Tag Archives: moral relativism

Is truth absolute or relative?

Secular thinkers assert that truth is always relative. Is killing right or wrong? It depends. That is why we have major social arguments over abortion.

Is theft sometimes justified? A woman who was posting details about her daily life with her children praised her daughter for thinking that way. The daughter mentioned a fairytale in which a character stole something. Her brother said, “I would punch that fellow right in his eye!” The daughter said, “That’s not nice. You should ask him why he stole.” In other words, his theft might be justifiable, because theft is not an absolute moral wrong.

Is a crowd of people justified in looting and destroying property just because the crowd suspects that a cop murdered a black man as an act of racism? The investigation is in progress. Nobody can safely conclude the truth of the situation. The people who were there to see the facts have not testified. The autopsy which will reveal the way the victim died has not been completed. The question is, before anyone has any information on which to base a conclusion about the behavior of the policeman, is a crowd justified in threatening bystanders and destroying businesses because they think the action might have been racist. For that matter, if the evidence proved that the policeman shoot a black man solely because he hates black people, does that fact justify endangering bystanders and destroying property?

I am asking one question, and one question only. Is it always wrong for a crowd to destroy the property of someone just because they are angry about something not related to that individual or that property? Or is it always right? Or does it depend?

The Bible teaches us that there is absolute truth, and there is absolute morality, just as there is absolute gravity. With gravity, if you disregard the law, thinking it does not apply to you, you can walk off any ten-story building you like. However, the fact that you think the law does not apply has no bearing on your fate. You will fall. If you are very, very fortunate you will not die, but you will fall, no matter what you think. The Bible teaches us that truth is like that, morality is like that. You can disregard truth, and you can disregard God’s moral laws, and you can declare that they do not apply to you, but the fact remains that you will suffer the consequences of your disregard. If you say that a stove is not hot when it is very hot, and then lay your hand on the stove, it will burn you. If you say that murder and mayhem are not immoral, because you have a right to be angry with someone, and you commit murder, you will suffer the consequences. I’m not talking about arrest, conviction and execution. I am talking about what happens when human being kills another human being.

In Great Britain, during the era when many people were executed by the act of a single person designated to be the executioner, the process of execution included an act that might seem incongruous to contemporary secular thinkers. The person being executed was expected to forgive the executioner.

This action was not a trivial ceremonial act. It was serious business. At that time, the state religion of Great Britain was, as it is today, Christianity. The Church of England took human life and death seriously. It was not viewed as a trivial duty of government to execute convicted felons. To execute someone is to take from that person the life given to him by God at the moment of conception. The minute that person first came into being, the moment the sperm from the father penetrated the egg of the mother, a human life was created, and that human life was God’s to give and God’s to take away. It was regarded as the most extreme presumption for anyone to take the life of another, which is the reason that someone convicted of murder might be sentenced to be executed.

However, the Church of England respected even the life of a convicted murderer sufficiently to insist that when a murderer was about to be executed, he must forgive his executioner, in order that the executioner, acting as the agent of the God-given government, not incite revenge on behalf of the convict by acting as the agent of lawful government to kill another human being. The Church may have had unrealistic expectations of both the executioner and the convict, but nevertheless, the expectation expressed something important: human beings presume upon the prerogatives of God when they take human life.

That tiny expectation that the convict would forgive his executioner also expressed a recognition that even a foul murderer is not so completely depraved that he does not recognize the burden laid upon his executioner, if he, the murderer, is unable to forgive the agent of the state for doing his duty.

Today’s secular thinkers, the mainstay of government officialdom, do not recognize that absolute truth exists. For them, it always depends on something. Even instruments such as the Constitution and laws passed by Congress are not absolute; it always “depends.” This mindset has been applied to decisions not to enforce laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act and the whole suite of immigration law. It naturally follows that because they do not respect the absolute validity of human law, they certainly do not respect the absolute validity of God’s law. Truth. Integrity. Respect for life. Marriage. In their view it all “depends” on the perspective of the individual. This attitude can be summed up in a single concept: every human being is a law unto himself.

May God absolutely bring to their attention his absolute sovereignty and his absolute expectations in order that they may know and recognize what Christ did for them when he absolutely died on the cross and absolutely rose from the dead. On the cross, all the consequences for my sins and the sins of everyone in the world were absolutely laid on one sacrificial lamb, because truth is absolute and the consequences of ignoring God’s moral law are just as absolute as the consequences of ignoring gravity.

Truth

What is truth? he asked.
The truth is dangerous and frightening.
It is easier to deal with my own perceptions.
I really can’t handle God’s truth.

I really can’t handle God’s truth.
I don’t even want God’s truth.
I hate the lines it draws, confining.
I fear the light that glares, revealing.

I fear the light that glares, revealing.
It’s private, God knows, it’s private.
Leave me alone!
What are you staring at?

What are you staring at?
Nothing to see here.
Behold the Man, the Love, the Light, the Truth.
I have to ask, “What is truth?”

“Truth” © 2008 Katherine Harms

 

Evolving Standards Do Not Work in the Real World

When Barack Obama first spoke publicly about same-sex marriage, he was equivocal. His views were still “evolving” he told us. Then later, after he had tested the waters and determined what cultural trends were developing, he spoke in support of it. He behaved consistent with the growing influence of a belief that all moral standards are relative and that human beings evolve morally as well as biologically.

