David Hegg | What Makes Right, Right?

David Hegg
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By David Hegg

The academic field of ethics is a subset of philosophy that seeks to apply principles of morality to everyday behavior. A person is “ethical” to the extent that what they believe to be true shapes their thinking and doing. However, if the presuppositions and beliefs of one’s system are themselves unethical, no behavior based on them can be considered ethical.  

For example, John Doe believes eating his grandmother is ethically acceptable based on his ideological principles. But his beliefs notwithstanding, his actions would be considered unethical, dishonorable and criminal when judged against the overall ethical ethos of civilized society.  Simply put, if your reasons for doing good are not good, nothing can normalize abnormal behavior.  

But what about when the overall ethical ethos of a society changes? What if our worldview, our “social imaginary,” were to change to the extent that eating one’s grandmother became more and more acceptable? Would that make it ethically acceptable? 

The answer to this kind of question should be on our minds today. We are watching the ethical foundation of western civilization morph dramatically as a new ideology, untethered from both natural law and historical precedent, is taking hold. What once was unacceptable is now applauded. What once was unthinkable is now demanded. And so it is time to ask another question. 

Are the foundational beliefs of the progressive ideology of our day to be trusted? Are they sound? Do they have a proven track record? Do they promote the common good? Or are they fueled by individual selfishness and a vindictive spirit? 

Here’s the deal: You can tell a tree by its fruit. The test of any philosophy, any ethical system, any ideology is simply, “Do those who best exemplify it have beliefs and behavior that equip them to join with those around them in maintaining an honorable society?” 

So, let’s do some fruit inspection. 

Are we better off now that all restraints have been taken off sexual expression? Are we better off now that public nudity is seen as a demonstration of freedom? Are we better off now that elementary school children are being told there are numerous genders available to them? Are we better off now that we have regressed to assessing one another, no longer by individual character, but by the color of their skin? Are we better off now that ideology has replaced biology? Are we better off now that those in power can enact regulations that curtail individual freedoms even though they know years later their regulations will be found unconstitutional? 

Historically, all philosophies of life fall into two broad categories: Those whose foundations are founded in theism, and those whose foundations are primarily humanistic. That is, those who believe in, and take their foundational beliefs from the existence of a transcendent deity, and those who believe man is the measure of all things.  

Now, I’ll be the first to admit many who confess to believing in and following their God have largely used religion for selfish and many times destructive purposes. The same can be said for every ideology through history.  

But, for those playing with an open mind and an open history book, the truth is clear that those who honorably, consistently bow to the authority of Almighty God have found an ethical system that is personally uplifting and of great benefit to the society around them. America is proof of that. As America has honored God, we have prospered. As we have failed to honor him, we have eroded as a people. 

If you’ve read this column for some time these thoughts are not surprising to you. But I also know we live in a pluralistic society and this means we will differ. But the strength of pluralism demands that we deal with our differences honorably. We must listen and we must be able to engage in profitable, useful and civil dialogue simply because there is no honor in acting before getting all the needed information. There is also no honor in incivility, in demeaning speech or actions.  

Lastly, I have just returned to our wonderful city from a lengthy sabbatical largely filled with writing projects, reading, and time with my amazing wife. But, coming home to the Santa Clarita Valley has been such a marvelous blessing. We love our town, our people and our way of life. Thanks, SCV, for allowing me into your lives for the past 14 years. I trust we have many more to come. 

Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays. 

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