Essential attributes of moral law
Subjectivity. This occurs when a moral person has an idea developed in his mind that he views as his obligation toward a certain moral course of action. It is a law revealed within you by the conscience. The conscience dictates the action to take and the moral agent feels obliged to follow the dictates of that conscience. The moral agent becomes a “law unto himself.”
Objectivity. Moral law is a rule of duty declared by a supreme law giver which is outside ones self. This is a law declared and enforced by the will of God. It is distinct from our own ideas and thus is not subjective since it does not come from within us. Instead it comes from outside us or from God.
Liberty as opposed to necessity. Moral law is choice. The reasoning of the mind causes choices, ultimate intentions, which the moral agent ought to choose. It is not a law of necessity or force as in a physical law or it is not moral law. If God forces something upon us, it cannot be moral law since we don’t choose it, but God chooses it for us. It cannot be moral when the subject is not allowed to choose since there would no virtue in the choice, but we will expand on that later.
Fitness. Moral law must be suited to the nature and relations of a moral agent. It must be something that is possible for us to do or God could not hold us accountable for something that is impossible to do. The intrinsic value of God and the universe is the ground of moral law and the conditions of moral law are the nature and relations of moral agents. God holds us responsible because moral law is suited to us. It fits our nature. We can have the type of relations with others that the moral law describes. God has made our nature such that moral law is a natural part of that nature and the ability that we have to relate to others in a positive way which is part of that law.
Universality. All moral agents are bound by the same law throughout the universe, even God. We will see more in later discussions that God, even though He is the Creator, must abide by the moral law himself. That is what makes it the moral law; all moral agents are equally subject to moral law. Not even God is exempt, nor can he change moral law.
Impartiality. There are no exceptions, everyone is obligated to moral law no matter what their position in the universe and that includes God and angels. There is no one that is exempt from moral law. Allah is not exempt. Buddha is not exempt. Muhammad is not exempt. Moral law has no favorites and allows none to live without it.
Justice. It is moral law if it is just. Or, if it is just, it is moral. When Allah says that all Jews and Christians must die it is not just and therefore not moral. A religion that teaches that there is no death or hell has eliminated justice and therefore it is not moral. A religion that says that God can forgive by overlooking the sin and forgoing the punishment which the law requires is not moral. Justice requires that when a punishment is given the moral agent had the opportunity to make a choice that would have avoided the punishment. To punish a moral agent who is incapable of complying with moral law is not justice. Justice involves rewards and punishments based upon the obedience on one hand or the disobedience on the other. For a moral law to be truly just, there must be sanctions such as would compel the moral agent to make the right choice or suffer the consequences. Sanctions go to the very root of the essence and nature of moral law. If there are no sanctions there is no moral law. If there are no sanctions that obligate moral agents to take moral action, then it is nothing more than moral advice. Sanctions are what give the moral agent a motive to obey the precept. It can only be law when it promises rewards in proportion to the obedience and punishment in proportion to the disobedience. ”Moral law is a rule of action, founded in the nature and relations of moral beings, sustained by sanctions equal to the merit of obedience, and the guilt of disobedience.” – Finney.
Practicability. The precept must only demand something that is possible for the moral agent to do or it cannot be moral law. If moral law demands something that is impossible, then it is not a moral law. For God to demand that we fly like a bird when we are physically unable to do so, would be an example of demanding something that is not practicable. A moral law must be suited to the nature and relations of moral agents. God can demand of us only what we have the ability to perform.
Independence. Moral law is founded in the self-existent nature of God. It is part of God’s reason and a rule of conduct which God prescribes to Himself. Moral law is not founded in the will of God but in his nature. Moral law is a law that is obligatory upon God, was founded in his eternal, self-existent nature, and is the rule of action that God obligates himself to. As a law, the moral law is just as independent of the will of God as his own existence is. Moral law is obligatory on all moral agents independent of the will of God. In other words, God cannot break the moral law and we cannot object to the moral law because we object to the will of God. It would be moral law whether or not we were subject to the will of God. Moral law is self evidently obligatory upon moral beings including God and is not founded in either our will or that of God himself.
