If with God all things are possible, then without Him all things are permissible. Few materialistic sophisticates want to believe that there is no justice and everything is permissible. They don’t want to believe in moral anarchy so they create a “moral fiction.” Loyal D. Rue, a professor of religion and philosophy at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, is honest enough to admit, given his materialistic worldview, that “modern culture urgently needs a ‘noble lie’—a myth that links the moral teachings of religion with the scientific facts of life.” Without these “myths” (e.g., Jesus’ resurrection and the Ten Commandments) Rue contends “all that is left is nihilism, which considers life and the universe meaningless.” If nihilism is “all we have,” then we are left with what “is ultimately destructive,” a “monstrous truth.” Here’s the clincher:
The myths served as a framework for religious teachings that brought about man’s betterment, Rue says. Without their “integration of cosmology and morality”—of cosmic facts and idealism—people will deny fixed standards and do whatever they choose, splintering society.
Or, they might embrace the “totalitarian option,” which relies on government to force humans to behave, he said.
With Rue’s thesis in mind, consider the argument of Lee McAuliffe Rambo and her opposition to the Ten Commandment monument that was placed in the rotunda of the state Judicial Building in Montgomery, Alabama, by former Chief Justice Roy Moore. She claimed that “the idea that morality depends on religion is contradicted by the vast numbers of nonreligious people who behave morally—many to an admirable degree.” It’s certainly true that non-religious people have a moral code they follow. In Paul’s words, they “are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:14–15). Following Dr. Rue’s thesis considering his materialistic worldview, which Rambo cannot refute, Paul’s claim is mythological.
By This Standard
God's Law is Christianity's tool of dominion. This is where any discussion of God's law ultimately arrives: the issue of dominion. Ask yourself: Who is to rule on earth, Christ or Satan? Whose followers have the ethically acceptable tool of dominion, Christ's or Satan's? What is this tool of dominion, the Biblically revealed law of God, or the law of self-proclaimed autonomous man? Whose word is sovereign, God's or man's?Buy Now
How do Rambo and other “nonreligious people” know they are behaving morally? Where does morality fit in a universe that popped into existence from a cosmic egg with no outside design or purpose? How do public school teachers, mandated to teach an atheistic version of origins, account for morality given the materialistic and atheistic assumptions of evolution? They can’t.
In 1897, Oliver Wendell Holmes, then a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, understood the dilemma Darwin had created for the legal profession, and he welcomed it. The Darwinian worldview allowed him to become a judicial sovereign. He did this by making a distinction between morality and legality.
For my own part, I often doubt whether it would not be a gain if every word of moral significance could be banished from the law altogether, and other words adopted which should convey legal ideas uncolored by anything outside the law.
Of course, Holmes had to say this, because he believed there was nothing outside the law. Strictly speaking, a materialist cannot account for law, any law, since law does not exist in material form. Unlike a drop of blood, there is no law to be put under the microscope. Still, Holmes did not want to live in a world where moral anarchy was the accepted worldview. And without an objective moral law, how would anyone know the difference between anarchy and order and which one was the better option? Like Rambo and her nonreligious moralists, Holmes assumed an already existing body of law but never explains why it is law and what makes any of it right. (He would never describe “right” as a moral precept.) Holmes called for “an enlightened skepticism” toward existing law. That is, he believed that the law as it stands should always be open to inquiry. What standard did Holmes use to make his “enlightened” determination of the validity of standing law? He didn’t have one, and neither does Rambo. They both assume a moral universe, but they can’t account for it.
The Greek Way—No Way!
Rambo appeals to the morality of Socrates “who is considered the founder of ethics and one of the most upright people who ever lived. Yet, there is no evidence that he believed in a god who issued decrees.” Why did Rambo pick Socrates over Hitler? Why is the moral worldview of Socrates any more right than that of Stalin? Like most nonreligious moralists, Rambo picks and chooses what she believes is moral because it conforms to what she already believes. The question remains: How does one account for morality? Why is one kind of behavior right and another wrong? Socrates never figured it out.
How about a study of Greek and Roman natural law that was seen as a worthy answer and substitute for revealed law and contributed to the “reasonable” pursuit of slavery based on nature? “Aristotle justified slavery on the ground that it was in accord with nature. The stoic emperor, Marcus Aurelius, understood that ‘nothing is evil which is according to nature.’”
The Greek moralists believed reason was the best way to develop a moral worldview. So what was the net effect of reason? What we know of Socrates comes by way of Plato, one of his pupils. Plato believed that “becoming a slave was [not] simply a matter of bad luck; rather, in his view, nature creates a ‘slavish people’ lacking the mental capacity for virtue or culture, and fit only to serve. Because slaves have no souls, they have no ‘human rights,’ and masters can treat them as they will.” Who’s to disagree? On what grounds?
Aristotle’s cosmology (geocentrism) and ethical system (pro-slavery) had a deeply negative impact on the western worldview. “For example, the enslavement of native people during the early modern period was defended through Aristotelian teaching that barbarians are inherently inferior to civilized people and suited by nature to slavery.” Aristotle argued
that without slaves to do the labor, enlightened men would lack the time and energy to pursue virtue and wisdom. He additionally justified slavery by drawing upon Plato’s biological claims–slavery is justified because slaves are more akin to dumb brutes than to free men. Left on their own, slaves would be ruled solely by their appetites, causing endless civic harm.
