When we think about equality, we think of many different issues:
- Equality among all Life Forms
- Equality of Role among the Various Age and Sex Groupings
- Equality of Income
The list can be extensive, and so I want to limit my discussion of equality to those things that the vast majority of Westerners value – The Bill of Rights reflecting our unalienable human rights, equal protection under the law, and the value of all human life.
What is necessary to provide an adequate rationale and foundation for these kinds of equality? Many offer the rationale of “majority rules” based upon pragmatic considerations – what works in terms of providing the maximum benefit to the greatest number of people.
While I don’t reject such pragmatic considerations, I want to argue that more – objective transcendent moral law - is necessary for any legal or ethical system. Let me try to explain. If moral law is not objective, it doesn’t exist outside of our own thinking. It’s merely a human creation without any reality of its own.
In contrast to this, the sun has an objective and independent existence apart from what I might think about it, while those who claim that morality is just a matter of our own decision-making deny that morality has any independent existence of its own.
(Moral law must also be transcendent. It must transcend all of our conflicting thinking and feeling and hold us all accountable. As such, it must be higher and more authoritative than our philosophies and cultural biases. It must also be immutable and not subject to changes in culture, human thought, and the opinions of humanity. It must partake of the same immutability and universality as do the laws of physics. Finally, it can only be authoritative if it comes from and is enforced by an all-just and wise Being.)
Let me just focus on one aspect of moral law – equality. The principle of quality is incoherent and therefore unsustainable without objective moral law for several reasons:
- Without objective transcendent moral law, there is no rational basis for equality. We certainly do not find equality in nature but rather the survival-of-the-fittest. When the Transcendent is rejected, we are left with philosophical materialism. From a material point of view, there isn’t any equality even among humans. So are taller, stronger, smarter, better educated, and more popular than others. More importantly, some contribute to the common welfare, while others detract. Therefore, from a materialistic point of view, some would therefore be more deserving of rights and privileges than others.
On an interpersonal level, we believe that everyone is entitled to respect. As a probation officer, I would try to treat everyone in a way that respected his/her dignity as a human being. However, the material world does not provide any basis for such respect. Some of my probationers had arrest records yards long. Yet, as a Christian, I knew that they still bore the image of God and consequently were endowed with certain unalienable rights. If I had been a materialist, I would have been constrained to treat them in accord with their past performance alone.
- Pragmatism is inherently selfish. The secularist denies
Transcendence. He must therefore base his morality on pragmatic
considerations – on what brings benefits. However, we all want benefits.
We are all pragmatists. Pragmatism has been the default morality of
humanity, and it has borne bad fruit. Whenever a nation has denied the
Transcendent – the communist nations are a prime example – we observe
unmitigated horrors. This is because pragmatism, the quest for benefits,
is inherently selfish. As such, it can bear good fruit but also the worst
Most secularists will admit this problem and will respond that pragmatism has to be an enlightened and egalitarian pragmatism. However, this is just what communism had boasted to be. Even “enlightened” pragmatism is doomed to failure simply because pragmatism is based upon self-interest and not on immutable, transcendent moral law.
- Pragmatic idealism will eventually run out of steam and not motivate the sacrifices necessary to make this ideal work. Without the confidence that we are serving the God of all truth and love, we will not be able to continually take risks to save Jews and merely to be a whistle-blower. The stresses of life will eventually lead us to the “why bother” philosophy.
- Without the biblical revelation that we are special and created in the image of God and therefore possess indelible worth, we will not be able to counter the charges that our morality is chauvinistic – man-centered. Why should our laws favor humanity and not cows or even termites? What makes us any more valuable than the termite? Some would answer, “our intelligence.” However, such an answer undermines the very human equality we wish to protect. If we are valued according to our intelligence or creativity, then we must value the more intelligent and creative above others.
Even the Deist, Thomas Jefferson, was unable to conceive of our rights apart from God: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?” (Notes on the State of Virginia)
The anti-Christian philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche acknowledged the connection between the Bible and equality: “Another Christian concept, no less crazy: the concept of equality of souls before God. This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights.” (Will to Power)
- Subjective secular morality is arbitrary, culture-based and changeable. How then can anyone take it seriously if we regard our laws as merely the product of the cultural elite or the majority. Such laws and ethics lack the power to motivate in a positive direction. For example, take the testimony of serial-killer, Ted Bundy:
- Then I learned that all moral judgments are “value judgments,” that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’…I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable value judgment that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these ‘others?’ Other human beings with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more to you than a hog’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as ‘moral’ or ‘good’ and others as ‘immoral’ or ‘bad’? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me – after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited self. (Christian Research Journal, Vol 33, No 2, 2010, 32)
- Without the biblical sanctity-of-human-life orientation, we inevitably move in a quality-of-life direction, where we are valued, not according to our God-given value, but according to a cultural assessment of value. Under this form of valuation, some humans will inevitably be considered more valuable than others – the less esteemed members of society. These might include criminals, odd-balls, or even republicans or democrats. Such a system of valuation will only regard certain members as “equals.”
In addition to the problem of denying the Transcendent’s impact on moral law and equality, is the problem of finding a purpose in life. Without the Transcendent, there is nothing higher into which we can plug ourselves to derive any sense of purpose and dignity. We are relegated to living according to our feelings for our commitment to family or any other ideal. However, our feelings are highly changeable. Therefore, if our lives depend on our feelings, our lives will be characterized by instability and confusion. In order to escape this confusion, we will have to turn off our minds. And this is just what this generation is doing.