Now we come to perhaps my favorite subject in this whole discourse since it divides truth from error in a way no other truth can do. In order to give the reader a preview of what we are about to discuss, I will state the points that we will cover here:
- Define the foundation or ground of moral obligation, the ultimate motive.
- Show the distinction between the foundation and the conditions needed for a moral choice to be made.
- Compare various theories and show where there is agreement between them.
- Show where various theories disagree.
- Show the absurdity of various theories.
- Point out the resultant tendency of various theories as they work out in practice.
Define the foundation or ground of moral obligation.
First, we need to say that the terms “ground” and “foundation” are synonymous. For a moral being to consider his obligation to do a thing there must be a good or sufficient reason for the choice that he is about to make. We should never forget that when we are speaking about moral obligation we are talking about moral action. As we have stated, for something to be considered moral action, we know that it involves voluntary action which means that a moral being is making choices. We should also remember that even in this area the purest definition of moral obligation relates to the ultimate intention of the moral being. Further, when we speak of the ultimate intention, we are speaking of choosing a thing for its own sake, in other words for the intrinsic value of the object and excluding what is not intrinsic in the object. Thus, every object of ultimate choice has a quality within itself that causes the moral being to make a choice. Thus, the nature of this quality that causes a moral choice is that the ultimate choice has intrinsic value in its own existence and not by virtue of any relationships associated with this ultimate choice.
So now we come to the foundation of moral obligation. The foundation of moral obligation is the reason why any moral object should be chosen for its own sake. An example of this is that Agape Love, sacrificial love, is a universal duty because Agape Love is defined as sacrificial love; this sacrificial love values the object of the affection more than any interest or reward given to the one who loves. Sacrificial love sees a person that is hungry and feeds them because of the value of the person and the resulting benefit to that person when he or she is fed. Sacrificial love means that a person who loves may actually receive mistreatment from the one being loved because the one doing the loving sees value in the object of love that transcends the abuse they receive. In short, the one doing the loving sees the ultimate end that can be attained when the one that is loved has been positively influenced by certain actions of love. These actions, in the mind of the one doing the loving, will result in a positive result that benefits only the object and not necessarily the one who is doing the loving. To put it another way, “I am doing this for your sake and what it will ultimately mean to your life, not because I will receive any reward or benefit from this action.” There is a court case where the husband claims that he desires for his wife to starve to death because it is “her wishes” not to be fed by tubes. The problem with this is that he is not making a choice based upon sacrificial love which would see the intrinsic value of a life as of more value than his will, her will, the will of the court, the will of the judge or of any other person alive. True sacrificial love would be when the husband sacrificed his own wishes and even what he perceives to be her wishes (which are questionable and since she cannot be questioned in her condition one must go by what is moral and what is the intrinsic value of her life) in order to allow the wife to be loved and cared for by her family.
Show the distinction between the foundation and the conditions needed for a moral choice to be made.
We said previously that the conditions of obligation are basically moral agency (conscience), free will, and light (comprehension of moral value). I must say that these conditions do not exist until a person comes to know God and when that happens they see the whole world from a different point of view.
The Bible says, James 4:17”Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
The Bible also says, 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (15) But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”
We can see that by definition of the Bible a person that does not have the Holy Spirit will not have one of the conditions of moral obligation fully developed, the knowledge that comes to a person by way of “light” or comprehension of the Holy Spirit. That “light” only comes when a person comes to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Every moral being does, however, have a conscience and a will to choose. They also have enough light to understand from their conscience that they are moral beings and that they are sinners. A sinner is held accountable for keeping the moral law because he may at any time choose to call upon the Lord, at which time he will receive the Holy Spirit which will give life to that inner light and restore it to the condition it was before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. He will then know the Lord.
There is no greater motive in the entire world than coming to know the Lord. “And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19) From now on through this whole book when we discuss the best end for God and the Universe, we are also making the obvious assumption that one would never desire that best end without coming to know God through Jesus Christ. Also, when we discuss disinterested benevolence as the end as opposed to self-gratification we are also stating that no one would ever desire disinterested benevolence were it not for the love of God that was shed abroad to us through Jesus Christ. So we are stating that knowing God and disinterested benevolence are one and the same and anything that comes short of disinterested benevolence, even the theories which we reject are merely showing that a person does not really know God or they could never make an attempt at a substitute for the true purpose in the moral law, the best end which comes from knowing God.
Compare various theories and show where there is agreement between them.
Without going into quotes or discussions of the various theories and their intricacies, these points are where there is general agreement, whether stated or implied between various philosophical and theological theories regarding moral law and its various components. They agree in the following ways:
- In the strictest sense, moral obligation is extended to moral actions only.
- Involuntary states of mind, strictly speaking, are not considered moral actions.
- That moral actions are understood to be defined as intentions.
- That ultimate intentions are the most strict definition for moral actions.
- That the choice of an object for its own sake or for its own intrinsic value and not for any relations to the object is the true definition of ultimate intention.
- That their definition of the ground or foundation of moral obligation is the thing that causes one to make a choice of the intrinsic value of the object for its own sake.
- That while ultimate intention is what constitutes moral obligation, yet in another way the choice of the conditions and means of securing an intrinsically valuable end and the executive acts that are put forth in securing the best ultimate end are also included in the concept of moral obligation.
- That there are different forms of obligation, namely the obligation of making ultimate choices, the obligation of deciding on the conditions and means to make those choices, and the obligation to put forth executive acts that result in the ultimate choices.
- That there are various conditions of obligation.
- That a condition is a condition, not the ground of obligation. An example of the difference is the fact that being susceptible to the concept of happiness is a condition that would enable one to will or endeavor to promote the happiness of that being. On the other hand the value of the happiness to the individual would be the foundation or ground of the moral obligation to promote that being’s happiness. Just because a person is susceptible of happiness is not the ground of our decision to choose the happiness of that individual. If that were the case, susceptibility to pain and sorrow would also be a ground to choose pain and sorrow for the individual. The difference is that the intrinsic value of happiness far outweighs the intrinsic value of pain and sorrow.
- That different forms of obligation have different conditions.
- That conditions, means, and executive acts are conditions only when there is knowledge that these are conditions and that any executive acts are possible, necessary, and useful.
- That anything can be a condition that is not a ground of obligation.
- That the well being of God and of the universe are intrinsically valuable and moral beings should choose that fact for its own sake. They should choose to know God.
- That complete uninterrupted universal commitment to this end is the duty of all moral beings.
- That this may also be defined as disinterested benevolence or Agape Love. It is what knowing God is all about. God is love.
- That this commitment to the best end of God and of the universe is demanded by the law of God as Jesus said in the two commandments that include all other laws, namely loving God with heart, soul and mind, and loving ones neighbor as themselves. Another way of putting it is to come to know God because to know him is to love Him. This, they all would agree, is compliance with the spirit of the law of God and of the moral law.
- That there is no circumstance where one could fail to say that this is always right, it is duty, and without this compliance with the spirit of the moral law no real obligation can exist.
- That the reasoning of any moral agent and any revelation that a moral agent receives outside himself would conclude that the law of benevolence (agape love) is the law of right, the law of nature and that without this principle any attempt to define a moral law would fall far short of the reality of this great truth.
- That holiness, another way to define obedience to moral law (we have defined it as disinterested benevolence or agape love, knowing God) is a natural and necessary condition of the intrinsic good that is the ultimate blessedness of moral agents. No moral agent can get what is best for him or the universe without knowing God.
- That this is a sufficient reason that this end should be chosen and it ought to be chosen for that reason.
- That the ground of the obligation of all moral agents to chose holiness and to promote it in others as a condition of the highest well-being of the whole universe, is the intrinsic nature of that good or well-being. The relationship of holiness to this end is a condition of the obligation to choose this as a means to this end. Knowing God is being holy.
- That truth and conforming heart and life to all known and practical truths are conditions of the highest end which is the good of being; that highest end is knowing God. The good of being is knowing God.
- Consequently the obligation to conform to all known and practical truths is universal because the relationship to the highest good relates to these known and practical truths.
- That the intrinsic value of the good that results from moral choices is the only ground of obligation and the relation of truth is only a condition of this ground.
- That God’s wants the highest well-being of him and of the entire universe so that all his acts, his dispensations, his supreme ultimate object, and any and all things that relate to God and his actions are totally for the promotion of this end. That highest well-being of God is for all to know him.
- That what God does should also be done by all moral agents and, in fact, this is the whole duty of not only God, but of all moral agents in the whole universe. God loves and we should love. God wants all to know Him and we should want all to know Him.
- That the intrinsic value of the end that is in view, i.e. the highest good of God and of the whole universe of moral agents, knowing God, is the only true ground of obligation so that moral agents must choose this end, promote this end and that for its own sake alone. There is no greater end to be promoted than that of knowing God.
- That the intention, or can we say the consecration of moral agents to the intrinsically and infinitely valuable end of the good of God, knowing God, and of the universe is what we would define as virtue, or holiness not only in God, but also in all moral beings of the universe that know God.
- That God is perfectly, infinitely, and equally holy in everything that he does because of the fact that God is eternally promoting the highest good in His universe of moral beings. God only wants the best for us. That is why he wants us to know Him. He knows what we need more than we do. His purposes are never to harm or in any way limit what is best, but rather to promote the very best that can be ours as moral creatures.
- That when you look at every attribute of God, every one of them stems from the root of his love, his disinterested benevolence toward his moral creatures. That is why knowing God is the ultimate happiness.
- That God’s creation, God’s government, the laws of the Bible and the Gospel of salvation, and even the inflicting of what are defined as penal sanctions are not in any way self motivated, but they are solely for the purpose of promoting the very best, the highest good, which includes knowing God.
- That God’s one ultimate end, His one object of choice which means his one ground of obligation which He imposes upon Himself is the ultimate good of all, the good of universal being. That good is only found when all men know Him, the lover of their souls.
- That God requires in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible that the Moral agents in all history choose the same end as God chooses, knowing Him which is the universal good of being and that this should be the ultimate reason for all that they do.
- These facts result in the consequent conclusion that all our obligations revolve around the obligation for us to choose the highest good to God, or to know God, and also the highest good of being which includes all known conditions and means of obtaining this ultimate end, knowing God.
- That the intrinsic value of what we are saying here is the ground of moral obligation both for God and also for all moral agents in every part of the universe. The whole universe is better off if they know God.
- That because this end has so much value to God and also to the universe, God made it fit or right that He should require moral agents to choose it for its own sake. There is no morality outside of knowing God the choice to know God is the best choice any living being can make; it is the sum total of moral law.
- That the intrinsic value as we have defined it, knowing God, not an arbitrary sovereignty where God makes demands and wills things for his own reasons as we see in so many false cults and religions of the world, is God’s reason for requiring every living being who is a moral agent to choose this end because it has so much value. There is nothing greater in the universe than knowing God and to choose that end is choosing the very best end for God and for the universe. Every living being is better off knowing the author of life and happiness, joy and peace, God, the creator of all things.
