I. Opening activity: Write out the 10 commandments.
Give each participant a pen and paper. Have them write out the Ten Commandments. (If you want to make it a game: Award 1 point for each commandment they get right, 2 points for getting it in the right order)
Go over answers & discuss: How many did you get right? How challenging was it? What does this little challenge reveal?
Main Point: Most of us don’t know the commandments very well. How then can we obey them?
Remind them of what Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” If we really love God, it behooves us to study, know and obey everything he has revealed in his word.
(Optional: You can use this as a springboard to talking about current trends in society. Many people claim that they believe in God. Many will even say that they love God. But they prove that they don’t by the way they act. One person I met was living with her boyfriend and having sex out of wedlock. Another person said that if we really loved God we would we would engage in gay sex to help gay people. These are obviously against God’s law and contradictory to real love for God.)
Explain that the goal of this study is to acquaint you further with the commandments. In so doing you will be more equipped to love the Lord and serve him only.
II. Worldviews in Conflict: The ungodly theories of Ethics
Ask: Which of these two statements is true?
Even though they seem contradictory, both statements are true.
Everybody acknowledges the truth of God’s law.
All men are moral beings. God has written his law on every man’s heart. Even though people might reject God, they acknowledge him by how they become outraged when God’s law is broken. If someone lies to you, you get mad at them. You get mad because you know God’s law is right.
Everybody rejects the truth of God’s law
People are also sinners. They will reject God and seek to concoct some other moral standard by which to live. (Romans 1)
Ethics is the term we typically use to refer to the study of right and wrong. It is one of the basic elements of a worldview. Everyone has a worldview (whether it is consciously developed or not, is another question). So everyone seeks to define a standard for living. Here are a couple common ones today:
This worldview is famous for telling you to “Follow your heart.” That is, do whatever feels good to you; choose in the moment what you think is best no matter the consequences.
The following video clip gives you an accurate understanding of this worldview's ethics. Discuss what is right and what is not biblical. Stress that this worldview is purely concerned with yourself and has no real moral standard. One can choose to be a serial killer just as easily as he chooses to jump from a plane.
This worldview tells you to seek the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It finds its basis in human reason (and not Scripture). Man ultimately determines his own good.
This video explains humanistic ethics. Watch it and look for its contradictions.
For one, it may even be considered funny how it says that we should make our decisions without respect to authority. We should then ask, “Should this theory be followed since someone posing as an authority suggests it?”
Ultimately, we must say that human reason alone cannot give a cohesive ethic. It reduces to relativism and one's personal decision.
But more than that, there is no real standard for what is "good." Good, according to this worldview, is simply what I determine it to be.
This worldview says that what is right for you might not be right for me. It ultimately denies that there is anything that may be good or bad. The absurdity of this worldview may be seen in the following clip.
Pragmatism & "Whatever it takes":
This worldview says "Do whatever works best." It leaves the rightness or wrongness of something to its results. Someone will say, "Let's be practical and just do what will get us results."
Any of these above mentioned ethical theories can also reduce to "the ends justifies the means." In movies and on TV you will often here someone say, "I'll do whatever it takes" to get something they really want. When they say this, they are saying that the end (the thing they desire/goal) is so "good" that they are willing to do anything (means) to obtain it, even if it means doing something wrong.
So, if being united to your lover is your deepest goal, killing her spouse could potentially be an option in order to be together. Or, if being rich is your goal, cheating and stealing would be a legitimate means to the end.
All of the above worldviews are foolishness. The Bible summarizes them all by saying that "There is a way that seems right unto man, but its end is the way of death."
Even though people may reject it, God’s law is our only true moral basis. Scripture alone should be that which guides and acts as our final authority for all maters of ethics. God alone, who is good, is the only one who can truly determine what is right and wrong.
Without it anything becomes permissible.
III. Read Psalm 119:97-104
Discuss: What does the Psalmist say? What are the fruits of his loving God's law? Do we love God's law? How do we know if we do?
I will be teaching a creative writing class this Fall as a part of the new Christian High School that is coming together here in Ashland.
The class will be held for one hour each Friday morning for 12-15 weeks. It is a high school level course, but younger students could possibly be permitted if parents think they have the skill level.
The tentative plan is that the class will start after Labor Day and run from 11:00-noon. We will meet at Southview Brethren Church.
Contact me if you'd like to be a part, and be sure to check out the full course description too.
Yesterday in my class at the prison we began discussing the eighth commandment (Thou shalt not steal). The men there were greatly intrigued by the thought that God's word lays down a perfect system of economics and provides the means for for wealth and prosperity.
The teaching and discussion that ensued was so good that they asked if we could continue to studying the subject next week. I thought that I would post my notes, which are based on the Westminster Larger Catechism, just in case others might benefit from them.
Unfortunately, these notes are not as complete as I'd like them to be. A good deal of my teaching and illustrating was "ad lib." (Here is a printable version)
Question 140: Which is the eighth commandment?
The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.
Question 141: What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary lawsuits and suretyship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.
Question 141: What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
The duties required in the eighth commandment are...
truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man;
rendering to everyone his due;
restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof;
giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others;
moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods;
a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition;
a lawful calling, and diligence in it;
avoiding unnecessary lawsuits and suretyship, or other like engagements;
and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own. Lev. 25:35, Phil 2:4; Deut 22:1-4
Question 142: What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery, man-stealing, and receiving anything that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, false weights and measures, removing land marks, injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depopulations; engrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor: What belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them; envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God has given us.
Question 142: What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are...
theft, robbery, man-stealing, and receiving anything that is stolen;
false weights and measures,
removing land marks,
injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits,
Unjust enclosures and depopulations;
engrossing commodities to enhance the price;
unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor: What belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them;
envying at the prosperity of others;
as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming;
3. Examples of "wasteful gaming": Slot machines, raffles, lotteries, games of chance, sporting pools, card games. (Discuss: What do you think is the difference between these and a pop machine?)
and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God has given us.
This afternoon I have opportunity to talk about one of my favorite subjects: My kiddos! My friend Mark Hamilton is allowing me to speak to his medical ethics class at Ashland University. The topic will be that of adoption and my experiences as an adoptive father.
This class comes as a fitting end to their section on abortion. Mark is to be commended for his work with the students on this issue. He has done an excellent job setting forth a Biblical understanding of conception and the nature of human life. He has also shown the 180 Movie and another documentary detailing the nature of horror of abortion.
An outline of my lecture is provided here: Issues & Experiences in Adoption
Discuss: As Augustine begins his “confession” he starts at the very early days of adolescence. Why do you think he includes this in his account? Why does he devote a lengthy discussion to this period of his life?
To be sure, puberty is a developmental milestone. But Augustine sees this not primarily as a time of physical and mental development—though he mentions his father’s rather embarrassing
recognition of it in the bathhouse. To Augustine, the adolescence was a major developmental stage for his sinful life.
He does not gloss over it as a time when “boys will be boys” or a time when he can merely “sow his wild oats.” He sees this as a dark time; a crucial time where his descent down the path of wickedness began.
For this reason he begins the chapter by mentioning the vanity of the road he set upon: “I will attempt to give a coherent account of my disintegrated self, for when I turned away from you, the one God, and pursued a multitude of things, I went to pieces. There was a time in adolescence when I was afire to take my fill of hell.”
This is an echo of what he says in another place, “our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee.” In sum, he declares that peace of mind/peace in life can only be achieved through peace with God. As we wonder further away from obedience to the Lord (and the revelation of absolute truth that he gives), we bring upon ourselves misery of mind/life.
The theme of lust is noted at the outset of the chapter. Augustine asks, “What was it that delighted me? Only loving and being loved.” He goes on to express that love and lust were two things that were profoundly confused, such that he could not distinguish the “calm light of love from the fog of lust.”
Discuss: Is there a legitimate distinction between love and lust? If so, what is it? How do we define or distinguish love and lust? What is the basis for such a distinction?
The lusts associated with Augustine’s youth may be categorized in the following ways:
1. Sexual intrigue.
Augustine starts by admitting that he was “in love with being in love.” This, at least at this time in his life, primarily means an unbiblical sexual proclivity. The number one sin of the adolescent years is that of lust so it is no surprise that he talks about this. However, the honesty of it and the expression of how vile it really was is interesting given the sexing of our culture and "free love" tendency.
Augustine notes that this yearning marriage would have curbed these desires, or at least put them to good use in propagating the race through children. There was no intention of this though. His parents cared more for his education than his chastity. His mother did admonish and instruct him on the evil of fornication, but he would not listen.
