New Hope Notes


Josh McDowell
November 15, 2009 - W0946

Tonight I want you to give me your minds or you will walk out of here disappointed and calling me a heretic. But I assure you, the Bible is my ultimate guide. I would like to address the issue of right and wrong and why certain things are right and why certain things are wrong.

In my experience, I have found that 95% of Christians cannot tell me why lying is wrong. People in the Right to Life movement cannot explain to me why killing is wrong. But if you listen to me now, what you will learn will affect you the rest of your life.

There was a survey done a few years back on how Americans make moral choices.  17% said they based their moral choices on family values.  In other words, they believed lying is wrong because their parents taught them it was wrong. That is ridiculous! Absolutely nothing is right or wrong because you parents say so. Lying is wrong not because your parents teach that it is wrong, - they teach it is wrong because it is wrong.

Some other Americans said that lying is wrong because the church said so.  That is also ridiculous! Nothing is wrong simply because the church teaches that it is wrong. Some churches even teach that lying is okay in regards to immigration. The church teaches you that lying is wrong because it is wrong.

Some others say that killing is wrong because it is illegal. No, killing is not wrong simply because it is illegal. I would be a reprobate parent if I taught my children that things are right or wrong based on whether they are legal or illegal. Just because something is legal does not make it moral.

I teach my children to respectfully question and challenge all authority. Catholic parents wish that their children had challenged the authority of priests that abused them. Is abortion moral because it is legal? Apartheid was legal. The Holocaust was legal. Racism was legal. You cold justify all sorts of evil because they are legal.

Some say that lying is wrong because it hurts people. 38% of Americans say they base their moral choices on consequences. But whose consequences? After the 911 terrorist attacks I wrote a book saying that America and churches have lost the right to judge those terrorist because of the way we judge right and wrong.

I studied 15 school textbooks on making moral choices. Every single one of them followed the same trend. They said to first evaluate the positive and negative consequences of the proposed decision. Second, they said to make a sound decision based on what is best for you – not what is right or best for most people! That is exactly what the Islamic terrorist did on 911, so who are we to judge them?

Other textbooks say that when faced with a decision we are to ask:

1.   What are my alternatives?

2.   What are the likely consequences?

3.   Which consequences do I prefer?

In other words, they say to base your moral choice on personal preference – not on what is right or best for most people. The psychiatrist that killed 14 people at Ft. Hood did what the textbooks say. He weighed the consequences and chose the alternative best for him. But who determines whether consequences are good or bad? Most American textbooks say that you do.

But here’s the problem. Most young people cannot see beyond the end of their noses. In other words, they base their decision only on immediate consequences. Unfortunately, if you make the right choice, the immediate consequences are usually bad. If you make the wrong choice, the immediate consequences are usually good.

My 15 year old daughter just began to drive but she had severe restrictions on how she could drive. She was not to have passengers or stray from her route. But one day someone told me that they had seen her far from where she was supposed to be driving and that she had friends in the car with her. Later, when I asked her about it, she lied and said nothing out of the ordinary happened during her drive. You see, she had a choice, she could do the right thing and tell me the truth but then the immediate consequences would be negative for her, which would have been grounding. She chose to do the wrong thing and lied to attain immediate good consequences, which was freedom from punishment.

Those who follow Al Qaeda base their decisions on consequences. Tim McVeigh the Oklahoma City bomber based his decision on consequences. The terrorists thought the consequences would be receiving 75 virgins in Heaven.

17% of Americans say their moral choices are based on their feelings at the time. I’m sure the terrorists felt every emotion in the world when they attacked on 911.

Other Americans say things are right or wrong because the Bible says so. However, nothing is right or wrong simply because the Bible says so. But what about the 10 Commandments? They do not state why it is right or wrong. They are just statements. Is lying wrong because the Bible says so? No, lying is wrong not because the Bible teaches that – the Bible teaches it because it is wrong.

I would never dream of teaching my children to not do something because the Bible says “thou shalt not.” That is legalism. Filling their lives with a whole bunch of “thou shalt nots” sets them up for spiritual failure.

Is killing wrong because the Bible says so or does the Bible say it because it is wrong? I explain to my children why the Bible says things are right or wrong because I want them to experience the joy of Christ.

Justice is right because God is just, not because the Bible says so. Hatred is wrong because God is love. Righteousness is good because God is righteous. Purity is good because God is pure. The Bible is God’s roadmap for us to use to find Him.

Let me take you on a little aside. People have always quoted Jesus saying, “I am the truth.” But no one has ever explained to me what that means. First, you would have to define truth and most people cannot. The dictionary defines truth as that which has fidelity to the original. But what is fidelity? Fidelity means the same as or equal to the original. So when Jesus said, “I am the truth”, he meant, “I have fidelity to the original.” That meant he was equal to or the same as the original and so that meant he was the same as Yahweh.

As Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (John 14:1) and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) He was saying that He was the same as God.

God’s truth is personal. It is as personal as a relationship with Jesus and through that relationship we know the truth about the Father.

Lying is wrong because it has no fidelity to the original. Love is right because it is the same as or equal to the original. Things are right because they are in agreement with the person, character and nature of God. I encourage you to do a month’s study on the attributes of God. Find out who God is. A lot of people worship intensely but only worship a figment of their imagination because they do not know who God really is. Most worship an eclectic God or a cafeteria God. They only worship the parts of God they want to use or like. You should study one attribute a day and find out what it means and how it affects your life.

It is our responsibility to know why the Bible says “thou shalt not”. The Law is a visible expression of God. We are accepted for salvation through Jesus but should follow the Law to please God. I follow the Law so that my life reflects who Christ is.

I encourage you to read my book “Right from Wrong”. It will walk you through everything we discussed tonight and explain the person, nature and character of God.

I also encourage you to read my book, “O God: A Dialog on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality”. It will help you see through some of the things she and her people teach about spirituality. My book “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” is also a must read because it documents everything I say about the Bible and Christianity.

It is not enough to know what you believe, you have to know why you believe it and reading my books will help you with that.

Although tolerance is considered a great virtue by today’s society, I believe that tolerance is one of the greatest evils in the world. Christians should not be tolerant, but should be loving. I have a shirt that says on the front, “Intolerance is a beautiful idea.” Now that raises a lot of eyebrows and some anger when people see it. But on the back it says, “Mother Theresa was intolerant of poverty, Lincoln and Martin Luther King were intolerant of racism, Mandela was intolerant of Apartheid and Jesus was intolerant of bigotry.”

Please take to heart this message – for your children. Teach them why things are right and why things are wrong.



1. Why are things right or wrong?
2. How do you make moral choices?
3. Why is making choices based on consequences bad?
4. Why should you teach children to respectfully question all authority?
5. How can you teach children morality?
6. How can you improve making your moral choices?