The Difference between Ethics and Morals

Ethics exist in every organized society as an agreed-upon system of behavioral norms and attitudes by which members live in as much harmony as possible.  These rules apply first to public behavior but also hopefully to private as well. Ethics governs interpersonal relationships, business deals, political life and social life. It is temporal and voluntary.

Aristotle

Aristotle wrote his famous Nicomachean Ethics in 340 B.C.E which was widely accepted as the norm except that even he focused on the individual application more than the corporate. Perhaps he knew that controlling other people was pretty much a lost cause.

Morals are the same thing, but they are dictated by a single God through the Bible, hence their origin in the Judeo Christian traditions. Greeks, and other nations at that time, had a pantheon of gods, many of whom were reprobates and not worth emulating. Jews alone at that time were monotheists.

God alone is the one who expects accountability from those who violate moral codes since they come from Him. They are temporal, spiritual and eternal in their consequences.  Morals demand a higher standard because God not man is the final arbiter. Ethics may vary from one society to another. Morality does not because God has one set of books, not two or more.

In practice this how it works. Socrates got a bad reputation in Athens for speaking out against evil and mismanagement. Political leaders felt the brunt of his criticism and based on their ethical principle, “the peace of the community,” told Socrates to commit suicide because he was, in effect,  disturbing the peace. Socrates agreed with Athenian Ethics and drank the poison.

This would not have happened in a moral society. Here truth is superior to “an uncomfortable community” and life is precious, preferable to death. God’s laws not man’s comfort is the standard.

When a society veers away from a God-imposed criteria it loses its footing which leads to confusion. When abortion was legalized in mid-20th century America it marked a steady decline in public behavior so now we hear cursing by even the smallest children to a media unrepentant about slander and managed news. Today there is virtually no part of public life left uncontaminated by a loss of morals and spiritual anarchy.

In our fascination with the Greeks superior intellectual attainment and ability to recognize and applaud the human aspect of mankind they still crashed and have never regained that level of culture. Ethics works – it works wherever it is tried, but it cannot retain ascendancy when founded on humanistic principles. When man tries to govern himself, he fails.

In contrast is Israel which having been disciplined by a rightfully angry God, returned in 1948 to its homeland after many generations with its moral laws in tact.

Will America do likewise?

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