In the end, he admits that these exploits plunged him further away from God. Though sweet to the flesh they were bitter to the soul because the Lord would not bless them (he "sprinkled bitter disappointments over all my unlawful pleasures so that I might seek a pleasure free from all disappointment.")
The lust he had was not confined to that of women though. He yearned for acceptance with his male friends. This was fed by the idleness of being away from school for a time. He spent much time roaming with friends. To be recognized by them he made up stories about sexual exploits (“afraid of being reviled, I grew viler”)
3. Greater wickedness
Augustine says, “Throughout these experiences a dark fog cut me off from your bright truth, my God, and my sin grew sleek on my excesses.” Adolescence is a time marked by growth. We typically associate with it the developments that occur physically and mentally. Augie does not do this. The growth of his sin is what is in the foreground. This time of his life was marked by hardening in evil ways.
The more evil that is done, the more thirsty one becomes for more. Essentially Aug. says that there is a drug like effect of sin. You become addicted. Correspondingly, as you are attracted to more evil, your mind becomes more distant from the things of heaven and God. (The Bible talks about searing the conscience and being given a “reprobate mind.”)
Discuss: Much of the chapter is tied up with his discussion of the pear tree. What happens there? Why does Augustine deem this so important as to include it?
There is a sense in which this tale parallels the biblical story of Adam and Eve. In the Genesis 3 story we read of the initial sin that plunged mankind into sin. Here, we see Augustine’s revelry in sin. He confesses that he would not have done it if he were alone, nor were the pears of great desire (there were better ones to be had). It was purely “sin for sin’s sake;” the pleasure of ruin and destruction. (“The malice was loathsome, and I loved it.”)
Augustine insinuates that the sin of Adam had left its mark. The corruption of the heart was such that he took great delight in the evil.
Discuss: Augie also says that his friends had something to do with the whole event. Do you think that this was essentially your everyday act of peer pressure?
Augustine also remarks that the raping of the pear tree corresponded to the sin of our first parents in motivation. The serpent tempted Adam and Eve by saying, “when you eat of it you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Augustine says (II.14), “All those who wander far away and set themselves up against you are imitating you, but in a perverse way.” That is to say, in seeking to be a law unto oneself they copy the work of the Lawgiver himself. Augustine admits, “I was…trying to simulate a crippled sort of freedom, attempting a shady parody of omnipotence by getting away with something forbidden.”
Augustine ends by essentially saying, “So began my course.” While he might have had some happy moments, he lacked true joy & satisfaction because he lacked the Lord. We might hear in his concluding remarks something of what King Solomon said in the book of Eccl.: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, "I have no pleasure in them."
This weekend I will be presenting several talks for a seminar on Islam at Richland Correctional. My prison students asked me to do the seminar because they wanted to have the men equipped to do some apologetics with the Muslims they frequently rub shoulders with.
I will also be presenting a summary of the talks at our Sunday night Bible study (August 4th, 6:30 pm). If you are interested in learning how to refute Islam, you are more than welcome to join us for the evening. Email me for directions if you need them.
The talks include: The Dilemma of Islam; Allah: Uncovered and Exposed; The Sure Way of Salvation
From time to time I'm asked about books that are "must read's". Just today I was asked what I would recommend for a high school home education reading list. There may even be an interest in doing a homeschool class on one/some of them. So, if you are a homeschooler, give it a think.
And now, without any further adieu...the list that I fully endorse:
Man tearing himself out of the rock
Our worldview class will be examining humanism today. As the name indicates, it is the worldview that is directly opposite that of Christianity. It is holds an optimistic view of humanity, touting the greatness and glory of man.
The motto of this system was best expressed by the ancient philosopher Protagoras. He said, "Man is the measure of all things."
The great Renaissance artist Michelangelo provides something of a monument to the humanistic philosophy in his sculptures of men tearing themselves out of the rock. The point is that man does not need the assistance of God. Man will make himself; he can become anything by his sheer will and determination.
A contemporary parallel may be seen on our television screens, particularly in those advertisements that seek to sell sports apparel.
Even some of the athletes look manly, a way of saying, "You can overcome the limitations of your femininity." The final shot in the advertisement says it all: A girl dunks a basketball over a team of men. She epitomizes the title of the commercial: "Throw-down."
