It appears that all this talk about morality and truth boils down to what you think of humankind. Are humans inherently good or bad? It seems as though relativists lean mostly toward good where absolutists lean toward bad. Relativists believe that people are inherently good and thus will make good decisions that positively impact society. Absolutists believe that we are sinful and thus we cannot determine what is right and wrong because of our sinful nature. Relativists look inward at their subjective beliefs to determine what is right and wrong. Absolutists look outward and upward at their Creator’s objective moral standard to determine what is right and wrong.
Thus, it makes sense when relativists get defensive, offended, and triggered when their beliefs are challenged. It’s because their beliefs are personal! They are not appealing to any higher authority other than themselves.
My fear is how easy it is to fall into the trap of relativism. If one is not thinking critically and biblically, one can easily get caught up in subjective beliefs about morality and truth. Instead of searching for objective truths about the world around us, one often settles for subjective truths just because they sound true, good, and right when worded correctly.
Consider this exchange from a book I highly recommend called Moral Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl. The teacher exemplifies a mainstream relativist point of view while the student challenges this idea.
“Teacher: Welcome, students. This is the first day of class, and so I want to lay down some ground rules. First, since no one has the truth, you should be open-minded to the opinions of your fellow students. Second…. Elizabeth, do you have a question?
Elizabeth: Yes, I do. If nobody has the truth, isn’t that a good reason for me not to listen to my fellow students? After all, if nobody has the truth, why should I waste my time listening to other people and their opinions? What’s the point? Only if somebody has the truth does it make sense to be open-minded. Don’t you agree?
Teacher: No, I don’t. Are you claiming to know the truth? Isn’t that a bit arrogant and dogmatic?
Elizabeth: Not at all. Rather I think it’s dogmatic, as well as arrogant, to assert that no single person on earth knows the truth. After all, have you met every person in the world and quizzed them exhaustively? If not, how can you make such a claim? Also, I believe it is actually the opposite of arrogance to say that I will alter my opinions to fit the truth whenever and wherever I find it. And if I happen to think that I have a good reason to believe I do know the truth and would like to share it with you, why wouldn’t you listen to me? Why would you automatically discredit my opinion before it is even uttered? I thought we were supposed to listen to everyone’s opinion.
Teacher: This should prove to be an interesting semester.
Another Student: (blurts out) Ain’t that the truth. (the students laugh).”
My main goal for this blog series was to convince you that morality, and deeper than that, truth, is indeed absolute. God is truth Himself and is the source of all truth. I hope that you seek God’s objective truth through His Word rather than the endless chatter of subjective opinions. If I did not convince you of this, then my other goal was to get you thinking deeply about this subject.
Suggested resources for further reading:
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Moral Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl