#42 The Moral Law: The First Commandment

PAPER NO. 42

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THE MORAL LAW: THE FIRST COMMANDMENT

You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me

  1. The good for a being is determined by the nature of the being.

    1. The moral absolute; central to all moral concerns; assumes choices, highest value; “good” in relation to the good.
    2. Grounded, objectively, in the nature of things (metaphysics).
    3. Easily knowable: in the human heart (Romans 2:14-15; Deuteronomy 30:11-13).
    4. In human nature: not arbitrary (Divine Command Theory), not subjective, not culturally relative.
    5. In human nature: the good is one; human nature (in one being) is a unity of diversity.
    6. In human nature: the same in all; the source of unity: one and the same for all.
    7. What determines human nature determines the good for man (2 possibilities)(~3).
  1. Man is made in the image of God, to know God.

    1. Man has the capacity to use reason to understand the nature of things in forming concepts, judgments and arguments.
    2. Man is a rational animal (distinct from all other animals by reason) and is therefore not made in the image of animals.
    3. Man is a unity of body and soul, not a duality of a soul only for a time present in a body.
    4. Human nature is complex and ordered in a unity of diversity.
    5. What is most basic is universal, the same in all persons, everywhere, at all times.
    6. We are first human in our common formal features, then distinguished by conflicting basic beliefs, then by diversity of personality, by body/soul relation, by one’s gender identity, by cultural identity, and by the uniqueness of personal identity.
    7. Only by loving God with the whole heart, in the unity of our being, can the good be achieved.
  2. As the image of God, man, through dominion, is to fill the earth with the knowledge of God.

    1. Creation is revelation: necessarily, intentionally and exclusively.
    2. This revelation is full and clear: the whole earth is full of his glory.
    3. God is a Spirit, immortal, invisible, whom no man has seen or can see.
    4. There is no direct knowledge of God, in this life or the next, apart from God’s works.
    5. Through dominion mankind is to name and rule over the world of nature (under natural law) and the human world (under moral law).
    6. Through dominion man is to develop culture so as to fill the earth with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9).
    7. To bypass the knowledge of God through dominion, for a beatific vision of God in the afterlife, is to deny the nature of God and man and the good and the significance of human history.
  3. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

    1. Man’s chief end is the end in itself (the end of all ends), the highest good or, the good, simpliciter.
    2. The (highest) good is eternal life, which is the knowledge of God (John 17:3).
    3. To glorify God is to know his glory and to make his glory known.
    4. The first commandment requires us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God and to be our God, and to worship and glorify him accordingly (SCQ 46).
    5. In the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer we pray that God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that by which he makes himself known (SCQ 101).
    6. God makes himself known through all his works of creation and providence (WCF 4.1, 5.1).
    7. To enjoy God is inseparable from and intrinsic to glorifying God. What we enjoy is God himself in contemplating his glory revealed in every relationship with him.
  4. The Law is teleological, aimed at the good, eternal life.

    1. Man’s chief end (the good) is not virtue, the means to the good.
    2. Man’s chief end (the good) is not happiness, the effect of possessing the good.
    3. Both virtue ethics and happiness ethics come short of the glory of God.
    4. Virtue, doing what is right, as an end in itself, apart from the good, is deontology, which tends to legalism.
    5. Pursuit of happiness as an end in itself, apart from the good, is hedonism, which tends to antinomianism.
    6. Virtue and happiness without the good misunderstand God’s law, which is aimed at the good: they are ever-recurrent antinomies which go to the right and left of the law of God.
    7. Love seeks the good for oneself and for others. Love is the chief virtue: it binds all other virtues in perfect unity in pursuit of the good.
  5. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

    1. The sin of all is not glorifying God as God.
    2. Left to oneself no one seeks God, no on understands, no one is righteous, not even one.
    3. God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly revealed so that unbelief is without excuse (Romans 1:20; Psalm 19).
    4. The first sin of the first man broke the first commandment. It is original and paradigm.
    5. Root sin is not seeking and not understanding; radical evil is to put oneself in the place of God to determine good and evil.
    6. The wages of sin is spiritual death; meaninglessness, boredom and guilt without end are present and inherent in root sin. Death arises from denying one’s nature.
    7. The gospel calls all men, everywhere, at all times to repent of root sin and to glorify God in seeking first the kingdom of God in all of life.
  6. There are ten characteristics of the good.

    1. Continuing: it must continue from this life to the next.
    2. Inexhaustible: one can grow in the good forever.
    3. Comprehensive: it must include all deliberate human activity.
    4. Inalienable: it cannot be lost by force or inadvertence. 
    5. Corporate: it is and must be achieved by many (through dominion).
    6. Cumulative: it is and must be achieved through many generations.
    7. Communal: it must increase by sharing.
    8. Fulfilling: it must be most satisfying; only what and what only satisfies.
    9. Ultimate: it must be rooted in what is infinite and eternal.
    10. Transformative: it must have power to bring change, against evil and for good.

Only the knowledge of God can have these ten characteristics.

The good for man is the knowledge of God.

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