Survival of the Fittest vs the Golden Rule
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Where does morality come from? How do humans decide how to behave? As a Christian we see that moral behavior is a product of my belief in a Creator God. But what if a person does not believe in God? What dictates his morality?

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

In a sermon on “Evolution and the Christian Faith,”  Phillip E. Johnson notes:

“‘If there is no Creator who has a purpose for your life, then there is no such thing as sin, … ‘Sin would mean that you are in a wrong relationship to your Creator. Well, you can’t be in the wrong relationship with the particles. They don’t care. So you don’t need a Savior to save you from the consequences of your wrong relationship with the particles.’”

Leaving some to conclude,

“When you give away creation, you have given away everything.”1

That’s a pretty harsh conclusion, isn’t it? But we can hardly deny the truth of it when we look around at what has happened in society since the theory of evolution has become the popular way to explain the existence of our world.

Evolution teaches that only the strongest, healthiest, and smartest survive – a concept that is completely incompatible with the Golden Rule.

“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

I’ve found that the Golden Rule is harder to teach than you might think. Out of context many people don’t immediately assume that it is a text from the Bible. You could say it was just a good rule to live by. But in 20 plus years of teaching in one capacity or another I’ve found that, without the opportunity to back that statement up with a belief in God, it has little impact on individual behavior. The response I most often get when I try to explain the Golden Rule to one of my students is, “Why?” In fact, they often completely turn the concept around, “They’re not going to treat me the way I want to be treated. Why should I be nice to them?”

By today’s standards, the Golden Rule is counter-intuitive.

The Golden Rule says, “Share.”
Survival of the Fittest says, “Take yours first and let the rest fend for themselves.

The Golden Rule says, “Lend a helping hand.”
Survival of the Fittest says, “If you can’t keep up, get out of the way.”

The Golden Rule says, “Look out for one another.”
Survival of the Fittest says, “Every man for himself.”

Counter-intuitive or not, our Creator has both told and demonstrated to us how we should behave as we represent Him.

“Your relation to God and your fellow men demands a change in your life. In the Sermon on the Mount the injunction of the world’s redeemer was: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” These words are of the highest value to us, a golden rule given us by which to measure our conduct. This is the true rule of honesty. Very much is comprehended in these words. We are here required to deal with our neighbors as we would wish them to deal with us were we in their circumstances.” (E.G. White, Testimonies of the Church, Volume 4, p. 359)

But without God, there are no such requirements. Facing each day without the belief that each of us is a special creation of the God of the universe leaves each of us to find meaning and truth in our own way. And that has led to moral relativism and situational ethics – the belief that there is no absolute truth, no right and wrong and no consequences for poor choices.

Where does that leave us?

Well, according to William Watkins, it leaves us with ten core beliefs that govern the lives of those people today who claim there are no absolutes.

Here are “The New Absolutes.”

“(1) Religion interferes with freedom and must be banished from the public square.
(2) Human life is valuable only as long as it is wanted.
(3) Marriage is a human contract made between any two people, and can be terminated for any reason.
(4) Family is any grouping of two or more people.
(5) Sexual intercourse is permissible regardless of marital status.
(6) All forms of sexual activity are moral as long as they occur between consenting adults.
(7) Women are oppressed by men and must liberate themselves.
(8) People of color should receive preferential treatment.
(9) Non-Western societies and other oppressed peoples and their heritage should be studied and valued above Western civilization.
(10) Only viewpoints deemed politically correct should be tolerated and encouraged to prevail.”2

Call me old fashioned, but I prefer God’s Absolutes. God absolutely created each of us, loves each of us and wants to spend eternity with each of us.

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.” John 3:16-17AMP

Now that’s an absolute, I can live with!

  1. Terry Mattingly, senior fellow for journalism at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, from his column “Phillip E. Johnson”
  2. William Watkins, The New Absolutes (Bethany House, 1996)
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Survival of the Fittest vs the Golden Rule — 28 Comments

  1. Wow Lillianne! We were just talking yesterday morning in my 7th grade Bible class about people's selfish attitudes about money instead of following the golden rule. Even though the class has moved to a new topic I am sharing this with the class. Thank you!

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  2. Good points on the golden rule. It helps to give focus on my question concerning how to relate to the poor. My questions are: Who are the poor? What are the similarities between the poor of Bible times and those of today in USA? What are the differences?

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    • Jim, the Bible teaches us how to relate to the poor, and defines the poor we are to help. Many are helpless and doing their best, while others do nothing and act as if they are owed something for nothing. We are given wisdom to discern the difference.

      Other than the way we dress and get around, I'm not sure there are any differences between the poor of Bible times and our day, or any day. People are still people and have the same basic needs.

