Mankind inhabits a moral universe that must not be abused

Father John A. Kiley

If I were to mix chemical A with chemical B in my cellar in Woonsocket, there would be a definite reaction. The chemicals might lie there inert with no result, the chemicals might explode with dangerous consequences, or the chemicals might bubble over and eat away the work shelf supporting my experiment.

Now if my cousin Gail in Elizabethtown, K.Y. were also to mix chemical A with chemical B in her cellar (unlikely), she would get the same exact result: inertia, explosion or corrosion. And if my friend Brian in San Jose, Calif. were to mix chemicals A and B, the outcome would be the same: inertia, explosion or corrosion. Science is only possible because nature operates by innate laws that researchers can discover and apply. If water boils at 212 degrees today, it will do the same tomorrow. If water freezes at 32 degrees today, it will perform likewise tomorrow. Science can progress only because what was true yesterday will be true today and true tomorrow under the same conditions. Science is founded on the consistency of the laws of nature.

The material world plainly has innate laws that the human race ignores at its own peril. Mother Nature, now more sophisticatedly labelled the environment, operates best when these laws of nature are observed. When nature or the environment or the material world is abused, in any manner, mankind pays the penalty. From mixing together the wrong chemicals to over-indulgence in food and drink, there is a price to pay for abusing the natural world. Plainly, mankind occupies a material universe with scientifically observable laws which cannot be effectively contradicted.

But mankind also inhabits a moral universe with similar innate principles which, if observed, will lead to happiness and, if ignored, will lead to shame. The natural law is just as surely placed in the human heart as the laws of nature are placed in the animals, vegetables and minerals that share this planet. Like the laws of science which have been gradually discerned over the centuries, the natural law and its many ramifications for human moral life have been more, or less, appreciated as the centuries have passed. Much of mankind today appreciates individual rights, self-determination, and personal equality more than in previous centuries. And much of mankind today has lost touch with the value of unborn life, the sanctity of marriage and the even the existence of the Creator.

The Ten Commandments are a primary and matchless expression of the natural law. The Decalogue begins with the human race’s basic duties toward God, namely, the creature’s obligations toward the Creator. Acknowledging the existence of God, maintaining respect for the things of God and proffering formal worship of God (I, II and III) are duties innate to mankind. Most cultures have happily perceived some intuitive sense of the divine. By Christian standards many societies might have worshipped false gods, but they did and do acknowledge a deity. Atheism is a fairly new social phenomenon.

The ancient tablets of the law entrusted to Moses on Sinai succinctly outlined humanity’s internal obligations toward one another as well. Respect for authority, respect for human life, respect for marriage and family, respect for private property, respect for reputation, and even respect for one’s own liabilities (IV through X) are an enduring and insightful outline of man’s moral code. This formal expression of the innate natural law revealed by God to wandering former slaves is truly astounding. The entire moral universe is summarized into these ten pithy expressions: memorized by children, expounded by preachers, deliberated by legislators, contemplated by mystics, pondered by sinners.

Every generation of believers (and non-believers for that matter) is obligated by the natural law divinely placed in the hearts of all men and women and solemnly enshrined in the Ten Commandments. Moses might not have imagined cyberbullying or texting while driving or identity theft or hidden accounts in the Cayman Islands, but he knew the underlying disrespect, irresponsibility, deception and avarice that would lead to these modern offenses. The human heart, like the natural law, has not changed.