A couple of days ago, I was talking to a young man about relationships, marriage, sexual intimacy—that whole range of subjects. He was explaining to me how values and attitudes have changed a lot since I was his age and that now they are better. He was particularly confident that his peers, women and men, know how important it is to be sexually compatible within marriage and that the only way to find that out was to have sex with the people you date— but only if the relationship “has further potential”.
We talked about whether this approach has resulted in a higher percentage of happy marriages, better mental health, fewer cases of sexually transmitted diseases—overall, a stronger sense of general well-being.
There was an underlying assumption for his position in this conversation and we eventually got to it: Do Morals evolve, or are there some moral values that are constant?
A simple illustration
A man by the name of Harry Conn made a big impact on me when I attended the School of Evangelism in Lausanne, Switzerland. I can still remember so much of what he said, though it is now nearly 50 years further on. In one of his lectures, he said, “If I have a TV and I keep a heavy rubber mallet on top of it (these were the days before flat-screens), and each time I come into the room I pick up the mallet and gave it a good whack, what will happen? Probably sooner, rather than later, it will break down. It wasn’t designed to withstand being struck with a heavy object. No one should use a TV that way.” He went on to explain that we were not designed for sin and that the Bible has some similarities to an operator’s manual for human beings.
Sin is now a word that is used rarely, but the Bible clearly states that some things are always right, and others are always wrong, but many people don’t believe in right and wrong any more. However, whether or not we believe in right and wrong, I’m convinced that there are universal moral values and those who violate them suffer consequences—not always immediately, but sooner or later.
This is not because God likes to punish us, but because He knows how he made us and what will lead to happy, joyful lives. Those who live in a manner that is consistent with His design are much more likely to live joyful lives than those who live in ways for which we were not designed. I think there is a direct connection between our beliefs, our behaviour and the growth, especially amongst young people, of self-harm, depression, addiction, suicide attempts and so on.
God didn’t just create us and then leave us to get on with living; he also revealed Himself to us. The Bible can, in some ways, be thought of as a user’s manual for human beings. One of the scriptures I memorized those 50 years ago comes from the book of Ecclesiastes, where it explains that “Because sentence against an evil deed is not speedily executed, the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil.” In other words, when we have whacked our TV a couple of times and it still works, we think we can carry on that way. But any bad behaviour will eventually result in painful consequences.
We were made for transcendence
The next day after that conversation, I was reading a book that my wife, Marti, said was worth reading: God and Churchill by Sandys and Henley. I came across a very well written passage; the context was WWII and the battle with the Nazis.
“The initial fragmentation of revelation and reason occurred in the philosophy of ancient Greece, which the Nazis intermingled with their own world view. In the fifth century BC, Protagoras provided what would later become the mantra of scientism: Man is the measure of all things. What cannot be subjected to human reason is considered invalid. A major consequence of this philosophy is the limitation of wonder and awe to the observable, measurable world. Ultimately, it means that only that which exists on the scale of human reason can be worshipped. Anything that is transcendent is ruled out a priori.
So much of the Western world has moved away from the transcendent and the Scriptures upon which it was built. Much of this move away from faith in God occurred in the world of philosophy and then was multiplied through our educational system. It is safe to say that there is now only one accepted explanation for who we are: we are the product of eons of time and chance. No transcendence. And without it we have no hope.
There is another path
I am so grateful that, as a young man, I surrendered to my creator and began to take His instructions seriously. The life that has unfolded for me has been so blessed, happy, fruitful and saturated with a sense of meaning and significance.
All of us, but particularly young people should have the chance to hear and understand God’s Good News for every person. Each person has the potential to live “the good life” through meeting the One who designed them and will show them how to live well.
This is the only way to escape the painful path our Western cultures have taken in recent decades.