- That there is so much value in choosing the highest good of both God and the universe, knowing God, that even if God did not require moral agents to choose this ultimate end, moral agents should still choose this as the ultimate end to the point that were it possible that God did not require this end or that he forbid this end, we should still choose the best end of all the universe and of God since that is the highest good of being. It would still be best for us to know God. There is no better choice.
We can see from all the points that have been made above and by a universal law of reason that disinterested benevolence is not only necessary but that it is a universal duty of all living moral beings. We are saying that the end, the goal of life should be the highest good of being for all moral agents including God and that every moral agent should consecrate themselves to this end as the goal of life. The goal of knowing God is the highest good for both God and us. This has so much intrinsic value that all moral agents are obligated, whether God commands it or not, to make this their ultimate end, to consecrate their whole beings without any interruption to this very goal.
All would agree that when we talk about moral character we are talking about ultimate intentions so that a man’s character is defined by his motives in life. When one asks how someone defines virtue, the only answer can be consecration of the life to the right end, the same end to which God is consecrated. It always amazes me that people rebel against God as if God wants some disastrous end that would make them unhappy and miserable. On the contrary, God’s whole being and purpose is the promotion of the highest good of being of every man, woman and child in his universe. That is why knowing God is best for all. Moral beings have every reason to have the same ultimate end that God does, wanting the very best ultimate goal for the good of being. Who would not want this end? Yes, it is a duty, but why would any moral being want anything else but the best ultimate end for all? Yet this ultimate end cannot be had without knowing God and choosing this end is choosing the best end for God and the universe.
With these facts in mind, let’s look at some conflicting inconsistent theories regarding the ground of obligation.
Show where various theories disagree.
The sovereign will of God as the ground of obligation.
Those that hold to this theory claim that the will of God is sovereign and that because God’s will is sovereign it creates the ground of obligation, not just reveals or enforces it.
Now remember, that the moral law consists in voluntary action which is chosen for its ultimate end, the good of being and the intrinsic nature and value of the good of being causes moral beings to choose this end for its own sake. We choose knowing God because to do so is to know love and to have life eternal, the best end for all. We also know that even if God did not require that we make such a choice or even if God said that we should not make such a choice, we would be duty bound to make that choice as the only possible moral choice that a moral being can make since it promotes the highest good of all.
So when one speaks of the will of God as the foundation of obligation they must ask the question, Obligation to do what? What is it that God is willing his moral beings to do? He wills that we love God and our neighbor, of course. He wants us to know Him and his love. Another way of saying it is that God wills that we choose the highest good. But does the will of God create this obligation? Would we be under an obligation to will the highest good if God did not command it? Should the good of being, knowing God, be our ultimate choice not because of the intrinsic value to God and the universe, but merely because God commanded or willed it? We should see that knowing Him has value because of who He is not just because he commanded it.
However, I am glad you asked! The answer is quite obvious. Why should we say that disinterested benevolence is the universal duty of all and then say that the will of God is the ground of obligation? Why would we hold that the highest good of being should be chosen because of its intrinsic value or for its own sake, knowing God, which makes it the ground or motive for obligation and then say that the will of God is the ground of our obligation to obey the moral law?
Let’s think about this for a moment. If the will of God is the foundation of obligation or the motive of life, then disinterested benevolence or agape love is sin. If the will of God creates, not merely reveals, the ultimate end chosen, as we have seen for its own sake, namely the highest good of both God and of the universe in general, knowing God, then the will of God, not the interest and well being of God and of the universe, knowing God, should be chosen as the ultimate goal of life. That would mean that God is consecrated to his own will, not to the highest good of his creatures, knowing Him. This would mean that benevolence or agape love in God and in all other beings would be a sin since knowing Him is to love him and only obeying because it is his will would eliminate knowing God and loving him. I truly believe that this is why so many atheists and agnostics reject the notion of God. They have been told that the will of God is the foundation of obligation and their thinking is this; what if God wills something that is not best for me and for the universe as a whole. No rational intellectual person would welcome the will of God under these circumstances. This would make benevolence which is sacrificial love (agape love) a sin. It would be requiring one to follow a God that they could not get to know and love. Who does not perceive that the arbitrary will of a sovereign God that is placed above the highest good of being or of the universe of moral beings places the will of God above the best ultimate end which is the highest well-being of the universe, knowing God?
Remember that moral obligation means ultimate intentions, the choice of an ultimate end, knowing God. The foundation of this obligation or the reason that this is chosen is what makes it our obligation to choose it. There is no other greater motive than that of knowing God and getting to know Him better every day. This reason to choose an end is the ultimate end must be right or we can’t say that a true end was chosen. Nothing is more right than knowing God. The reason a goal was chosen and the end must be identical or it is not the ground of obligation.
So, if the will of God is the foundation of obligation, it must be the ultimate end or goal of choice.
This is impossible. One cannot look at the will of God without wondering what the ultimate end or intention of that will is. When you talk about the will of God you can’t get away from the fact that there must be an ultimate end which is chosen for its intrinsic value or God would not will that the particular goal should be chosen. So when we say that the will of God is the ground we are saying that I should choose his willing as the ultimate end or ground of obligation. Does God really want us to choose His willing as our ultimate end? That would be willing His willing. That would be a contradiction. Moral law cannot be based upon our intentions and the will of God at the same time. This would be absurd. You can’t say moral law respects intentions and the will of God both at the same time. God can’t will our willing any more than he can will His willing as the end of obligation. Willing is never an end. God can’t will our willing any more than we can will His willing. There must be some other end or God could not will an end. Thus the will of God cannot be the foundation of obligation. He chooses something for a reason other than it is His will so our ground of obligation cannot be his will but the reason that he made the choice which is the goal he had in view which must be the intrinsic value of the good of being. So let’s review the first two points and then add others:
- If the will of God were the foundation of obligation, then agape love or disinterested benevolence is a sin, and knowing God that creates agape love is sin.
- If the will of God is the foundation of obligation, then God is requiring moral agents to choose his will as the foundation while he chooses for the ultimate end, the intrinsic value of the good of being, which would be absurd.
- If the will of God is the foundation of obligation, then God could change the nature of virtue or vice any time He wanted to do so just by willing something else. This is why I reject every false religion because they have a false concept of who God is and of the foundation of obligation. Allah, for example, has his will as the only foundation of obligation. This explains why the suicide bombers can attack the World Trade Center and any other unsuspecting target in the world, cause extreme pain and anguish and the bomber thinks with all his heart that he will go to paradise simply because the will of Allah made what he did to be right. Remember, the definition of the foundation of obligation says that even if God was to will that the intrinsic value of the good of being which would say that the intrinsic value of the lives of those in the World Trade Center were of no value, a moral agent would be required to choose the good of being over a will of a “god” that placed no value in the lives of those who they killed.
- If the will of God were the foundation of moral obligation then not only can God change the nature of virtue and vice by simply willing it, but he has a right to do so. This is because if there is nothing beyond God’s will for the choices that God makes then God can make good evil and evil good simply because he wills it to be so. This must be the thinking of many who reject the notion of God. They must think of God as a cruel tyrant that wills contrary to the good of being simply because it is his sovereign will. This means that the will of God is what creates right and wrong, not the good of being, simply and only because He wills it to be so.
- If the will of God is the foundation of moral obligation then we have no standard by which we can judge the actions of God and there is no standard for the praise worthiness or blame worthiness of God. With this logic, if God were a tyrant who required his creatures to be selfish and not benevolent, to kill and not love, to torture and not heal, he would be just as virtuous as a kind loving God that cared for the welfare of His creatures simply because he willed it to be so. Namely, God could be a sadistic maniac and as long as it were His will, He would be right.
- If the will of God is the foundation of moral obligation, then God has no standard by which he can judge his own character and he has no rule other than his own will by which he can compare his actions to ascertain the vice or virtue of them.
- If the will of God is the foundation of moral obligation then he himself is not the subject of moral obligation, but rather,
- If God is not a subject of moral obligation Himself, then that means that God has no moral character since virtue and vice are merely conformity or non-conformity to moral obligation. While it is true that the will of God, as expressed in his law, is the rule of duty to moral agents, and that law marks out a path of duty, yet the fundamental reason why moral agents ought to act in conformity to the will of God is plainly not the will of God itself. The best end that even God desires of all moral agents is for us to know Him, the best end.
- The will of no being can be law. The moral law is something found in the reason of the divine purpose not in the will of any being in the universe. If the will of any being were the law or the basis for a law, then that being could not be wrong by any stretch of the imagination. He or she would be right simply because he or she willed it to be so. That would be absurd and it would be a travesty of justice.
- Let’s see what the divine revelation of God says. Isaiah 8:20 ”To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
The law of God is the moral law. As such it requires that God be loved with all the heart and that our neighbor be loved as ourselves. That always happens when someone comes to know God and his love. All would agree that the love here mentioned is not mere emotion but it consists in a choosing or willing, it means intention or the choice of something for its intrinsic value or in the choice of an ultimate end. So what is this end? What is it that we are to choose for its own intrinsic value? Is it the will or command of God? Should we will that God should will that we will? What is more absurd than this? What is more contradictory? When we are commanded to love God and our neighbor what else could it be but to love the highest good or well being of both God and our neighbor? How could we love God unless we come to know Him and knowing him is what causes us to love and obey Him? Now that would be intrinsically valuable. When one looks at it this way, this must be the end and there can be no other end. There can be no philosophy that makes anything else the foundation of moral obligation besides knowing God.
You may ask, then, why are we conscious of obeying the will of God without any other reference than that it is the will of God? This, some say, proves that the will of God is the foundation of obligation. We can reply that no one has said that we should not obey the will of God but only that the will of God cannot be the foundation of obligation for the reasons stated. We want to obey His will because we know Him. I am sure that there are many who read this that thought that the foundation of their obligation was the will of an arbitrary God willing only because it was his will. What a relief it must be to think that God only wants the best for all his creatures and that the foundation of our obligation of moral law is to have the same goal as God which is to know Him and his love.
Let’s look at an example. God wants me to labor and pray for the salvation of lost souls or some other thing. I regard what he commands me to do as my obligation to God as a Christian. I do it because I know Him and He is the best thing that has ever happened to me and I want that blessing for others as well. I don’t consider it an arbitrary requirement but only the means of securing the end which is the highest good of being which I choose because of its intrinsic value. I want others to know him too. Because I consider the commandment of God to be wise and benevolent or loving, and only because I see it to be so, I consider it my obligation to obey Him. If God would command me to do something that in my reasoning I would see to be of no intrinsic value I would feel no compulsion to obey Him. If God would command me to do something that I considered to be unwise or malevolent, I, as a moral being, would feel it impossible to feel obliged to obey Him. This proves that our reasoning does not regard His commands as the foundation of our obligation to obey him. It also shows why so many reject God. They don’t know that his will is not the foundation of obligation. They feel uncomfortable obeying the will of someone that they don’t know. It also shows why false religions such as Islam are so heinous. Their God never gets to know any of his subjects except his prophet and that only through an angel. There is no getting to know Allah. They base their religion completely on the arbitrary will of a despotic fake “wanabee” god that is really an impostor trying to usurp the position of the true and living God who is a God of love and compassion. Allah does not want anyone to know him because if they did they would find out that he is really Satan posing as a “god.” God, on the other hand, wants all men to know Him. He is a personal God.
