The late Allan Bloom wrote in “The Closing of the American Mind” that contemporary talk of “values” is what is left when society accepts the notion that there is no genuine right or wrong. Moral issues are reduced to matters of personal preference and conviction. My “values” may not match your “values,” but we all must respect each other’s convictions equally in matters of common concern.
The very concept of morality has been undermined by postmodern philosophers who love to argue that all moral systems are merely relics of the repressive past, put in place by oppressive forces. In essence they are saying that all truth is socially constructed and can be disregarded.
The loss of the nation’s moral center has been long in coming. The late Frederick Moore Vinson, a former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, declared before 1950 that “nothing is more certain in modern society than the principle that there are not absolutes.” Coming from one who was then America’s foremost jurist, the statement was a dark prophecy of things to come.
No thinking person can ignore the massive and seemingly insoluble moral dilemmas that society faces today. When the most basic issues of life – sexuality, family, marriage, and moral responsibility – are up for grabs, the nation has reached a testing point of unprecedented proportions.
The reduction of morality to values was a hallmark of the 1980’s, when the left began to push it in the school system. Throughout the educational world children and teenagers were encouraged to invent their own individualistic systems of morality and to “develop” their own values. We can already see the moral damage inflicted by those students who were taught to doubt or defy traditional morality.
Moral decay is even accepted within the church. A sex education program produced a few years ago by a major mainline Protestant denomination urged parents to respect the values of their children, and to accept the fact that these may differ from their own, even suggesting that parental values were restrictive and outdated.
Morality revealed in the Bible is not a matter of personal values, it is the authoritative instruction for the moral life as defined by our Creator. Christ, the prophets, and the apostles did not instruct God’s people to look within for a moral code but to follow the explicit moral commandments revealed in God’s Word. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
Christians do not serve society by receding into the moral background. If the Christian church does not take the moral high ground, we will leave a secular society groping for values without Christian moral witness.
The most urgent moral issues we face are really spiritual issues – the refusal to accept God’s definitions of marriage, the refusal to defend the dignity of human life, the rejection of the Creator’s right to define our own existence. Christians cannot hide from these battles. We must respond with a note of clear, uncompromising, and unambiguous moral conviction.
Once God is removed from the cultural equation, sin no longer makes sense. And if it is defined as a mere violation of individual values, the word itself has lost its Biblical meaning. Sin has meaning only when seen in the blinding right of God, against whom all have sinned.
Christian churches have been afforded an opportunity they must not squander. The gospel itself calls for moral witness. The church must be on the front lines of the moral crisis with a boldness to speak the truth in love – the only genuine value.
Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private virtue and public virtue is the only foundation of Republics.” John Adams
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “When Morals are Reduced to Values”