The Only Rule Christians Must Obey

Contrary to popular belief, the problem with moral relativism is not that it allows far too much fun and annoys the hell out of the Puritans. If it were, it might be a tempting worldview, this whole what’s-wrong-for-you-ain’t-wrong-for-me frolic. No, the problem with moral relativism is that it takes the fun out of everything, and makes the world hellishly Puritanical.

There are two ways to ruin a game. The first to add too many rules, and the second is too eliminate all of them. If a man were to sit me down for a one-legged, blindfolded game of chess in which pieces could only be moved according to the fibonacci sequence, and the sides were switched every 17 moves, I might play a few moves before proposing we watch cat videos instead. Worse though, would be if a man were to sit me down at a chessboard and say, “Let’s you and I do whatever we like. What’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for me.”


I don’t think I’d wait for the inevitable juggling of chess pieces. I’d run straight to cat videos, no hesitation. The most limiting cage in existence is woven by the lack of limitations, and it seems a rather obvious fact that the eradication of rules can only lead to the eradication of the game itself.

And yet we live in a world in which the current fad is the absence of rules. This — my good-looking individuals — is a very boring fad. It cannot come from a mind with a good sense of the joy, beauty and fun of life. Such a mind would never be so miserly as to ruin a child’s game. No, it’s the moral relativists sucking the fun out of life, the fun of sin as much as the fun of virtue.

Oh yes, the fun of sin! I suppose one might be mildly annoyed at the commandment — or the rule — against adultery. It is, after all, a momentary Biblical buzz-kill in the midst of a Modernist Playboy high. I can sympathize with the man who bristles at being told not to have pre-marital sex. But surely worse than the seventh commandment is the eradication of all commandments? Would that same man not bristle all the bristlier, being told that there is no right or wrong, that having pre-marital sex with your lover exists on the same plane as walking your dog? That it is all relative? Moral relativism doesn’t make sin more available, it just makes it more boring! The problem with calling sin no more than a benign action — like brushing your teeth — is that it makes sin as exciting as brushing your teeth. But sadly enough, this seems an accurate description of our age — sinful and bored. We are children thrown into the yard, told, “Play a game in which absolutely anything you do is allowed!” Ready, set, aaand this sucks doesn’t it?

Children know this innately: Happier are the games with one or two good rules than those with a thousand bad ones, and those with none at all. (“You may step any where you like, but the asphalt is lava!” “From now on you can’t use the letter ‘s’!” “You’re the good guy, I’m the bad guy!” etc.) I’d like to pretend otherwise, that we brought a stern reason and some intricate system of morality to the world, but no, this is the beautifully childish idea that Christianity has preserved: Life was meant to be unending, innocent joy. That’s how it began. The greatest game ever created had but one rule, and it was this: “Do not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” All else allowed.

Seen in this light, moral relativism is the oldest sin in existence. The Serpent told Eve “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The temptation was the same then as it is now. You can be like God! The maker of morality! Why, you can decide Good and Evil! But in deciding that there were no rules, Adam and Eve ruined the game, and they didn’t even have cat videos to make themselves feel better. They ruined the game, lost their innocence and in place of the One Good Rule received thousands of nitpicking ones, from clothing their nakedness down to the last ridiculous intricacy of the Mosaic law.

Similarly, the modern age has made morality relative, and yet we are subject to the most ridiculous amount of nitpicking that’s ever existed. We forsook rules for relativism, and yet we can scarcely move for fear of pain, litigation, social failure, economic failure, offense, scorn, libel, calumny, bad health, government interference, political correctness, and all the rest. In the age where anything goes, we are more depressed than ever.

The good news — really, the only Gospel worth preaching — is that Christ restored the game. Anyone can play, if they so desire. He stripped away the thousands of rules, and gave us back the One Good Rule. He is the voice crying out in the wilderness, “The asphalt is lava!” He has found the lost sheep; the adventure of childhood. St. Augustine summed up his One Rule better than any one else: “Love God, and do what you want.”

That’s it. Nothing more. It turns out, at the end of it all, that our childhood games were the real thing, and all else mere boredom and strife. In a world that strives to live without rules, and so lives with thousands, let us foolish, childish Christians shine like beacons — loving God and doing whatever the hell we want.

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  • Leslie

    This is so good it made my eyes leak a little.