If the will of God were the foundation of obligation, he might ask me to do things that are diametrically opposed to all that I hold dear and true. God might ask me to be the enemy of all good and that I should be under obligation to obey him in something that makes my mind and heart revolt against for its absurdity. So we can see that if the foundation of obligation is the good of being and the intrinsic value of this end, or knowing God, then the will of God can never be the foundation of moral obligation. Arbitrary willing by anyone, God, you, me, or anyone else in the universe can never be the basis or foundation of moral obligation. That is why our society is co weak today, because we have lost our compass and we have lost it mostly from the facts as we have disclosed here. They see God as someone who arbitrarily wills his subjects to do what they don’t understand and not as a God who wants us to know Him.
When we examine this false theory of the foundation of obligation we can see why certain religions are false, because they make the foundation of obligation either the will of God or the will of the individual. Let’s look at some of them:
- Christianity is the only one that makes the foundation of obligation the intrinsic value of good to God and our neighbor the foundation which is described in the Bible as knowing God.
- Mormonism makes the foundation of obligation the Book of Mormon and the will of the believer in their religion, they change the truth of God so you can’t know Him personally. They make Jesus a mere man. Who could know God through a mere man? They even become “gods” which is proof that they have a high level of self-gratification as their intrinsic value.
- Spiritism makes the will of man the foundation of obligation as in the next theory, that of Paley.
- Christian Science makes the will of man the foundation of obligation as in the next theory.
- The Jehovah’s witness make the will of Jehovah the foundation of obligation, and since they also claim Jesus Christ as a man, they cannot know God since knowing Jesus is equivalent to knowing the father. Thus they are not keeping the moral law.
- The Unity Religion makes the will of man the foundation of obligation.
- Theosophy makes the will of man the foundation of obligation.
- Baha’ism makes the writings of Bahaullah the foundation of obligation.
- Zen Buddhism makes the will of man and the writings of Buddha the foundation of obligation.
- Rosicrucianism makes the will of man the foundation of obligation.
- Sweden Borgianism makes the writings of their leader, Emanuel Swedenborg the foundation of obligation.
- Catholicism makes the will of the church and the writings of the Holy Fathers the foundation of obligation.
- Humanism makes the will of man the foundation of obligation.
- Unitarianism makes the will of man the foundation of obligation.
- Islam makes the will of Allah the foundation of obligation.
- Liberalism makes the will of the minority the foundation of obligation.
- Scientology makes self the intrinsic value and they really have no definition for God nor a name for God so they have no idea who God is which is why they break the moral law.
Generally speaking all false religions either have the imposing will of a false “wannabe” god as the foundation of obligation or they have the will of the individual as the foundation of obligation. This makes Christianity the only religion in the world that gets it right, knowing the one true God, disinterested benevolence which comes from God’s love.
A second theory, Paley’s theory that self-interest is the foundation of moral obligation.
- If self-interest is the ground of obligation it would mean that self-interest is chosen for its own sake. That would mean the way to be virtuous I must choose my own interest as the supreme good. That would mean that disinterested benevolence or agape love is a sin; it would mean that knowing God is sin. It means that to live for God and for the good of the universe is not right. Loving your brother would also be sin. It means that anyone that does so is not devoted to the right end. It means that the end for which we should all live is self-interest. It says that selfishness is virtue and benevolence is vice. The two are directly opposite theories. Getting a wrong view of this is not a trifle; it could mean the eternal destiny of the soul of anyone reading this thesis. If Dr. Paley is right then anyone that believes in benevolent sacrificial love is fundamentally wrong and knowing God is the way to judgment.
- Anyone who has this hypothesis is saying that I am to treat my own interests as the supreme value of my life even when it is infinitely less valuable than the interests of God. That means that I am under moral obligation to prefer a lesser value, self-interest, than a supremely greater value, love of God and others by knowing God. This is the mind set of every sinner that lives on earth or is cast into hell.
- This theory imposes on any who hold it the moral obligation to choose contrary to the nature and relations of moral beings and thus contrary to moral law. How absurd.
If this is the correct foundation of obligation then the Bible should say, “thou shalt love thyself supremely, and God and thy neighbor not at all.” Unfortunately that is what so many in our generation have as their foundation of moral obligation. That is also why they are going to hell when they die. The reason is that Dr. Paley holds that the only reason for someone under this theory to do a thing is purely from the standpoint of self-interest. If this theory is true then I am obligated to love myself alone and that I am never doing my duty when I love God or my neighbor. He says, it is the utility of any rule alone which constitutes the obligation of it. (Paley’s Moral Philos., book ii. chap. 6.) Again he says, “And let it be asked why I am obliged, (obligated) to keep my word? and the answer will be, Because I am urged to do so by a violent motive, namely, the expectation of being after this life rewarded if I do so, or punished if I do not.”-(Paley’s Moral Philos., book ii. chap. 3.) Thus it would seem that it is the utility of a rule “to me” only that constitutes the ground of obligation to obey it. If this is the case then we can say that we are only under obligation to love ourselves alone and we are never doing our duty when we love God or our neighbor. Does this sound like the way our world thinks?
Dr. Paley definitely maintains that self-interest is the ground of moral obligation. If that be the case, then moral law should read this way, “Thou shalt love thyself as an end, and God and your neighbor as a means of promoting your own self interest.” Unfortunately, we even have Christians today that have this as the foundation of their very lives.
- If Paley’s theory is true, we should alter all the precepts of the Bible to read like this, “Whatever you do, do it heartily unto yourself” instead of Whatever you do, do it heartily unto the Lord.” Instead of, “Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God,” it should rather read, “Do all to secure your own interest.” Some may say do all to the glory of God to secure your own interest. What a contradiction. Doing all for the glory of God is one thing but to do it to secure my own interest is to make my own self-interests the end or foundation of obligation. How many so-called Christians have this as their foundation? Many of them will be in hell instead of heaven.
- Let’s look at this theory as it relates to the verses in the Bible regarding salvation. “Except a man forsake all that he hath he cannot be my disciple.” If Paley’s theory is true, that verse should read; “Except a man make his own interest the supreme end of life, then he cannot be my disciple.” How about this? “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.” We would read it this way in Paley’s Bible, “If any man will come after me, let him not deny himself, but cherish and supremely seek his own interest.” We could look at many such Bible verses and show the same things.
- Let’s look at some more, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Paley would say, “It is more blessed to receive than to give.” “Charity seeketh not her own.” This should read, “Charity seeketh her own.” “No man liveth unto himself,” should read, “Every man liveth unto himself.”
- Let’s look at it where Jesus was spoken of. “Even Christ pleased not himself,” should read, “Even Christ pleased himself, or sought his own interest.” “I seek not mine own glory, but the glory of him that send me.” It could read, “I seek not the glory of him who sent me, but mine own glory.” Can you see how this is the direct opposite of what God is saying.
Anyone can see that this is merely a selfish philosophy and diametrically opposed to the truth of God. When we look at this theory as we have examined the moral obligation as a moral intention to choose the good of God and my neighbor for its own intrinsic value, the ultimate end, and yet in this theory we are not to choose a thing for its intrinsic value but as a means of promoting my own self interest. It is sad to say that there are people that promote love to God and the universe or neighbor as a means of promoting their own happiness.
The utilitarian theory.
The utilitarian theory claims that the utility of an act or choice makes it the obligation of a moral being. This would mean that the utility of a choice makes it the foundation of obligation. In other words, if a certain act, choice or intention obtains a valuable end then that act choice or intention becomes the foundation of obligation to put forth the same choice or intention. The answer to this theory is as follows:
- Utilitarian theorists do agree with others that moral beings are to choose the good of God and our neighbor for its own sake and that the intrinsic value of this good creates the obligation to choose or will it and also to promote this obligation. They then hold that the tendency of promoting the good of God and of our neighbor would not be useful nor would it be ones obligation to do so but for the intrinsic value of this action. This is almost works for salvation. For some reason they then make the tendency of choosing the good of God and the universe as the object of moral choice and not the value of the object itself or end itself the ground of obligation. Thus, they say it is the tendency to choose the good of God and of our neighbor that is the foundation of moral obligation instead of the actual end itself that we have said above is the foundation of moral obligation.
- They make the tendency, as absurd as it may sound, more value than the end that it produces as the ground of obligation when it is the value of choosing God and the good of our neighbor which has the true value.
- We have made a very strong case for the foundation of obligation by stating that the intrinsic value of the end itself, the good to God and to our neighbor, is what makes that choice of such intrinsic value. When a theorist comes along and now makes another foundation out of the tendency to make this choice of the end the foundation of the obligation to make the choice they are causing a huge contradiction. What they are saying is that we choose the good of God and of our neighbor, not because that is a good thing in and of itself, but that we should choose it because the tendency of making this choice promotes the good of God and of our neighbor. This is almost like double talk and it is taking the direction of the choice away from the ultimate end and pointing it to the tendency of the choice to produce a good result instead of the result itself.
- Our whole discussion of the foundation of moral obligation has stated that the end that is chosen and the reason for this choice are one and the same. If we now come in and say that the utility of this choice is now the end and not the actual end that created the choice it would be totally absurd, but that is what this theory has attempted to do.
- The very fact that they have created this theory is absurd. Any moral choice is the obligation of a moral being because of the good end that it secures. Why, then, should we secure good rather than evil? Because good is valuable and it is the value of the good which the end secures that makes it the foundation of obligation, not the tendency of the choice or means to secure a good end but rather the value of the end itself.
- Let’s examine this theory in the light of the Bible to see what the scriptures say.
- The law of God says to love God and our neighbor. Are we to love God and our neighbor because the tendency to do so means the well being of God and our neighbor? Is it the tendency or utility of this love that makes it our obligation to do so and not the value of loving God and our neighbor as an end in itself that makes it the foundation of our obligation? What we are saying here is that we should choose to do good not because of the value of doing the good but because it is good. This theory says that loving God and our neighbor is not an end in itself but that the tendency of this choice to produce love to God and our neighbor is the foundation of choosing it and not the actual end chosen. If we use this theory, the Bible would say, “Thou shalt love the utility or tendency of love with all your heart. . .” We would say, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God and thy neighbor not for its own sake but because choosing it tends to promote it.” Why promote the good of God and the love of our neighbor but for the actual value of doing so? The reason that this theory misses the point is that the law of God is talking about the ultimate intention as its own end and not some other step that takes its place. All sin is missing the mark and a theory like this is so subtle because it causes one to miss the mark by making the tendency the foundation of obligation rather than the actual intrinsic value of the end itself.
- Let’s look at another scripture. The Bible says, “Do all to the glory of God.” The utilitarian would say that we should choose the glory of God not because of its value but because choosing the glory of God promotes the glory of God. Why would we promote it if it were not valuable in and of itself? The whole concept is absurd; it is choosing something else as the foundation of obligation other than the intrinsic value to God and our neighbor.
- These theorists say that we do many things because they are useful and tend produce good. The problem with their theory is that the ultimate reason for the choice is not the tendency but the actual good itself.
- Utilitarian may deny that the ultimate end is the foundation of obligation and thus say that the tendency to promote the good of God and ones neighbor is the foundation of moral obligation instead. A tendency can impose no obligation in itself. At best, a tendency is a condition, not the foundation of moral obligation.
We don’t do good simply because it is good but because the good we do produces certain results to God and to our neighbor. The reason that this theory is so weak is that when a moral being is trying to determine good or evil, they may have a problem if they don’t have the actual end in view of the intrinsic value to God and the universe but rather are thinking of doing good. While there is nothing wrong with doing good, the value of the good is in the value of the ultimate end of God and our neighbor and not in the good itself.
The above thesis is a discussion of the moral law and based upon these principles which are a priori truths which all moral beings understand and know. With these moral truths in mind it is not moral for the husband to pull the tube on his wife, even if it was her will before she entered her present condition since moral law can never be based upon the will of any human being but rather on the intrinsic value of the life as opposed to her being starved to death without food. It matters not whose will comes into play, even that of God. No one has the moral right to take a life based upon the will of any being. The decision must rest not even on any laws of the land, but rather on the intrinsic value of the life of a woman that would be loved and cared for by her family, irrespective of the wishes of a husband who has basically gone on with his life. His argument that she wishes to die cannot be the foundation of the obligation to let her starve, even if she wants it to be so. Her life has value, if not to her husband, to her family. It allowing her to starve was moral, then there would be no debate since debate arises when the conscience of the universe, as it were, objects to any decision based on the “supposed” will of the victim. Allowing one to die by starvation is never moral and there is no possible moral foundation for such a decision. If there is no moral decision for such a decision, then to make such a decision, i.e., allow a woman to starve to death, can only be based upon selfish grounds or a selfish foundation. Thus, you should decide against her termination, not based upon any existing laws or based upon the will of the husband or even the handicapped woman, but rather based upon MORAL LAW as described here.
Ritarianism as the foundation of moral obligation
We will discuss a theory that regards right as the foundation of moral obligation. As we discuss this theory, we need to define our terms. What is right? It means straight. When one discusses the moral sense, the definition is fit, suitable, and agreeable to the nature and relations of moral beings. When you really get down to it, right belongs to making choices and one’s intention as compared to moral law. When you consider the ground of obligation to make a choice or intention, those who we call Rightarians say that “right” is the ground of such obligation. There is a school of philosophy and theology that asserts that right, in a moral sense, pertains only to the intention. They maintain as we have said that moral obligation refers to the ultimate choice or intention and less to the actual volitions or choices. They maintain, as we have said, that it includes choices of the conditions and means of securing the ultimate choice. So in what sense of the term “right” do they regard it as the ground of obligation?
The term right is both subjective and objective. In the objective sense some have defined it to consist in the fitness that exists between the ultimate choice and the object of that choice (Mahan’s Moral Philosophy). As an example, the intrinsic value of the highest well-being of God and of the universe creates a type of fitness between it and the choice itself which becomes the ground of obligation.
In the objective sense it is synonymous with rightness, uprightness and virtue. It is a state of the will, of objective right as related to moral law. It expresses a moral quality of the ultimate intention which the moral law of God requires. It is conformity of the heart to the law of objective right. It refers to the moral character of the state of the heart of a man or woman. Some say that it is the state of the heart while others say that it is only a certain element of the state of the heart. For our purposes it could be either one.
This theory was held by the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. It was the theory of Kant and the transcendental school of both Europe and America. Cousin, referring to the views of Kant, states it this way, “Do right for the sake of the right, or rather, will the right for the sake of the right. Morality has to do with the intentions.” (Enunciation of Moral law – Elements of Psychology, P. 162.) For those who know Kant, Cousin, and Coleridge they state the theory so similarly that it is either the same words or it amounts to the same thing. Their position is that “right” is the foundation of moral obligation. “Will the right for the sake of the right.” It means will the right as the ultimate end for its own sake. Let’s examine this philosophy from its own principles and then in the light of the revealed Word of God.
The writer that was alluded to above has given a critical definition of the position of Rightarians. They hold that objective right is the ground of obligation. In another place we will show that subjective right, which is righteousness, can never be the ground of moral obligation. Here we are will make a critical definition of the position of the Rightarian who maintains that the intrinsic fitness that exists between the choice and the valuable object is the ground of the obligation to choose that object.
What are they saying?
- They are saying that obligation pertains only to the ultimate choice or intention as we have said.
- They also say that the reason for an ultimate choice is found in the objective of such a choice, or that choosing a thing for its own sake because of what is intrinsic in the object is ultimate choice. We agree.
- They say that the ground of obligation is exclusively found in the object of ultimate choice.
- They say that the ground of obligation is that which compels one’s reason to choose the obligation for its own sake. We also agree with this, but it all completely contradicts their own Rightarian theory as it was stated above. If the ground of obligation is found in the nature of the object of choice, then how can it consist in a relation of the fitness between the choice and the object? It can’t since the relation of the choice to the object is not intrinsic in the object itself.
Let’s make an observation! Moral law is the obligation to choose object of ultimate choice not because of the relationship between the choice and the object but because of the value of the object itself, knowing God. This relation is not the object of choice, it is just a relation between the choice and the object. When you understand the nature of choice you can see that the intrinsic nature or value of the object creates both the nature of rightness and the obligation to choose the object for its own sake. The same thing that creates the relation of rightness to the object also creates the object chosen. You can’t say that the intrinsic value of the object creates the relation of rightness between itself and the choice and yet does not create an obligation to choose it for its own sake. The Rightarian maintains that the intrinsic nature of the object of choice creates a relation of rightness between itself and the choice and that this in turn creates an obligation to choose the object. This is absurd.
Let’s make another observation! Moral obligation is to choose an object for its own sake and not for the sake of the relationship in question. Thus the ground of obligation is the intrinsic value of the object which creates the reason that it should be chosen.
With this in mind, since the object ought to be chosen for the sake of its own nature, its intrinsic value, and not for the sake of the relation in question, then the nature of the object and not the relation to that object must be the ground of obligation.
The writer we noted above says that “the intelligence, in judging an act to be right or wrong, does not take into the account the object nor the act by itself, but both together, in their intrinsic relations, as the ground of its affirmation.”
According to this the ground of obligation is neither what is intrinsic in the nature of the choice nor in the choice itself but both together in their intrinsic relations. How can this be? The same writer states over and over that the ground of obligation must be the intrinsic value of the object of choice and nothing extraneous to it. He calls this a universal truth. Then he says that it is a universal truth that the character of the choice is the ground of obligation. We will see other contradictory statements about the ground of obligation.
Let’s look at what they are saying. They are saying that the nature of the object and the nature of the choice of the object together form the ground of obligation. What they are doing is confusing the ground of obligation with a condition of obligation as we discussed in another chapter. If they had said that in affirming an obligation to choose an ultimate object, the good of being as an example, the intelligence regards the nature of the object and the intrinsic relations as conditions of the affirmation of the obligation, he would have been stating the truth. The mistake is trying to make all three together as the ground of obligation and it contradicts other statements by them that the ultimate choice finds its ground in the value of the object and not in things extraneous to it.
Let us show how absurd their philosophy is. They state that the nature of the object and the nature of the ultimate choice with their intrinsic relations form the ground of the obligation to choose —- what? The choice? The object? The relations? No, simply to choose the good for its own sake because of what is intrinsic in it, knowing God.
When you note that they agree that the ultimate choice of an object is for its own sake or for what is intrinsic in the object, then the ground of obligation must be what is the intrinsic value of the object of this choice, “knowing God.”
So when one discusses the object, the good of being, the nature of the choice along with the intrinsic relations and the rightness that exists between them, they are saying that the object is the ground and the relationship to the choice is a condition of the obligation. They have only strayed from their own critical definition of ultimate intention that the ground of obligation is found in the object of choice and in nothing extraneous to it. Had they stayed there they would not have confused the issue. We will see in another place other contradictory statements by these same authors.
Most would agree that disinterested benevolence is a universally and necessarily affirmed truth. However, if the Rightarian theory is true, then disinterested benevolence is a sin. According to them, right, not the good of being, is the ultimate end that one must live for. This would make disinterested benevolence a sin since it can never be a duty but it would always be wrong. What we are saying is that if we will right for the sake of right or good, not because of the value of the object but because of the relationship that exists between the object and the choice, then to will good for its own sake is a sin. You can’t have it both ways. It is either good for its own sake or the relation to the good, right. Please understand that the reason all of this is so important is because moral law involves ultimate intentions and choices. If the ultimate intention is wrong, then the moral being is not holy and therefore living in sin which is to miss the mark of the ultimate choice in ones life.
Let’s look at this theory in light of the Bible.
- In the light of God’s moral law. The whole law is expressed this way, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might, and with all thy strength; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Paul says: “All the law is fulfilled in one word-love: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” As one looks at what Paul said they can understand that the love spoken of here is not an emotion but the ultimate choice or intention of a moral being. It consists in making a choice of something for its own sake or for its intrinsic value. What then does God’s law say in regard to our relationship with our neighbor? Is it to make a choice respecting God and our neighbor not because of the intrinsic value of the choice for its own sake but because of a relationship between the choice and the object? This is absurd. What does the relationship between the choice and the object have to do with loving God and our neighbor? To will the good of God and our neighbor for the sake of the relation in question and not for the value of God and our neighbor as the object of choice is just not the same thing. It is not willing their good from any value that you see in them but rather because of the relationship of the willing to the object. Suppose that the Bible had said to love God and our neighbor because it is right. It would have been stating a contradiction. To love God and our neighbor in any proper way is to love them because of their intrinsic value and not because the act of loving them is right. That is not to say that loving God and our neighbor is not right, but that we are to love them because of their own intrinsic value and not just because it is right. If we were to love God and our neighbor only because it is right and not because of the intrinsic value of God and our neighbor, we would be doing it for the wrong motive. It would be sin to love right more than we love God or our neighbor. This is another of those first truths of reason, willing an object because of the intrinsic value of the object or for its own sake and not for the relationship between the object and the choice. The Bible, if it were written according to the Rightarian philosophy would read this way, “Thou shalt love the right for its own sake, with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” On the contrary, the greatest commandment in the Bible is to love God with a supreme love and to love our neighbor equally. It says nothing about doing right for the sake of right. In a sense, when you get right down to it, Rightarianism is rejection of the divine revealed law of God and it is substituting in the place of the law of God a completely different rule of moral obligation, right, and while rejecting the claims of God it is exalting “right” to the throne.
- Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Does this precept require that we do this for its intrinsic value or for the relation of the value to the willing of the object? The glory of God is of infinite value to him and to the whole universe, because he knows God. For this reason it should be promoted. The thing that is required in this verse is an executive act. The spirit of this verse is to aim to spread abroad the renown or glory of God as a means of securing the highest well-being of the universe. Why? The answer is for the intrinsic value of this well-being, and not for the sake of the fitness that exists between willing God’s glory and the object, God’s glory.
