A Brief Refutation of Moral Relativism

absolute relativism.001The following statement was posed by a moral relativist, in the context of Christian moral absolutism: “Because there are so many points of view morally and because we cannot ever get outside of our cultural and historical perspective, we cannot make morally absolute claims about right and wrong or good and evil. We must be humble and generous in our judgments.”

I was asked to give a response.  Here is what I said:

First of all, such a statement projects a lack of humility and generosity upon every moral absolutist, which is an unreasonable generalization.  Certainly there are some moral absolutists who are prideful and stingy, but not all.  And certainly for those who truly follow the Jesus of the Bible, humility and generosity are two of the primary markers of their belief systems and lives.  Please don’t judge all Christians by those who pin a badge of Christianity upon their unChristlike pride and stinginess.

Secondly, let me appeal to simple logic: to say that “we cannot make morally absolute claims about right and wrong” is to make a morally absolute claim.  So the argument is illogical from the start.  Even to require that we be a certain way in our judgments (“we must be humble and generous”) is to set up an absolute moral standard.  By whose standard is any judgment to be deemed “humble and generous”?  And, could such a subjective standard be defined objectively, who would then be qualified to render such a judgment?

Thirdly, if we try hard enough and honestly enough, we can find something around which we all agree there is right and wrong.  We may draw different lines about where exactly right and wrong lie, but at some point, we will all reach a common denominator of some kind.  If that is the case, then there must be some objective standard for right and wrong, somewhere, to which we all agree and to which we are all held accountable.

So let me ask the question: where did that standard come from?  And who is providing the accountability for it?  Because both the standard and the accountability must exist outside of us, they must have been created by someone who is not us, who is set apart from and above us, both morally and ultimately.

As a follower of Jesus, and an adherent of the Christian Bible, my answer to those questions is God.  God created the standards, and God provides the accountability.  Incidentally, God also freely provides the path of redemption for all standard-breakers (myself included) through the sacrificial life, death, and victorious resurrection and ascension of His Son, Jesus.  Nothing could be more humble — nothing could be more generous — than a God, who creates and maintains the standards for humanity, who holds humanity accountable, to also provide the way through His own Son for humanity to be covered and redeemed from their lives of habitual standard-breaking.  Such grace and mercy is the very definition of humility and generosity.

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