Reasons to Believe

Thinking About Ethics Part 2

Why is it that many people think the most powerful argument in support of God’s existence is the moral argument?

Morality appears to be at the core of what it means to be a human being. Prescriptive morality, the inner obligation to follow the should and ought, makes people moral agents. The meaningful phenomenon of morality, however, needs an adequate source and explanation. The Christian theistic worldview grounds the existence of objective moral principles in God’s eternal ethical nature.

In the first article in this series I provided a definition to such key terms as ethics, morals, and values. Let’s continue reflecting upon the ethical sphere of life by defining three more terms used in the formal study of ethics.

Defining Key Ethical Terms

4. Immoral: Actions that are contrary to accepted moral standards.

According to Christian ethics, murder (to deliberately take the life of an innocent human being without just cause) is a reprehensible violation of moral law. The commandment, “You shall not murder,” (Exodus 20:13) is built upon the biblical truth that human beings are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). To engage in murder is not only to steal the life of another person, but also to commit a direct affront to God the Creator in whose image the person was made.

The prohibition against murder presupposes the value of human life. Christian ethics grounds the value of human life in God’s creative act, thus murder is highly immoral.

5. Nonmoral: Something considered outside the sphere of moral concern.

As a public speaker, I almost always wear a tie when I give a public address at a church or a school. I will sometimes forgo wearing a formal sports jacket but I find it difficult to part with the tie. When I spoke in some churches in Hawaii a couple of years ago I was the only person in the entire church wearing a tie.

My attachment to ties has to do with my view of respectful etiquette (proper social conduct) in an ecclesiastical and academic setting. However, whether a person wears a tie or not is outside the moral sphere. Etiquette, for the most part, is distinct from morality.

6. Amoral: An attitude of indifference or lack of concern for moral standards.

Sometimes criminals exhibit behavior that appears to reflect an indifference to basic moral concerns. Mental health professionals wrestle with trying to explain why certain people at times portray such a glaring lack of moral awareness and appreciation. Are such individuals mentally sick or morally evil?

The actions of the Nazi doctors at the Auschwitz death camp during World War II were clearly and disturbingly amoral.

As Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga states:

It is extremely difficult to be a normal human being and not think that some actions are wrong and some are right.

The Christian faith seeks to make sense of the moral sphere of life. Good and bad, right and wrong, are critical topics in the Christian vision of truth and reality.

Ensuing articles discuss “the five problems of ethics.”

For more on the study of ethics, see chapters 16 and 18 of my book Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions and chapters 1  and 11 of my book AWorld of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Subjects: Ethics

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that “all truth is God’s truth.” As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity’s truth-claims. Read more about Kenneth Samples.