  • Butterflytoes

    Awesome article, rather timely too ;) Very much enjoyed this, humbling and thank you

    • Diane Wyder

      WOW! where do you get so brilliant and CLEAR? How do I help you so EVERYONE gets to read these articles? I do forward them to family and friends…I hope your readership grows and grows and grows. We need you! Sincerely, diane wyder

  • Mhunt


  • Jackie

    well said!

  • Laura


  • Steve Gershom

    He is the voice crying out in the wilderness, “The asphalt is lava!” Brilliant.

    • Matticfrancis

      Another one if my favorite bloggers agrees! Marc had me at “Asphalt!”

  • Aigdawg

    Any post with a classic Calvin and Hobbes strip leading the way is going to be a better than average post, for sure.

  • Angie

    i love the way you think. this is fantastic

  • EdinburghEye

    “let us foolish, childish Christians shine like beacons — loving God and doing whatever the hell we want.”

    Is this an acknowledgment that you were wrong to argue against lifting the ban on marriage for same-sex couples?

    • Marc Barnes

      nope. as God himself says, “if you love me you will keep my commandments”.

      • EdinburghEye

        And where in God’s commandments do you find yourself ordered to argue that children whom you say you believe will suffer from inferior parenting, ought to be further discriminated against by being denied married parents?

        I’m really not seeing anywhere how you justify to yourself that you’re “shining like a beacon” by arguing that some children are in inferior families and therefore their parents deserve to be legally treated as inferior.

        How do you think this conveys that you love God? (Frankly I think all it really conveys is that you think God loves you more than he loves lesbian and gay people, and therefore you’re justified in judging their marriages and their parenting skills. If you intended to convey anything different, I fear you’ll have an uphill struggle.)

        • James H

          It doesn’t have to be in God’s commandments. It’s common sense.

          Homosexual couples are *in general* less stable, more violence-prone, and therefore a crappy place for children to live in.

          Just because you can think of an exeption, doesn’t invalidate the generalisation.

          How difficult can this be?

          • EdinburghEye

            I think your belief in the inherent inferiority of same-sex couples is mistaken.

            When you argue that your belief in their inferiority means same-sex couples should be denied the same legal rights as mixed-sex couples, and, as Marc argues, the children of same-sex couples should be kept legally and financially inferior to mixed-sex couples, that’s bigotry.

            How difficult can it be for you to accept that all children deserve to be treated equally by society and by the government? Why are you convinced that the children of parents you perceive as inferior ought therefore to be legally discriminated against?

          • James H

            I don’t have a ‘belief in the inherent inferiority o same-sex couples’: I have stated the reason why same-sex couples are inferior, and given reasons. Can you give reasons why they are not?

            It’s not discrimination to save someone from a bad situation. It’s wilful negligence, perhaps even abuse, to deliberately put children in a position where they are *likely* (please note the qualifier) to suffer.

          • EdinburghEye

            “I don’t have a ‘belief in the inherent inferiority o same-sex couples’:”

            …which you immediately follow by a statement that you believe same-sex couples to be inherently inferior! Odd. Suggest you try reading the sentence as you go along!

            “It’s not discrimination to save someone from a bad situation.”

            I’m sure every authority that decided to take children away from their parents against their will said the same thing. Why do you believe the children of same-sex couples will feel that they’re being “saved from a bad situation” as you forcibly remove them from their mothers (or their fathers)? Who do you plan to care for these children whom you wish to kidnap?

            “It’s wilful negligence, perhaps even abuse, to deliberately put children in a position where they are *likely* (please note the qualifier) to suffer. ”

            Says the person who is advocating mass kidnapping of children …

            …or are you of the camp that believes the children just shouldn’t be born at all, because that will “save” them?

          • Anonymous

            “Says the person who is advocating mass kidnapping of children …

            …or are you of the camp that believes the children just shouldn’t be born at all, because that will “save” them?”

            It’s impossible to take you seriously when you make these kinds of inflammatory comments. Everybody will shut you off, unless they already agree with you.

          • EdinburghEye

            “Everybody will shut you off, unless they already agree with you. ”

            It’s impossible to take people seriously when they respond to the question “Why should the children of same-sex couples be discriminated against?” with the shrugged dismissal that either these children shouldn’t ever have been born, or they should be “rescued” from this “bad situation”. You find this somehow less inflammatory when it’s discussed euphemistically?