Immutability. Moral law cannot be changed, even by God. It never changes. Moral law requires a state of heart and a course of conduct that is suited to the nature and relations of the moral agent affected. Whatever your nature is, or whatever your capacity is, you are required to entire conformity to the moral law in accordance with your ability to understand and your ability to perform what is required and no more or less. That is why it can be required of God and of us and we are just as obligated as God is. God only has a greater nature and capacity to conform than we do. A child does not have the same ability as an adult. A sinner that has not had the Holy Spirit indwell him does not have the same ability as a believer with the Holy Spirit. The sinner, however, is able to believe because God has given him the capacity to understand that he is a sinner and that God has in love offered pardon. When our capacity is enlarged, then our obligation is enlarged. God never requires anything of us that is not possible because we have no capacity to obey.
The only capacity a sinner has is to obey the gospel and commit his life to Jesus Christ. God does not require any more. This happens when a sinner comes to know God. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) He does, however, hold a sinner responsible for failing what he has the ability to do, namely to repent of his sins. ”Whatever demands more or less than entire, universal, and constant conformity of heart and life, to the nature, capacity and relations of moral agents, be they what they may, is not, and cannot be, moral law.” – Finney. Even a mentally challenged person with a limited capacity is obligated according to his or her capacity and no more or less. Moral law holds one language and it never changes the spirit of what it requires. What is the language of moral law? “Thou shalt love,” or be perfectly benevolent, is the uniform and only demand of moral law. Every moral agent has the capacity to love to varying degrees according to their capacity to do so but they can love entirely within their own capacity to do so. The law of love, moral law, cannot be let down or altered.
Moral law is not a statute or an enactment founded in the will of any being but rather a law of nature which every being and even God imposes upon himself and us because it is suited to our nature and relations and therefore it is within our ability. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Moral law is natural for all of us, reasonable, and enforced by the authority of God. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)
The easiest way to define moral law is to know God, the true God. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19) To know Him is to love him and to love others as well. “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 John 4:16-21) “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7-12) “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20)
This is one thing that proves that Islam is a false religion. It teaches hatred toward others, even those related to you if they are considered “heretics.” Any so-called “god” like Allah which thinks that they can live without or alter the moral law, the law of love, is only proving that they are not a “god” at all. Moral law fits us, is suitable to us, and agrees with our nature. Love fits us, is suitable to us, and agrees with our nature. * (see below)
Unity. Moral law proposes only one end and scope of life for all moral agents, even God, and that end is love or benevolence. Moral law means the constant, perfect, and universal commitment of the whole being to the highest good of every living thing or to the good of being. The highest good that any living being can possibly have is to know God. It suits us, nothing else can or will and therefore it is the same for everyone. Any false religion or “god” such as Allah who teaches hate and murder rather than love is only exposing themselves to being willfully opposed to the very law which fits every human being and is part of the conscience of every man, even part of their own nature. It makes following a religion like that unnatural and definitely causes disunity of the human race. So many try to make Christianity the same as Islam, full of hate and terror. That is an impossibility because God is love and to know him is to know true love and to love your brother. If there are any that are called Christian that do not submit to the universal law of all moral beings then they are just as wrong as the religion of Islam. If it has no love it is not moral.
Equity. Equity is equality. The interest and well-being of every moral agent has value. Moral law demands that the interest and well-being of every moral being be treated with relatively equal value, and in no case should it be sacrificed or neglected unless forfeited by crime. It is not possible to have moral law where there is no equity. In the same way, moral law must require the same thing from every moral agent. A moral agent may, by trampling the law under his or her feet, be required to be made a public example where his own interests and well-being are put upon the altar, and be offered as public justice; therefore, he will be an example to others to prevent crime in them. This is why a murderer should face the death penalty, as an example of public justice and to be an example to prevent the crime of murder in others. Moral law may demand the sacrifice of innocent beings that will result in the greater good than what was sacrificed. This is true of Christ, the innocent Son of God who left heaven to sacrifice Himself for all mankind. The same can be said of many who sacrifice greatly to be in the ministry or go to a mission field or even fight for their country that the good of others may result as being of greater value than the sacrificed life itself. The language of moral law is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Nothing can be considered moral that does not hold to this very language. It is not moral law if it is not equal. It is not moral law if it discriminates. It is not moral law if it asks for the death of Jews and Christians. It is not moral law if God can will that some will be saved and that others will be lost as an arbitrary decision based only in His will and not in any relation to Moral law. Moral law respects the rights and interests of all. Moral law is not a special interest group but a majority of all members of the human race. Any philosophy that does not respect the rights of all beings as equal is not moral law. This is why special interest groups in politics are directly opposed to moral law. To be moral, the rights of all must be implied, not the rights of a select group.