- “Do good unto all men, as ye have opportunity.” This verse says to do good for the sake of the good. Or is it because of the rightness between the good itself and the choice to do good? The answer is that we are to do good for the sake of the good. Period!
- What about the commands to pray and labor for the salvation of souls? Are we to do right for the sake of right or are we to pray for the salvation of souls because of the intrinsic value of the salvation of those very souls? The answer is quite obvious. When we pray, preach, or talk in conversation about God in an attempt to win souls to Him, is it because we love right not God and souls? No! When we pray and travail night and day for souls and have our eye to the single good of souls and to the glory of God so that we don’t even think of right or not, can we say that we are wrong because we did not think of “right”? Do we pray because it is right and do we do all our service for God and even suffer not from our good will to God and others but only because it is right? No! We want to win souls because we know God and we want others to have this wonderful relationship and know Him also. Anyone can see that to do right only for the sake of right and not make choices because of the intrinsic value of the object of the choice is a subtle way of taking one off the mark which is another way to define sin. As it says in Romans 7, “it is no longer I that do it but sin that dwelleth in me.” What this philosophy teaches is really a false religion.
- Let’s look at this philosophy in the light of the Scripture. John 3:16 “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.” Are we to believe that God gave his Son not because of the good of the souls that would be saved for its own sake but for the sake of the right? Did God will right for the sake of right? Did God send Jesus to die for the sake of right or for the intrinsic value of the souls and to render their salvation possible?
- Did Jesus Christ give himself to travail and to die for right for the sake of right or for souls from a love of souls? Did all prophets, martyrs, apostles, and saints of all ages will the right for the sake of right or did they labor, suffer and die for God and souls and for a love to them? The answer is obvious.
- Can we imagine what the Bible would say if it adopted the Rightarian philosophy? Here is what the greatest commandment in the Bible would say, “Thou shalt love the right with all thy heart.” “Whatsoever ye do, do all for the sake of the right.” “Do the right unto all men for the sake of the right.” “God so loved the world for the sake of the right, that he gave his only begotten son to die for the world, not for the sake of the world, but for the sake of the relation of the intrinsic rightness existing between his giving and the world.” If we could interview all the holy men of history and ask why they do and suffer as they do, with this philosophy they would answer, “We are willing and doing the right for the sake of the right. We have no ultimate regard to God or to the good of any being, but only to the right.” Can’t you see how this philosophy is a false religion it takes men down a path that leads away from God?
- Let’s look at another passage of Scripture with this philosophy in view. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ah, we finally found one that matches their views. Or did we? What is the spirit of this statement? If we take the statement to the ultimate intention of what it says, children are to obey their parents because of the intrinsic value of the parents and also of the good to God and because they know God. Does it really say to obey your parents because the ultimate highest good is right or loving God and ones parents? The answer is that in fulfilling the command to love God and our neighbor, to obey ones parents is one of the means of doing this commandment and for that reason it is right. It is not saying that children are to obey their parents with no regard to God or the good of their neighbor, in this case their parents, but only because it is right. In essence it has nothing to do with knowing God. A child should not only love their parents but also do good to everyone because of their intrinsic value and because they know God. Obeying ones parents is a means to this end. A dog or ox can obey because of a conditioned response from training by the master but he is not a moral agent. A child cannot be reached for Christ until he has an idea of his moral obligations. As we said earlier, one of the conditions of moral obligation is light or the ability to comprehend what is said. If a child cannot comprehend the love to God and his neighbor, he is not considered as being capable of making a moral decision. This will be developed in any child before they learn the concepts of right as defined by this theory. Children know how to love, but they get their instructions of right and wrong from their parents. Thus the development of the moral character of a child far precedes the concept of right. This verse would have to take these facts into consideration. Even when you take the concept of the Rightarians at its face value, namely, that the foundation of moral obligation is the relation between the choice of a object for its own intrinsic value and the choice itself. This means that the child has the concept of love to God and his neighbor developed first or the relationship between the intrinsic value and the choice could not be developed. A drunk may choose to drink because he has an appetite for drink but the ultimate end of his choice is the gratification, not the wrong. In a similar way, a child may do right in obeying his parents, but he does not do it because of the right but because he loves his parents and it results in a condition of obligation that he has done right. To love God is right, but we don’t love God because our ultimate end is right but because of the intrinsic value of God to the soul of a sinner. To love a neighbor is right, but to love them only because it is right and not because of the intrinsic value of the neighbor is not right.
Well, you say, I am conscious of doing right! I tell myself that I should do right. What we really do is to will the good of God and the universe which is right but we are not really choosing right as an end or motive for life. So even though you are conscious of doing right, it is not really the ultimate end in view. Even though you may think initially of right to do a thing, yet the ultimate reason for your desire to do this comes from a greater motive, loving God and one’s neighbor. Sometimes we don’t really think of the ultimate intention but we think of some of the conditions or means because our ultimate intention is the root of our very life.
You may also say again, “I am conscious of affirming to myself that I ought to will the good of being because it is right.” This is almost like saying that we are willing the good of God and the Universe as a means and right as an end which is making right the supreme God and our love of God and the Universe as a means to the end of doing right. This would be the position taken by a lost sinner that uses the means of loving God and his neighbor to show that he is doing right in the hopes that his “right” might win him the approval of God. Again, this misses the mark of the end and scope of life, which is God and loving God and our neighbor as the supreme ultimate goal of life.
You may “I love God and my neighbor because it is my obligation to do so.” This is really the same thing. It is saying that loving God and ones neighbor is not the ultimate end, but a means to another end, doing right which as we have said leaves God out of the picture. To intend the good or valuable is right but to intend right is not right.
Well, you may say, I look at virtue and think to myself that I should love virtue, is that not right thinking? Well, let’s define virtue. It is defined as ultimate intentions. It is choosing the good of being for its own sake and not just a condition of obligation. It is loving God and ones neighbor in its purest definition. Thus for one to say that they love virtue, they would most certainly have a greater ultimate intention in mind or it could not be virtue simply by definition.
You may say that you love God solely for his goodness without any reference to the good of being and only because it is right. You might as well say that you don’t love God for his intrinsic value but merely because it is right to do without any reference to his intrinsic value at all. If that were the case, could you say that you love God with all your heart and soul and mind? Certainly not, you are not loving God for any of the reasons that one is to love God, but merely because of the concept that it is right. My response is that you don’t love God at all, you don’t know Him.
- With these things in mind, one may ask why Rightarians even claim that the moral excellence of God is the foundation of obligation and then claim that right is the foundation of moral obligation while giving the objections that we have seen above? Even though they say that disinterested benevolence is a universal duty, that it involves choosing the highest good of being in general and for its own sake and that therefore it is right to choose it, yet, they still say that right is the ground of obligation. Because of this and in order to be consistent, they would have to make a choice. If right is the foundation of moral obligation then it cannot be the good of being of God and the universe which is contained in knowing God. You can’t have it both ways. This is one of the subtleties of evil. They want you to think that they are on your side and they even put forth a theory that sounds so good but in the end they are undermining the very root of your moral being.
- Consistent Rightarianism is a godless, Christless and loveless philosophy; they don’t know God they just know about Him. Even Kant saw this and acknowledged it to be so. He calls it pure legality. His understanding of law is imposing obligation by virtue of its own nature instead of the intrinsic value of the end which the law requires moral agents to choose. Kant looses sight of the end and does not recognize any end whatever. He even makes a distinction between morality and religion. Morality exists in the mind of Kant by adopting the maxim, “Do right for the sake of right” or, “Act at all times upon the maxim fit for law universal.” He thinks that adopting this maxim is morality and then one must put this maxim into practice. Now after having adopted this maxim, the mind finds that God and being exist and that it is right to intend their good. He says that this is religion. He even claims that ethics leads one to or result in religion (See Kant on Religion). I am so glad that Kant allows us to love God after we have learned what right is, aren’t you? Now that we have found God and read the Bible what happens when we find out that the Bible says that we are to love God and our neighbor as the ultimate intention of our life. Have we suddenly turned from right and are we now doing wrong instead? I think that the answer is obvious.
- This philosophy is one of the most nefarious of all philosophies since it puts something else above God and all that is called God and subverts the very teachings of the bible as subservient to another philosophy which has usurped the throne of God as Satan, the deceiver of the brethren, has done. You can’t mix light and darkness and you can’t have a love of God along with a love of the devil and his philosophies. There are many people that have done right all their lives that will be in hell because their philosophy was a godless philosophy that had exalted itself above the very God that had far more intrinsic value in the power and desire to save their soul from hell and give them a place in the kingdom of God and of his dear son.
The Divine Moral Excellence Theory
Now we will discuss the theory that the goodness or moral excellence of God is the foundation of God is the foundation of moral obligation. Here are some statements regarding this theory:
- As a point of reference, we have said that moral obligation means the choice of an ultimate end.
- We have also said that the very reason that there is an obligation identical with the end on which the intention ought to terminate. Thus, if the goodness of God is the foundation of moral obligation, then the goodness of God is the ultimate end that was intended. The absurdity here is that God’s goodness is his choice of the good of being for every moral being because of the intrinsic value of the choice and if we make his choice the foundation of moral obligation then we are again missing the mark which is the intrinsic value that God sees in his ultimate intentions. What we are doing is choosing a choice. That is absurd like other theories that we have discussed.
- Virtue cannot be the foundation of moral obligation since virtue is defined as compliance with moral obligation and since obligation must first exist before it can be complied with, then virtue cannot be the foundation. The theory that we are discussing says that moral obligation must exist or one cannot comply with moral obligation. This theory says that obligation cannot exist until virtue exists but since moral obligation must exist first in order to make the term virtue exist, then there is a stale mate that hinders either one from existing. That means that neither moral obligation nor virtue can exist since one must define the other. This means that neither God nor any other creature could be virtuous because they would never become the subject of moral obligation in this theory. We can’t say that God’s holiness is the foundation of obligation since the thing that makes him holy is complying with moral obligation to will the highest good of being to all moral agents in the universe. What kind of love would it be that causes God to be holy if not for the love of those moral beings which have intrinsic value to him so his love is not just an emotion but a choice of the very best good of being of all his creatures. This is disinterested benevolence. We don’t choose to love God because of his holiness or love to us since that would make it a love of interest and not disinterested benevolence. We love God because good is valuable in itself and we love God as we do our neighbor, not for any love or consideration from them but because of their intrinsic value and for the good of being to both God and our neighbor. If we were to love God because of his holiness or virtue, then God would be required to love us for our virtue or holiness which would never happen since we are all sinners. God loves us in a disinterested way, or God loves us with only the end in view of the very best good of being for all of us and not from any qualities in us that prompt his interest or love.
- If this theory is true, then disinterested benevolence is sin since we would not be willing the highest well being of God and the universe, but his moral excellence. That means that this theory regards moral excellence as an end. Does God’s moral excellence impose the obligation to will the highest good of God and the universe for its own sake? No, because moral excellence is the obligation to will the highest good of God and the universe for its own sake. Moral excellence is a result of God’s obligation to will the highest good for all for its own sake. It is almost like talking in a double negative or positive.