          • guest

            Um, the law is not discriminating against these children. The mother and father of that child can legally marry in the US and I would say that bio marriage encourages it. It’s unfortunate that mothers and fathers in the US are denying their children both a mother and father so that they themselves can pursue happiness at the expense of the child, but so it goes. Don’t blame US law if a child’s parents choose not to raise their children with the other parent. If you believe all children should be treated equally by society, why aren’t you pushing that they all get a mother and father?

            And yes, same sex couples are inferior to hetero couples. Even with perfect fertility, these couples cannot produce a child together. Plus, they cannot engage in intercourse without risking damage to their partner’s body. And neither one can relate to their child what it is like to live of the gender of that child if it is the opposite gender or model for that child what the opposite gender is like if the child is of the same gender. And if the child is hetero (which is likely) they cannot model hetero marriage.

        • Guest

          Dear Jane,

          Let’s back up and talk about friendship. Nobody would dispute that members of the same sex can be friends. I’m a man, and my best friends are men. I happen to think friendship itself is too often undervalued nowadays. It is friendship – not marriage, but friendship – that will endure forever. We will not be married in heaven, but we will be friends in heaven. So I’ll concede that same sex couples – even romantically involved couples – can experience friendship to the same degree (or maybe even to a greater degree) that opposite sex married couples can experience friendship.

          But when we talk about marriage we aren’t talking about a degree of friendship. We’re talking about something that opposite couples are able to do that same sex couples cannot do, and that has absolutely nothing to do with a degree of friendship between two people: make new humans. We’re talking about the nature of a relationship – not a degree of friendship.

          So there it is. Either you agree that same sex couples and opposite couples are different in nature, or you deny it and deny one of the most obvious distinctions that humans have ever recognized. A distinction that every single culture no matter how primitive has recognized – men and women are different and their difference causes them to make babies and allow their society to continue through time.

          So show me one same sex couple – that is, two anatomical males and two anatomical females – that has ever produced a new human life, and I’ll go all in for same sex marriage. If you can’t do that, then stop trying to guilt-trip me into believing stupid things.

    • Matthew James Ferrantino

      this is the problem with the discussion: every time anyone, Christian or non, attempts to simplify into ‘it’s so easy! just…’ they get it wrong. scroll further down the page and you are left hoping that there is something stronger and more substantive than childish hope driving this belief: I don’t mean to use ‘childish’ in a demeaning way- I am Damn Envious of the innocence of children, because I’ve noticed that the more innocent and childish you are, yes, you seem able to pull it off. To make it work. And then, if it’s working, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

      But we are forced to go to school. We are forced to learn, and I think learning, while it’s terrifically good for a lot of earthly things, seems bad for spiritual things. That’s where we’re at odds. If you can capture Ignorance and Youth in a bottle, you’ve got Eden in a bottle as well. But Knowledge of Good and Evil, IE Wisdom, it seems to make us ‘just enough like God that we can’t be what we’re supposed to be anymore, because we were never supposed to be God.’

      Anyone notice how the Hobbits are seen as Children by everyone else in Middle-Earth, and damn it all if the Elves, Dwarves, Men, Swarthy Orc-Men, and even the Wraith-Kings and Wizards don’t all figure out sooner or later that the Shire is where it’s at, the place to be far more envious of than anywhere from Moria to Gondolin to even the Glittering Caves?

      I don’t know if this suggests ‘all adults are screwed’ or not- but what it DOES suggest to me is ‘protect your children in their happiness as long as possible. they’ll always have it better than you. don’t be envious- prolong the joy of children in every way possible.’ And this will assuredly involve giving them rules, even some that you aren’t sure how good of a rule it is, and maybe they’ll stop following it later, and that will be sad even if they don’t figure out why it’s sad to abandon the game until much later.

      • Matthew James Ferrantino

        You can’t argue with results. And my observed results are: Children have it better. They are doing something a little more right that Adults aren’t. Maybe they ask ‘why’ sometimes, but do you know, they rarely get super stuck on why? If they don’t get an answer, they’ll often abandon the question and find something more productive and less difficult to do, and have a joyful day. I wish I could go back to doing things like that.

  • Greg B.