Expediency. A verse in the Bible says, “All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient.” What the law says is always expedient. However, there are some things which are not law but are still not expedient. What this is saying is that there are some things that the law does not prohibit but they should be shunned in order to be beyond reproach. The Bible says, “Avoid all appearance of evil.” Some things may not be wrong in themselves, but because they appear somewhat “borderline” they are not expedient. It is better to be above reproach than to be legally right but still be on the borderline of being wrong. “That which is upon the whole most expedient is right, and that which is right is upon the whole expedient.” – Finney
Exclusiveness. This is to say that moral law is the only possible rule of moral obligation. It cannot be moral law unless it applies to everyone and there are no exceptions. There cannot be one moral law for Arabs and another for Chinese, and still another for Americans. That is because there is only one moral law and it applies to everyone in the universe equally. It also means that there is no other substitute. Moral law is the only law that respects the moral disposition of all moral agents. You can’t say I am an atheist so therefore I don’t need to use the word “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The atheist cannot have his own moral law and the Christian another. Moral law is the only law and it applies to the Christian, Islamic, or the atheist. Loving others is always for the good of the universe no matter what one’s belief system may dictate. Knowing God is always moral, even for the atheist because he is accepting that which makes all other moral agents responsible to moral sanctions, thus creating the highest end for every member of society. An atheist should want God in the pledge, not because he believes in God, but because society does and it will make all persons with whom he interacts with on a daily basis achieve their highest moral end which will make the life of the atheist far more fulfilled (though he can never really have true fulfillment without God). A blind man does not require that all persons who can see must wear black sunglasses which block the light of day from their eyes. To do so would be totally absurd and life for the blind man would become far more dangerous. He has adapted to life without light, but a seeing person would be dangerous if they could not function in a normal seeing world. In the same way, an atheist makes a big mistake in trying to force society to be “blind” as he is. The others in his own society depend totally upon God and for them to live without God would make it hell on earth for the atheist. It would be far better for him to allow each person to do what is morally right because the end result would be improved life for the atheist as well. That being said, the atheist is immoral because the greatest motive for living a moral life is the belief in God. Knowing God is something that is possible for every living being and it is a requirement of all moral beings, even an atheist. The only reason that the atheist wishes to live a life without God is that the atheist has a selfish basis for life and since his conscience condemns him every day, he wishes to remove the conscience which he associates with a belief in God. Every member of society, therefore, that believes in God is the enemy of the atheist since it means that that member has a desire to do as conscience dictates and there is no conscience that does not demand a belief in the One that has a right to govern all moral agents, even the atheist, namely God. So, for the atheist to declare that there is no God is really a declaration that the atheist needs not to be governed by a moral governor. He mistakenly thinks that he can be his own moral governor. If this is the case, the atheist must ask the question, “If I am a law unto myself with no need for a moral governor, does all of society benefit from this position and does it demand that every other moral agent in society live by the root of moral law, the law of love? Does it mean that I am living by the law of love? Is my position against a moral governor a position of disinterested benevolence? Or, as is really the case, is my position really one that is exclusive to me with no real thought of how it will affect the universe of moral agents? Is my position that there is no god a good position for God Himself? Does it bring joy and happiness to the moral governor to say that he does not exist?” Does it help God love all his creation when some of that creation says that they don’t believe that he is even alive?
