Do Absolute Moral Standards Exist?
Ben Cathey, pastor of The Orchard Church, believes they do.
Yes, I believe they do. Does that mean I have all the answers? No, it does not. This is a big world with lots of lines, lots of perspectives, and lots of shades of gray between polar opposites. We are each but one small person. We can’t define exactly what a moral absolute is, but we have a duty to take a pretty good stab at it. We can't just turn a blind eye away from right and wrong, or wrong will rule. As soon as we declare ourselves free of one moral boundary we are confronted with another. Moral boundaries are real. They are not merely falsehoods developed by religious and political leaders to control the masses. Moral lines do exist. The lines are demarcations between what is right and what is wrong. We have not always drawn the lines in the right places, but that does not mean that they don't exist; it just means that we don't recognize them.
We can base our understanding of morality on many foundations. We can derive our understanding from emotions, politics, religion, a creed, a holy book, a law, a person, or almost anything that can speak to our soul about what is right and wrong. I’m the pastor of a vibrant church called The Orchard (www.theorchardchurch.org), so you might expect me to quote the Bible about right now. The Bible actually has little to do with why I believe there are moral absolutes. The Bible is an amazing and honest account of God's interaction with the people He created. It helps guide us from wrong to right, selfishness to generosity, trouble making to peace making. My belief in moral absolutes only strengthens my understanding of scripture, especially those places that seem unfair, unloving, or (can I say it) ungodly. The Bible never explicitly states that moral absolutes exist; instead it assumes them. A belief in moral absolutes is more logical than spiritual. Let me explain.
Bold statement here: The idea that there are no moral absolutes is a myth. The myth has become more widespread as we encounter more and more people in our midst who are very unlike us. The challenge to get along together is real, but that does not mean that relativism is a valid option for forging relationships and bringing a society together. The reason for the perpetuation of the myth is this: It feels good to say that your opinion is yours, mine is mine, both are equally valid, and everyone should just mind their own business. I guess that works with minor things, but a unified people can't exist for very long as equally communist, facist, socialist, and capitalist. All of the views are not equally valid.
The pundits of moral relativism say things like “if you don’t like the TV show then turn it off,” “you can’t define what is right for someone else; only that person knows what is right for themselves,” "if it does no harm, then do as one will," or, defiantly, “who made you god?” Good question, but it does not support the relativistic point of view as strongly as one might think it does.
The problem with moral relativism is that it can’t support its own logic. Only the position of moral absolutism can support itself. The logic of “there are no moral absolutes” is an absolute statement, so the relativistic mindset is stuck chasing its own tail to no avail. Ha. I rhymed. Sort of. I have yet to hear a relativist say “there are no moral absolutes except for the one standard that there are no moral absolutes” or “the only absolute rule, creed, and doctrine is that there are no absolutes.” One is left to look at the relativist and suggest that other absolutes might exist since they are allowed after all. If moral relativistic statements are true, then they are absolute statements. If moral absolutes are not allowed, then we must live in a world where moral relativism is the one true way and where moral absolutism is also the one true way. Confusing, isn’t it. That's because the argument caves in upon itself at its core.
With a word from one well-known individual, we end up "lost" when we don't know where the moral lines are. But that same individual also promises that if we seek Him we will find Him and that in Him we will have life and have it abundantly. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound . . . (Luke 19:10 - John 10:10 - Matthew 7:7-8 - 2nd Timothy 1:9 - found at www.biblegateway.com).