RELIGION: Thou shalt not murder

Photo by Chris Light/Creative Commons

We turn on the news or scan the headlines on social media, and we again see senseless and tragic murders. It again lights the fire of debate regarding gun ownership. And before I go any further, let me be clear, I am not cavalier with any tragic murders. Instead, I want to go beyond surface-level symptoms of the deeper issue in our world.

The news media saturates the airwaves with coverage. The narrative: more deaths because of guns and politicians grandstanding for more gun control. Yet, there were other tragic and senseless murders. There was a World War II vet, murdered with an ax. More recently, in Southern California, the mother of three murdered them with a knife. But no cries for ax control or knife control. Ask yourself, is a murder more senseless or tragic if the person used a gun rather than a rock, knife, explosive, or any other weapon? Guns are the convenient scapegoat, and gun control the shallow hasty generalization. The real issue is that murder is always morally wrong. That is to say, the wrongness of these actions is not subjective human opinions; there is something innate about the murder of the innocent, and it always being objectively wrong.

I want you to notice that, when these events happen, everyone, left, right, religious, irreligious, whatever the skin color, everyone agrees that these murders are morally wrong. Raising the question, why isn’t that universal moral taught? It’s agreed upon, but people will fight tooth and nail to keep a universal moral law like “Thou shalt not murder” out of the public arena, out of the schools, and out of the public eye.

Why is the murder of the innocent always morally wrong? Take any of these senseless murder stories and imagine someone defending it. Imagine them saying that murder of the innocent is sometimes morally right. Would you regard such a person as sane? Of course, not because we do agree, murder of the innocent is always morally wrong. (Should one want to discuss the Offering of Isaac in Genesis 22 or the Conquest of Canaan commands and narratives, I recommend the books “Did God Really Command Genocide?” And “Is God a Moral Monster?” by Paul Copan.)

That raises another question, what is the origin of that innate sense of moral absolute? Thomas Jefferson wrote that “… all men are created equal…” and prefaced that statement with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

Now I agree, all humans are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but why is that self-evident? Why is a human’s right to live a self-evident unalienable right?

There are countless denials of these rights throughout events in human history. There have been innumerable people in power that did not believe in unalienable rights for all people.

Does that mean at those times and in those events, it wasn’t morally wrong? Of course not. That would be saying these unalienable rights are subjective and, therefore, cannot be a self-evident truth. Moreover, you feel moral outrage at these senseless murders because there is a universal moral absolute that murder of the innocent is always morally wrong.

But there is still the question, what are the origins of these self-evident universal moral absolutes? What C. S. Lewis identified as a law or rule of right and wrong was called the Law of Nature (Lewis, 5). Regarding a person who doubts the existence of this Law of Nature, he wrote, “Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had be kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five (Ibid. 6).

Why do we live as if there is this universal and absolute moral law? Can nature account for it? Nature is material, but this is an inner sense of accountability; therefore, material cannot account for it. Can society or herd instinct? If so, then this universal moral absolute is a subjective consensus. In other words, its authority is identical to the past societies that have arrived at different subjective consensus, and any moral superiority is only illusory. The incongruity is the post-modern moral relativism wanting a universal moral absolute like murder is always wrong to stand without a structure or mechanism.

A Judeo-Christian worldview has the structure to support a universal moral absolute. Its premises are a law has a lawgiver and moral laws exist. Its conclusion is there is a moral lawgiver. Therefore, a society that suppresses an absolute moral truth (Romans 1:18-19) like thou shalt not murder will face the consequences, such as more senseless murders, whether carried out with a gun, knife, poison, car, you name it.

Works cited: Lewis, C. S. 2009. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperOne.

Ozzy Osborne is associate pastor for Christ’s Church of the Valley, 10 Hillcrest Plaza Way, Montrose.

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