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  3. Thanks for your interesting and useful article.
    Last month I wanted to explore a different operating system on my laptop, so I downloaded Linux Ubuntu. But I didn't uninstall windows, so each time I turn on my laptop I get a dark screen asking witch operating system I want to start. And I'm asked to make a quick decision, because if I fail to choose within 30 seconds, the default OS will start automatically.
    In a similar way each situation and relationship in life prompts a timed screen on our mind, and we get a quick decision to make: will I run the "Survival of the fittest OS", or will I start the "Golden Rule OS"?
    Unfortunately, after the fall, if we fail to choose the Golden rule, the Survival of the fittest OS starts automatically,without our consent, as the default. So my prayer is: Designer and Creator, please install your GR OS as the default in my brain, or help me to make a wise and quick decision all the time.

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    • Wow! Isaac that analogy was beautiful.
      That the selfish survival OS comes in could be due to
      1. That the person has no mentor - caretaker - so alone in the jungle s/he has to fend alone. While the Christian learns to depend.
      2. That makes the selfish a giant - all coarse and strong, but makes the Christian all gentle and weak - but it is the inner character that wins the day because the selfish giant lives alone miserably but the Christian live as a family gaining strength from each in the group.
      Thanks Isaac for making my imagination go a little wild

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    • Great analogy Isaac. It leaves us with a choice doesn't it? We cast the deciding vote and cast it often throughout the day in so many ways.

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  4. Hi Lillianne,

    I think it is a good idea to teach the Golden Rules. With peer pressure and so many influences through music, TV, movies, and stories, it is not clear how to resist temptation unless someone is taught, and loved while being taught.
    When I was young, there were things I knew to be wrong, even though my parents didn't teach us. For some reason, I cared about and loved others and I think that came from God even though I didn't have a relationship with Him. I do like Romans 2, which talks about how God works on the conscience of everyone. I think times have changed since I grew up and it does look like just about anything goes today which is a fulfillment of scripture.

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  5. Lillian - I am not yet ready to believe that your ten absolutes should be rubbished. Probably I need more help to understand them
    Take for example
    - you say Non western thought vs western (supposedly christian) thought. Whats wrong with eastern thinking - why is eastern thought always considered wrong - why a blanket ban - by the way I am an Indian and an Adventist. This debate results in banning 'Yoga' (say)
    - I also am yet to comprehend why women should not fight for there liberation.

    I hope you take few minutes to enlighten me
    Suranjeen

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    • Suranjeen, Thank you so much for your comment. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. I agree that all women and men should have their freedom. It is the universality of the statement -- that all men oppress all women. Where I live, that is rarely the case, but some feel that women should not just seek liberation, but also belittle and demean men in return.
      In the same way, the statement is not a condemnation of eastern, but of western thought. Again, where I live, many people paint western civilization as inferior to anything else. I believer there are things of value and of God in many places...
      I'm sorry that the statements seemed harsh.
      I appreciate your comment very much. Thank you.

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      • At first, I thought of the same thing for those very two statements. But as I remembered the history of how women became liberal and now way to liberal, I agree with this satement. God never intended that women have fight for their freedom this way or that people become ethnocentric. Unfortunately, abuse is all over and sometimes we are abusive in different ways. I love how you layed out the difference between the Golden Rule and Survival of the Fittest. Sometimes as Christians we rely on Survival of the Fittest more than the Golden Rule in our own church. I have seen people watch their bretheren fall and not say absolutely nothing, not one bible encouragement. Some have a "each to their own" attitute. Our bretheren's business is our business. We forget to love one another as we love ourselves.

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  6. Regardless of what people say, the Bible tells me they know the difference between sin and righteousness, and that they will be accountable. This is what Jesus promised would be the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) who would "convince the world" of these things. The new absolutes are merely selfish preferences, and our best "argument" is a Godly life, being "blameless and harmless" while "holding forth the word of Truth". No one is truly ignorant on their moral obligations, and a measure of faith is given to each one. Everyone knows perfectly when they have been wronged, and when they have wronged others.

    Satan's hold upon people is tremendous, and when laboring for the lost we can soon understand why Jesus spent entire nights praying for them and for the Power that would animate His own life as the Example for all to follow.

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    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. However in your article, you betray the inherent bias towards "whiteness" which is unfortunately prevalent in our church, even though we would like to pretend it does not exist. I can only hope this lesson has reminded all of us that we are all indeed made of God by God and therefore trully made equal.

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      • Shirley, I guess I don't understand fully what you are saying about my comment betraying "the inherent bias towards whiteness". Forgive my ignorance, but what does that mean? Perhaps if you explain it I will understand how you arrive at that conclusion.

        If you are speaking of any racial issue, I personally have none and accept the teaching of scripture that we are all made of one blood. In my whole life I have never seen skin color as anything but variations of one humanity. Like a garden with roses of every hue, all are still roses and worthy of equal regard.

        My comment was to the point that the basic tenor of the new absolutes seems to be a way of forgetting God and His holy law. They seem to condone selfish thought and action while removing all condemnation for sin.

        Preference for any, regardless of color is ungodly. All are equal.

        I hope this clarifies the intention of my thoughts.

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  7. Interesting thoughts. I was just discussing with a friend yesterday who felt the bible gives us guidelines and the men who wrote them gave us an idea of how to live, and of right and wrong. So they needn't all be taken literally eg, the commandment to keep the sabbath. We all have a voice inside us that tells us we're doing wrong when we are- and if we don't harm ourselves or anyone-how does it matter... Besides, on judgement day God is going to ask us if we did any good to others.... If we kept all of these commandments literally and don't do these good deeds, it's of no use..... Any thoughts on this?

