Monday, February 18, 2008

Relativism vs. Moral Absolutes

On the CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS & RESEARCH MINISTRY website, Matthew J. Slick put it very simply, that is, assuming to begin with one believes there is a God. “If there is an absolute God with an absolute mind then he is the standard of all things – as well as morals. Therefore, there would be moral absolutes.”

That’s the thing though, in today's post modern thought the question is not is there moral absolutes, but rather, who defines any moral absolutes, a divine, omnipresent being or merely oneself? In W.T. Stace’s, Introduction of Philosophical Inquiry, he stated that, “The genetic basis of ethical relativism is usually something like sociological relativism, the belief that there are many moral laws and these laws are relative to the place, times, and circumstances of a people.” Both sides agree to the truth of sociological relativism because it is descriptively true. The crucial question is whether or not it ought to be true. Ethical relativism is not a platitude because the relativist is committed to the belief that one action that is right in one group is wrong in another group. (The relativist is not just saying that the action is considered right and wrong.) It is obvious that moral ideas differ from country to country and period to period. But this fact does not imply that there is not any universal moral standard. The fact does imply, however, if there is a universal moral standard then it is not followed in different cultures. If we thought sociological relativism implies the lack of the possibility of a universal moral standard, we would be committing the ad ignorantiam fallacy.

Brian Schertley, a secular humanist by his own omission, has a little nugget of wisdom that has slowly become an accepted and adopted social mindset. He says, “For the secular humanist, the source of ethics, morality and law is not God but man. The secular humanist says that ethics are whatever man happens to say they are at a given point in time. In such a system moral law is merely opinion, custom, "community standards," what the state says (or the supreme court, or an intellectual elite). Man determines what is right and wrong for himself, and if man changes his mind, then what used to be wrong is now permissible—even virtuous. Morality is relative to the situation one finds him or herself. ”

Now that’s a scary thought. This view of ethical relativism is simply the denial of ethical absolutism. More precisely, ethical relativism denies that there is a single moral standard, which applies to all people, all times, and all places. Ethical relativism is the theory that holds that morality is relative to the norms of one's culture. That is, whether an action is right or wrong depends on the moral norms of the society in which it is practiced. The same action may be morally right in one society but be morally wrong in another. For the ethical relativist, there are no universal moral standards -- standards that can be universally applied to all peoples at all times. The only moral standards against which a society's practices can be judged are its own. I disagree, if ethical relativism is correct, there can be no common framework for resolving moral disputes or for reaching agreement on ethical matters among members of different societies. That being so, in relation to ethics, there are certain ethical practices that could or couldn’t be considered appropriate.

The question one faces at that point is whose moral standard do you adhere to, Gods or your own? C.S. Lewis, in his understanding of human nature at its core, observed in humanity an innate sense of right and wrong void of moral relativity. This Universal Morality must then have came from someone or somewhere. Being made in the imagine of God, this fundamental standard of trust exists within us that, outside of reality (reality as perceived by God and not man), has been marginalized by human constraints. Absolute truth, void of human corruption, exists in the Word of God:The final standard of Truth.

I would like to think a great deal less grey area exists than my generation perceives.

Works Cited
1. There Are No Absolutes - Pop Occulture.
2. Ethical Relativism Discussion between Boston University Academy and the Edmund Burke School
3. Ethical relativism