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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 5: Creation and Morality *
Introduction: Do you know moral people who do not seem religious or
believe in God? On what is their morality based? Today, we have
competing views on what is moral. On one side is a belief in
equality - that all ideas, all philosophies and all opinions are
equal and should be equally valued. On the other side, the Bible
declares that some opinions are worthy of eternal life and some
worthy of eternal death. Equal opportunity is equal opportunity for
salvation. Differences in life, even disabilities, are opportunities
to bring glory to God. These are much different views of what is
right, moral and just. Let's jump into our study of creation and the
Bible and see if we can better understand this!
- Tree Morality
- Read Genesis 2:8-9. Who owned the trees? (Read Genesis
1:29-30. Trees were given to humans and animals to eat.
They were a gift.)
- Would you say that humans had an inherent legal right
to eat plants and the fruit of trees? (Unless you own
something, you do not have the right to eat it. Once
God gave them the right to eat, they had that right.
But, it was not inherent.)
- Read Genesis 2:15-17. Does this change the nature of the
legal right to eat the plants? (Yes. God has now entered
into an employment contract with Adam. Adam takes care of
the plants and trees in exchange for a promise that he can
eat from what grows. He works for food. Adam has an
enforceable legal right to eat if he works.)
- Does Adam's contract include the right to eat from
the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? (No.)
- The law has two kinds of rules. Rules which exist only
because the government has authority to make the rule, and
rules which reflect morality. These are called "malum
prohibitum" (bad because it is prohibited) and "malum in
se" (bad because it is evil). Another way to say this is
that rules which exist simply because humans have made
them are "positive law" and rules which prohibit evil are
"natural law." Is the speed limit malum prohibitum
(positive law) or malum in se (natural law)? (The speed
limits where I live get changed all the time, therefore
they are malum prohibitum.)
- Look again at Genesis 2:16-17. Is this malum prohibitum or
malum in se?
- Read Genesis 1:11-12. How does this impact your
opinion? (The fruit of all trees was declared to be
good. Therefore, God's rule on the Tree of the
Knowledge of Good and Evil would seem to be malum
- Read Genesis 3:2-5. What is Satan's argument? (That the
rule is malum prohibitum, and it is wrong.)
- Is Satan arguing more than that? (He seems to say
that God's rule is itself malum in se - that it
violates the natural right of humans to know good and
- Can you explain why humans would have a natural right
to know everything? (If they are to be treated
equally with God and Satan then they would have a
natural right to this information.)
- Is equality a natural right? Is it malum prohibitum
to fail to treat everyone equally? (Clearly God and
humans are not equal. God and Satan are not equal.)
- Let's step back a few moments and contemplate this.
- If the rule on eating fruit plunged the entire human
race into sin and sentenced us all to death, how can
it be malum prohibitum? Humans generally agree that
killing someone is malum in se!
- What about the knowledge of good and evil? Isn't it
inherently better to have more knowledge? In the
abstract, isn't Satan right?(This shows that equality
of opinion, at least, is not a natural right. Satan's
opinion has been proven to be inferior to God's
- How does the amount of information available to
Eve impact this discussion? (If Eve knew more
she would better understand the competing
claims of God and Satan, and know that eating
the fruit was the most serious malum in se
- What is the logical conclusion to be reached from the
answers to these questions? What rule would you apply
to decide which rules reflect the avoidance of true
evil? What is the best guide to malum in se?(I
suggest this: All of God's rules, whether they seem
to be malum prohibitum or malum in se are to be
treated as malum in se. The reason being that God
knows and understands everything and we do not!
Humans can create positive law which is only malum
prohibitum, but all of God's commands reflect malum
- Read Proverbs 14:31. Let's remove, for a minute, the
references to God. Is it malum prohibitum or malum in se
to treat a person who has less money differently?
- This text complicates the issue because it refers to
oppression and kindness. But, let's say for purposes
of this discussion, that not giving a person equal
time or attention because of their lack of wealth
would be considered "oppression" or "unkindness."
- If your philosophy is that all opinions, ideas and
people are equal, what would be your answer to the
malum prohibitum/malum in se question about how you
treat the poor? (It would be malum prohibitum,
because not considering everything to be equal would
- What would be the answer if you were selling million
- What would be your answer if you were looking for a
sales person for your company, and you know that this
person is poor because he is lazy or lacks emotional
- I can think of many practical reasons why you would not
treat the poor equally. Let's go back to Proverbs 14:31
and consider the "God reasons." What reason does God say
we should treat the poor equally, and what does this have
to do with the Creation? (God is the One who created both
the poor and the rich, and God says we dishonor Him when
we treat the poor badly.)
- Read Proverbs 22:2, Proverbs 22:4 and Proverbs 22:7. Do
these texts argue for equality of thought and action? (No.
Certain decisions improve your life or make it worse.)
- What, then, is Proverbs 22:2 saying to us? (One area
of equality is that God is the Maker of all humans.
This forms a baseline for our treatment of others.)
- There are trends in "morality" that are based on something
other than the Bible. About a hundred years ago a popular
theory was eugenics, which said that the human race could
be greatly improved by paying attention to its genetic
composition. Abortion has its roots in this movement,
because it was thought this was a good way to control the
birth rate of "undesirable" individuals. How does Proverbs
22:2 speak to this kind of "morality?"
- Read Matthew 5:43-48. How would you resolve these
"neighbor" issues without any reference to the words of
- How does the creation and our status as children of
God change the answer?
- Read Matthew 25:31-36 and Matthew 25:40. Let's just focus
on one of these - taking care of the sick. What moral
reasons could you think of for avoiding those who are ill?
(They might be contagious! Think of what this might mean
to you and your family? If you got sick you might not be
able to work!)
- How does our conception of God as our Creator and
Redeemer change our thinking? (God, as Creator,
identifies with those in need. We might say that the
sick got that way because they violated God's laws on
health, God's laws on sexual purity, or in some other
way "deserved" to be sick. We can say similar things
about those who are poor. But, having a Creator God
gives us all a certain level of dignity and worth.
When we aid those who are suffering, we act like our
- Scan Deuteronomy 28. Does this in some way moderate what
we just discussed? Are there times when we should not
rescue those in need? (God says that He will punish bad
behavior. We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us
to be sure our actions are always in line with God's
actions. We need to have the humility to say, "How many
times have I failed God?")
- Friend, will you decide today to make God's word the only
basis for your moral decisions? Will you decide that if
God prohibits something, it is malum in se, even though
you might not understand God's thinking?
- Next week: Creation and the Fall.
* Copr. 2013, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.