Post Written by John Lepera –
The past president of Cornell University, Frank Rhodes, made the statement at a meeting of educators at Harvard University in 1987, “We need to pay real and sustained attention to students’ intellectual and moral well-being.” His progressive listeners were surprised by such a comment. He was challenged by a student with, “Who is going to do the instructing and whose morality are we going to follow?” The audience applauded, giving credence to the questioner’s possibly, unanswerable question. President Rhodes quietly sat down without a reply. Of course, little did these progressive minded students and educators realize that every instructor brings a pre-conceived set of values into the classroom. Are they just ignorant of this fact?
One of our politicians gave a speech where he said, “whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?” He was setting up a straw man situation, where attacking someone else’s viewpoint of Christianity is reason enough to prevent any teaching of Christianity in schools. The Bible can speak for itself; let it be studied without viewpoint discrimination, thank you very much. “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
The similarity between the student’s question and a politician’s statement regarding whose views should be taught shows how morality has suffered at the hands of anti-Christians and secular progressives. Subjective thinking and hedonism undermine objective morality, for there is no standard available. People will do what is right but only if it happens to be to their benefit. If right is pitted against personal feelings, guess what gets tossed aside. Subjectivism has left us with a society of unloved, used up, and discarded people. Jesus’ words of selfless agape love are lost on an adulterous generation.
Jesus approached ethics and life from a different point of view as witnessed in the Sermon on the Mount. He describes the truly blessed life as one grounded in faith, hope, and love; thus a life free from selfish, egotistical, and mindless pursuits. The Old Testament continually calls us to holiness and helpfulness for the disadvantaged. Even the Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, would be shocked at our subjective culture given our supposed progress of advanced learning and superior intellect. They too would see such subjectivism as a directive for disaster in our private and social lives. Aristotle wondered if humans could live up to their potential and experience a truly fulfilled life. Convinced that mankind had failed to understand ethics, he wrote, “To judge from the lives that men lead, most men seem to identify the good, or happiness, with pleasure: which is the reason why they love the life of enjoyment. The mass of mankind are evidently quite slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts.”
As Aristotle points out, most people think that happiness is whatever each person thinks it is, and that there are as many different notions of happiness as there are people, each of them equally right. That is what most people think.
But, Aristotle contends that there is only one true conception of happiness and that when it is truly conceived, it is the same for all people, whether they think so or not.
For example: consider Ebenezer Scrooge of The Christmas Carol. He thinks that happiness consists solely in accumulating and hoarding money. To achieve this end, he lives in isolation from other humans including his family, ruins his health, and does not take part in the daily life of his community. He is subject to constant concerns and worries. There Scrooge sits counting his money. Is he happy or miserable? Aristotle would say that Scrooge is a very miserable person; displaying a perfect type of human misery. He has frustrated many of his normal human cravings, and arrested his own emotional development. He has deprived himself of the good things of life that are priceless: health, knowledge, friendship and many other forms of blissful human activity in order to acquire more money. This money is not put to any good use, but is simply coveted. Between the ghost of Marley and the three spirits of Christmas, Scrooge is turned from his selfish ways. As we know, the true Spirit of Christ is what actually saves the Scrooges of the world from meaningless lives.
One of the more influential philosophers of the twentieth century is past Harvard professor and President of the American Philosophical Association, Hilary Putnam, who has consistently sought to find a middle ground between moral knowledge and relativism. He adopted a pragmatist-inspired position called direct realism, which aims to return the study of metaphysics to the way people actually and subjectively experience the world, rejecting the idea of sense data or mental representations between mind and world. In his The Many Faces of Realism, p. 79, he wrote:
We must come to see that there is no possibility of a ‘foundation’ for ethics, just as we have to see that there is no possibility of a ‘foundation’ for scientific knowledge, or for any other kind of knowledge.
This is the type of thinking born of a world outside of an ethics-giving God, a world grounded in Evolutionary theory. Without an ultimate, loving God providing a meaningful system of living, we are left with only subjective thinking. C.S. Lewis draws a comparison between subjective and objective ethics during WWII in his essay, “The Poison of Subjectivism,” in his Christian Reflections, p.73:
Thinks the reformer or the educational expert, “…Let us improve our morality.” Out of this apparently innocent idea comes the disease that will certainly end our species (and, in my view, damn our souls) if it is not crushed; the fatal superstition that men can create values, that a community can choose its “ideology” as men choose their clothes. Everyone is indignant when he hears the Germans define justice as that which is to the interest of the Third Reich. But it is not always remembered that this indignation is perfectly groundless if we ourselves regard morality as a subjective sentiment to be altered at will. …If “good” and “better” are terms deriving their sole meaning from the ideology of each people, then of course ideologies themselves cannot be better or worse than one another. Unless the measuring rod is independent of the things measured, we can do no measuring.
Back in the 1970s subjective ethics began to take hold in the US, especially in our school systems. The new “values clarification” programs spread throughout our educational systems, proving to be insufficient and inept in the development of moral character in our youth. By encouraging teachers to be value-neutral with ideas, they cultivated relativism and subjectivism in the thinking of young minds. The students were left with amoral ideas without any sense of right and wrong. Anything they do, if it can be justified in their minds, is allowable even if it hurts someone else. Why be sacrificial, respectful, or caring if there is no personal benefit? Society has attempted to suggest virtues like respect, trust, responsibility, and caring. Without an absolute moral foundation these measures are merely stop-gap, ad hoc social constructions aimed at circumventing the collapse of our culture.
Ponder this statement: “Your child belongs to us already… In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.” Though it may sound like a quote from the secular humanist, John Dewey, it is from the National Socialist German Workers’ Party leader, Adolph Hitler. The indoctrinated students of the mid 70s through the 90s who became teachers, are now teaching our children. How can they teach anything that is Biblically ethical if they have never been taught it?
We can see the outcome of our careless attention to the things of God. We have allowed society (through the training of the subsequent generations) to go along its own destructive path without our diligence in discipling all… teaching them all Jesus commanded.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [of God]. Because you have rejected knowledge,… I also will forget your children. Hosea 4:6
Therefore my people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge. Isaiah 5:13
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
But will subjective morality rule the day in the coming years? What will life for our children be like in twenty or thirty years? Will colleges turn out indoctrinated, “socialized,” automatons. Or, will we be encouraged to see them seeking to live in the image of God? The answer is: as the Spirit of Christ lives in us, so must we live our lives in Christ.
During his 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, William Faulkner stated, “I decline to accept the end of man… (mankind) has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” More than enduring, man will prevail against the tribulations and wrongs in the world because God has given us His Son and many have believed. We therefore refuse to accept the end of morality, the false teachings of evolution, the pro-abortion viewpoint, and the concept that all religions are the same.
We will turn the other cheek, but we will not stand idly by while our children are devoured by a secular and progressive society. Christians are granted the ability to vote in the U.S., and yet many vote for candidates who are pro-abortion, anti-Bible and prayer in schools, and anti-Biblical ethics.
That is, our values will not be consumed by the decadence of this age if Christians start living like Christians and not as secularized lemmings. We will triumph only when we raise the cross of Christ and carry out the Great Commission without fear. Speak it. Live it.