Aristotle offered scientific reasons to justify slavery. Some people are just born that way: “From the hour of their birth, some are marked for subjection, others for rule.”
Aristotle’s argument was one of many used throughout history to defend slavery, including in the antebellum United States. American slaveholders incorporated much of Aristotle’s argument, claiming that:
• slavery was necessary for a leisured aristocracy;
• slavery benefitted the enslaved—so-called “planter paternalism;”
• slavery was justified because some people (black people, according to racist whites) were inherently less rational and intelligent.
Scholars have pointed out the natural law variety of slavery promoted by Aristotle and its impact on how Native Americans were treated:
Of all the ideas churned up during the early tumultuous years of American history, none had a more dramatic application than the attempts made to apply to the natives there the Aristotelian doctrine of natural slavery: that one part of mankind is set aside by nature to be slaves in the service of masters born for a life of virtue free of manual labour.
Without a transcendent law-giver (a personal God who reveals His will), how is it possible to argue against them? How does one prove that a person is not marked for subjection? Remember what Holmes wanted for the jurist: To “convey legal ideas uncolored by anything outside the law.” As Susanne Everett writes in History of Slavery, “It is an uncomfortable fact that the Greeks, from whom we derive so many of our intellectual and political ideals, were utterly dependent on slavery.” The same can be said about Rome.
It’s Law Because We Say It Is
Any change in the law is in the hands of those who control the law. If there is no God, then either man individually is a law unto himself (moral autonomy) or man corporately (statist oppression). In our case, it’s the courts. We have turned legal rights and wrongs—there is no morality—over to five members of the Supreme Court. In 1907 Supreme Court Justice Charles Evan Hughes said, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.”
Since the Constitution is the law of the land, it follows that the law is what the judges say it is. In Tropp v. Dulles, Judge Earl Warren stated that the Constitution must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Notice the oxymoron: “evolving standards.” If it’s a standard, how can it evolve? John W. Whitehead shows that
the presupposition of constitutionalism was implicitly refuted by Justice Felix Frankfurter when, in speaking of the Supreme Court justices, he said that “it is they who speak and not the Constitution.” Also the Supreme Court itself held in a 1958 decision: “Article VI of the Constitution makes the Constitution the ‘supreme Law of the land.’ … It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is…. It follows that the interpretation of the [Constitution] enunciated by this Court … is the supreme law of the land.”
Rambo concludes her article by stating, “Today, ethicists hold that folks both religious and secular can achieve the highest level of morality, doing what is right because it is intrinsically good.” Why should anyone follow what today’s ethicists hold to be moral? What does “intrinsically good” mean? How do we find this intrinsic good? Aristotle believed that slavery was an innate condition, and therefore intrinsically good. It was certainly good for those who owned slaves.
Culture 101: Christ is King Over All
Culture 101 is a much-needed primer on how to live out the Christian worldview. Jesus said to ‘do business’ until He returns, and that means living and working in the world. Christians are sometimes given the idea that only ‘spiritual’ pursuits are worthy of the true Christian, but this is a misguided view. The truly spiritual Christian will have great impact in all areas of life, including business, entertainment, and art.Buy Now
George W. Cornell, “Philosopher says a ‘noble lie’ is needed,’ The Huntsville (Alabama) Times (July 20, 1991), B3.
Cornell, “Philosopher says a ‘noble lie’ is needed,’ B3.
Lee McAuliffe Rambo, “Halt judge’s high-handed campaign to push religion,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution (July 24, 2003), A15.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Path of the Law, Harvard Law Review 10 (1897), 458. Quoted in Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2001), 212.
Rambo is wrong about Socrates and god. Socrates believed that he had a “divine mission” to teach his philosophy, maintaining that he was “that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places . . . am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you” (Plato, Apology, 30). At his trial, Socrates explained to the jury: “For know that the god commands me to do this, and I believe that no greater good ever came to pass in the city than my service to the god” (Apology, 30a). In The Dialogues of Plato, Plato has Socrates saying: “Men of Athens I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy….” (Most of this material was taken from Greg L. Bahnsen, “Socrates or Christ: The Reformation of Christian Apologetics,” Foundations of Christian Scholarship, ed. Gary North [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1976], 191–239).
Carl Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1932), 53.
Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 236.
Philip J. Sampson, 6 Modern Myths About Christianity and Western Civilization (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 96-97.
Stark, For the Glory of God, 237.
Aristotle, Politics (1.1254). Quoted in Stark, For the Glory of God, 327.
Dan Lowe, “Aristotle’s Defense of Slavery,” One-Thousand Word Philosophy (Sept. 10, 2019): https://1000wordphilosophy.com/2019/09/10/aristotles-defense-of-slavery/
Lewis Hanke, Aristotle and the American Indians (London: Hollis & Carter, 1959), 12–13.
Susanne Everett, History of Slavery (Edison, NJ: Chartwell Books, 1996), 15.
David J. Danelski and Joseph S. Tulchin, eds., The Autobiographical Notes of Charles Evans Hughes (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973), 143. Quoted in John W. Whitehead, The Second American Revolution (Elgin, IL: David C. Cook, 1982), 20.
Max Freedman, ed., Roosevelt and Frankfurter: Their Correspondence, 1928-1945 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967), 83. Quoted in Whitehead, Second American Revolution, 21.
Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1, 17–19 (1958). Quoted in Whitehead, Second American Revolution, 21.