I was recently chatting it up with a self-described nihilist. But he didn’t really strike me as the type who had actually done any of the thoughtfully honest heavy lifting, usually associated with working through the philosophical implications of such a belief system. My take on him was that he was far more of the type, to maintain a meticulously coiffured beard for the woke crowd down at the local coffee shop, where he liked to pass himself off as the brooding intellectual who had bravely concluded that the meaninglessness of life was rationale enough for his hedonistic choices.
So in a dizzying display of cognitive dissonance, in the midst of our conversation, he was claiming to embrace a philosophy that thoroughly eviscerates moral significance, while simultaneously pounding the table with the certainty of moral sanctimony. No doubt, he imaged himself to be holding a uniquely nuanced opinion, when in fact, if you stripped his opinion of all of its self-possessed rhetoric, it was a rather pedestrian view, bent on self-justification.
When some people claim to believe in a “live and let live” world, it is very likely they are merely framing the argument for why they can’t be held morally accountable. But ironically, this doesn’t keep them from proclaiming “there ought to be a law!” in regards to the moral accountability they wish to impose on everyone else. The bottom line of such duplicity, is to denounce personally practiced religious morality as being too oppressive — while simultaneously promoting politically coerced limitations on behaviors they find unacceptable.
In Joshua 24:14-15, Joshua makes the case that it was ultimately up to the people to choose for themselves whom they would serve. They could live by the laws given to Moses and thereby serve God, or they could serve some other god and thereby live by whatever laws suited them. Joshua wasn’t saying that it doesn’t matter which path you take, rather, he was simply pointing out that we always choose the path of our heart’s desire, and what he and his household desired most — was God. This is very different from the civil or statutory way we tend to think about law. Because to the modern mind, law is created out of a social/ cultural agreement we create in regards to behavior and obligation. So you don’t so much live by such a law, as you agree to comply with the prevailing culture’s expectations of how you should behave.
Psalm 1:1, 2 says “Blessed is the man . . . his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” – can you even imagine someone saying this about a civil or statutory law? A civil law is, more often than not, grudgingly complied with – this is because we don’t so much live by them, as we obey them. In contrast — what we meditate on, and take delight in, are the things that mean the most to us. So we willingly choose to live our lives in accordance with what we value most – those things that animate love and desire within us. And I think this is what the psalmist is talking about.
The gospels juxtapose for us the Pharisees, as the self-proclaimed keepers of the laws of Moses, with Jesus, as the self-described fulfillment of those laws (Matthew 5:17). Given such a context, it would be conspicuously reductive to interpret fulfillment here as meaning that Jesus was merely a perfect keeper of the law (better than the Pharisees). Rather, it would be better understood that Jesus fulfilled the law of God, as it was originally intended, as the psalmist describes it — restoring our ability to delight our heart’s in the presence of God . . . reconciling us to a relationship that had long been broken.
So let the nihilist, who can only imagine laws as having value, as a means of enforcing the contrived purposes of his imposed will — be the one obsessed with law keeping. Because for those of us who walk in the way of Christ — we know better. For it is the law of love that bids us come live our lives in God’s presence, that we might truly know His grace and mercy — so that we might do what pleases Him most. But not out of some empty obligation — No! Instead, we willingly choose to walk in a way that only love can inspire . . . so that we might freely choose to do, what only love can do.
Morality without God is just a book of wet matches