This idea is most fully developed in secular philosophy. (There are secularists, there are humanists, and there are free thinkers who advocate substantially the same views. I try to refer to them consistently as secularists, because that term seems the most appropriate word for their core ideas.) Secularists deplore the idea that anyone would impose their morality on other people. They teach not only that each generation must find its own way, but further that each person must find their own way. In a recent conversation with a secularist, I asked how he knew that he had found the “right” answer to a moral problem, and his response was that the “right” answer would be whatever made him happy.

Continue reading Evolving Standards Do Not Work in the Real World

Life of the Elderly — an Absolute Value? or Relative?

A recent article pointed out that the media has apparently taken the initiative to promote what I call “senior suicide.” They call it dignified death. They might just as well take the big leap and call it “a senior’s right to choose.” The media is glorifying the story of senior citizens who decide to kill themselves.

What is going on here? How did our culture come to this place? Why do Christians care?

An internet search on “right to die” or “assisted suicide” or other similar topics turns up a great deal of information. Many people will remember the late Dr. Kevorkian who campaigned vigorously for people’s right to kill themselves in certain situations, situations where he appointed himself to be the judge and jury. There are Supreme Court cases, organizations pro and con, and numerous individual stories of people who chose suicide. There are statistics, too, that show that many elderly people choose suicide rather than life, and only a few of those could even distantly be “justified” by a terminal diagnosis.

  • What is happening in the culture of the USA that increasingly presses for a societal right to end the lives of individuals?
  • Since we who follow Christ believe that life is God’s most precious gift, how does Christ want Christians to respond to this cultural trend?

Suicide might not look like a right for the society to end someone’s life. It seems at first glance to be something a person decides for himself. Suicide has been an issue in human society for as long as records tell the story. It isn’t a new thing.

What is new is the attitude of reporting about suicide. When an elderly person or a person who is terminally ill decides to commit suicide, the press seems to applaud the decision. It isn’t suicide when a terminally ill person chooses to allow nature to take its course; it is suicide when a terminally ill person packs up and goes to Switzerland where she can legally drink poison and die. The press describes this decision with almost the same awe as it shows for the vacation plans of the President and his family.

The culture of the USA is increasingly a culture of death. It looks on the surface like life, but in the heart of the culture, death is growing stronger.

  • The culture values the prevention of birth so strongly that the government is willing to run roughshod over the religious convictions of millions in order to provide sterilization, abortion and drugs labeled contraceptives (despite the fact that their actual function is to prevent implantation) at no cost to patients.
  •  The culture says that the killing of the unborn is justified because an unborn baby is an alien intruder in the body of a woman who does not need the inconvenience, an inconvenience so powerful that post-birth abortion has even been proposed as a legitimate option. 
  • The culture says that an elderly person’s suicide can be viewed as a “dignified death” if the elderly person is tired of living, for any reason whatsoever.
  • The culture has spawned a healthcare law that says it is appropriate to “manage” the provision of medical treatment according to a formula that assesses the cost benefit against life expectancy with the consequence that an expensive treatment w/ill rarely be authorized for an elderly patient, regardless of its potential benefit for the patient.
  • The same cost/benefit analysis can conceivably be used to deny or limit treatment of individuals whose irremediable disabilities make it likely that the benefit of some medical treatments would never be fully realized.
  • All these trends make it horrifyingly possible, maybe even probable, that a culture of eugenics could emerge under some other label, the term eugenics having been thoroughly discredited already.

The underlying theme of these cultural changes is a disregard for life. The theme that human beings have a right, even an obligation, to plan and manage the deaths of other people is a theme frequently promoted by media comments. The notion of planning families sounds like a liberating option until governments respond to population pressures by setting legal limits on family size. The notion of using money for healthcare wisely sounds like responsible fiscal management, until the whole process becomes entangled with a Pharisaical regulation embedded in a political budget process that has no relationship to the value of human life. It is becoming very clear that letting go of a cultural commitment to do whatever it takes to support life simply because life is precious comes at the cost of another precious commodity – freedom. Life is God’s first and most precious gift to humankind. After that, he gives liberty, the precious right to choose between good and evil, the precious responsibility to choose what God would choose. Christians are called to be salt and light in this secular culture. Christians have an obligation to shine the light of truth on the rising cultural trends. Christians have an obligation to behave like salt on food to change the flavor of the culture.

An individual Christian cannot make new laws or implement new policies nationwide. Yet each individual Christian must certainly want to do whatever will reshape the culture. Christians can speak and write and act with love for life. By our living testimonies, people will see our respect for life, our practice of treasuring and nurturing and preserving life, our commitment to the God from whom we all receive life. When we show Christ’s love for all people, even unborn people, even old feeble people, even poor, dirty, diseased people, even political opponents and social activists for causes we know are destructive – our willingness to love as Christ loved shines light on the truth and flavors the culture in a way that makes it better. We must not think that changing the culture or the government is all up to us. That is God’s work. No matter how faithful any one Christian might be, one Christian is unlikely to turn the culture upside down. On the other hand, God only needs one person completely committed to him to turn an empire upside down, as witness the impact of the apostle Paul.

As Christians, we respect everyone’s right to choose between good and evil. This is a God-given right. Our testimony is that in Christ, we choose life, the first and most valuable of all God’s gifts. Life is an absolute value, at every age.

For background and related articles, read Living on Tilt the newspaper