- If the divine moral excellence is the ground of obligation to choose, then this excellence must be the object of this choice, and disinterested benevolence is never right, but always wrong. – Finney (For a more detailed discussion of this subject please read Systematic Theology by Charles G. Finney.)
Since we want to move on to other issues we will discuss the following in an abbreviated form:
Moral Order as the foundation of moral obligation.
- Moral order is fit, proper, suitable, “right.”
- For the reason that it is mostly synonymous with “right” we feel that the statements regarding “Right” as the foundation for moral obligation will apply to this theory.
Nature and relations as the foundation of moral obligation – we have already seen in our earlier discussions that the nature and relations of moral beings are conditions of moral obligation, not the foundation of moral obligation.
Duty as the foundation of moral obligation. Again this is the same as “right” for doing one’s duty is doing “right.” So we will refer to our discussion of Rightarian philosophy for a discussion that covers “duty.”
Complex theory as the foundation of moral obligation. This is a teaching that the highest good of being, right, moral order, duty, nature and relations of moral agents, merit and demerit, and many other things are the ground of moral obligation. This theory tries to make some of these both conditions and grounds of moral obligation but when one reviews the teaching thus far it is obvious that the ground is the ultimate ends or moral intention, the supreme motive that caused ultimate choice. Again if one desires a more detailed discussion of these themes, please consult Charles G. Finney’s Systematic Theology for a more detailed discussion. Our purpose is to merely edit the work in such a way that it fits into our modern society and is made applicable to truths that people in our day may relate to in their lives.
We will point out the absurdity of the various conflicting theories in brief.
- In the strictest manner of speaking of our subject, ultimate intentions alone are how we define moral actions.
- Ultimate intentions are defined as choosing an object for what is intrinsic in that object, for its own sake.
- Ultimate intentions find reasons or grounds exclusively in the ultimate object.
- The foundation of obligation must be something that is obviously intrinsic in the object of choice. This is the fundamental part of our position.
- Now some of the theories claim that foundation of obligation is not only what is intrinsic but also the relations of its object, but this contradicts what was said up to now.
- Some hold that the foundation of obligation is exclusively found in the relations of moral beings to one another. Here a condition is confounded with the ground of obligation which we have already discussed previously.
- Some hold that the affirmation of obligation by the moral faculties of a moral being is the ground of obligation. We have discussed this under the conditions of obligation in that a person must be able to comprehend obligation to be considered a moral agent.
- Some hold that the relation of a choice to its object is the foundation of obligation but again this is confounding a condition with the ground.
- Some hold that the foundation is in the character of the choice. However the object of the choice is what determines the character so again we are almost in the category of doing right for the sake of right. The object is what is important since that is what makes the character of the choice.
- Some hold that duty is the ground of obligation but as we have shown, right and duty are not the true ground since the ultimate end is what makes it right or duty as in #4 above.
- Some hold that the fitness between the choice and the object is the ground of obligation. This is only another way of stating the Ritarian theory.
- Some hold that the foundation of obligation is founded in the moral character of the being that we are under obligation to obey. Again it is confounding a condition with a ground. Please read the conditions of obligation again.
- Some hold that the foundation of obligation is partly in the nature of choice and partly in the nature of the object, and then partly in the relation of the fitness existing between the choice and the object. This, again, confuses a condition with the ground. If the choice or object were not ultimate good, then the nature of the choice would not be ultimately good so it is still the ultimate good that makes the choice of an ultimate end what it is.
- There are other statements regarding various conflicts but we feel that we have adequately exhausted the subject.
Summing it all up
The reason that we have discussed the foundation of obligation is that it gets to the very foundation of all morality in Christianity. When a person makes a mistake in this fundamental area, the things that we are to discuss in future chapters will be confused and unclear. So before we move on to other parts of our discussion we want to sum up the points of universal agreement among all positions and make some corollaries that follow these positions. We feel that all will agree to the following:
- Moral obligation is about moral actions only.
- Moral actions do not include involuntary states of the mind.
- Moral actions are really, in the strictest sense, intentions alone.
- In the final analysis, ultimate intentions are the strictest form of moral actions.
- When one speaks of ultimate intention they are speaking about the choice of an object for its own sake, for what is intrinsic in its nature and for nothing that is not intrinsic in the nature of such an object.
- When speaking of the foundation of obligation, one is aware that the nature of the object of ultimate choice is what prompts the reason to choose it.
- The only relation of right or wrong to ultimate choice is that the ultimate choice itself is right or wrong.
With all these conclusions it seems that each theory would agree but there are some flaws in reasoning that cause errors in conclusions of many theorists which will go to the root of the conclusions that we will draw in succeeding chapters.
Because of what we have said, we can conclude:
- That utility of ultimate choice cannot be a foundation of obligation since it transfers the ground from what is intrinsic in the object to the choice itself which cannot be the ground as discussed earlier.
- That moral character cannot be the foundation of obligation since it transfers the ground of obligation from the object to the character of the choice itself which would have no character were it not for the object.
- That the relation of one moral being to another cannot be the ground of obligation since relations are conditions of ones obligation to seek the good in individuals but it is the nature of the good that is the ground of obligation.
- That the relation of utility or moral fitness or right that exists between the choice and the object cannot be the ground of obligation since these all depend on the intrinsic importance of the object of choice which is the true ground of obligation.
- That the relative importance of an object can never be the ground of obligation since the importance is not a part of the object itself. The importance may be a condition of the obligation to choose it but it is not the ground of obligation.
- That duty cannot be a ground of obligation since the idea is a condition but never a foundation or ground of obligation; for duty is not intrinsic in the object which we have a duty to choose.
- That perceived relations between individuals cannot be a ground of obligation, though it is a condition to fulfill to them certain duties. The relation is not intrinsic in what is the ultimate object or ground.
- That affirming our obligation by reasoning is not the ground though it is a condition as stated earlier. Obligation is based upon the intrinsic importance of the object itself not the view of the affirmation.
- That the sovereign will of God is never the ground or foundation of obligation even though it may be a condition of certain forms of obligation. If we knew the value of an object we should choose it whether God requires it of us or not. This is why Islam is wrong. The ground of obligation, the intrinsic value of all who died in the World Trade Center should have caused the Islamic terrorists to refuse to kill the innocent people whether they thought that it was the will of Allah or not. When God reveals his will to us it is always a condition of obligation because it helps us understand what is intrinsic or of relative importance in any object of choice. However, it is not intrinsic in the object itself and therefore cannot be the actual ground of obligation as we stated earlier in our discussion of the subject.
- That the moral excellence of a being cannot be the foundation of obligation since character is not intrinsic in the good that we are to will to him. It is the intrinsic value of the good itself that is the ground, while the character is a condition of our obligation to will his enjoyment of good itself.
- That good character cannot be the ground of obligation to choose anything since it is not the reason for the ultimate choice but just describes the quality of the choice.
- That right cannot be a ground of obligation since right is not the object that we choose for its own sake.
- That the susceptibility for good can never be a ground but it is a condition of obligation since it is not intrinsic in the good which we choose and thus is not the ground.
- That from these statements it can be seen that the only thing that can be a ground of obligation is the object itself and nothing outside of the object which usually falls into the area of conditions of obligation.
- From these conclusions we can say that nothing aside from ultimate choice or intention is right or wrong and that all acts of choice derive their character from the nature of the ultimate choice itself. For that reason we can say:
- That if we choose with the intention to arrive at an intrinsically valuable end, the choice is good, if not, it is wrong.
- That the obligation to make right choices is conditioned on the assumed utility of such choices or acts.
- That acts of right or wrong are as such when they proceed from right or wrong intentions.
- That the rightness of a choice or outward act depends on the intended utility which is a condition of the obligation to choose a ground which is right.
- Whenever we decide something to be duty simply because we think it is right we deceive ourselves because the thing that makes it right is the intrinsically valuable end.
- That all acts must have a tendency to right only because they proceed from an intention to choose an end for its own sake which is a condition that makes it right.
- All other discussions of this section are explained in more detail in Finney’s Systematic Theology.
The practical tendencies of the various theories.
This is the most important part of this discussion since we have pointed out all the theories so that we could show the practical results of what happens when people think as the various theories discuss. We will see what the results of certain thinking are in that they destroy the souls of men because of their subtle but gross error.
- The error of the sovereign will of God as the foundation of obligation. The ultimate result of this theory is that people get a wrong conception of the character of God. I truly feel that so many people in our world today reject the even the very concept of God because they have this erroneous conception about God and his nature and character. If God’s will is the foundation of obligation then God is an arbitrary sovereign. God is under no law Himself and He has no rule by which to regulate his own conduct. There is no standard by which God himself or any other moral being can judge Him or the quality of his moral character. The sad fact is that unless God is a subject of moral law then he can have no moral character because moral character implies moral law and moral obligation to make right choices. If God’s will is not under a law that his own infinite reason imposed upon him along with all other moral agents, then his will is arbitrary to such a wrong sense that it has no regard to reason or to the nature and relations of moral beings. However, if his will is under a law of reason that he acts from certain principles which are the good and benevolent reasons for his conduct, then God is a subject of moral obligation as are all other moral beings. The reason is that even God chooses the intrinsic value of his own well-being and that of the universe as the foundation of moral obligation. Then, since God affirms his own obligation to choose the good of being as his ultimate end, we can conclude the following:
- That God’s will is not the foundation of moral obligation.
- That God has infinitely wise and good reasons for anything that he wills, does, or says.
- That God is certainly not arbitrary as so many assume but always acts in conformity with right principles that compel all who come to know these principles respect and admire Him throughout the universe.
- That God does have moral character, that he is infinitely virtuous.
- That God must respect Himself.
- That God possesses an intelligent happiness that is infinite.
- That God’s creation and moral government are far less evil than having no creation or moral government would have been. Any evils that exist today are far less than what would have existed if God had not created the worlds and instituted a providential and moral government for the universe.
- Any perceived evil that one feels from the existence of moral government is incidental and can never detract from the wisdom and goodness of God. It can never be said that God in his wisdom in establishing moral law was acting from malice, or arbitrary sovereignty, but rather from the law of His infinite intelligence and wisdom which has infinitely good and weighty reasons for all He does or allows to be done in his universe – reasons which are so good that he would insult His own character and goodness to do things any other way which would be a sin.
