In our study of the beliefs of the church, we have studied a group of beliefs concerning God’s work for man, and another group of God’s work in man. Now we come to the last group of three studies concerning man’s work with God.
God has done all the things we have studied, has created the world, has caused the Bible to be written for our benefit, has sent Jesus to atone for our sins and has even created us. What is man to do then? Has man nothing to do but to enjoy himself as much as he can, to use up the world, or as much of it as is necessary to satisfy his desires, or to shove his neighbor out of the way if he interferes with his pleasure?
No, all that God has done for man, and in man, requires a response from man. It is not a response that is controlled, like placing a bear on a hot griddle in order to teach him to dance. It is not a response that sets down many laws so that when a certain string is pulled, man responds by doing certain good or evil deeds. No, the response from men is probably best defined by quoting Augustine who said that the rule of Christian life is to love God and do as you please.
There are three responses that are required of man, and each will be the subject of the next three lessons. They are the responses of Christian ethics, worship and service.
There is nothing that our civilization needs more than an authoritative system of ethics. If everyone lived by the same code of ethics, think what it would mean to our everyday lives. We wouldn’t need very man policemen for everyone would obey the laws. Policemen would be needed for investigation of accidents and to help in time of disaster. Think of the saving in taxes which would mean more money in your pocket and my pocket to spend. Think of the productive labor the men now engaged as policemen could be engaged in.
Think of the government agencies we wouldn’t need. The FTC with all its policing powers and the various trade associations which also try to police their own organizations. Think of the revolution in international politics if we knew that the desire for peace by the Russians is just as deep as the desire for peace that we have. Furthermore, think what it would mean if when they said they would disarm, that we knew that they meant it. If all the world had an authoritative system of ethics to live by, think what a wonderful world it would be. Modern society is like a ship without charts of the seas. It may eventually reach port, but it is very likely to run aground on the many shoals that abound off every coast.
Morality, then, is the great question of our age. But what is morality? Is it anything more than custom? Has it any basis in reality? Can it give us any guidance in our perplexity about the meaning of life and history? These are the vital questions that must be answered by our civilization before it destroys itself.