A Christian Ethic Without Faith in God Fails

Called Unto Liberty, Albert E. Bowen: 1947, 20th Century Sermons

A Christian Ethic Without Faith in God Fails. It cannot be forgotten that the scourging war, which has just devastated the earth, broke out right in the heart of so-called Christendom. Christian nation destroying Christian nation. The degradation left in its wake, the tragic collapse of morals, the earth-searing desolation spread everywhere, and the tottering of the whole social order among peoples who have forgotten God, should teach us lessons in humility and make us know that puny man, of himself, standing in the midst of this universal wreckage, “is no more capable of saving the world than he was of creating it in the first place.”

It is high sounding to deny divinity and to say that man must make for himself whatever he has or may ever have. Men may profess to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher and his doctrines as comprising the best code of ethics the world has known. But his ethical and moral teachings derive their influence over the lives of men out of the majesty of divine authority with which Christ’s gospel invested them. There they have their roots. They cannot support a civilization if severed from their nourishing roots any more than the bloom of a flower can be kept after cut from its parent stem. We have been trying to maintain faith in a Christian ethic without faith in the religion that produced it. That cannot be done! True, a civilization and its culture may go on after a fashion after it has lost faith in the power from which it rose, carried on its acquired momentum. But unless it is nourished at the roots, it will ultimately exhaust the surplus on which it draws. You can no more go on drawing indefinitely on moral reserves without replenishment, than you can go on drawing from a bank without keeping the account current by new deposits. For too long now, the civilization of Christendom has been living on the remnants of a discarded faith. Its weakened condition is apparent in the lack of moral direction which characterizes these times. It is the teaching of history that moral decay follows upon the withering of belief of God.

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Source: Albert E. Bowen, General Conference Report: April 1947, p. 109. Albert E. Bowen (1875–1953) served as a mem­ber of the Quo­rum of the Twelve Apos­tles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Prior to his call to full time church ser­vice he taught at Brigham Young Col­lege, then grad­u­ated with hon­ors from Uni­ver­sity of Chicago law school, prac­ticed law in Logan, Utah, and later Salt Lake City, where he also became involved in many impor­tant busi­ness ven­tures such as the Utah Con­struc­tion Com­pany, the Amer­i­can Sav­ings and Loan Asso­ci­a­tion, and the Utah Fuel Company.