    You seem to be suggesting that belief in a Christian god is necessary for one to have morality. That’s an insult to human nature. Christianity didn’t invent morality, it was built on ideas that had already existed for millions of years. There is also much immorality sanctioned in the Bible that, fortunately, modern society rejects. This idea that the opposition to some Christian teachings is moral relativism that must be rejected is based on the arrogant notion that Christians have some sort of lock on morality. And then you wonder why there’s so much anti-Christian sentiment in the world?

    • Daniel Sheehan

      No, Greg, belief in the “Christian God” (one might call that a redundancy) isn’t necessary to behave morally but it surely helps, given that the Christian weighs his decisions against the future of his immortal soul, or is supposed to.

      “An insult to human nature?” The Christian believes that human nature has been an insult to human nature since our first parents made a botch of what human nature was conceived to be.

      In any case, the point of the post is simply that rejection of moral restraints does not free us but, paradoxically, stifles us. That would be true if there weren’t a Christian left on this poor planet.

      • Greg B.

        “Christian god” is not redundant, it’s a necessary distinction, thanks for proving that for me. Human beings worship many gods. I think that there is something misguided, and a bit sad actually, with the idea that people are only good because they fear eternal punishment. That is what’s insulting. You must remember that the human race existing for millions of years prior to Christianity. That doesn’t happen without some instinctual, hard wired morality that values life and treating your fellow man with humanity. The concept of a Christian god is a relatively new one. Evolution would have wiped the human race from this planet long before Christianity if being good and moral wasn’t an integral part of human nature.

        • Lily

          This is true, Greg B. :) Christians just believe that God (the Christian one) is the One who gave humans the sense that we ought to be good. We believe He created us with that nature long before we ever knew He exhisted.

          • Greg B.

            Does it make you pause, even for a moment, when you consider that modern humans have existed on this planet for around 200,000 years but Christianity only goes back 2,000 and Judaism only couple thousand before that? If this god gave humans a sense of morality, why did he wait 200,000 years to reveal himself?

          • Laceagate

            Greg, Christians have roots in Judaism. Christ Himself said that he was not present to do away with the law, but to fulfill it. As Christians, we don’t ignore the Jewish history which provided a basis for morality.

          • Lily

            Since you claim humans are quite moral without God, surely he could let us get by on our own for a while, right?

            And no, it doesn’t make me pause. God is crazy-difficult to contemplate The more we understand about philosophy and science, the easier it is to talk about God. I can’t say for sure (I’m not God), but I think fallen humans might not have been ready to understand God until a few hundred thousand years of tool use, civilization building, philosophical thought and so on. We don’t even completely understand the Trinity now, so I’m fairly certain Moses didn’t get all the cosmic and space-time implications of the title”I AM, Who am”.

            But no worries about those who died before God revealed himself. As we have both said, there were many good non-Jewish or Christian people. These people could be given grace (prevenient, I think?) and could still go to heaven (Jesus’ sacrifice works for all peoples at all times, as He, God, exists outside of time, hence “I AM”).

          • Rugratmd

            “Have you considered my servant Job?”

        • Daniel Sheehan

          It’s redundant to a Christian, Greg. You’re posting on a Catholic blog. Safe to say there is a presumption at work in these precincts that there is one God, the one revealed in salvation history.
          Christians are not good only because they fear eternal punishment. There is more to the equation than that. The Act of Contrition says we detest our sins because we fear the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, yes, but most of all because they offend God, who is all-good and deserving of all our love. We do not want to – or should not want to – offend perfection. We should not want to offend it even if there were no Hell. But there is. And make no mistake: it is not a pit into which God casts people. It is a pit into which people cast themselves. There is nothing insulting about this notion. Indeed, it speaks to the boundless freedom God has given his creation.
          In any case, I agree with you wholeheartedly about a hard-wired morality. Faith and revelation tell us who did this hard-wiring.

          • Greg B.

            The problem is that what’s essentially being argued here is that the views of those whose morality is based on something other than, and may in part conflict with, Christianity is less valid than, and should be superseded by, that of Christians. It’s an argument designed to claim moral authority over all others. Those of us who believe that god, heaven and hell are just good stories that were created to explain the world in a simpler time, believe that our morals and values are no less valid and, in a pluralistic society, should be given equal weight in civil matters.

          • Dan Sheehan

            But Greg, what if it’s true?

          • James H

            The belief that “god, heaven and hell are just good stories that were created to explain the world in a simpler time” is, well, perhaps not wholly wrong, but incomplete. For that reason, it’s not enough.

