Good And Evil And A Moral Law


On the atheist FB group page where I’m a member, the question came up about the existence of evil pointing to the existence of a moral law and therefore a Moral Lawgiver. The discussion stemmed from something Ravi Zacharias said in response to a question from a student.

Not surprisingly atheists in the group quickly dismissed the notion on the grounds of relativism—good and evil are just relative, therefore there is no fixed standard, no actual absolute, no “law.” Hence, no Lawgiver.

I don’t think I realized just how insidious relativism is until I read those comments. Sure, I knew that the denial of the absolute allowed people to live a life that freed them from those things they simply didn’t want to do. So “what’s right for you, might not be right for me” was born. And a dear friend could say she was divorcing her husband because she knew God wanted her to be happy—clearly His idea about marriage wasn’t working for her. Therefore, it must not actually be for her.

Now I see that line of thinking is only the tip of the relativism iceberg. The atheists who claimed the idea were using it against God. Humans decide what’s good and “bad.” (They didn’t even want to use the word “evil.”) So if something causes pain, that’s bad. If something makes you feel good, that’s good.

How ironic that these same atheists proclaim over and over that Christians depend on our feelings. Can they not see that the belief in absolutes is not a dependence on feelings but on revelation? Relativism, on the other hand, depends completely on what you’re feeling like today. You feel like a man inside? Then you’re a man. You’re feeling like pornography is free speech? Then it’s free speech, not perversion.

One of the evidences of the advance of relativism is the old TV program MASH. On that show, set during the Korean War (and produced during the Vietnam War), one soldier who did not want to be in the military but who had been drafted, tried to get out by claiming a Section 8: “Section 8 is a category of discharge from the United States military, used for a service member judged mentally unfit for service.”

How did this character attempt to give evidence that he was mentally unfit for service? By wearing dresses. Because back then, when the show was made, men were understood to be not thinking correctly if they wanted to dress like women.

Today men can not only dress like women, they can become women. A little surgery, a little hormone therapy, a little make-up and hair styling, a new wardrobe, and wallah. Based on what? Feelings. Not facts. Not absolutes. Not science.

Now I understand where this kind of relativism leads. It’s a sad departure from reality because those who hold to it want to get away from a moral standard and the obvious conclusion that if we have a moral standard, we must have Someone who gives that moral standard.

Relativism is a philosophy that allows for escape from God.

What is baffling to me is that relativism is so paper thin, anyone ought to be able to see through it.

Torture a child, and universal cries for justice will be heard. Who sides with a child abuser? I know of no one. Where does that clear idea—to hurt a child is wrong—come from?

One atheist said it’s empathy. That’s similar to the pain answer. But do we put doctors in jail for inflicting pain when they give shots? Of course not. A little pain is necessary to vaccinate a child from an illness that could disable them. How do we differentiate between the “good” pain and the “bad” pain? Not via empathy. Empathy would say, you’re hurting that child when you give them vaccines, so you should just stop.

An understanding of what’s good, however, undermines that concept and says, there’s a higher good than pain avoidance at stake.

Of course we do not always agree on what’s good and what’s evil. Ask conservatives politically and they will likely tell you that President Obama was not good. Ask liberals politically and they will likely tell you that President Trump is not good. Both groups have a sense that there is a good.

Where does that idea come from?

Humans also clearly believe in evil. Wars and mass shootings and terrorist attacks are considered tragic and wrong. Why?

Because they are. They do not square with what we know, innately, to be right. A mother isn’t supposed to drown her children. A human is not supposed to kill and eat other humans. No one has to teach us these things. The standard of morality, of good and evil, exists because God exists. He’s stamped a love of justice on our hearts.

Evil, then, is actually a problem for those who do not believe in God. They have no explanation for the existence of a moral law, one that people live by even though they try to do away with it by adopting a flimsy philosophy like relativism.

Published in: on January 30, 2018 at 6:03 pm  Comments (33)  
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Truth Can’t Be Relative


with_his_disciples002Reportedly a recent Barna Research Group poll showed that 70 percent of American high school students believe there is no such thing as absolute truth. Certainly what we believe to be true has a great influence on our morality, and clearly there’s been a shift in the American culture—most likely in all of western culture—away from modern thought that relies on scientific, philosophic, or religious absolutes, to postmodern thought that evaluates truth subjectively.

Hence, one of the philosophical positions postmodern thought holds is that truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Gotquestions.org explains the postmodern perception of truth this way:

postmodernism is a philosophy that affirms no objective or absolute truth, especially in matters of religion and spirituality. When confronted with a truth claim regarding the reality of God and religious practice, postmodernism’s viewpoint is exemplified in the statement “that may be true for you, but not for me.”

In its thumbnail sketch of postmodernism PBS.org includes the following:

reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually.

