What is the most reliable way to determine whether a particular action or behavior should be required, permitted, or forbidden—in any form of government (self, family civil)?...
What is the most reliable way to determine whether a particular action or behavior should be required, permitted, or forbidden—in any form of government (self, family civil)? What should be used as a basis for morality?
An absolute standard would be ideal, for consistency’s sake, but where can humans find such a standard—one that transcends the mutable nature of human perception? Science as a study of the physical world lacks any intrinsic moral authority (as expressed in Hume’s “is-ought problem”). Logically, only a God—immutable and transcendent-- could overcome the limitations posed by the finite perceptions and fallibility of the human race. Revelation from such a God, in some tangible form, would be the only possible objective basis for any system of morality.
A standard that is rooted in such an absolute is the next best option, namely a divinely-instilled conscience. A conscience that is relied upon independently of divine revelation—and that can dulled or muted with repeated infraction—cannot be objectively verified to be in proper working order. Lastly, there is the possibility of an altogether relative standard. Relative standards are, of course, ever-shifting for they are conditioned upon variables that are inconstant. Feelings, instinct, intuition, reason, and pragmatism fall into this category—all primarily dictated by human will and desire.
Increasing numbers of people in the 21st century reject the all notions of God, divine revelation, and/or a divinely instilled conscience, therefore—logically—these individuals lack an objective basis for their values. Many of these individuals mistakenly believe that the consensus of mainstream scientists serves as a sufficient basis for informing societal values (again, see Hume’s “is-ought problem”). Because these faulty philosophies are currently overtaking the west, we are battling the emergence of rights that cannot reasonably be defended as absolute and inalienable. We are battling the emergence of rights that are granted merely on the basis of emotional pleading, manipulation, and pragmatism. These rights are built on shifting sand—on the emotions and perceptions of a-theists (those without Theism, including agnostics, cosmic humanists, etc.). And, if these atheists continue to gain in power and influence, our civilization will witness the corrupting influence of a very literal lawlessness.
Our government will still be able to churn out laws of course, rules to govern the behavior of its citizens. But, in the absence of an absolute standard, these laws will lack substantial mooring. After all, a fading political document such as a national constitution, no matter its content, cannot hope to withstand the collective desire of its own citizens, should that desire turn against it. A nation that becomes antagonistic towards its founding principles—as America has—cannot be expected to continually subject themselves to those principles. Eventually, new laws will come and the constitution will be amended to suit the prevailing national ethos (that or an entirely new system of government will be established). There is no national stability apart from a nation’s voluntary subjection to an immutable, transcendent God. This, of course, describes the state of America today. Thankfully, a sovereign God such as the God of the Bible has the power to turn the hearts of men. He is moved by the cries of his people and is full of mercy. May these truths color the prayers of the Church today and may God be pleased to answer us favorably.