Ideas that reject the biblical perspective and propose a humanistic view of morality don’t surprise me, but when such ideas are published by supposed Seventh-day Adventists I become incensed by the gross misrepresentation of our faith. Our church can’t continue losing its unique identifying markers in favor of a buffet style approach to theology. The biblical worldview most powerfully explains why we have objective moral values, because it is based on the Word of God and any alternative leads to absurdity. The Bible, inspired by God, is authoritative and foundational in explaining the existence of objective moral values and human nature.
Fundamentally, the concept of right and wrong is rooted in the Genesis account of our origins. Prior to the fall, Adam and Eve did not possess a knowledge of good and evil, but the serpent promised Eve once she ate the forbidden fruit her eyes would be opened, and she would be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4). It wasn't until Adam ate the fruit also that the couple became opened to a knowledge of sin. This is why Paul said, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12). God made it clear to Adam and Eve that death would be a result of their disobedience. Transgression of God's law allowed sin to enter our world.
In the great controversy between God and Satan, misrepresenting God’s character and exciting rebellion against God’s law have been Satan’s main objectives.
John said sin is the “transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4) - God's law. This is significant because the God of the Bible is the one who created the heavens and the earth, and said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen.1:26). The implications of this statement are significant when discussing morality. God has authority over us and has the right to hold us to his standard because he created us. His standard is an extension of his character, which is the reason God's law is not arbitrary. Since we were created in God's likeness, we would expect humans to have the capacity to know and make moral judgments.
God has revealed his law to everyone. He has explicitly told us through his commandments, as revealed through the Bible, but not everyone has had access to the Bible and yet they are still aware of right and wrong. Paul explains this seeming phenomenon in Romans 2:14, 15:
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.
If God's law had not been revealed to humanity then we would have no understanding of what is right or wrong. Paul said in Romans 3:20 the law gave him knowledge of sin and that he “would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet’” (Romans 7:7). The biblical concept of sin gives us a framework for understanding morality.
Contrast the above points with a recent article published at Adventist Today titled “Sin: The Dirty Little Word that Trivializes Morality and Warps Ethics” by Chris Barrett. The article proposes that human behavior should not be described in terms of sin, but in terms of “normal or natural.” This reassignment would offer a level playing field, writes Barrett.
Barrett abandons the biblical definition of sin in favor of Oxford Dictionary's definition, which says sin is an “immoral act considered to be a transgression against a divine law.” This definition presupposes moral relativity and the existence of multiple gods, which is the opposite of what the Bible teaches.
Sin is a dirty word that shouldn't be used because it trivializes morality and warps ethics, says Barrett. The irony is that he suggests an alternative that completely trivializes morality by relegating it to the whims of the collective voice. He suggests, along with other relativists, the majority determines what is natural or unnatural, normal or abnormal. The Bible contradicts this theory on many occasions and in Isaiah 45:5 when it says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.” Barrett gives the collective voice godlike status, supplanting God as the ultimate arbiter of objective moral values.
After discarding objective moral values, Barrett then tackles the issue of human nature, “What is natural for humans has to do with our nature: What we are. This is no different to any animal. All exhibit behaviors that are ‘natural’ for their nature.” For example, what sociopaths and rapists do may be natural to them, but it is not normal behavior to the collective. So what does this mean in terms of overcoming sin in your life? Here's how Barrett explains the implications:
If you have to get on your knees and scrape, grovel and beg God for victory, chances are what you are struggling with is natural to you as a human and is not sin. (If what you struggle with is socially unacceptable and harmful to others - face up to it or await the consequences.) If it is normal to human society and behavior - stop losing sleep over it. Enjoy your life, your relationships, your body. Do no harm to others, bring them joy if you can. Live life in the best way you're able in the body and mind you have.
Barrett’s self-indulgent view suggests there is no need to ask God for victory over sin. Chances are what you're feeling guilty about, that still small voice of conscience, should be ignored. So why not stop by the porn shop or liquor store for some harmless joy? Under Barrett’s thinking, there is no need for the rapist to ask forgiveness and victory over his sin because this behavior may be natural to him and if it's socially unacceptable or harmful to others he should be prepared to face the consequences, if he gets caught. All this obviously contradicts a major theme of the Bible, which is God’s power giving us freedom over sin so we can be saved. The Bible counsels us to die daily to self and submit ourselves to God. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” James said (4:7). Barrett suggests bondage in this life and an ultimate loss of salvation, while the Bible offers peace and joy in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
Seventh-day Adventists cannot abandon the Bible as their foundation. It presents the only source for objective moral values--Jesus Christ. It presents the only solution to our sinful human nature--the gospel. God has revealed himself, through Jesus Christ, to humanity that all might be saved.
Instead of Christ as the source of object moral values, Barrett gives us the collective voice of humanity, or in essence, the will and way of the human heart, which the Bible explains in Jeremiah 17:9 as deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
Instead of acknowledging our sinful nature and calling us to look to Christ for freedom, Barrett denies our sinful nature and calls us to embrace it, which is ultimate bondage. Instead of revealing Christ as the solution to the problem, Barrett gives us nothing.
“The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly” (Proverbs 15:2).