I think this latter is an important key to understand this way of thinking that has become fundamental to our culture. The idea is that reality (R) is not understood as R by any and all parties and therefore is not R.

There’s an old saying that winners write the history, which is another way of saying winners and losers don’t see the war in the same way.

Of course different people have different perspectives, but the postmodern thinker goes on to say that perception creates reality.

Sadly that idea is wrong.

The clearest way to disprove the idea that truth is relative is to consider what the Bible says about truth:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6)

Truth, then, is not a description of reality or an interpretation of it. Truth is a person. A person is either believed or disbelieved, followed or ignored, trusted or distrusted. There is no room for relativism in relating to a person.

A person is objective, outside our subjective interpretation. I can believe Jesus is Santa Claus, but my idea about Him doesn’t change Him. He stands before me as He is, apart from my ideas about Him. My view of Him does not affect Him. He is who He is, independent of my opinion or belief or indifference.

Since Jesus clearly states that He is truth, and a person clearly is not relative, then it’s easy to conclude that truth is not relative. It is absolute.

Published in: on October 4, 2016 at 7:46 pm  Comments (13)  
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God And The Moral Standard: Moral Judgments, Part 4


I’ve said plenty about Moral Judgments in the earlier posts here, here, and here, but one more thing jumps out at me. Anyone who believes truth is relative is on thin ice when it comes to God. In fact, I’d venture to say, a relativist doesn’t really believe in God. Not a sovereign God, anyway. Not a good God. Not a God who says what He means and means what He says.

Relativism requires each person to determine what’s right and wrong, good and bad, for his own circumstances, within his own worldview. Hence, God is not Himself an absolute standard. His ways aren’t necessarily the right ways, since any person might decide “right” is something altogether other than what God has said is right.

In that vein, God can’t be sovereign. He isn’t ruling over others; they are the master of their own view of right and wrong, their own judge, their own determiner and interpreter of their lives.

God also can’t be good because Person A might say God is responsible for war and violence and hatred down through the centuries, and this would be true for him. Person B might say God is an impersonal force, a prime mover, and nothing more, and this would be true for him. Person C might say God is the great whole, of which each person is a part, and this would be true for him. Consequently, God becomes the author of hate, an amoral force, and an impersonal other. But Good? Not if relativism is true. God could only be good for those whose truth is that God is good. For all the others in the world who believe something different, then God is not good.

Finally, God would not be a keeper of His promises. His Word would not be settled in heaven, as Scripture says, nor would His word endure forever.

For,
“ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS,
AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS.
THE GRASS WITHERS,
AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,
BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.”
And this is the word which was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:24-25)

How, then, could we say God is love? He might not be tomorrow. How could we say He forgives? Maybe five years from now, He’ll decide He wants to hold the forgiven accountable after all. How could we say He’s holy or unchanging or all powerful or merciful or true? None of those things are reliable unless God is Himself absolute — the firm and fixed, unmoving standard.

In short, the postmoderns who claim to be Christians are either rejecting God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture and in the world He created, or they are denying their own relativistic beliefs when it comes to God. There can not be an absolute Sovereign and relative truth. The truth about the absolute Sovereign would have to be relative, too, and then how would you know He was absolute?

To be true to relativism, you pretty much have to conclude, we know nothing for certain. And that’s precisely where much of the world is headed. It’s a nihilism that allows for a hedonistic lifestyle and a clear conscience. It doesn’t, however, remove guilt or final judgment because the relativist will one day face the absolute truth of his own death.

I don’t think we can wait to tell people that relativism isn’t shaky ground—it’s thin ice!

This post, part four of a short series on moral judgment, is an edited version of one that first appeared here in April 2012.

Published in: on August 9, 2016 at 6:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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God, The Bible, And Relativism


“Relativism is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration.” (Emphasis mine). So says (Wikipedia), the Internet encyclopedia compiled by whoever. The Oxford English Dictionary (compiled by elite scholars) draws the same conclusion: “the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.” (Emphasis mine).

My guess is, some people think a discussion of concepts like relativism has no relevancy to a person’s daily life or even to his belief in God. We’re more concerned with the cultural upheaval of the recent US Supreme Court decisions. But in truth, relativism led to those decisions. Relativism led to the media embracing same-sex marriage and transgender identity.

In a departure from the naturalism of the Modern way of thinking, Postmodern society smudges out hard lines. Consequently, biology is no longer enough to determine gender. Rather, the nebulous who-he-is-inside takes precedence.

However, anyone who believes truth is relative is on thin ice when it comes to God. In fact, I’d venture to say, a relativist doesn’t really believe in God. Not a sovereign God, anyway. Not an authoritative God. Not a good God. Not a God who says what He means and means what He says.