That here we have a perfect ground for confidence, love and complete submission to his divine will in all things. Why? Because his will is not arbitrary but as a moral being, God in his infinite intelligence and wisdom has only the best ends in mind for all his creation and moral beings. For that reason we can always be totally safe in obeying him completely and submitting to every dispensation no matter how little we understand his mysteries because we can be assured that his ultimate end for us is nothing other than what is perfectly wise and good. Not only are we safe in obeying Him, but we are obligated to do so, not because he is imposing an arbitrary will on us, but because we see the infallibility of the end God has for us and the wonderful means of securing that end. His will is law, not imposing obligation as an arbitrary sovereign, but in a sense of revealing what end we ought to seek as the best end for us and also the means by which we can achieve that end. Thus when we talk of law, we are not talking of imposing obligation but of revealing obligation which is only for the best ends of all concerned. Law is thus a condition, not the foundation of obligation and the will of God is a condition of obligation since it gives us knowledge of the end that we ought to seek which is the best end that we can secure for our own intrinsic good. All these truths follow from the fact that the good of being, not the arbitrary will of God is the foundation of obligation. None of the truths mentioned can be true if the will of God is the foundation of obligation. No one who believes that the will of God is the foundation of moral obligation can have a proper concept of the moral government of God because:
- He cannot believe that God’s will is wise and good unless he admits that even God is subject to the foundation of obligation or to the good of being as God in his infinite wisdom and intelligence knew when he created moral law. God could not have his own will as the foundation of moral law or he could not have the highest good of being as the foundation of moral obligation. If God holds that his will is the foundation of moral obligation then he would have to deny that the good of being is the foundation which would allow God to will just the opposite of God merely because it is His will. Anyone can see that this would be absurd but it also shows why false religions are so evil because so many of them have a foundation of obligation based upon the cruel will of an arbitrary sovereign that demands what is not the best ends of his moral beings.
- If a person continues to believe that God’s sovereign will is the foundation of moral obligation, then he could never regard God as having any moral character because there would be not standard by which to judge his will or actions. Why? Because with this theory God would have no intelligent rule of action which would lead to a conclusion that God has no moral character, he is not a moral agent and does not even have any idea of the moral character of His own actions. Anyone that says that God is not a subject of moral law which He has imposed upon himself by divine wisdom but rather that God’s sovereign will is the foundation of moral obligation, must, if they are consistent in their logic, deny that God has moral character, must deny that God is an intelligent being, or else they must accept that God is infinitely wicked for not conforming his own will to the divine wisdom of having the foundation of moral law be the intrinsic value of the best end rather than the arbitrary sovereignty of His will.
- Anyone that holds that God’s will is the foundation of moral obligation can never have any good reason for confidence in or submission to God. The reason is that if God has no wise and good reasons for his commands why would anyone want to obey Him? If He has no good and wise reasons for the things that He does why would any living being desire to submit to Him? Well, someone may say, you had better submit to the will of God or you will refuse to your own peril even if God has no good reasons for what he requires. If that is the case, then no one on the face of the earth could submit to God with all their heart since they can see no good reasons and we also find out that there are no good or wise reasons for God’s divine commands and conduct. It would thus be forever naturally impossible from the laws of our own nature to give God anything more than a weak hearted feigned obedience and submission. If you assume, under our definition of moral law where God is under obligation to choose the best ends of his creatures, it is easy to submit the heart to obedience to the a God where the assumption is that he has good reasons in our best interest for all that he requires. If, on the other hand, we assume that God is an arbitrary sovereign with no good and wise reasons for his intentions, it is completely impossible to render a heart faith, obedience, confidence and submission to such a sovereign. It is plain to see from these facts that anyone that holds to the theory that the will of God is the foundation of obligation can never have a right view of God, His law, gospel, or government, whether moral or providential. It would be impossible for anyone to have intelligent piety. He would have a religion of pure superstition since he does not know the true God and has no reason to love, believe in, obey, or submit to Him. In short a person with this theology does not know, nor can he know anything about the true nature of Christianity, neither can he have any right concept of what is meant by the word virtue. The only saving fact regarding people of this theology is that they don’t really believe in practice what they claim in theory or they would not be truly saved.
- Another problem with a theology like this is that anyone that believes this way will give false directions to those who want to be saved. For them to hold to this doctrine they would naturally tell an inquiring sinner that God is an arbitrary sovereign and that to get saved they would submit to a religion of arbitrary sovereignty. When a poor sinner asks these false theorists how to be saved they will be instructed to cast themselves on the sovereignty of a God whose law is only an expression of a sovereign arbitrary will and whose every purpose and requirement is founded in His arbitrary sovereignty. Can you imagine telling a sinner that this is the God that they must love, in whom they must believe and serve with a willing mind? What a difference there would be in the instructions of one that knew the principles that we have been discussing here. They would state that God is always reasonable in all that he requires and that his sovereignty consists in something other than arbitrary will, the benevolence or love of a God that is directed by a goal of the highest good of being of that poor lost sinner. This soul-winner would represent the law of God as not the expression of an arbitrary will but having its foundation in the very self-existent nature of God and in the nature of us, his moral beings. He would tell the sinner that what God requires is not arbitrary but rather it is the very thing that is in the nature of all creation for their highest well-being. He would show that God requires what He does because it is a natural way to give us our best end. He would show that God’s law does not create right, but that it requires what is natural and necessary and therefore right. When the sinner saw that God was really a loving, benevolent being that is to be trusted and to whom they can submit safely and reasonably, they will easily submit to this wonderful God. On the other hand, let those who hold to the Will of God as the foundation for obligation, they will find that the sinner will find more reasons to fear submitting to or trusting in God. The fact is that this theory is shocking to the human intelligence and is nothing more than sheer superstition and fanaticism.
Next we will examine the practical tendencies of the selfish school of the foundation of moral obligation. This, of course, is the theory that our own self interest is the foundation of moral obligation. Someone asked a person who believed in this theory to describe moral obligation and here is the answer that was given: “It is the obligation of a moral agent to seek his own happiness.”
Let us look at some facts regarding the practical tendencies of this theory:
- This theory goes to the very root of the origins of sin in the soul of man. All sin, as we will see in our development of this theology, is built upon a desire to seek the good of self in a self-seeking way and every moral decision is based upon the condition of its relation to self with no regard to impartiality or disinterestedness. This philosophy calls self-seeking a virtue and the only requirement for seeking selfish happiness is that we don’t interfere in the rights of other people seeking their own happiness. You may ask that if they want their own happiness and if they are to have respect for others who are also seeking their own happiness, are we to have a positive or a negative regard to the rights of others? It they mean the positive, then they are talking about part of the true moral law, willing the best ends of their neighbor. However, if they mean the negative, not hindering a neighbor’s happiness, they are only proving the absurdity of the theory.
- If this theory is true then sinful creatures and holy people are exactly alike because they both have the same end in view. The only difference is in the means that they use to promote their own happiness. Sinners seek their own happiness as they are all aware. If holy beings seek their own happiness there is no difference between the saint and the sinner. The only difference in these two cases would be how they accomplish their ends. The sinner promotes his own happiness by unholy means and the saint by holy means, but they are both promoting their own happiness. What is the difference between the two? Nothing, really! They are both trying to promote their own happiness and everything is right or wrong based upon that end in view. In this view we would be bound to do what promotes our own happiness. It does not matter what will promote universal good, only what promotes my own good.
- With this theory we should not love God supremely or our neighbor as ourselves. If I do love God and my neighbor, it is for the ulterior motive of seeking my own happiness. This means that I don’t really love them but I love myself supremely and make a show of love only when it will better my own happiness.
- Those who believe in this false theory have a radical error in belief in the government and character of God. They all hold false views about what makes up virtue or holiness either in God or in man. They are clueless in understanding the difference between virtue and vice. All their religious views are radically false and absurd.
- Teachers who hold this theory fatally mislead any that follow their instructions. In preaching, they appeal to hope and fear instead of speaking to the heart through the spirit. All their instructions only help their selfishness to grow. Every motive stirs up zeal to seek their own happiness. When they pray they will ask God to help them seek their selfish ends. This theory will blind the minds and hearts of moral beings and it would be easy for them to serve the devil.
Let’s look into the natural results of utilitarianism.
As we saw previously, utilitarianism is that the utility of an action renders it the foundation of obligation. This means that I am obliged to do good not because of the value of the good itself but because by willing “good” I produce “good.” It is really an absurd means of double talk. As with most wrong theories it fits the definition of sin where the ultimate goal or intention that is to be chosen is somehow diverted by some other related goal that makes one fall short of the real goal that should have been intended in the first place. Let’s look at the practical results of this wrong theory:
- The first result is that it ultimately diverts attention from the main goal, the ultimate intention of the heart to choose the very best ends for both God and the universe. How ridiculous is the statement that the ground of obligation is that the choosing of a goal or end should be the tendency of the choice of that end to secure that end. How ridiculous that the tendency would be more important than the end itself. It is as if they were purposely trying to avoid the ultimate intention and must making up something else to stand in its way. What they are really doing is to make a theory which has no basis in morality.
- What utilitarians are doing is to give a radically false account of the reason for moral obligation. They can never adequately conceive rightly the nature of virtue or morality as being to will the highest good of God and the universe as an ultimate end but rather they want to make the foundation of moral obligation into volitions and outward actions where there is really no morality. They assign a false reason for the foundation of obligation which focuses on the tendency and it is totally my opinion that they are using a crafty method of getting God out of the picture. They try to use the idea of expediency but it does not matter if you talk about utility, tendency, expediency or whatever, you are still only speaking of conditions of obligation, not the foundation of obligation.
- Utilitarian teaching is bound with pernicious error. Instead of virtue being disinterested benevolence which is the consecration of a soul to the highest good of being for its own sake, the utilitarian must believe that outward actions and making executive volitions which have no moral character in them are the foundation of moral obligation. This means that the utilitarianist has created a completely false picture of the nature of virtue which means that they are teaching completely erroneous ideas respecting the character of God, the spirit and meaning of his law, the nature of repentance, sin, regeneration, and of every practical doctrine in the Bible.
The natural results of the theory of rightarianism
The reader will recall the theory that teaches that right is the foundation of moral obligation. Those that ascribe to this theory feel that virtue is doing right for the sake of right or good for the sake of good which means that they use the intrinsic fitness which exists between the choice and the ultimate intention as the ground of obligation. They aim at right instead of the ultimate good of being for its own sake as the foundation of obligation. From this certain consequences may be realized:
- While the perfect law of love or benevolence requires the good of being for its own sake, this theory is opposed to all of this. This theory says that good is chosen because it is right and not because of the nature of the good. They overlook the fact that if the end were not a good end, then the choice would not be right so it is obvious that the end is far more important than to name a right choice since it is the good of the end that makes the choice right to begin with.
- If Rightarian theory is true, then they have a law of right that is completely separated from the law of benevolence. This can be true where a law that is enacted in a society completely goes against the obvious fact that the law does not take into account the intrinsic value of all persons that are affected by this law. Their theory is filled with multitudes of things that are right or wrong in themselves with no thought of the law of benevolence. They even go so far as to say that doing right could result in universal misery and that even were that the case we would still be obliged to do right or intend right even though universal misery would come from it. What they are saying, in effect, is that willing what is right has nothing to do with the highest good of being for its own sake or that it is distinct from the law of benevolence and, in fact, directly opposed to it. They are actually saying that moral agents are to set their hearts to that which would subvert the very well being of the entire universe if need so require in the performing of that which is right. This theory creates a system of acting and willing completely contrary to the nature and relations of moral agents. In the final analysis, according this type of reasoning, benevolence could be a sin, it could be breaking the law. How could there be a more horrendous error in morals or philosophy than this awful error.
