How does utilitarianism oppose the Bible?

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By BibleAsk Team


Utilitarianism’s Opposition to the Bible

Utilitarianism as a theory teaches that the value of a thing or an action is determined by its utility. While utilitarianism emphasizes the maximization of overall happiness or utility, it clearly conflicts with biblical values and principles on several fronts.

Conflict with Absolute Moral Principles:

Utilitarianism evaluates actions based on their consequences, aiming to produce the greatest overall happiness. However, this consequentialist approach can lead to situations where actions that are morally wrong may be justified if they produce favorable outcomes.

In contrast, the Bible upholds absolute moral principles that are not contingent on outcomes. For instance, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) provide a set of moral absolutes, including prohibitions against murder, theft, and adultery. These commandments establish a moral framework based on the intrinsic value of certain actions, irrespective of their consequences. Thus, utilitarianism’s consequentialist approach does conflict with the absolute divine moral standards set forth in the Bible.

Neglect of Individual Rights and Dignity:

Utilitarianism often prioritizes the collective welfare over the rights and dignity of individuals. While utilitarianism seeks to maximize overall happiness, it may justify actions that infringe upon the rights, freedoms or dignity of individuals.

However, the Bible affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every individual as created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 (NKJV) states, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him…” This biblical teaching underscores the intrinsic value of each person and his individual rights. The human soul is so important to God that Jesus died to ensure that each man can exercise his full freedom of choice. Utilitarianism’s tendency to prioritize collective welfare at the expense of individual rights does oppose the biblical emphasis on human worth.

Role of Divine Authority:

Utilitarianism relies on human reason to determine the best course of action, often neglecting the role of divine authority and wisdom.

In contrast, the Bible serves as the ultimate authority for moral guidance, providing absolute truths and moral principles grounded in the character and commands of God. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) advises, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” This biblical teaching emphasizes the importance of acknowledging God’s authority in moral decision-making and seeking His perfect wisdom rather than relying on erring human reasoning. Utilitarianism’s reliance on imperfect human judgment does oppose the biblical emphasis on divine authority and knowledge.

Prioritization of Self-interest over Altruism:

Utilitarianism evaluates actions based on their ability to maximize happiness or utility, often leading individuals to prioritize their own interests over the needs of others.

In contrast, the Bible calls believers to selflessness and sacrificial love. Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV) admonishes, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” This biblical teaching emphasizes the importance of considering the needs and welfare of others above one’s own interests. Utilitarianism’s emphasis on self-interest does oppose the biblical call to selflessness and altruism.

Ethical Relativism versus Moral Absolutes:

Utilitarianism can lead to ethical relativism, where moral judgments are based solely on the consequences of actions rather than adherence to absolute moral principles.

In contrast, the Bible provides a moral framework grounded in the perfect character and holy commands of the Creator, which transcend cultural norms and corrupt personal preferences. Romans 12:2 (NKJV) exhorts, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” This biblical teaching encourages believers to align their moral judgments with God’s absolute holy standards rather than conforming to the the sinful moral relativism of the fallen world. Utilitarianism’s tendency towards ethical relativism does oppose the biblical emphasis on moral absolutes.

In conclusion, while utilitarianism seeks the maximization of overall happiness or utility, it does conflict with clear Bible principles. Utilitarianism’s emphasis on the consequentialist approach, neglect of divine authority and moral absolutes, the infringement on individual rights, the seeking of self-interest, and the tendency towards ethical relativism does clearly oppose the biblical emphasis on God’s authority, His moral absolutes, human freedoms and selflessness.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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