        • Christine

          Greg B: Every religion has facets of truth, but it is only the Catholic faith that has the fullness of truth.

          Now spend your energy finding out why.

          • Greg B.

            Everyone thinks their faith “has the fullness of truth”. I had 25 years in the RCC to be convinced of why I should stay. All it did was convince me that what it providing me couldn’t be farther from the truth. Faith is, by definition, not truth, it’s belief.

          • Lily

            … but don’t you believe that the things you can see and feel and touch are part of a true reality?

          • EdinburghEye

            By definition, religious faith is in something that one can neither see or hear or feel or touch.

          • Anonymous

            Faith has two meanings, and only one is directly of any spiritual value. The non-spiritual meaning, the one you are here using (but pretending there is only one, nice equivocation fallacy by the bye), is “treating a proposition as true, in the absence of logical proof, based on our trust in its source”. Most everything you “know” is actually something you “believe”, since you neither lived through all of history and prehistory, nor have traveled all the world keeping abreast of its events, nor have performed all the experiments of all the sciences. Nope, you just listened to people who did—or claim they did.

            Your whole life is a tissue of faith-statements, and you didn’t even know it.

            The faith that is of spiritual value might more accurately be termed “trust”, or what Buddhists call “taking refuge”. It’s the spiritual abandonment advocated by the silly (but not erroneous) slogan “let go, let God”.

    • Lily

      I don’t think that is what Mark is saying at all. Of course morality has existed for thousands of years, actually longer. I would say it has existed since the dawn of reality. Christians simply believe that living a moral life is the same as acting according to unfallen human nature (what humans ought to act like, instead of killing each other for no reason and stealing and whatnot) or, in other words, doing what God has always intended humans to do.

      Because God has always/will always exist, so does natural law. Thus, humans had this natural law/morality from their first moments, before Judaism or Christianity ever started. They had morality without even knowing about God. But since God revealed himself to humans, we have a clearer idea of where morality comes from and what it means to be human. Christians don’t think we invented morality, we just recognize what has always existed and live by that.

      Also, non-Christian moral belief is absolutely different from relativism (Mark never said they were the same, I might add). All religions have ideas of what is good and what is evil. They may not agree with each other, but with in each creed the believers have a definite idea of wrong and write, of “do”s and “don’t”s. Although Christians see some of these as incorrect, those laws that are correct stem from a true morality/natural law/God’s plan for humanity. Thus, non-Christians also have morality and live as God intended, even if they’ve never heard of God. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

      Relativism, on the other hand, is a slap in the face of all moral codes. It basically says either that there is no good or evil (a statement most people, Christian or otherwise, would reject) or that good or evil changes for each person, which basically makes morality non-existant. Thus we have these lovely scenarios: Maybe lying is wrong for you, but right for me. Maybe my husband feels adultery is wrong, but I don’t, so I’ll sleep with other men. And the less talked about: Maybe other people see killing humans as wrong, but not me. Once you say morality doesn’t exist, anything goes. Human experimentation, forced sterilization, genocide, and many other atrocities all come from the idea that there is no right and wrong, or if there is, it doesn’t matter for one group of people. It’s spooky stuff that should be rejected by anyone who cares about doing the right thing.

      • EdinburghEye

        “Christians simply believe that living a moral life is the same as acting according to unfallen human nature (what humans ought to act like, instead of killing each other for no reason and stealing and whatnot) or, in other words, doing what God has always intended humans to do. ”

        And yet, Christians who claim to live a moral life spend a lot of time acting meanly and nastily to people whom they regard as their inferiors.

        Marc’s arguing in these series of blog posts for gay people to be denied marriage because he believes them to be inferior parents. He isn’t humble enough to think that God made so many gay people and perhaps Marc should think before he smears God’s creation. Regularly you hear from prolifers who claim the Christian God inspires them to promote murderous hatred at doctors and nurses and harass women going to clinics – who really believe that they’re entitled to be this hateful to and about women having abortions, gay people getting married, Jewish children who refuse to take part in a Christian religious assembly at school, Muslims who want to build a community centre a couple of blocks from Ground Zero, etc, etc, etc –

        “Once you say morality doesn’t exist, anything goes. ”

        But once you say morality doesn’t apply to an inferior group of people – anything goes towards them. That’s what the Catholic Church has set up towards gay couples, and what Marc is promoting. Hate.

