Other Worldviews

Instinct Is Man’s New Moral Compass

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 05/06/2021

Historically, if you were lost and needed to head north, you had a reliable tool at your disposal: a compass. Thanks to the magnetic field of the earth, the rotating arrow on a compass will always point north. It’s an excellent device that provides an external reference that helps you know which way to go.

Human males, however, have been notoriously stubborn and have been known to eschew such tried-and-true devices when hiking or guiding their families on road trips. “I don’t need directions,” they arrogantly declare. “I know where I’m going.” Such pronouncements often result in wasted time. A man’s internal sense of direction is rarely as reliable as an external device.

Sadly, such rejection of objective and unbiased reality is the new norm. I’m sure you have noticed it’s become vogue among 21st-century Westerners to declare a new identity (e.g., “I’m a transgender female”), a new spiritual direction (e.g., “I’m no longer Christian”), or a new sexual ethic (e.g., “I’m no longer saving myself for marriage”). Such pronouncements are often followed by a statement akin to “I’m being true to who I am inside.” In other words, they are aligning themselves with their internal sense of what they believe is true.

Many people no longer look to an external, objective reference. It doesn’t matter what their physical body “says.” It’s irrelevant whether Christianity is true in an objective sense. An external standard of sexual morality? Ridiculous! What’s right and wrong is up to you. Just follow your own truth found inside yourself.

Carl Trueman, in his book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self¸ chronicles how our culture came to think this way. We no longer align our thinking or identity with tried-and-true references like our body, knowledge (defined as justified true belief), or objective standards of right and wrong. The “modern self” gives unprecedented and total authority to our inner voice and feelings. If a man feels like a woman on the inside, then he is a woman. How we feel on the inside determines our reality on the outside.

Sadly, modern thinking approaches decisions in a similar way. Western culture has shed what it perceives to be the shackles of the Christian worldview. This includes jettisoning the distinctly Judeo-Christian notion that humans are unique creatures made in the image of God. Without that doctrine, humans are merely animals.

Honestly, I’m not surprised by this turn of events. It’s consistent with the way an animal would behave. Notice how a hippopotamus doesn’t consider an outside moral standard. Its decisions are guided by its own internal sense of behavior: instinct. It will—without hesitation—kill an impala to eat. It will tear a baby hippo apart if it belongs to a rival bull. External standards of right and wrong don’t exist to a hippopotamus. Animals are guided only by their internal “voice.”

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, when human behavior is based upon the same guide as an animal—on instinct. We’re simply following our own internal voice. Like the hippopotamus, our inside urges are given total authority, and we create an external reality that matches how we feel. We behave like animals because we are animals.

It’s a sad reality, but it’s the logical progression of a culture that rejects a biblical anthropology.

That’s why we Christians can’t adopt this secular thinking. Our worldview is diametrically opposed to it. We shouldn’t give our inner feelings total authority because our Maker tells us that our heart is “more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9), and that “from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21). Our inner voice is not a reliable guide. Instead, we’ve been given an external moral compass so we can know which way is true north.