- The truth is that nothing can be moral except that which requires willing and acting to secure the highest good or well-being of God and the universe. This highest well-being of God and the universe are to be chosen as the ultimate end. If benevolence or love is right, this should be obvious to all. Ritarianism overlooks this concept and misrepresents the nature of moral law. If you can actually hold to a theory that doing right may result in the complete misery of moral agents, then what would moral law have to do with the nature and relations of moral agents. The believer in Islam is “right” as he kills and causes misery all over the world. Rightarianism must be classed with having the will of God as the foundation for moral obligation since both of them result in misery and woe. These false theories mock and trample under foot the nature and relations of moral agents and they create only universal misery. Isn’t it obvious that Rightarianism contradicts the very nature of moral law and sets up a law that is the direct opposite of the law of nature? Even a child could tell you that a system of right that could result in universal misery is certainly not any more than a mock, an insult, and a trampling under foot of all that is good and right. Rightarianism not only overlooks but it contradicts the very nature of moral law and sets up “right” in direct opposition to the law of nature.
- Rightarianism has strong tendencies toward fanaticism. Since it consists of a philosophy of right that is distinct from and even opposed to benevolence, what it does is to scoff or rail at the idea of inquiring into what the highest good actually demands. This theory insists that certain things are right and wrong in themselves no matter what the highest good of God and the universe demands. When you have a law of right that is opposed to the law of love or benevolence, where will this type of frightful philosophy lead? This is fanaticism and we are seeing it more and more in this world, fanatical religious zealots that care nothing about the best ends of all moral beings but cause misery merely because their philosophy is a law of right to the total disregarding of any benevolence of any kind. Even fundamentalists who write scathing articles against other fundamentalist Christians because that they feel they are in the “right” are showing that their heinous philosophy is bent on causing misery anywhere possible and that only because they are so “right.”
- Rightarianism is a false morality and a false religion. It exalts right above God and represents virtue as consisting in a love of right rather than a love of God. It makes men do right for the sake of right rather than for the sake of the good of being or the intrinsic value of God and the universe. It asks the question, “What is right or how can I do right?” when it should be asking the question, “How should I do what is for the best good?” It asks the question, “What is right?” when the question should be, “What will promote the very highest good.” Now we know that for a moral being to promote the highest good of being is right and to intend the highest well-being of God and of the universe is right. Also, whatever means we use in the way of outward action towards these ends is right which means that we are promoting the highest well-being of God and of the universe. So, in reality, the way to find out what is right is to inquire as to what is the highest and best ends not some form of abstraction but what is the actual intention of the choice of a moral agent. Rightarianism points out the exact opposite of this. It does not matter what is the best for God and the Universe but what is right. When one asks how to know what is right they don’t direct you to the law of love, but just that right is right. It subverts all true morality and true religion or Christianity.
- Rightarianism does not show virtue as love to God, to Christ, or to our neighbor. When an inquiring sinner comes to them for salvation, they are told to love right for the sake of right and not to love God and their neighbor for the intrinsic value of each. Infidels love this type of false morality. They show how that they can do right without God and a relation to others. Even religious people get into this type of philosophy which is unloving but preaches what is right. This is a severe, stern, loveless, Godless and Christless philosophy. When Christians adhere to this type of philosophy the create a loveless militaristic type of Christianity that exhorts its followers to resolve to do their duty, to resolve to love the Lord, to make up their minds to do right, and to conform to all things that are right. This type of religion becomes a straight jacket, an iron collar, a snare of death and revival does not come through this type of Christianity. This is a philosophy that says war, slavery and many other things are wrong without giving a definition of these evils that shows that they stem from selfishness. Anything that implies selfishness always leads to the evils of our generation. Wars that are waged for selfish reasons is always wrong, but war that is waged with a benevolent design is neither wrong in itself nor in the proper sense. When men are held in bondage for selfish reasons it is wrong but when they are held in bondage from a law of benevolence, it is right. This is true of every part of our society. So, when the Rightarian makes blanket statements regarding war, slavery or any other such thing that they categorize as wrong in and of itself, they are only showing that the implication from a basis of selfishness. They never refer to the law of benevolence in creating their definitions regarding war, slavery, or any other questionable practice of modern society. When you establish a law of right that completely ignores a law of benevolence you create a society where philosophical abstraction is the supreme end of life rather than the concrete reality of the highest well-being of God and the universe. This philosophy preys on the human soul and turns the heart into solid iron. We need to remember that right is conformity to moral law and that moral law is the law of nature which is founded in the nature and relations of moral agents. When you speak of these truths regarding the foundation of moral obligation you will never talk of right or virtue as something that results in universal misery as these Rightarians do.
The natural results of the theory of divine goodness as the foundation of moral obligation.
People that believe in this theory have a false taste of what one does to obtain virtue. When one thinks of the foundation of obligation, if divine goodness is the foundation it creates in the mind a feeling of complacency in God. It overlooks the fact that benevolence, willing the highest well-being of God and the universe should be the ultimate end. The problem with willing the goodness of God as an end is that it does not properly represent the character of God showing Him willing the highest good of being as the foundation of obligation which would give us an example to follow. When you merely say “goodness of God” you actually make moral character out of reach of all other moral agents since it shows God as one that no one can emulate. This view of the goodness of God does not show the great end in view that God has for us who encourages us to become just like him in consecrating ourselves to the same end, which is the highest good of God and our neighbor. Instead it shows an abstract fact of the goodness of God which leaves one rather flat and with no real idea that God has a goal for the best ends and this is what constitutes his virtue. When we don’t see the end God has in view it does not motivate us to have similar ends ourselves and so it keeps us from developing proper virtue in our own lives. One could ask the question, “Goodness of God to do what?” If the answer is, “Because God is good,” then what is it that makes God good in the first place? The statement “goodness of God” leaves out the thing that makes for the goodness of God which is the end that God has in store for all his creatures. No one can be holy without an idea of what it is that makes God holy or good. So many love God because of what God does for them as a benefactor or friend, grateful for favors bestowed on self. They miss something that the Bible says, “If ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? Do not even sinners love those that love them?” The problem is that what if God is perceived as not loving us as much one day as he did the previous day? If they don’t see that God has disinterested benevolence, which is love without strings and that God does not love because of the object but that God loves unconditionally, they will miss the most remarkable of all facts regarding God’s goodness, his disinterested benevolence toward all men.
The natural results of the theory of moral order as the foundation of moral obligation.
With this philosophy if moral order is just another name for saying that all moral agents should devote themselves to the intrinsically valuable for God and the Universe, then it would not be a problem. Usually the reason for such coined phrases is that man wants to remove God from the picture. When this happens it misrepresents God, his law and government which also corrupts the concept of holiness and sin. As in our point above, it holds up an abstract phrase as the foundation of moral obligation and thus it exalts this phrase above all that is called God. Teaching men to love moral order with all the heart and soul and mind is nonsense because only by loving God and ones neighbor can one have true holiness and live as a true moral being. This type of phraseology only confuses the mind and corrupts the very foundation that should be intended by putting a substitute in its place. This again is sin, since the definition of sin is to miss the mark of the end and scope of life which is God. Such a philosophy is fatal to virtue and to the salvation of an immortal soul.
The natural results of the theory that the nature and relations of moral agents is the foundation of moral obligation.
The main problem here is that the nature and relations of moral agents is a condition of moral obligation as we have seen previously. To will the good of others is certainly virtuous but the obligation to do so is based on the value of the good, not in the nature and relations of those who will this good. Again as in all the false theories, there is an attempt to miss the mark, as it were, in replacing the good of being of God and the universe with some other more abstract concept. The nature and relations of moral beings is only as good as the value of the good that is willed to God and to ones neighbor. Having a substitute for the true foundation of moral obligation causes us to mystify or misrepresent the whole subject of moral law, moral government, moral obligation, the nature of sin and holiness, and to produce confused thoughts on any moral issue. When one errs in the end to be intended by a moral agent, they then err on the fundamental principles of all morals and religion. Since the root of true Christianity is to choose the right end then to mistake the right end would be fatal to ones soul. Think of it, instead of loving the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves, we are, under this theory, to love the nature and relations of moral beings instead. How absurd!
The natural results of having duty as the foundation of moral obligation.
We have already covered this formerly and also in the discussion of doing right. So we will move on.
The natural results of complexity of the foundation of moral obligation.
The only comments that we can make regarding complex is that if there is no clear delineation of the end or the object which is the foundation of obligation, then moral agents will be confused and the complex theory with its various suggested grounds, will be nothing more than a mixed bag of theories that all exist with the purpose of replacing God and others as the ground of obligation. The law of God is so much more simple. Rather than loving complex theory and many different grounds with all the heart and soul and mind, if we put it into the mind of a child it is so simple. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself. The ground of obligation is thus the end of good to God and to our neighbor. That a child can understand.
Now we discuss the practical result of the correct true theory of the ground of moral obligation, namely that the intrinsic nature and value of the highest well-being of God and of the universe is the sole foundation of moral obligation.
We remark as follows:
It is so simple and plain according to our statement here that even a child or a simple uneducated man can know what the truth is. Even someone who is mentally challenged can know the truth.
- Moral obligation means choice of an ultimate end.
- This end is clear and simple, a unit.
- It is easily known by the moral agent.
- The choice of this end is the whole of virtue.
- There is no sin while this end is intended with heart, soul, and mind.
- Based upon this, every moral agent knows what his duty is by way of conscience and can never make a mistake as to what his duty is. As long as he intends with a single purpose what he knows, in the light that he has, to be his duty and that he does it with all his might, he is doing his duty. If he makes a mistake as to the means but the end is still pure, he is not judged for the wrong means, only the wrong end. Though he made a mistake as to the means, he was still pursuing the right end.
- This ultimate intention is the only thing that is right and nothing more or less.
- Right and wrong are only so in relation to ultimate intention. Right is predicated of good will and wrong of selfishness. These two ends are fixed and permanent. As long as a moral agent knows the end for which he aims, he can know if he is right or wrong. Ask him what is right and the answer would be the highest good of being. He will not make a mistake, he is doing his duty. He should promote this end with the best light he has and God will give him more light. So, in a nutshell, moral law, moral government, moral obligation, virtue, vice, and the whole subject of morals and religion fit into a perfect simplicity, to intend the highest good of being for God and others. No one can be righteous or honest that is pursuing anything else. No one ever committed sin while pursuing the best ends. All the other theories and philosophies that have been mentioned and some not mentioned serve no more purpose than to create a theological fog on the subject of moral law. If the world is bewildered, then how can they find the truth and be converted?
Even Christians are so confused on the subject that benevolence constitutes true Christianity. They don’t realize that the selfishness in which they live their lives is sin, they live in self-indulgences and dream of heaven but if God got a hold on their thinking they would see just how they fall short of the disinterested benevolence required by the moral law. This is the root of the law and the gospel of God and of the nature of holiness. As we conclude we say that any system of moral philosophy that does not correctly define moral action is fundamentally defective, pernicious, and dangerous. Define moral action correctly and keep it in view and it will be of incomparable value. It would bring conviction on any who are made aware of the truth because they have failed in defining the ground of obligation as ultimate intention and instead they treat certain acts as right or wrong. Let’s take heed to the things that have been discussed and not fall into the error of false theories.