Morality without Godliness?

You cannot have morality without godliness

It is the business of preaching, it is the whole gospel of evangelism, that men’s eyes should be opened; not that they should be entertained, or made to laugh and weep; but to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and to knowledge… We are only Christians because the Spirit of God has opened our blind eyes, and has taken away the darkness. And that is the need of all others.

 

“You cannot have morality without godliness. There in a phrase, it seems to me, I have indicated the whole trouble during the last fifty years in particular. There are good people in the land who are very much concerned about morality; but they are not concerned about godliness. You simply cannot have morality, finally, without godliness. And the last half century has proved that to the very hilt. If we go back a hundred years and more we find that the great emphasis was upon godliness. But then a generation came which said in effect, Morality is very good and it is most essential for the country, but of course we do not want this godliness any longer; we no longer believe in the supernatural, we do not believe in miracles, we do not believe that Christ is the Son of God–He was no more than a great moral teacher–and so, of course, we must shed all this godly part of it. And they did so. They thought that they could preserve morality without the godliness. But you see what has happened.

Though you have got education and everything you can provide, if there is not godliness at the back of it your morality will collapse. And the modern world is just an illustration of that truth. In other words the Apostle is here (in Ephesians 4:17-19), not only concerned with the fact that the Gentiles lived in a certain way, he is more concerned with the reason why they did so. And that is still the position with us. All good, thinking, decent people must be alarmed at what is happening in this country… But here is the great and inevitable question: Why is this happening, and what can be done about it?

Now the most futile and foolish thing of all is merely to denounce the evil. That is the simple and easy thing to do, as we meet it in the streets and in our newspapers; just to feel a sense of disgust, to turn away and say, How horrible! how terrible! Obviously that is not going to help anybody. The business of the gospel is not simply to denounce; it is not simply to restrain. The business of the gospel is to deal with the situation in the only way in which it can be dealt with radically, and that is, to preach the gospel of regeneration, this power of God unto salvation, that can deal even with this seemingly hopeless situation and insoluble problem. That is the whole story of the New Testament… This is the only hope for society. And let men do what they will, let them multiply their educational and moral and social organizations, they will not touch the problem. You can have your teetotal organizations, your morality crusades, and your moral councils, and a thousand other things, and you will not touch the situation. The evil involved is in the heart of men, and it is only a message that can deal with the heart of men that is adequate to meet the problem…

It is the business of preaching, it is the whole gospel of evangelism, that men’s eyes should be opened; not that they should be entertained, or made to laugh and weep; but to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and to knowledge… We are only Christians because the Spirit of God has opened our blind eyes, and has taken away the darkness. And that is the need of all others. Have compassion on them. Pray for them.”

From D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Darkness and Light: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17-5:17 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982).

William VanDoodewaard is a minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and serves as associate professor of church history at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, The Christian Pundit, and is used with permission.