Why Do Naturalistic Ethics Fail? (Part Two)

Biblical Authority Devotional: Morality and Ethics, Part 3

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Chuck McKnight, AiG–U.S., concludes his explanation on why naturalistic ethical systems fail.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. (Romans 1:21–22, ESV)

Today’s big question: why do naturalistic ethics fail?

We will pick up today where we left off in the previous devotional and consider three more naturalistic systems of ethics.

Virtue Ethics is the idea that people ought to be good. That is, we are not simply to do good actions; we should rather strive to truly be virtuous people. However, virtue ethics provides no foundation for being virtuous. No rationale is given other than the idea that it is good to be good. Nor is a definition given for what makes one “good.” Virtue ethics assumes a common understanding of good and bad, but given a naturalistic worldview, this assumption is groundless. In reality, this system of ethics is no more than a basic concept that cannot stand on its own.

Kantian Ethics uses logic and reason to arrive at rules of ethics. It starts with the assumptions that humans should be treated as ends, not simply as means, and that their rights should be upheld. The basis for determining actions is the categorical imperative, which states that one should only perform an action that would be desirable as a universal law. For example, it would not be desirable for everyone to always lie; therefore, no one should ever lie. The categorical imperative allows one to form an absolute, universal duty concerning a given action. However, in many cases these absolute duties would conflict, and no means of resolving the problem is provided.

According to Situation Ethics, there are no absolute rules. We should rather evaluate every situation on its own to determine the best action. We are to choose whatever action would be most loving. However, many people differ on what love means, and situation ethics offers no absolute definition. Nor does it provide a means of determining the most loving action. So the outcome will be different for everyone. What some would consider an act of love, others may consider an act of hatred.

Have you noticed a trend through all these ethical systems? No matter how logical some might sound, none can really give a reason why we must be ethical. They can suggest that we improve ourselves or others by following a system, but they provide no ultimate foundation for doing so. One is free to choose simply to reject the principles of a given system.

This is not the case with the Bible. Only God’s Word gives us a true foundation for ethics. The moral standard put forth in Scripture is based on God, whose character and nature are absolutely good.

Today’s big idea: without God, there is no foundation for ethics.

What to pray: praise God for the absolute perfection of His own character.


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