Who Determines Right From Wrong?

You are here

Who Determines Right From Wrong?

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up


Our society is in the midst of a morality battle. The latest battle in this war is the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools and government buildings. Underneath the surface, there is a much more important issue in the Christian community than posting of the Ten Commandments. The question really being asked is "Are the Ten Commandments even relevant today?"

A recent survey found that most people could name no more than two of the Ten Commandments. Many of the respondents felt the commandments should be revised for modern times. They felt observing the Sabbath and honoring one's parents were outdated and suggested new commandments such as, "Thou shalt not drink and drive" and "Thou shalt care for the environment" be used as modern replacements.

New commandments

Over the last few decades various movements to create a new Ten Commandments have surfaced. In his book The Second Ten Commandments: A Guide to Success in the Age of Consciousness, Orion Moshe Kopelman, claims that the Ten Commandments have outlived their usefulness. He promotes commandments like "Maximize your time spent in flow and happiness" and "Act true to your inner voice and fulfill your mission." John Leo, in U.S. News & World Report, speculates that if we begin to change the Ten Commandments to fit into modern ways of thinking, they might appear as:

    *  "Thou shalt not steal, but creative work on your tax return is okay.
    * "Thou shalt not kill, except during any of the trimesters or if the Pentagon says you must.
    * "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods, except in the sense that our whole economic system depends on the power of envy and wanting more.
    * "Thou shalt not commit adultery, except if thou art unhappy or if personal fulfillment points thee toward the new secretary in thine office.
    * "Honor thy mother or mothers, including thy birth, adoptive, step-, surrogate or same-sex-partner mothers, and honor thy father, thy mother's sperm donor or her casual inseminator, current whereabouts unknown."

Anti-Commandments movements

One of the most powerful anti-Commandments movements of our time is the New Age movement. Shirley MacLaine, a queen of New Age philosophy, promotes two modernized commandments in her book Dancing In The Light: "Know that you are God" and "know that you are the universe."

Jesus Christ participated in the typical first-century Jewish debates over Old Testament law, which included the Ten Commandments. When asked to state the most important law, Jesus simply reiterated two laws from the Old Testament: love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).

Wrong freedom A second type of resistance to the Ten Commandments arises from the ever-increasing secularizing of America. This movement is based upon a belief that personal liberty, defined as "nobody can tell me how to live my life," is the most cherished freedom. Of course, the problem with commandments that restrict cheating on your income tax, committing adultery with your neighbor or lying to get ahead is that that they also restrict personal freedom to do whatever feels good at the moment.

Confusion reigns

A third force of resistance is in Christianity itself. Since the early days of Catholicism--and in the relatively shorter lifetime of Protestantism--there has been a struggle in defining the relationship of God's grace to God's law. Many churches openly denounce the keeping of the Ten Commandments as unnecessary for Christians. Others give lip service to them but only keep the ones they like. If Christians accept the validity of the Ten Commandments, then they must face some hard questions about their own religion.

There are profound differences between the belief that there is a Supreme Being with knowledge of right and wrong, and possessing the right to enforce His reality on His creation, and the belief that each person is a god or goddess with only his or her own thoughts and feelings as determinants of right and wrong. This confusion leaves most professing Christians so bewildered that they base their religious convictions on vague concepts of morality devoid of any real guidelines for conduct. Why have millions of people been killed in wars fought in the name of Jesus Christ? Why do Christians cheat each other or dishonor their parents? Why do they pray to statues and images in their worship of God, though this is plainly forbidden by the second of the Ten Commandments?

Are the Ten Commandments relevant today, or can we trivialize them to the same level as "use a good day planner to maximize your time"? Are they simply Ten Suggestions the Creator wanted to pass on to His children? Are they laws that only applied to an ancient people but have little application to modern life? If they are applicable today what is the price we pay both individually and collectively for breaking them?

Building relationships

In his 1996 U.S. News & World Report article, "Thou Shalt Not Command," John Leo wrote, "It's possible to put together a modern, pro-impulse set of commandments based on advertising slogans--'Just do it,' 'Just be,' 'Sometimes you gotta break the rules,' 'Peel off inhibitions,' 'Find your own road.' The National Parenting Center asked children to suggest additional commandments. Among their ideas: 'No bombing for the heck of it,' 'Thou shalt not address people by their color' and 'No grabbing.'" Someday Jesus Christ will usher in a society in which the Ten Commandments will be the backbone of a New World order. These ten basic laws will serve as the guidelines for relationship not only between God and His creation, but in every interpersonal relationship on the human plane. In fact, Jesus Himself pointed out the critical role the Ten Commandments play in our lives now, and in the future. "So He said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments'" (Matthew 19:17).