        • Paul Fox

          Since when has the Catholic Church denied gay people any rights? As far as I can tell, we are called to love them. They are held to precisely the same standards as everyone else.

    • Marc Barnes

      Thanks for reading!

      I’m not suggesting that, and neither is the Christian God, at least as far as I can tell. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

      I am only suggesting that moral relativism, the idea that what is right for you may not be right for me, is prevalent and stupid.

      • Greg B.

        I don’t think it’s stupid. I think that religion often blinds people to what our human nature tells us is right and moral. Even if you believe that the Bible is the true word of a god, the fact is that the cycle of being interpreted, modified, written, and translated has been repeated hundreds of times by human beings. I think that people whose morality is free from the constraints and prejudices of religious doctrine may, in some instances, have a sense of morality that is truer to basic human nature. It is undeniable that some of the greatest wars and worst atrocities in the history of mankind were waged in the name of religion. Clearly the faith of those responsible got in the way of seeing what was truly right and good.

        • James H

          Please don’t get all Dawkinsian on us. We all know the worst mass murderers in history were all explicity atheist.

          Any morality is better than none. That’s one of the points here.

        • Lily

          As for death tolls or religious and non-religious things, please research the death tolls from the Crusades, Inquisitions, and all witch trials and compare it to the deaths tolls from Stalin’s Russia, Maoist China, and Nazi Germany…. by year. The yearly death tolls from religious versus non religious conflicts are quite interesting…

          • Greg B.

            Are you suggesting that the Holocaust wasn’t religiously motivated?????

          • Penny Farthing1893

            It was anti-religiously motivated. Obviously.

          • Anonymous

            Are you suggesting that “Jew” is a religion?

            Funny, most of the prominent Jews are atheists or at least agnostics. “Jew” is a tribe, like Navajo; that tribe has a religion, like the Navajo. They don’t all practice it.

            Or do you really propose to suggest, with a straight face, that the Nazis were not atheists?

          • EdinburghEye

            “Are you suggesting that “Jew” is a religion?”


            Of course, the Nazis thought “Jew” was a tribe, too.

          • Buster Adams

            Yes, because it wasn’t.

          • Greg B.
        • Buster Adams

          I think it’s stupid.

      • EdinburghEye

        “I am only suggesting that moral relativism, the idea that what is right for you may not be right for me, is prevalent and stupid. ”

        Okay, Marc, some more fraternal correction, since Buster Adams has verified that Catholics love that!

        What is right for you? In the abstract: to be treated with mercy, justice, kindness. That’s right for me too. You show no mercy, justice, or kindness to the lesbian and gay parents or to their children. With classic moral relativism, you argue that it’s right they should be treated differently from you, because you are better than they are. So you should fix that, and stop decrying gay people like this: it’s neither just not kind nor right.

        In the particulars, we differ. You probably shouldn’t get married to a man. I doubt if you would be able to sincerely pledge to love, honour, and cherish him, and be faithful to him and to him only, so it wouldn’t be fair to him or to you. If it would offend your religious faith to witness two men getting married in church, that’s probably something you shouldn’t witness. Of course thats not to say it shouldn’t happen – just that it’s fair you should be able to choose to go to a church where you know the priest isn’t going to suddenly announce Mark and Joseph are getting married in three weeks. People vary. Customs vary. Your faith doesn’t allow you to honour and glory in the love between men or the love between women, so you’ve been distorted, crippled by that out of love for a small but significant proportion of the human species.

        But the great abstracts don’t vary.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Marc,
    I think the 1st rule was obey God, having faith what He said; has been, is, and will be true. I have also thought, in the past, this don’t eat of the tree, was the one rule, but Genesis 26:5 turned my head. I had always wondered; How come Abraham “won the lotto” having God notice, speak to him, and obtain the promise? Because Abraham obeyed God’s voice, kept His charge, statutes, laws, and commandments, according to 26:5, which leads to the point that God had statutes, laws, and commandments, (plural), long before Moses was born. I think if we consider whose rules, ours or God’s, then we find loving God requires obeying His rules. This is exemplified in Foxes book of Martyrs** where we find the conflict between the “rule book”(Bible), and those in authority that want to make up the rules as they go.
    Actually I liked Your article, however I must point out Jesus said: “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind”(quoting Moses) , and then added AND(making 2 rules) love your neighbor as yourself, which cannot honestly be translated “do what you want”.

