Brutish Humanity: moral decay in Britain (Part A)

By Ninos Hadjirousou

 

A review of the article.

A recent article from ‘The Spectator’ caught my attention on the 25th of February 2017 entitled ‘Brutish Britain’ written by Frank Field, labour MP for Birkenhead. I was interested to read the article because the front cover which featured the article said ‘Britain’s moral decay’. Fields argument is that the reason why people, who live in Britain have witnessed what he expressed as ‘the incivility of one to another’, in due to the way parents are treating their children. He writes:

“Children have to be almost on the point of being murdered before they are taken into care. Outside that protection, some are subjected to brutal treatment by parents who are also brutal creatures.” [1]

I agree this is indeed as serious matter, children at home must be treated with love and care from their parents so that the kindness they receive can be passed on to others they meet. Fields mentioned that it could be the lack of money or education that creates the problem, yet he mentioned of the past. This is where I began to read more. The past is important in this time that we live in, because going back to the past we cannot only learn to solve problems and learn the solutions of the past, but also we are able to predict upcoming threats in the future. He mentioned:

“Britain was a peaceable, self-policing society. The Victorians and Edwardians made superhuman efforts to change our character. We moved from being a pretty beastly, brutal and horrible nation to one that was literally the envy of the world in the extent to which we were self-governing. Evangelical religion played a huge part in transforming the nature of our society. Trade unions, the labour movement generally, and the churches all joined in a mission to teach Christianity’s rules for everyday life. In time, this rulebook became an affair of the heart for the nation.”[2]

“The incivility I witness today is nothing new, but it is more alarming. We are returning to what we were historically like as a country”. [3]

It is also worth pointing out that from the time of the late Victorian era to the 1960’s crime rates have increased rather than decreased. The facts make the problem more serious than ever. He mentioned Geoffrey Elton, a historian who commented on society in England of the 1960’s. He said that England “discovered the secret of the need of people in modern societies to live closely together, while also retaining their separateness”[4]. This he says is due to the way parents took care on how they were nurturing their children.

What encouraged me the most about the article was these the next following words:

“We are all born with original sin, defined as seeing ourselves at the very centre of the world. Good families teach us that we are, but that all other family members see themselves at the centre, too. Safely and securely we learn the rules of the game: each of us is to be given, and to show, respect.”[5]

I completely agree with this statement here. I respect that he sees that these old values are losing interest in the hearts of the British people today, for not many can discern today what is happening before them. However, I must add that I don’t agree with everything he mentions afterward.

He argues that the solution is to make a new ‘Social Highway Code’ meaning “we need to learn the rules of society if we are not to damage people in other ways”. Good and noble is the aim to focus on, nevertheless the application on how we could do it is the issue I have with Fields article. He looks to Christianity and Humanism as groups that have established a good society. He suggests: “It is from this group of all the religions and the humanists that we could find the basis for a Social Highway Code”[6]. He actually had a meeting in Merseyside (which I am guessing it’s Liverpool?) with the Catholic Archbishop and the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool and other Christian representatives and other religions and humanists, to discuss the matter. They all thought of a way to create a basis for this new Social Highway Code.

Finally, he places the question: “what do all the world’s religions and humanists teach us about the nature of the good life? And what are the rules that we need to take from them to build this new Social Highway Code for modern Britain?”[7]

 

The response.

If we be honest here, I respect the way he mentions the problem but I don’t believe that he found the right solution to the problem. As a Christian, my convictions and beliefs are based on the Bible, the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). Thus, my responses will be based on what God teaches us human beings to do when a nation is in a moral decay.

First, it would be helpful for the reader to understand what Humanism is. Humanism is a philosophy that is difficult to be described because it has developed over the centuries through many different stages. Os Guinness calls it “the daily climate of our time”.  It has so many elements attached to it that it could be either ‘secular humanism’ or ‘theistic humanism’. Humanism is not so much on caring about other human beings though it does and try to do so. In fact, the Buddhist, the Christian, the Muslim, the Socialist, the Communist, the Atheist, all are in a sense humanitarians. But there is a distinction between Humanism and a humanitarian because people often use humanitarian as a synonym with Humanism. A humanitarian is one who has a concern for people and desires to help them for their welfare. Yet Humanism is more of a philosophical system rather than a concern for other people.

