This is a question that was the topic of three of my lectures today and two more lectures tomorrow. Who is the ultimate authority in your life? I asked my students to think of different areas of their lives where they have a set of rules they have to follow, and the authority that enforces those rules. They thought about rules in their house where their parents are the ultimate authority. They thought about driving where police enforce rules created by the government. There are also rules in the schools enforced by the teachers and administration.
They saw that the rules/laws that they named are only applied in certain circumstances or areas. School rules only apply while you are at school. House rules only apply while you are living at home with your parents. Driving laws only apply while living in the state or country that enforces them. I then asked a followup question. Are there laws that govern the entire world? They agreed that murder without justification is wrong. They also mentioned racism, torturing children for fun, and rape. So who is the authority that created and enforces these rules that are above all people? What are the options?
I am the ultimate authority.
Our culture tells us that morality is decided by your happiness. Whatever makes you happy is good. But is this really how we live? It would make me happy to go to work in shorts and a t-shirt but that is not possible. What if someone loves robbing banks and that is what makes them happy? Does that become morally acceptable for that person? Of course not. The belief that morality is only dependent on our love or happiness creates relative morality that cannot account for the objective morality we see governing the whole world.
Government is the ultimate authority.
If government is the ultimate authority, we would see different laws and morality from government to government. What one government deems morally good would have to be accepted by all other governments. This leads me to believe that when our government approved of slavery, then slavery was morally good. That is just crazy! Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is morally good.
People are the ultimate authority.
If people are the ultimate authority, who gets to choose the moral standard by which we all live? Is it based on the majority? I don’t think so. If the majority of people decided that genocide was a good thing, would it then become morally good? No, this does not explain the objective morality that we see in the world. This type of morality would be based on opinions, not objective.
God is the ultimate authority.
This is the explanation that best answers what we see in the world. In order for there to be an objective morality for all people, we need an objective authority that is over all people. That is God.
So how does this apply to our lives? Society is telling us that morality is relative and depending on your personal feelings. I see students being influenced by what society says is normal. It is normal to have sex with your boyfriend/girlfriend and it is normal to get drunk, do drugs, and get an abortion if you are pregnant. It’s LEGAL, what’s the problem? Just because something is normal, it doesn’t mean that it should be accepted. When we allow society to influence our behavior, we are saying that society has authority in our lives instead of God. Allow God to be the ultimate authority in your life and make your decisions based on His moral standard, not society’s.