Have you ever heard someone claim that all morals are relative? Has someone dismissed your thoughts with the statement, “it may be wrong for you but not for me.” Allow me to suggest a more helpful response than simply telling a person they are wrong or quoting a Bible verse that teaches moral absolutes. We have to realize two things about talking with people outside the faith. First, many people in our culture don’t believe in the authority of Scripture. We aren’t going to make much progress appealing to a document that they don’t believe is authoritative or accurate. Second, many skeptics simply don’t want to talk about the implications of God or the Christian faith. They have learned that by claiming that “all moral are relative” or “it is wrong for you but not for me” that they can effectively end any religious conversation.
Our goal should be to navigate past the initial talking points—designed to squelch a conversation. We should attempt to gently yet persistently help our family and friends to see the bankruptcy of using these statements. After all, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a non-threatening conversation where someone close to you can at least consider the possibility that a moral lawgiver actually exists?
Here are two illustrations that can assist the Christian in showing that moral relativity is not reasonable:
ILLUSTRATION #1: MORAL ABSOLUTES EXIST
An effective way to point out the weakness of moral relativism is by simply reminding people of the many actions that people unequivocally recognize as wrong—things that easily shock the senses of the typical person on the street. Here are three examples of clear moral absolutes:
Murder (an unjustified killing of an innocent person) is wrong.
Torturing babies is wrong.
Raping another person is wrong.
These actions are clearly seen by most people as wrong by any definition within culture. In other words, they are universally wrong! Here’s the power of this observation—the moment a person admits that there are certain moral absolutes the belief in moral relativism crumbles. The claim that all morality is relative is clearly not true—we’ve just demonstrates that there are examples of moral absolutes. Although people like to make the claim all morals are relative—most people don’t really believe in moral relativity. After all, if a friend or family member were murdered, tortured, or raped—they would seek justice for the wrongful act—acts that are universally wrong!
ILLUSTRATION #2: GENOCIDE IS UNIVERSALLY WRONG
Genocide is the intentional eradication of an entire race based upon culture, religion, or nationality. