It is very early on the pages of Scripture that we read of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2: 9), while according to evolution, morality is a late development that took millions of years to arise. In the “wisdom of the world” (1 Cor. 1: 20), the concept of right and wrong is merely a device to enable a stable and ordered society to exist, and since men and women are merely collections of chemicals formed with no ultimate purpose, then sin is really a superstitious notion that has no basis in reality.
Morality, men now say, is governed by the ‘norms’ of society. A behaviour is judged to be bad because it is unacceptable to the majority, and good because it commended by the most. The effect of this can be very striking. If there are no absolute standards, then morality can be adapted to suit the times. Well did Isaiah prophecy “Woe unto them who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5: 20). Is this not precisely what is happening in our day? Public opinion is now the arbiter of right and wrong instead of divine revelation.
The wisdom of the world tells us that we are not made in the image of God (see Gen. 1: 26) but are animals, and that all notions of an absolute standard of right and wrong are illusory. Take this to its logical conclusion (few are willing to do so), and you have a nihilistic world in which expediency is king. Of course all men have a restraining conscience, but in the eyes of the atheist, this ‘inner voice’ is of no ultimate value. There is no right and wrong, so there can be no judge of right and wrong—whether the arbiter be internal or external. All that is allowed is that certain standards must be set up in order for people to function as a society, but there is nothing intrinsically sacrosanct about those standards.
A world in which the moral code is formulated by man himself is a terrifying prospect. In the mercy of God, large areas of the globe have lived under laws that derived from the ten commandments (Exod. 20: 3–17), but the rising tide of apostasy is eroding this bedrock of society. Man is bent on doing “whatever is right in his own eyes (Deut 12: 8), and according as he does not think it good to have God in his knowledge, so God is giving him up to a “reprobrate mind to practise unseemly things” (Rom. 1: 28). We live in extraordinary times, when the ethics of the civilised world are slipping beneath the long-disparaged morality of the savage.In the midst of this “crooked and perverted generation” Christians are to shine “as lights in [the] world, holding forth [the] word of life” (Phil. 2: 15, 16). This will not be easy. We are promised that we will be kept “out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable world” (Rev. 3: 10), but there is no assurance of being spared a “fire [of persecution]” (1 Pet. 4: 12). How needed is that word in 1 Cor. 16: 13: “Be vigilant; stand fast in the faith; quit yourselves like men; be strong”! For this reason, we need to take to ourselves the armour of God in order that we “may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having accomplished all things, to stand” (Eph. 6: 13).