Dr. Arthur Leff, now deceased, was a brilliant professor at Yale Law School. In 1979 he published an article in the Duke University Law Journal, and it was titled “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law.” Today it’s considered an important and prominent essay. It is uncertain what Leff believed about God, but what troubled him at the time of the article was the concept that, if there is no God, then there is no way to make a case for human morality, including human rights. Below is a paraphrased summary of his argument:
You can say it is wrong for a majority to take advantage of any minority by force, but that is simply an opinion and not an argument. You can assert all sorts of things, but what you cannot say is that one point of view is morally right and all others are not. If someone says that it is all right to enslave a minority, and you say, “no, it is wrong to hold one against one’s will,” then who is to say that your view of morality is right and theirs is wrong? Maybe it helps to frame it this way: if there is no God, who among us gets to impose his or her will on everyone else? Who gets to establish the moral laws that people are to follow? These questions are so intellectually troubling that you would think there would be more legal and ethical thinkers trying to come to grips with this.
Leff’s words suggest that if there is a God, then he would make the law for us to follow. We would base our law on Him. And this, by the way, is how Western Civilization was built, with Biblical truth as its foundation. We require a moral foundation on which to build a culture.
Christianity has always contended that moral truth is an objective, outer reality to which one submits his or her life. It is true for all people at all times. God does not have to change or adjust His moral law every fifty or one hundred years to keep pace with the change of popular culture.
We are told in Psalm 119: 151, 152
151 You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth.
152 Of old I have known from Your testimonies that You have founded them forever.
Guenter Lewy is an author and political scientist, and he has been on the faculties at Columbia University, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts. Back in the early 1990s, he set out to write a book on why America does not need religion. He saw many of his conservative colleagues taking the position that religion is fundamental to morality and social stability. He intended to prove that they were wrong. In other words, he intended “to make a defense of secular humanism and ethical relativism.” He wanted to prove that they were “damned wrong.”
After extensive research, the weight of the evidence caused Lewy to change his mind. Instead, and with academic integrity, he wrote and published the book, Why America Needs Religion. In it he argues that religion, particularly Christianity, leads to lower rates of almost every social pathology including crime, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and family breakdown. He clearly recognized the positive influence that Christianity makes on people’s attitudes and intentions. He saw unmistakably how it instills responsibility, moral integrity, compassion, and generosity.
Contrary to the expectation of the Enlightenment, freeing an individual from the shackles of traditional religion does not result in his moral uplift. To the contrary the evidence now shows clearly that no society has yet been successful in teaching morality without religion.
Lewy makes a strong argument that Biblical morality does indeed make a real difference when it is followed out in the real world. The only way to explain the outcome of his research is to recognize that when people’s lives are aligned with the objective structure of God’s moral law, the people are happier and healthier.
A significant portion of today’s blog post comes from Richard’s 2013 book, Reliable Truth: The Validity of the Bible in an Age of Skepticism. It is available at Amazon