Relativism requires each person to determine what’s right and wrong, good and bad, for his own circumstances, within his own worldview. Hence, God is Himself not an absolute standard. His ways aren’t necessarily the right ways, since any person might decide “right” is something altogether other than what God has said is right.

In that vein, God can’t be sovereign. He isn’t ruling over others; they are the master of their own view of right and wrong, their own judge, their own determiner and interpreter of their lives.

God also can’t be good because Person A might say God is responsible for war and violence and hatred down through the centuries, and this would be true for him. Person B might say God is an impersonal force, a prime mover, and nothing more, and this would be true for him. Person C might say God is the great whole, of which each person is a part, and this would be true for him. Consequently, God becomes the author of hate, an amoral force, and an impersonal other. But Good? Not if relativism is true. God could only be good for those whose truth is that God is good. For all the others in the world who believe something different, then God is not good.

Finally, God would not be a keeper of His promises. His Word would not be settled in heaven, as Scripture says, nor would His word endure forever.

For,
“ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS,
AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS.
THE GRASS WITHERS,
AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,
BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.”
And this is the word which was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:24-25)

How, then, could we say God is love? He might not be love tomorrow. How could we say He forgives? Maybe five years from now, He’ll decide He wants to hold the forgiven accountable after all. How could we say He’s holy or unchanging or all powerful or merciful or true? None of those things are reliable unless God is Himself absolute, the unshakeable authority—the firm and fixed, unmoving standard.

In short, the postmoderns who claim to be Christians are either rejecting God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture and in the world He created, or they are denying their own relativistic beliefs when it comes to God. There can not be an absolute Sovereign and relative truth.

As it stands, relativism has only one absolute—that nothing is absolute. This line of thinking, of course, is a contradiction. In addition, the new absolute stating there are no absolutes supersedes what Scripture says about God and truth.

To be true to relativism, a person pretty much has to conclude, that we know nothing for certain. And that’s precisely where much of the world is headed. Consequently, each person determines what’s right in his own eyes. It’s a nihilism that allows for a hedonistic lifestyle and a clear conscience.

It doesn’t, however, remove actual guilt or final judgment because the relativist will one day face the absolute truth of his own death. And then, Scripture tells us, comes the judgment.

In that context, it’s clear relativism is worse than shaky ground—it’s thin ice, with a person’s eternal destiny at stake.

A portion of this article first appeared here under a different title in April 2012.

Thoughts On President Obama’s Evolving View Of Marriage


Yesterday, in the wake of North Carolina passing a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and amidst his plans to attend Hollywood fund raisers, President Obama declared that his evolving views on marriage now lead him to believe that same-sex partners should be allowed to marry.

My thoughts about these developments in the US culture will be somewhat rambling because I haven’t had time to process everything into a cohesive whole. So as they come to me:

Words. Words matter. Yes, definitions evolve over time, but not because someone imposes a new definition from without. In the case of marriage, thirty of the fifty states — thirty-one, if the courts hadn’t gotten involved in California — have passed laws or amendments (we passed both) defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In fact, every time the issue has gone before the electorate, the people have voted for the traditional definition of marriage. The only states in which same-sex marriage is legal, legislatures (and perhaps the courts?) have dictated it.

The fact that we need the qualifier, “same-sex,” shows that in the minds of those discussing marriage, there’s a distinction between marriage and same-sex marriage.

Learning from children. In explaining his new position, President Obama said he believes it is a generational thing. His daughters have friends whose parents are same-sex partners and they think nothing of it. Since when did adults surrender standards of right and wrong to our children? If President Obama’s daughters thought nothing of teens street racing, would his view on that subject evolve?

Relativism. The concept of evolving views of right and wrong fits so perfectly into postmodern relativism, so I’m not surprised at the President’s shifting opinion. (I have to admit, I’m also cynical enough to wonder whether or not Mr. Obama didn’t want to insure that the big donors in Hollywood would be liberal in the amount they give to his campaign. But that’s a side issue.)

Relativism basically says there is no moral standard other than the one a particular group of people agrees upon at any set time. Hence, in this day and age of equal rights and tolerance, those values trump all else. Except when it doesn’t.

According to a relativistic way of thinking, countries that permit sweatshops should not be flagged for human rights violations because there really are no such things as human rights. Who gives humans any rights?

I suspect that’s where Western culture is headed, but it’s not there just yet.

Evolving Definition of Marriage. If a societal institution like marriage can be redefined once, why not twice, three times, or as many times as we want? So in five years (or sooner), someone will want marriage to include a man and multiple wives or a woman and multiple husbands. Why not a man and his dog? Or how about a man or woman and a consenting child? Who is to say that these can’t also be considered marriage if marriage becomes a fluid term?

