The ISIS terror group is claiming responsibility for the explosion and subsequent crash of a Russian airliner on Oct 31 2015. Innocent men, woman and children were killed in a terror filled act of violence. Many would describe this as an act of evil. However, ISIS is one of many groups that would justify taking lives in the name of their God.
Testimony from the leaders of Planned Parenthood recently affirmed that the organization was receiving what were described as “suggested donations” for aborted baby parts to be used in medical research. Many would describe this activity as an act of evil as well. One would wonder why both these acts would not be considered evil by all people. Are acts of evil subjective or objective? Do the people who perform such acts feel any sense of guilt for these actions? Some supporters of ISIS would claim they are acting legitimately according to their beliefs. Planned Parenthood supporters would argue they are acting legitimately according to their beliefs. Who is there to argue otherwise? What qualifies a person to be able to judge right from wrong?
In the case of the senseless murderous actions of ISIS, there is something within us that yells out “this is evil and wrong!” We have a sense of ethics within us that certain things ought not be. What about the actions of Planned Parenthood? In the case of abortion and other widely debated cultural mores we have a tendency to justify certain behavior to conform to what we perceive as a normative morality.
Scripture admonishes us to integrity as we discern between good and evil.
Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight!”…
Perhaps clarifying the distinctions between what is ethical and what is moral would be helpful. R.C. Sproul explains that:
“Ultimately, the science of ethics is concerned with what is right, and morality is concerned with what is accepted. In most societies, when something is accepted, it is judged to be right. But oftentimes, this provokes a crisis for the Christian. When the normal becomes the normative, when what is determines what ought to be, we may as Christians find ourselves swimming hard against the cultural current.”
Over 50 million babies have been destroyed in America since “Roe vs Wade” became law. For many, abortion is a culturally accepted part of a free society, it has become morally acceptable. However, for others it is as ethically repulsive as the terrorist actions of ISIS.
“The Christian concept of ethics is on a collision course with much of what is being expressed as morality. This is because we do not determine right or wrong based on what everybody else is doing… As Christians, the character of God supplies our ultimate ethos or ethic, the ultimate framework by which we discern what is right, good, and pleasing to Him.”
We know that evil exist, but exactly what is evil? Is it the “absence of” or “corruption of” good? Is it a neuroscientific “malfunction or dysfunction rather than malevolence”? as described in a recent “Slate” article by Ron Rosenbaum. How do we discern between good and evil? Answering these questions requires a belief in God and a basic understanding of His attributes.