The 21st century is different from all other generations, at least in this way: We are living in the first era of an international attempt to suppress moral knowledge. I refer to the widespread cultural abandonment of belief in “natural law.”
In the classroom, through the media, in our entertainment and via rigidly enforced corporate policies, accommodation of clear moral truth is being squelched with unrelenting pressure. America’s founders (and thought leaders throughout history) often referred to our knowledge of right and wrong as “natural law.” Phrases like “self-evident truth,” “higher law” or “the laws of nature and nature’s God”—these were terms used to describe the awareness of right or wrong known to all people.
The ubiquity and source of moral knowledge
Natural law doesn’t mean that people always do what is right. But deep down, in our conscience, people really do know what’s right. This has been amply documented by many scholars, persuasively arguing that humans are a species uniquely hard wired with the ability to know right from wrong. In his 1943 classic “The Abolition of Man,” C.S. Lewis documents precepts of the moral codes held by major cultures throughout history, all of which strongly echo the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.
Face it, we are moral creatures. And no scientific theory can account for why humans are born knowing right from wrong. The Bible points out the moral awareness universally embedded within the human psyche. Romans 2:14-15 states, “When Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts.”
Romans 3 and 1 Peter 4 speak of the “oracles of God,” which were entrusted to the Jewish people. But because knowledge of right and wrong is known to all people, we are accountable to our Creator. We should do right because in our heart of hearts, we actually know what is right.
Activists for secularism, for abortion, and for the promotion of homosexuality and transgenderism fight the recognition of objective morality. All of these groups pressure professional societies, academics and legal professionals to side with them in their opposition against natural law. LGBTQ activists deem any disagreement with their message an act of violence on par with physical assault. Their lobbying of major corporations to make policies more accepting of LGBTQ demands has been very successful.
The torture of gender confusion
This widespread abandoning of morality not only gravely undermines our (currently) protected rights regarding freedom of religious expression and the freedom to share the Gospel, it also endangers people’s well-being and eternal souls. The cultural call to sexual license and gender fluidity is not the innocuous path to personal freedom our society is being led to believe. Abandonment of known truth comes with a painfully high cost.
While I was attending graduate school in the early 1990s, one of the jobs I worked was as assistant manager of a Christian bookstore. Ministry opportunities seemed to walk through the door daily, and one unforgettable person we met was Russ. He would come to the bookstore many times each week, and he struggled with many things. Physical abuse that went back to childhood had taken a severe toll on this young man.
For Russ, the peace of Christ and a stable spiritual walk seemed elusive. One day he informed us that from then on, he was to be called “Courtney.” The real answer to his problems, he was convinced, was to become a woman. Shortly after, Russ told us that he was now living with people who truly loved him—but only as “Courtney.” He let us know that his new community had a different understanding of Scripture than we had been sharing. His visits to our store became less common.
There is desire in every heart for love and acceptance that only Jesus can fill. It was clear that this young man was seeking fulfillment in some very unhealthy places. At one point, “Courtney” expressed desire to permanently return to being Russ, but the pressure to conform to the standards of the alternative community was intense. The last time we ever saw Russ, my wife and I begged him to seek counseling.
The newspaper headline reported that Russ’s death was an unsolved case. Whether or not he was murdered, committed suicide or died accidentally was never known.
But in the gender-fluid climate of the 21st century, this is certain: Christians who tried to help Russ would today be accused of hate crimes for refusing to encourage the dark, destructive identity of “Courtney.” For trying to help this young man trust God’s design for his life, we would be guilty of “misgendering.” We had taken Russ into our homes, our lives and our hearts. But progressives today would say that the Christian truth we offered amounted to acts of violence.
Morality unobscured by cultural spin
Because there is a universal witness of God written on every heart, Romans 1:20 contains some sobering words: “They are without excuse.” Before the Almighty, we are accountable. Perhaps this accountability to God—and not just to ourselves—is why many in our culture wish there were no natural moral law. This is certainly what John 3:19 indicates: “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
We have all done things we know are wrong. This is called sin. By breaking the known moral law, we are guilty before the Lawgiver. How sad it would be if the story ended there.
Thankfully, though John’s Gospel contains the indictment of man’s love for sin, in this same chapter, verse 16 records God’s intervention to save us from our guilt: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The most morally correct and wise thing anyone will ever do is to respond in faith and obedience. ©2018 Alex McFarland
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Alex McFarland is founder of Truth For A New Generation and speaks annually to thousands of youth and adults about apologetics and Biblical truth.