Culture · Ethics · Morality · Philosophy · Society · Truth

You Don’t Really Believe in Moral Relativity

Do you remember this scheme from your childhood? You were 10, maybe 12 years old and you wanted something. I’m not just talking about something small like having dessert that night. I am thinking a lot bigger. You wanted to go to your friend’s for the weekend, and they were going to have over several other friends. If you didn’t go, you would be left out in the cold. This could end your relationship with your friends. You went to one of your parents and they said no. You hadn’t been horribly bad lately, there was nothing big planned for the weekend, and there was no explanation for not being able to go.

This greatly upset you, and you could see your social life falling apart from this one great tragedy. You concocted several plans, and then  it hit you, let me ask my other parent. You go to them, pretend you didn’t ask the other, and act like this is the first time you are proposing this idea.

We were all there from time to time if we are honest. My children tried this in the first couple years of their meager existence. My wife and I were prepared for it though. We laid out a counter punch by explaining  to them that we are a team, and once either of the people on the team made a decision, the other one would back them up. Believe it or not after giving this answer for a while, propositioning the other parent went on the decline in the Madden household. I’m not saying we cured this in our children, but I believe as we continue to give the same answer in the years to come, we won’t have to deal with this as much as other parents who aren’t on the same team and who constantly give in.

While it may be frustrating for our children to know that they are not only going up against smarter and older human beings in the chain of command, but a unified team. There is something that is more frustrating, that is when the rules change. Sometimes there are parents who are not on the same page. Maybe one gives in, and the other stands firm. Maybe there are times the one who gives in gives permission, and the one who stands firm finds out, and changes the answer back to “no.” While children don’t like to be told “no,” it is more frustrating for them to not know what the answer is, the boundaries are, or what is expected of them. This creates a child who is not grounded, but who bounces around in their mind, feelings and beliefs. Children need consistency. While a child might not like the answers given, if they know what is expected of them, they will appreciate steadfastness.

What does that have to do with relative truth? The idea of relative truth in society is much like parents who are not on the same page. In a moralistic relative society, the rules change depending on who you are hanging out with, working with, or conversing with. Now I want to define our terms, and take a couple steps back. Relative truth is that thought of “what’s good for you is good for you, and what is good for me is good for me.” We have heard it, and maybe even said it, and it is currently the rally cry of our society.

Too often, many have said that our society is one that does not believe in absolute truth. This is a misdiagnoses of what is called the postmodern era. D.A. Carson points this out in his book, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. Very few people believe there is no such thing as absolute truth. The idea of saying, “There is no such thing as absolute truth” is self-defeating. The statement is an absolute truth within itself, and therefore crumbles at its foundation.

While over a decade ago this idea was kicked around, many after seeing the error of it, settled with the idea of moral relativism. Relativity is the absence of universal truth. It doesn’t say that truth does not exist, but instead proclaims that truth is different depending on the one who is interacting with truth. This is to say that truth, or the morals which flow out of truth, are relative depending on who you are. What is morally true for one is morally false for another, and according to the moral relativist, this is an acceptable way to live as a society. As we will soon discover, the moral relativist doesn’t even truly believe this.

While the idea of relativism may work for things like understanding that Starbucks coffee is of a higher quality than Dunkin Donuts, the Penguins are superior to the Capitals, and that it’s much more enjoyable to live in the north with the seasons, than to be under the constant heat in the south, things don’t work so well for the idea of moral relativism. A society that attempts to live in this way will find that the culture will crumble completely.

It must be noted that no one with a logical mind who thinks  through a true moralistically relative society could agree that everything is morally relative. Just ask these few questions to someone claiming to be a moral relativist. Would it be wise as a society if we all chose our own way separately, such as  rules for the road? What if some people drove down the right hand side of the road and others drove down the left, or if some drove forward and others drove backward?

What  if a parent set a reasonable bed time, but a child said, “Well, as a third grader, 9 PM doesn’t work for me.  I will go to bed at 3 AM or later.”? How well would it work for you if you showed up at work some days, others you skipped without calling in, and other days you came in two hours late? What if you said to your boss, “While working 9-5, Monday to Friday may work for you, that’s not the truth that I believe about this job?” Or what if I took your wallet or purse and the money in it. You said, “Hey, you can’t steal from me.”  I replied, “Well, I don’t believe that stealing is wrong or that the idea of right and wrong exists. I see it as collecting resources from other individuals, and it works for me to live this way.”

No one would truly choose to live in such a society. A culture which functioned in a way where everyone chose their own truth would fall apart quickly. Many would choose things which worked for them, but were harmful to others.

When you hear people clamor for moral relativity, there are two options. They really don’t understand anything about how the world functions;  or most likely they are using the idea of moral relativity to be the ones who are in charge of the absolute moral non-relative truths they claim to not believe in. These people want everyone to choose their own truth, but they often really want to make the rules for everyone. They want to be the source of truth and how society lives. They are trying to do a bait and switch, but for those of us who are intelligently aware of this trick, we are not taking the bait.

Now this article, or line of reasoning, does not prove that Christianity should be the base of truth for society. More work needs to be done. This is just one of the building blocks I am trying to build back up to show how Christianity is not only a truth, but the solid truth which everyone believes and is governed by. My purpose for this article is to just destroy one more ideology society tells us they believe, which is actually a lie. Truth is always contrary to the reality of truth.

Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes  or Googleplay.