and all his guilty lot… and may all the sons of Belial be damned in all the works of the service until the annihilation…”4)Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Penguin Classics (New York: NY, revised edition 2004), p. 394 The surprising thing today is that more and more people who profess to be Christian view it as acceptable to drink alcohol. The biblical view is clearly absolute abstinence from all alcoholic beverages.

As much as violence was instigated by alcohol, being the cause of such violent outbursts is not the impression one receives from reading ancient sources. In fact, violence was so embedded in the society that it was normal as one would exert their supremacy over slaves. Historian Robin Lane Fox recorded:

Galen had seen his mother fly into a rage and bite the servants. He describes his journey with an irascible friend who split the heads of two slaves when they muddled the luggage; anger was the man’s besetting passion, as it clearly was for others in their dealings with the servile classes. “Many friends” were reproved by Galen’s father when they had bruised themselves by striking slaves in the teeth: “They could have waited a while, he used to say, and used a rod or a whip to inflict as many blows as they wished, acting with calm reflection…” Should the Antonine “age of anxiety” be rephrased as an “age of anger,” rooted in the social order and its division between master and slave?5)Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY: 1987), p. 65

This author added in a endnote sources to read, “on how best to whip slaves and why the beater of slaves are less wicked than people who kick doors.”6)Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY: 1987), p. 694 Obviously, this is far from what the Bible taught. “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate” (Titus 1:7-8) The Bishop, or pastor, was to lead by example of how all Christians were expected to act (1 Peter 5:1-3).

When we evaluate civil laws we also note a great contrast between that of God’s holy character and those social orders that followed pagan deities. Secular historian William Durant wrote: “The institutions, conventions, customs and laws that make up the complex structure of a society are the work of a hundred centuries and a billion minds; and one mind must not  expect to comprehend them in one lifetime, much less in twenty years. We are warranted in concluding that morals are relative, and indispensable.”7)William Durant, The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY: 1954), Vol. 1, p. 48 This idea is obscenely ignorant. Morals are indeed indispensable, but to claim they are relative is foolishness. The secular mentality depicts morals to have developed as an evolutionary process getting more ethical through time, yet even Durant himself contradict this idea in his own documentation of history. When speaking of the Assyrian laws, he stated: “The adaption was most visible in the case of the law, which was distinguished by a martial ruthlessness. Punishment ranged from public exhibition to forced labor, twenty to a hundred lashes, the slitting of nose and ears, castration, pulling out the tongue, gouging out the eyes, impalement, and beheading. The laws of Sargon II prescribe such additional delicacies as the drinking of poison, and the burning of the offender’s son or daughter alive on the altar of the god… In general Assyrian law was less secular and more primitive than the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, which apparently preceded it in time.”8)William Durant, The story of Civilization, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY: 1954), Vol. 1, p. 272 So as time passed the laws became more brutish and degenerate. He later wrote of Persian laws:

Minor punishments took the form of flogging—from five to two hundred blows with a horsewhip; the poisoning of a shepherd dog received two hundred strokes, manslaughter ninety…. More serious crimes were punished with branding, maiming, mutilation, blinding, imprisonment or death…. Death was procured in such cases by poisoning, impaling, crucifixion, hanging (usually with the head down), stoning, burying the body up to the head, crushing the head between huge stones, smothering the victim in hot ashes, or by the incredibly cruel rite called “the boats.”9)William Durant, The story of Civilization, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY: 1954), Vol. 1, p. 362

Durant willing admitted, “…out of Judea [came] the first plea for human brotherhood, the first formulation of the moral consciousness of mankind.”10)William Durant, The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY: 1954), Vol.  1, p. 935 This man who was quite critical of the Bible still recognized its higher source of morality which is evidence of it being the inspired word of God being far from any human production of its time. Some scholars have even concluded that the higher quality of life for the Jewish nation was one thing the caused envy among their pagan neighbors and was one of the root causes of anti-Semitism. “The higher quality of Jewish life is objectively verifiable….People rarely admit to envy as the cause of their resentment. Nevertheless, the link here is undeniable. Had the Jews been committed to being different and been social failures, few people would have bothered to hate them. It has been the Jews’ very success that has made their being Jews so challenging.”11)Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin, Why the Jews: The Reason for Antisemitism, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY: 1983), p. 56