    • Marc Barnes

      Great thinking. I believe Augustine would have considered loving your neighbor as an essential part of loving God, what with the whole idea “whatsoever you do for the least of my people, that you do unto me,” and thus condensed into one rule. Again, I’d point to what God’s definition of what it means to love him…”If you love me, keep my commands.” So the simplification of Augustine is more to make absolutly clear what we are ACTUALLY doing when we keep the moral law — loving God. If we are doing for another reason, it will never be fun.

      • Buster Adams

        This is what needs to be explained by our lukewarm brethren. That and a punch to the face and a stout afterwards.

  • Jay E.

    This is beautiful. :D

  • Robert Hagedorn

    Challenge yourself. Google First Scandal.

  • Nick

    You appear to be channelling Mr Chesterton, sir. I suspect sorcery.

  • Tucker Lieberman

    Believing that humans have the authority to make rules is not the same as believing that there are no rules. According to the former belief, of course there are rules: those that humans make. Perhaps there are no “higher rules” that transcend human authority, but that should not be confused with there being no rules whatsoever.

    Games are indeed less entertaining and rather unplayable when there are no rules. If rules are not provided to the players, the players must invent some and agree to follow them. Nothing is gained, however, by claiming that God invented those rules. Even if a “divine command” theory did make games more entertaining, that wouldn’t be evidence that the divine command theory is true. Children’s games, sports events, and so forth are good illustrations of relativism because in games the rules are created by people, are culture-bound, subject to change over time, and serve their purpose excellently despite obviously not deriving from God. I have never understood why people (going back to C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, if I remember correctly) use games as a counterexample to relativism. They’re obviously an example of relativism.

  • Yonmei

    Back when I was a Christian, I learned there were two rules, actually:

    “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

    Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

    Of course the problem with simplifying it down to these two rules is that (as Emerging Mummy said yesterday), the men at the table just don’t like them.. Too egalitarian, requiring too much humility, too much love of others instead of love of self. Marc’s got it into his head that the One Rule includes arguing that lesbians and gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry, though plainly this isn’t covered either by loving God or by loving others.

    What EM had to say:

    “I’m done fighting for a seat at that table.

    “The one filled with white men, all reading the same books, spouting the same talking points, quoting each other back and forth. It’s the table where the men – a small, select, vocal group in no way representative of men in the Church overall – sit around and discuss who is in and who is out, who is right (usually them) and who is wrong (everyone else) and, a favorite topic, whether women should be allowed to write or teach or preach or even read Scripture aloud, what women should be saying and doing, how marriages should look, how children should be raised, how everyone else should live their lives in holiness.

    “Me? I am simply getting on with the business of the Kingdom.

    Enjoy your table, gentlemen.

    Enjoy your table, Marc, and the company of those you consider worthy to sit with you. EM’s crowd outside sounds like it would have room for an atheist who loves humanity, but your in-group doesn’t seem to have room even for Christian gay couples who love the Church.

    • Anonymous

      “though plainly this isn’t covered either by loving God or by loving others.”

      You can always tell that someone just has an agenda, when they call something obvious that is anything but.

      • Yonmei

        Mr Nation, it is clear to me that Marc is not loving his neighbours as himself when he declares his neighbours ought to be legally barred from marriage, that being a privilege he reserves for the better people. I’m sorry this is not clear to you.

        As a non-Christian, I concede I may be wrong and it’s obvious that you love God best by hating his creation. But as an atheist, I’m free to love humanity, and indeed the whole world. Boom-de-yada!

        I read the gospels, you see, all four books, multiple times. Perhaps because of that, I can see Jesus Christ celebrating man’s love for man at Gay Pride, or standing witness when two women who’ve been together fifty years finally are allowed to marry. I can see him standing up for minorities, defending those who are discriminated against and abused and treated as inferiors, eating and drinking with the disregarded and the lonely and the ill.

        I cannot see him as Marc sees him, standing with the powerful, denying justice to the lowly, arguing that in the presence of two people pledging to love each other lifelong, boredom is the appropriate reaction and love should be cast out entirely.

        I stopped believing in God many years ago. But I went on believing in kindness, and justice, and love, and that we should strive towards equality for all.

        I regard parenthood as a huge job, an impossible one to do perfectly, but that I believe most people, given the opportunity, strive to do it as well as they can and deserve to be supported and respected, not insulted and denied. Marc’s judgement that a whole class of people are incapable of doing it and ought not even to try, just strikes me as plain wrong.