The roots of Humanism go back to the ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras, the preacher of humanism whose slogan was (which is the basis humanist creed) ‘homo mensura’ that is, ‘man the measure’. Man is the measure of all things. Man in himself is the ultimate norm that values need to be determined. In simple words, man is ultimate and autonomous. Thus, this meant that man is the ultimate being who understands reality by using man’s reason and wisdom alone. In its terminology, it is simply ‘anthropocentric’ man-centred. So to many it is for them, man centred, for it desires to explore: life, nature, reality, to cultivate and develop society, to have the control over their own happiness and security, with such freedom and liberty, so as not to allow any room for another ultimate authority, that is God.  And so the basis of one’s interpretation of truth and determining what is morally good is done subjectively rather than objectively. Yet it is worth saying that while humanism was developing; the ancients did not deny the existence of God. This was known as ‘theistic humanism’. Humanism throughout the centuries particularly in the eighteenth century, the time of the Enlightenment, had five major changes.

There was rationalism. Then empiricism. Then science. Then Romanticism. Then utilitarianism. And all of these five stages were all man centred, God was slowly becoming a disappearing figure. So much so that David Hume said that religion ‘was no more than a dim, meaningless and unwelcome shadow on the face of reason”.[8]

Modern Humanism or secular humanism today according to Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanist Association “is a non-religious worldview” “instead of looking to revelational authority (God) we use reason and evidence to understand the universe. We don’t look for moral rules outside human beings, we look to other human beings to generate values for the here and now.”[9]

Let me also add, that Humanism teaches naturalism. Naturalism with humanism teach that human beings are nothing more than a cosmic accident. There is no creator, no purpose behind your creation, no meaning, it was done by chance and it is accidental. Thus we see the development of the popularized, sadly, idea of aborting babies and leaving the elderly the die.

So already we see that classical Humanism is contradicting Biblical Christianity. It cannot be compatible and co-operative with Biblical Christianity. Now, there are some who thought to put the two together, however the result was the development of a theology in the nineteenth century called ‘Liberalism’ which in its basic teaching denied some of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith: the deity of Christ, His supernatural works, the person of God and the way of salvation. Thus it is as we call unorthodox Christianity or simply unbelief: Humanism dressed with Christian language.

 

Why do I believe that the solution to the problem of moral decay is not mixing both Christianity and humanism by creating a new one moral highway code? Because of the Christian Worldview.

 

What is Biblical Christianity?

Secondly, let us remind our readers what Christianity teaches. Contrast the humanistic worldview with the Christian worldview.

The foundations of the Christian worldview begin with God’s will. This is how Christians have kept their values and ethics.

The will of God in an ethical sense is a divine prescription in which the commands, that God commands us to follow, are connected with his unchangeable moral character. For example: God is Holy, separate from sin and evil, as it is written He said “Be holy, for I am holy”(Leviticus 11:45). We also should avoid and not accommodate evil deeds and thoughts in our lives. The Bible teaches that “It is impossible for God to lie”(Hebrews 6:18). Thus, we also should not lie. God is love (1 John 4:16). The Lord Jesus said to love your neighbour, even your enemies as yourself, for God has loved you (Matthew 22:39).

And if it is God’s will and law, which is absolute, not to murder, then we also must not murder (Genesis 9:6, Exodus 20:13,). Murder is always, in all times and every place for human beings wrong, because human beings, though fallen with original sin are still bearing the ‘image of God’ (Genesis 1:27) and so we must respect that.

Christian ethics and values and responsibilities come from God’s revelation, particularly revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16). But even if that is the case, the humanist follow a moral law within themselves, even without the Law of Moses (Romans 2:14-15). As professor Geisler wrote “Even if they do not know it by way of cognition, they show it by way of inclination”[10]

Again let me repeat that Christian values and ethics and morals are prescriptive by God. A moral law needs a law giver, if not, then there is no moral legislation without a moral Legislator.  The humanist as we have read earlier, take their values from man and other human beings. Man alone is the measure of all things. However the Christian’s moral standard is found in the Word of God, the Bible which is where we find the character of God and His commands.

[1] http://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/02/britains-morals-are-regressing-we-need-a-social-highway-code/

[2] Ibd.

[3] Ibd.

[4] Ibd.

[5] Ibd.

[6] Ibd.

[7] Ibd.

[8] Peter Gray, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., p.417

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3j8jQkSydeo

[10] Norman.L.Geisler, Christian Ethics, Baker Academic, 1989, p.23

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