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April 15, 2018

L. John Bost
L. John Bost
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Previous: How Did Life Begin?


Many people claim to obey God to one degree or another. There are various reasons why individuals obey God. There are also various reasons why some obey Him to a greater degree than others. Is that important? Does it really matter why we obey God as long as we obey Him? We will consider this question in this article. Do you obey God? Is so, why? If not, why not?

Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development

In 1958, Lawrence Kohlberg wrote what came to be known as Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development. His theory of moral development was inspired by Piaget's Theory of Moral Development (1932). Kohlberg listed three distinct levels of moral reasoning each with two sub-stages. The Levels and stages begin with infancy and continue through adulthood. According to Kohlberg, a person must go through each stage in the order listed. Not everyone achieves every stage.

Kohlberg's stages
Kohlberg's Stages of Development

It is interesting to note that there are members of the Lord's church who fit into every one of Kohlberg's levels and stages.
Kohlberg's first level is "Pre-conventional morality." This level includes those from infancy through preschool. In Stage one of this level, "Obedience and Punishment Orientation," the child/individual behaves in order to avoid being punished. If a person is punished, they must have done wrong (See McLeod).
Many Christians find themselves in this stage as it relates to God's laws. Indeed, obedience is required of God's people and disobedience results in punishment. Obedience is also required of men today. When called upon to stop preaching the gospel of Christ, Peter answered the authorities, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Jesus said in Matthew 7:21:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
The word obey is found nine times in relation to God, His Son, and their word in the books of Acts and the Epistles. The word, "obedience," is found nine times. There are various other words that are used that mean obey, such as, "keep" and "follow." The New Testament makes it clear that hell awaits those who disobey God (Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 18:9; 25:46; Hebrews 10:29, etc.). But is the fear of punishment a sufficient reason to obey God?
The New Testament speaks of new Christians as "babes in Christ" 1 Cor. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:13-14). Babes in Christ are concerned about avoiding punishment for their sin and obtaining eternal life. They may be seeking God's care on the earth as well.
In Kohlberg's second level,"Conventional Morality," children learn about rules and authority. They learn that there are certain "conventions" that govern how they should and should not behave, and learn to obey them. They see no difference between moral principles and legal principles. What is right is what is set forth by those in authority, and disobeying the rules is always "bad."
In Stage III, individuals (most adolescents and adults) are good in order to be seen as being a good person by others. In Stage IV they learn the wider rules of society, so judgments concern obeying the rules in order to uphold the law and to avoid guilt. Therefore, answers relate to the approval of others. New Christians learn that there are certain rules, or "thou shalt's," and "thou shalt not's," that Christians must adhere to.
In Stage III, individuals (most adolescence and adults) are good in order to be seen as being a good person by others. In Stage IV they learn the wider rules of society, so judgments concern obeying the rules in order to uphold the law and to avoid guilt.
(Continued on page 2).

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