        Even St Paul – windy old blusterer though I think he was, and I don’t take his letters for gospel – even he knew better than Marc.

        “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

        • Buster Adams

          Two sides of love: mercy and justice. As Catholics, our love is paradox, not only do we hand out mercy like a Shriner hands out money in a child burn unit, but we also bring justice, which includes fraternal correction. What is the greater good, earthly pleasure or eternal pleasure.

          • EdinburghEye

            Then I trust Marc will take my fraternal correction in good spirit!

        • Marc Barnes

          Christ did not have the same kind of regard for one person as for another. We are specifically told that there were certain persons whom He specially loved. It is most improbable that He thought of other nations as He thought of His own. The sight of His national city moved Him to tears, and the highest compliment He paid was, ‘Behold an Israelite indeed.’ The author has simply confused two entirely distinct things. Christ commanded us to have love for all men, but even if we had equal love for all men, to speak of having the same love for all men is merely bewildering nonsense. If we love a man at all, the impression he produces on us must be vitally different to the impression produced by another man whom we love. To speak of having the same kind of regard for both is about as sensible as asking a man whether he prefers chrysanthemums or billiards. Christ did not love humanity; He never said He loved humanity: He loved men. Neither He nor anyone else can love humanity; it is like loving a gigantic centipede. And the reason that the Tolstoians can even endure to think of an equally distributed affection is that their love of humanity is a logical love, a love into which they are coerced by their own theories, a love which would be an insult to a tom-cat. GKC

    • Ben Dunlap

      “white” men?

      • Yonmei

        You got me! I guess EM is speaking to her own experience of such exclusive groups.

  • Angela

    Alright, I’m enamoured with this blog. Astounding.

  • Buster Adams

    Loud noises!

  • EdinburghEye

    Marc, John Cusack has some more fraternal correction for you. He was asked “Who are your heroes in real life?” and he answered:

    Let’s go with Jesus. Not the gay-hating, war-making political tool of the right, but the outcast, subversive, supreme adept who preferred the freaks and lepers and despised and doomed to the rich and powerful. The man Garry Wills describes “with the future in his eyes … paradoxically calming and provoking,” and whom Flannery O’Connor saw as “the ragged figure who moves from tree to tree in the back of [one’s] mind.”

    • Marc Barnes

      Ah, I love that O’Connor quote!

  • Josh


    I fail to see how the article you linked on the increased levels of depression in society has anything to with your argument of lack of rules and people having the ability to do anything.

    The article claims that the children today claim to be unhappier than before, and has not correlated that children are actually more depressed than before. In addition, the article makes the claim that increased consumerism and increased value on materialism. At what point does the desire for more material goods become synonymous with doing whatever you please.

    • Marc Barnes

      At no point. The desire for more material goods is synonymous with sin. Sin — in general — is what I believe depresses society. We are simultaneously the most sinful and the most unhappy we have ever been. I do not argue for lack of rules, but for a lack of sin, if only for the sake of more smiles.

  • Matticfrancis

    I know this is an older post, which in no way invalidates it. I wanted to ask permission to link to it for my own blog. It’s such a naughty/nice mix.

  • Tracy Palacio Brown

    Gosh you started very strong and then went wandering in the woods… trying to be relavent?

  • Irked

    This article seems to presume that the only thing that makes a sinful activity enjoyable is its illicitness – that, for instance, one only finds premarital sex fun because one believes You’re Not Supposed To.

    And sure, I’ll buy that can be *a* factor in the enjoyment of some of these things – but in many cases, it’s certainly not the only one. As an example: most gluttons, I’d imagine, enjoy the food more than the forbidden thrill.

  • Roseanne Sullivan

    Terrific post!

  • proud2b4family

    “Love God, and do what you want.” appears to invalidate your entire post, until one realizes that what Jesus meant by “Love God and love your neighbor” being the two greatest commandments equates to the fact that if you keep those two commandments, what you want is what God wants (your will will be aligned with His). You won’t want sin. You won’t want the consequences of the seven deadly sins. You won’t want to commit acts (or omit acts) that will result in human suffering.

    It’s brilliant, really, but that’s why we call Jesus the Son of God. He knows better than we do. He especially knows better than the moral relativists.