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  8. MORAL ABSOLUTES vs RELATIVISM
    Don't we have situations of moral relativism in the Bible eg incest by Adam and Eve's immediate offspring was ok in order for the human race to multiply. Later and also today incest became a sin as the original problem of human race perpetuation was removed . So the same act ( incest) was right and then wrong at different times. This looks like morality is not always absolute but dictated by times and necessity. How do we respond to Evolutionists when confronted by examples like these, Lillian?

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    • I don't believe God ever condones wrong regardless of the generation in which we live. This includes incest. Remember Cain murdered Able during this same time frame, but God did not condone murder then,nor does he now. God made man in his likeness, that is to live in harmony with his will,his standard of right and wrong, but sin has destroyed that concept of right and wrong, making wrong seem right. God's desire is to restore his image in man. My prayer is for God's image to be restored in me.

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    • It is common to confuse 'moral absolutes' with 'rules.' And it's understandable, since we often speak in terms of the rules. But moral absolutes are principles--they apply to all people, in all places, at all times. The problem is that principles are so broad as to be meaningless in most real life situations. And so we apply the principle to a given situation, and make a rule.

      A different set of circumstances would require a different rule, even based on the same principle.

      One simple example: Mrs. White issued strong counsel against baking on the Sabbath day, echoing a biblical injunction to bake and boil on Friday, not on the Sabbath. Does that mean we still should avoid baking and boiling?

      Of course the principle is that we should not let the Sabbath be taken over by unnecessary secular activities. And when you look at baking in the early 20th century, what do you see?

      Most homes had a wood fired cooking range, so the process of building and stoking the fire, making batter or dough for baking, then baking, would take up a significant portion of the whole day. Whoever was involved in baking would have little Sabbath rest, in any sense of the word.

      Compare that to how my wife bakes delicious cinnamon rolls, a wonderful treat to start a Sabbath morning. She makes and kneads the dough, forms the rolls and puts them in a pan Friday afternoon, then slips them into the refrigerator. On Sabbath morning she takes them from the refrigerator, puts them in the oven, pushes a couple of buttons, and gets on with the day until a timer rings. The entire operation might occupy her for two minutes Sabbath morning, less time than it takes her to dress.

      So I suggest to you that the prohibition against baking was a rule, which made good sense, and may still, in certain circumstances. But it was a rule, not a principle. My wife can bake our Sabbath treat without violating the principle.

      There are many such examples. So, the question concerning Cain and Seth marrying siblings is, is that a rule or a principle?

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  9. Unlimited Salvation against Natural Selection

    I just want to emphasize the golden rule by adding the aspect of universal salvation. The creator is not the God of natural selection in evolution. He does not single out the good and the just to bless them with sunshine and rain (Mattew 5:45). He is not interested in breeding the elite of society, best adopted to the environment, while the less fortunate are left to perish. In his longsuffering to all, he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Salvation in Christ is for all, not just for some kind of evolving upper claas society.

    Winfried Stolpmann

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  10. What is this mess about your 'absolutes'? We should be careful not to confuse personal peeves for the world's 'absolutes'.

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  11. How often I see in our quarterlies the ''absolute truth'' this week was proof of it! So well done and thought out to show us how God wants us to really live. It's all falling into place now and soon we will see our saviour!

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  12. Correct me if I'm wrong please, but from what I read Lilliane stated she believes in God's absolutes, not those of William Watkins. Peace and love to all.

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    • Thank you, Kimberly, as I was reading through these comments, I was thinking I needed to leave a post that said just what you said. William Watkins' absolutes are not mine on any level!!!! "For God so loved the world ..." is my absolute!
      Thank you for reading and commenting everyone.

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  13. Good article and good comments. I have looked at very young children play. Their world seems to be based on survival of the fittest but as people grow up they mature and start to understand the God's Golden Rule. I believe there is a conflict in us between being good to others on one hand and amassing things for ourselves on the other. The instict to survive and be selfish is there in us. But only God's word can reduce this and I always pray for a day when everyone will wish everyone good. Maybe it is in heaven

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  14. Dear Godfrey,

    You are so correct! Children have to be taught right from wrong. Being Godly doesn't come 100% naturally to any human being. Thanks for the comment and may I use it in one of my responses?
    Jane

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  15. Underneath the sentence that ends with ... counter-intuitive, you have 3 contrasts between the golden rule and the survival of the fittest. That is EXACTLY like how I feel at work. I am not the most "intellectually fittest", but that is how I am being mentored at work for a new position: by others with only what seems like a thread-bare effort. You can believe that I am praying the hardest I have ever prayed in my life to be able to learn something new, and standing on the promises of God for wisdom like in Proverbs 1:7 and in James 1:5. It is like nobody really wants to help me learn and succeed. I saw this webpage and could not believe how it jibbed with how I felt.

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