These 30 seconds preach a different view of femininity. It is definitely not the ideal Christian woman, who is meek and ready to submit to her husband (1 Peter 3:1-4). She is beyond woman--a new species of woman, who is able to throw down the current limitations and roles that define humanity.
That is humanism. It is the view that man is evolved and ever evolving. He is the pinnacle of the evolutionary process, and there is still more greatness to be achieved.
Yet, it is only in his imagination. Lennon is a dreamer because he does not recognize that man's nature is inherently sinful. No amount of human effort will be able to transform the heart and overcome the defects that become him. The world he imagines can only be brought about through the supernatural working of Christ's redeeming grace.
A woman who is desperately seeking solace asks through sobbing tears why people have to die. The man responds with a trite, "To make life important."
For all the supposed greatness of humanity, humanists are bound to admit that man's life is but a breath. Even the supposed super-humans of Nike will only achieve 100 years at best.
Existentialism arose in Europe after WWII, after the time of optimistic humanism. While the philosophy was being developed by various men prior to this point in time, it didn’t really catch on until after the devastation of WWII.
The calamity of two world wars and the excessive death exacted by Hitler & Stalin’s concentration camps made many rethink how humanistic thought had served mankind. Adding to the turn against optimistic humanism was the trouble caused by the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
Given all these tragedies—which overtly demonstrated the failure of humanistic thought— and the growing prevalence of the naturalistic/materialistic worldview, people entered an “intellectual pothole.” The despairing attitudes of those in Europe & America were perfect breeding grounds for “a philosophy of despair.”
A few notable existential philosophers include: Jean Paul Sarte, Camus, Martin Heideger, Rudolph Bultmon
Existentialism, as already noted, is a pessimistic philosophy. It is sometimes called “the philosophy of despair” or “the philosophy of the absurd.” This can be seen by the following quotes:
Existentialism is an offshoot of naturalism, just like secular humanism. Because this is so, it holds many things in common with humanism. Unlike humanism though, existentialism focuses on the despair, angst, and absurdity of life. To put it another way, humanism takes the high road, believing that man is great and can become greater. Existentialism takes the low road: man is a meaningless lump of dirt that has no ultimate purpose.
“Man is absurd, but he must act as if he is not.” –Sarte
As noted above, man is nothing more than ooze. You are a “cosmic accident,” an “overgrown germ,” and “a clog in the wheel.” As such, you have no purpose and you live in a world that has no purpose. Thus you must deal with the angst that this produces.
Angst can be thought of as the anxiety or anguish that accompanies the realization that you and this universe have no purpose. It is the combination of fear and dread that expresses how sick you are with life.
Existentialism also stresses the freedom of man to choose as he wills. You are defined by these choices. You are the sum of your choices.
Against the facts, and despite the meaninglessness of life, you must choose to be (existentialism is the worldview of being!). If there is meaning, it is defined by what you make of it.
Truth is not something that is revealed or gained by rational investigation. Reason cannot be successful in finding the meaning to life because everything is ultimately meaningless. Instead, truth is primarily gained through experience.
For the Existentialist, experience is everything. Your main goal is to create meaning out of your personal experience. Sometimes you will hear it said that “being is more important than knowing.”
According to this worldview, it is not so much what you know as what you do and what you make of yourself. You may hear that “life is a journey.” That is, your life is a road trip where you must make yourself into what you are.
In the end, one must “follow his heart,” even if it is illogical and means committing to something against all evidence.
When it comes to ethics Existentialism admits that there is no absolute that guides what is right and wrong (after all, everything is meaningless). Instead it stresses one’s personal freedom and free choice.
The existential worldview emphasizes the need to make a choice, and that choice must be free from all outside influences. No one can tell you what to do and you must not let anything govern you or influence you. In sum, all forms of oppression are to be tossed off, for that is the only thing that is ultimately wrong.
Again, it is choice and freedom that are predominant. Jean Paul Sarte once said regarding the “old woman crossing the road” that “It doesn’t matter if you help her cross the road or run her down, what matters is that you choose.”
Ultimately, suicide may be considered good. “The greatest question man must face is not so much if he should commit suicide, but when.”--Albert Camus
Perhaps the best way to summarize existentialism’s view on ethics would be in saying: “Be true to yourself.”
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.