Foot Note – a point has been made that if we were in a lesser mental capacity or any other lesser capacity that God would still require the same of us as he does with the capacity we have now. The problem with this assumption is that it makes moral obligation founded upon the will of God as if God could “will” that something in the moral law could become a precept and we would then obey based upon the will of God. However, as we have seen, moral law is a natural law that is a rule of conduct particularly suited to the nature and relations of moral agents. It means that primitive people in the dark jungles have a moral law but their nature and relations are far different from ours and thus God does not hold them to the same standard as he does those who have far more knowledge. I believe we make the words “moral law” too complicated. Remember, it is the law of love. It is knowing and loving God and loving our brother. All moral agents have the ability to love. Some, because the Bible says that people are morally depraved without God, assume that it is impossible for them to keep the moral law. We must comment, however, that no one is required to do more than they are able to do. Anyone can know God. A sinner cannot serve God in the same way that a Christian can who has the Holy Spirit because he does not know God. However, a sinner that comes to Jesus Christ can accept the gift of salvation; he can come to know God. That is the standard which fits his state of existence at that time. Coming to Christ is suited to the nature and relations of a sinner. He can do none else but come to God by faith and by doing so receive the Holy Spirit which will empower him to live as God intends for him to live by Bible principles. He can come to know God. He can then grow in his knowledge of God. God would never hold him to the same standard as a Christian who has been walking with God for 20 or 30 years. He has an obligation that is within the reach of every sinner in the world, to repent and come to Jesus as both Lord and Savior. He can come to know God. To look past what he is capable of at that stage of his life is not moral and it is not law. However, just because a sinner in a primitive jungle does not know about Jesus Christ does not mean that he is exempt from moral law since he can seek God and find Him. The Bible says that if people seek Him they will find Him when they have sought for him with all their heart. It says that He is not far from any one of us, even the heathen. So they are without excuse that do not seek to know God no matter what their capacity may be.
This reminds me of an illustration by a preacher that I had as pastor while I was inBibleCollege. He said that one day his teenage daughter came to him and asked if a teenager can be in love. He said yes but that he wanted to illustrate it to her. He then took two glasses out of the cabinet. One was large and the other was small. He filled them both up and then said that the smaller one represented a teenager and the larger one represented an adult. He said that they both were full, but that the capacity of the adult was greater than the teen because an adult is more mature, just like the one of the glasses was larger than the other. The small one was full as was the larger one, but they were different amounts of water. The reason is that one had a greater capacity and it could not be held to the same standard as the smaller even though both were full.
That is what we mean by saying that Mortal Law fits the nature and relations of all moral agents, even those that have not received Jesus as Lord and Savior. Their position in life makes them capable of only one thing, which is to repent and submit their whole life and future to Jesus Christ. The degree of their repentance or submission is in direct proportion to their nature and relations at the time. There is, however, no one that is not capable of giving all their heart, all their life, and all their future to Jesus Christ as Lord. Anyone can know God. The Holy Spirit stands willing and ready to guide any sinner to Jesus. It is the Spirit that draws men to Christ. No one can say that they don’t have the capacity to become a Christian since God provides even the faith that is necessary if a person will just accept their own death at the foot of the cross with Jesus and submit to His sovereign Lordship. Anyone can know God!
This is one reason why different translations of the Bible are ridiculous. The reason that they are made is to make an attempt to help people understand what they have no ability to understand because they have never become filled with the Holy Spirit. At that stage of their moral existence, God does not require that they understand the entire Bible, only that they repent and believe. They will understand the Bible when they come to know God. Jesus spoke to people in parables that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand less they should be converted. God wants people to start with the basics that their abilities will allow them to accept. The Bible is clear that says that we must become as little children. A little child has a smaller glass but they believe with all of that smaller heart. Adults think that they can come to God on an “entry level” because they are older and more mature but the truth is that they are not older in their spiritual understanding. Salvation is not a matter of intellect or understanding on a mental level, but it is a receiving of love on a spiritual level which is done by coming to know God. To do that every human being must come to God at the same level. This is why no matter what your intelligence or social status, you can understand it when God says, “Jesus died for you to show you God’s love.” Then all people that come to God are enabled to receive the uncreated life of the God of Heaven into their mortal bodies which is the highest privilege and end of any being in the universe. God’s moral law, the law of love, allows people to experience true happiness and fulfillment when they are complete as recipients of God’s love and Holy Spirit. That is when they come to really know God.