Thursday, August 25, 2016

Are Morals Relative?

We live in a culture that has gone more and more in the direction of moral relativity and where everything is tolerated except intolerance. It has started in the area of sexual behavior, but has continually expanded from there. As a people our nation is, in fact, at the point of Romans 1:32, of not only doing those things but approving of them. But no matter how fervently people denounce conventional morality, they then turn around and erect their own new moral standards, such as pushing strongly for their view of equality. The idea of right and wrong seems to be bred into our bones.   

To avoid this, they argue that different cultures have different moral standards and that it is impossible to reach any absolute conclusion regarding moral principles. Now morality, like truth, is not determined by majority vote. If all the world once held that the sun revolved around the earth, rather than the earth around the sun, that did not make it true. Also, this assertion is just plain not true. It you look at various moral codes you will find differences, and certainly differences of emphasis, but the basic principles are found over and over again in different cultures. Also, the differences can frequently be explained by the differences in philosophy or situations of the people involved. Moral standards have the appearance of a deposit that was given to mankind in the beginning and has been passed down, with different people modifying it to fit their convenience. But the solution is not to throw out morality, but to throw out the modifications and find the original. Ultimately the problem with a relative morality, though, is that if morality is relative, where do you logically stop short of anarchy? What basis do you ultimately have for drawing the line at any behavior, if it becomes regarded as acceptable? Even if people are unwilling to press things this far, it will be purely due to a subjective dislike, rather than any commitment to principle.

How, then, are Christians to respond to this situation? We must avoid two extremes. We must avoid watering down our principles in order to fit in with modern viewpoints. This can sometimes be difficult because I need to constantly be asking, am I reading back my prejudices into Scripture? (This is complicated by the fact that prejudices can cut both ways, encouraging us to lay aside the Scriptural standard or to erect a stricter standard than Scripture genuinely requires.) But we are also in danger of becoming self righteous and looking down on people, rather then reaching out to them with compassion. We need to remember that we ourselves are saved by grace (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9) and cannot boast in our own goodness. It is often very difficult to show compassion without condoning. But it is only in this way that we can reach out to those who have exchanged the incorruptible God for something else that will not be able to deliver them from the sinful choices they have made (Romans 1:21-23).

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