Marriage and Sin. I’m always dismayed when I hear Christians talk about homosexuality as if it is the unpardonable sin. The truth is, the Hollywood movie stars so many people revere, or many of the sports figures who get caught up in the celebrity lifestyle, engage in “fleshly lusts.” Meaning, homosexual individuals are not in a special class. All of us, homosexuals or straight, have gone astray. We all stand in need of forgiveness and redemption.

Homosexuality does not make a person sinful. A sinful person chooses to sin and that might take a wide variety of forms. Is a person more sinful if they cheat on their income taxes or sleep around or engage in homosexual behavior? Answer: there is no “more sinful.”

There might be more consequences, but the one issue each person must resolve is what do they do with Christ? Is He the very cornerstone of their faith or is He a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”?

The Distraction of President Obama’s Declaration. All the discussion of President Obama as the first President in favor of same-sex marriage (as if this was an issue thirty years ago, or even twenty) has taken the focus off some other critical developments.

In California, for example, there’s a bill in the Senate that would would ban children under 18 from undergoing “sexual orientation change efforts.” (You can read about it here.) In other words, parents could not seek help from a professional for their children in an effort to steer them away from homosexuality. Would the parents themselves be unable to counsel their children in this way? It’s a frightening thought, but most people aren’t talking about it because they’re talking about Mr. Obama’s evolving opinion.

There’s also a courageous man in China who stood against forced abortion and has sought asylum in the US. What are we hearing about his situation?

Unfortunately, the President seized the bully pulpit (what a politically incorrect term!) and his opinion has overshadowed other stories that are newsworthy. (Sort of like the Secret Service scandal overshadowing the General Services Administration scandal).

The Place of Leadership. One more reflection on our President’s “historical” stand. When God sent prophets to Israel and Judah, declaring their sin, He pointed the finger at the priests, false prophets, and kings who led His people astray.

I think the leaders in America are letting down her people as well. The Supreme Court did so in 1973 when it issued the Roe v Wade decision legalizing abortion. Countless religious leaders have done so by buying into health-and-wealth messages or deconstructing the Bible or re-imaging Christ.

What’s so incredibly sad to me, though, is that we have the Bible available in our own language, translated over and over again to make it easy to understand. In other words, we are without excuse. It isn’t the leaders’ fault when we ignore the best and primary source that gives what we need for Salvation.

In the end, that’s where we’re at, isn’t it. As Peter says, “for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word and to this doom they were also appointed” (1 Peter 2:8b).

Published in: on May 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm  Comments (7)  
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Moral Judgments


Everyone makes moral judgments, even those who say, You shouldn’t make moral judgments. That statement itself is a moral judgment. As soon as someone says, You should, or even I, we, they should … or, shouldn’t … they’ve made a moral judgment.

If the idea is that something should be better, there’s a judgment that it isn’t as good as it could be. Implied also is the existence of a standard against which the current thing is being measured.

“You shouldn’t make moral judgments,” then, is a judgment. It is not saying that the listener isn’t capable of making moral judgments, but that life would be better for all if people didn’t make moral judgments. In extreme cases, a person might mean that it is actually wrong to make such judgments.

But how can someone who doesn’t believe moral judgments are right, or that life is better without them, make such a moral judgment? The statement itself demonstrates that everyone, even those who don’t realize it about themselves, makes moral judgments.

In today’s relativistic society, the going belief is that what is true for you may not be true for me. But that truth statement is a moral judgment — an absolute declaration saying that absolute truth does not exist.

Relative thinkers want to make absolute statements to propound their beliefs, but in doing so, they disprove the relativism they say they believe.

Relativism is similar to saying, All ideas are good. Your idea. My idea. The idea someone in China has or in India or Iraq. It’s fine to respect other people’s opinions and culture. But what if our ideas conflict? Are all ideas still good?

What about the idea that not all ideas are good? Is that idea good? How can it be when it says the opposite of “all ideas are good”? The relativist says, All ideas are good for me and all ideas are not good for you. But he has made a moral judgment about my idea, limiting it in scope to accommodate his idea. In essence, he is saying his belief that all ideas are good is a notch truer than my belief that not all ideas are good. He has given a higher value to his statement.

Discussion about relativism and moral judgment can quickly take on the feel of a circular argument, but in actuality, if relativists weren’t making moral judgments, there would be no debate, no discussion, and certainly no argument.

But the fact is, everyone is making moral judgments. People who like a blog post or rate it as one star or five or anything in between are making value judgments. People commenting are making value judgments. People who stop reading part way through are making value judgments.

The question, then, isn’t should we make moral judgments. We do — that’s a simple fact. The question ought to be, on what should we base our judgments? And that will take a bit more thought.

Published in: on April 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm  Comments (7)  
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