Morals Aren't Relative
• 6 min read
I recently had a conversation with an atheist friend of mine. At first, the conversation centered around abortion but quickly gave rise to deeper philosophical questions. Questions like: what is considered moral good? And where do morals come from?
Without hesitation, I told him something like, “Morals come from a moral law. You can’t have a moral law without a moral law giver—namely, God.”
He didn’t agree—but, of course, I didn’t expect him to. So then, it begs the question: what do atheists believe as far as morality?
The answer, for many, is moral relativism.
People who believe moral relativism are those who say that what you think is true must be true for you, and what they think is true must be true for them.
This is completely illogical, and it’s not hard to see that.
Truth Requires Objectivity
One of the first laws you learn in philosophy is the law of noncontradiction. It’s a prime rule for rationality. This rule states that ‘A’ can’t be ‘A’ and ‘non-A’ at the same time and in the same relationship. This means that 2+2 can’t equal 4 and 5. It has to be one, the other, or neither, but it can’t be both.
The same goes for morality. Behaviors are, objectively, either morally right or morally wrong. Morality is not subjective. Just because a murderer thinks they’ve done moral good for killing an innocent person doesn’t make it morally right for all people. Killing innocent people isn’t right for anyone to do. Morality requires objectivity.
Better yet, truth requires objectivity, and I think that’s something atheists and Christians should agree on.
For example, you don’t stop at a red light because it is only subjectively true to you that you’re supposed to. You stop at a red light because red means stop, and the law has made that objectively clear. If we all lived our lives believing our subjective impressions as truth, then what about someone with colorblindness?
“You can’t go because the light is red,” I say.
“Well that may be true for you. However, I perceive that the light is green, and green means go!” screams the colorblind relativist, as he speeds away into oncoming traffic.
In a situation like that, if the colorblind person and I were both moral relativists, it would be my prerogative to let the colorblind person run the red light. If my truth statement was, “What you think is true is true for you,” then I would be saying that it’s true that a red light was green, even when it objectively wasn’t. It would be (ironically) out of my “moral scope”, as a relativist, to try to convince the colorblind person otherwise. Imagine the harm that would cause. I use this illustration to show you the absolute absurdity of believing in the relativity of truth. Things have to either be true or not true—and the same goes for morality.
Clear Morality Requires a Clear View of Reality
Richard Dawkins, the arch-atheist of our generation, explains that he desires morals to be thought out, discussed, and argued. Sounds great, right? But, wait a second, what are we basing our thinking, discussing, and arguing on? What is our basis for morality? Our individual thoughts?
This same desire to strike moral gold was exactly what we tried to do in my undergraduate ethics classes. We would discuss, by logical means no less, what might be thought of as right or wrong outside of an objective moral law. The problem with this however was that every secular viewpoint arrived at different answers.
So then which one is the right one? The utilitarian worldview? The qualitative hedonism worldview? The eudaimonism worldview?
In order for morality to be absolutely and objectively clear, it must be based a clear view of reality. And no one has a clearer view of reality than the Creator of reality—God.
Do You Abide by Clear Morals?
A couple of quick questions for you:
- Have you ever told a lie?
- Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small?
- Have you ever looked at a woman, or man, with lust?
There’s a 99.9% chance that you answered yes to all of those. So, let’s do a quick assessment: if you answered yes to all of the questions above, then, by your own admission, you’re a lying thief and adulterer at heart (Matthew 5:28). And the same probably goes for everyone else reading this!
If that’s the case, then why would you want someone who’s had lapses in moral judgement to be the one responsible for your basis of morality? Even Jesus, during his earthly ministry, didn’t entrust himself to mankind, because he knew how evil we are at heart (John 2:24-25).
It’s because of your conscience that you know these things are wrong to begin with. That’s why you felt a pang of guilt when you lied to your mother; that’s why you felt horrified at the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. The conscience is God’s moral law written on your heart, and atheists have no way of explaining it away. “Conscience” literally means “with knowledge”, and it’s because of your conscience that you know it’s wrong to cheat on your spouse, or to lie, or to murder, or to steal.
Romans 2:14–15 — 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
Some Good News
The problem, as we’ve mentioned, is that we don’t always follow our conscience. We lack one thing that would qualify us as perfect moral law makers, and that’s perfect righteousness. And we lack that perfect righteousness because, “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). We’ve all made mistakes.
This is where I get to tell you the great news: you don’t have to worry about writing your own moral law, because the one and only perfectly righteous God has already done that for us all. The Bible gives us a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong.
There is one caveat though.
We can’t follow it perfectly. Actually, based on our earlier assessment, we’ve broken the moral law. And it’s because of our law-breaking behavior that hell actually has to exist. God requires perfection, and God wouldn’t be good or just if he didn’t punish the murderers, the rapists, the liars, and all evil people, like us, for breaking his law.
But, what did God do for us so that we wouldn’t have to be punished for breaking his moral law?
He sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect and righteous life that we aren’t able to live. Then, Christ was beaten and killed in order to take on the wrath and just punishment of God for our sins.
Have you read John 3:16 recently? It goes like this:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Repent and Trust
If you haven’t…
- Repented of your sin, and turned from your wicked ways
- Put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ
…then you have a guilty standing before Almighty God. But that can change today, in this very hour.
All you have to do is repent—meaning express true remorse for all of your sins, rejecting a sinful lifestyle—and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the same way you’d put your trust in a parachute if you jumped from an airplane. You don’t just shrug your shoulders and jump out of the plane, hoping the parachute works. No, you trust in it, knowing with faith that it’s going to safely drop you at a slow speed of 5 mph instead of 70 mph.
Would you please come to Christ today?
Your desires to follow a subjective morality based on feelings will melt away if you trust in Christ. You will pass from death to life, and your moral worldview will be built on objective truth!
But, better than that, you’ll have a right legal standing with God, because Jesus has paid your debt, and he’ll grant you eternal life with him as a free gift.
Send me a message if you repented and put your trust in Jesus today.
As for the rest of you, have a wonderful rest of your day, and may God bless you!Tweet