Is Morality Relative or Absolute?


cropped-robgoodgravatar.jpgby Rob Lundberg

If someone were to tell you and I that “no moral standards are absolute” how would you respond?  Some hold to a standard of the cultural creed, “that may be right for you, but it is not right for me.”  This objection is one of those hot button topics that I will be addressing at the upcoming Apologetics Boot Camp on July 13th and 14th.  Please be sure to check out the video announcement on our page down below. 

This objection of cultural moral relativism seems to be a “norm” in our culture today where many believe that all “moral values are cultural.”  But there is one thing that we need to remember. These overused challenges to moral absolutes betray our society’s believe that moral values are relative. Many may think think that right and wrong vary from person to person and culture to culture based upon one’s personal preferences, upbringing, and majority of the opinion of the populace.   This post is going to present six major problems. Are we ready?  Here we go.

First, the system of relativism (moral or philosophical) is inconsistent.  Someone who embraces relativism will posit that no system is absolutely right, but then in the next breath they will proclaim that their system is right and other systems — those which accepts absolutes — wrong.  In making that pronouncement the rightness of his/her own system, they establish themselves as the absolute standard by which others are measured. They violate their own position by believing it. 

Second, God is the standard by which everything is judged. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:15-16, “But just has He who has called you holy (set apart) is holy, so be holy (set apart) in all you do; for it is written ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'”  The moral mandates that the Lord sets forth reflect His nature, and His pronouncements conform to His character. The authority to determine morals does not fall within the jurisdiction of individuals, groups or cultures. Those who reject God’s existence will appeal to some standard for rejecting moral absolutes. Every system, be it one that is moral, immoral, or amoral, will seek to set the course, and claim itself as absolute in the process. 

Third, moral absolutes are inescapably unavoidable. It does not matter how trendy a belief in moral subjectivity is, there are certain acts that are universally recognized as right and wrong. Let me give you an example.  No matter the society, all societies value honesty, and condemn the act of torturing babies.  The outrage that everyone feels when it is heard that such an action has taken place, it is always considered a moral atrocity and declared a heinous action. 

Fourth, relativism produces chaos. Imagine a world in which every person lived without a sense of absolute right or wrong. No ethical standards could be imposed because there would not be any standard to enforce. Contracts could contain lies, and deception by either party in the contract. Frustrated neighbors could murder the person next door when angered. Governments could conquer their neighbors, and impose lawless standards for any reason they made up.

Fifth, justice dies under a relativistic banner. Administering justice presupposes that an absolute standard of justice exists. If right or wrong is based upon individual determination, not statement, thought or action could be condemned. Lying, stealing, and murder are given a green light because they are not subject to punishment. No amends could be pursued for wrongs committed because wrong would not exist.

Sixth and finally, relativism tolerates monstrous cultures. All the atrocities committed in history cannot be criticized. We might deplore Hitler’s Germany, Pol Pot’s Cambodia and others. But we could not say they were wrong if we embraced the hypocritical standard of relativism. If someone dislikes an ethic group or one grows tired of their political opponents, exterminating them could not be deemed wrong under the banner of relativism. Slavery may be different from our way of life, but it could not be called morally evil. If you want free labor, kidnap people and work them to death. Divorced from an ultimate, transcendent, immutable standard, the examples I just mentioned could be inevitable. 

Conclusion

Fortunately, there are very few people consistently apply this relativistic standard. Those who say morals are relative and try to live by that mantra do not have the stomach to follow that creed to its forgone conclusion.  Nevertheless, this trend increasingly sways individuals, societies, and even governments. As Christians, we may be at times affected by it as well. At the same time, Christianity and moral relativism are incompatible. You and I need to realized that relativism as a belief system is intellectually bankrupt, hypocritical, and socially unlivable. More importantly, it is opposed to God’s absolute unchanging Word. 

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robgoodgravatarRob is a blogger, writer and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and to communicate the message of the gospel to a confused culture in a confused, chaotic, “brave new world.”  He is available to come and speak to your church, college club, or group. Find out what people are saying.

If you would like to book Rob for a speaking event, you can do so by emailing him at roblundberg@ratiochristi.org    If you have other questions about apologetics or doing apologetics, or if you are looking for apologetics resources, contact our ministry by email.

Author: roblundberg

I am a blogger, writer, equipper, and public speaker on a mission to equip the believer to think and articulate what they believe and communicate it to a confused culture in a "brave new world" steeped in a post-truth mindset. My mission follows the lines of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. My desire is the equip you to address today's issues from a worldview perspective, and know how and when to incorporate the discipline of apologetics into the task of evangelism, so as to communicate the gospel in a persuasive and compassionate manner. I currently serve as the local Chapter Director and Community Apologist for Ratio Christi, at Germanna Community College and the University of Mary Washington; both in Fredericksburg, VA.

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