Furthermore, after considering the brutality of pagan laws, it is no wonder that Christians and people influenced by Biblical morality have been at the forefront of the prolife movement because of their value of life. This has consistently been the historical positions as is seen from this second century Christian author. “And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fœtus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it.”12)Athenagoras, A Plea for the Christian, chap. XXXV; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 2, p. 147 Even what one allows to be presented before them as “entertainment” should be consistent with Christian values. Around the middle of the third century, Cyprian wrote about pagans watching the plays of such wicked characters at the theaters condemning it and implying no Christian should watch them.  “People flock thither to the public disgrace of the brothel for the teaching of obscenity, that nothing less may be done on secret than what is learnt in public; and in the midst of the laws themselves is taught everything that the laws forbid. What does a faithful Christian do among these things, since he may not even think upon wickedness? Why does he find pleasure in the representations of lust, so as among them to lay aside his modesty and become more daring in crimes? He is learning to do, while he is becoming accustomed to see.”13)Cyprian, On the Public Shows, para. 6; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers (ed. Alexander Roberts, D.D. & James Donaldson, LL.D.), Hendrickson Publishers, 1885, 2012, Vol. 5, p. 577 He indicated that finding entertainment in these acted out forms of debauchery were desensitizing people to sin and should be avoided. Christians from the earliest centuries condemned attending theaters but today more and more Christians watch these wicked Hollywood movies for entertainment.

The simple fact is that the Holy God weaves an absolute morality within the structure of His very creation. Timothy Keller wrote:

If there is no God, then there is no way to say any action is “moral” and another “immoral” but only “I like this.” If that is the case, who gets the right to put their subjective, arbitrary moral feelings into law? You may say “the majority has the right to make the law,” but do you mean that then the majority has the right to vote to exterminate a minority? If you say “No, that is wrong,” then you are back to square one.14)Timothy Keller, The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Penguin Group Inc. (New York, NY: 2008), p. 153

It is also the Biblical influence on America’s citizens in the founding era that has produced laws that other nations have sought to follow. President Harry Truman said:

The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days.

If we don’t have the proper fundamental moral background, we will finally wind up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the state.15)President Harry S. Truman, 37 – Address Before the Attorney General’s Conference on Law Enforcement Problems. February 15, 1950; accessible at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=13707

President Dwight Eisenhower said, “Without God, there could be no form of government nor American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first—and most basic—expression of Americanism.”16)President Dwight D. Eisenhower; cited by Alan Sears and Craig Osten, The ACLU vs America, Broadman & Holman Publishers (Nashville, Tennessee: 2005), p. 123 During his farwell address, President George Washington stated, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible support…. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”17)George Washington, Farewell Address
September 19, 1796; accessible at http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=65539

Supreme court rulings have also noted this as self-evident:

  • 1811—“We are a Christian people and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity.”18)People v. Ruggle, New York Supreme Court, 1811
  • 1824—“Christianity, general Christianity, is and always has been a part of the common law.”19)Updegraph v. Commonwealth, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1824
  • 1892—After reviewing numerous historical records to determine the heritage of the America, the nation’s Supreme Court concluded—“These and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. We are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity.”20)US v. Church of the Holy Trintiy, 143 U.S. 457, Supreme Court of United States, 1892


Secular assessment of American history has yielded no difference of opinion on this matter when approached honestly. “For centuries [the Bible] has exerted an unrivaled influence on American culture, politics, and social life. Now historians are discovering that the Bible perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document: the source of the powerful myth of the United States as a special, sacred nation, a people called by God to establish a model society, a beacon to the world.”21)Kenneth L. Woodward with David Gates, “How the Bible Made America: Since the puritans and the pioneers, through wars and social conflicts, a sense of Biblical mission has united us, divided us and shaped our national destiny,” Newsweek, December 27, 1982, p. 44 The most thorough research has proven the Bible’s influence on American culture is a clear fact.

A few decades ago, two political science professors, Donald S. Lutz and Charlse S. Hyneman, conducted a ground-breaking, massive study, wherein they examined some 15,000 documents, including several thousand books, written during America’s founding era between 1760 and 1805, and analyzed their political content. These men studied political volumes, monographs, pamphlets, and newspaper articles. There they found 3,154 citations or references to other sources.

The source cited or quoted most often in these political writings was the Bible. On average, during that particular half century, 34% of political literary citations came from the Bible.22)Dr. David C. Gibbs, Jr., with Jerry Newcombe, One Nation Under God: Ten Things Every Christian Should Know About the Founding of America, Christian Law Associate (Seminole, Florida: 2005), p. 133

As our nations moves towards a more secular mentality and embraces paganism at an alarming rate the moral decline has become alarming. God’s Word has warned “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). “But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation” (Jeremiah 10:10). But the promise of comfort is contained for those who seek to glorify the Lord. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12).



Heath Henning
Heath Henning
Heath heads the Set Free addictions ministry on Friday nights at Mukwonago Baptist Church and is involved in evangelism on the University of Wisconsin Whitewater campus, offering his expertise in apologetics at the weekly Set Free Bible Study every Tuesday evening. He currently lives in East Troy, Wisconsin with his wife and nine children. Read Heath Henning's Testimony

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