In the previous article in this series we saw that we should live according to the will of God. This is because God, being God, is perfectly wise and perfectly good and his will is the expression of this fact. What he wills is always perfectly wise and perfectly good and therefore there is no good reason for us not to obey it, and every reason that we should.
In the case of other human beings there are two reasons why we may justifiably refuse to obey what they ask us to do. The first is because what they ask us to do is unwise (like trying to make a really important decision after insufficient sleep) and the second is because what they ask us to do is morally wrong (like stealing the funds of a cancer care charity). However, since God is perfectly wise and good there is never any justifiable reason for not doing what God asks us to do because what he asks will never be unwise and will never be morally wrong. This remains true even when we cannot see the reason why God is asking us to do (or not do) a particular thing. We need to trust that God knows what he is doing even when it doesn’t make sense to us, on the basis that God is wiser than we are and so has a much better grasp of the reality of the situation than we do.
This still leaves us with the issue of how we determine what God’s will is in any given situation. The answer is that while God can and does communicate with people directly through visions and prophecies this is not the normal means through which he makes his will known to us.
There are two ways that God normally communicates his will to us.
The first is through the way he has made us and the world as a whole (what is known as ‘natural revelation’).
The second is through the words of the Bible, which, though written by a series of human authors, express perfectly what God wants to communicate to his human creatures (this is what is meant when it is said that the Bible is ‘inspired’). The words contained in the Bible supplement natural revelation by telling us about how God created us, how he has acted in the history of the Jewish people, and supremely through Jesus Christ, to rescue us and all creation from the power of sin and death, and how he will act in future so that when our life in this world comes to an end we can share life with him for ever in a new creation in which all that is evil will exist no more.
God’s absolute perfection means that his will never changes. Because it is this unchanging will that is communicated though these two sources, what we learn from them, what is known as the ‘moral law’ applies to all people, at all times, and in all places. Thus, for example, God’s will that people should avoid burning themselves (which we learn from nature) applied in ancient Israel and in medieval Korea, and still applies in twenty first century Los Angeles and the same is true of the command ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God’ which is taught in the Bible (Micah 6:8).
The same is also true of the moral law as it applies to sexual ethics The argument that is sometimes put forward that sexual ethics need to change to keep up with changing times is bogus. The will of God, revealed in the ways we have discussed, remains the unchanging standard by which we must continue to judge whether sexual conduct is right or wrong.
In the next article we shall go on to consider why love entails living in accordance with the moral law.
M B Davie 24.2.20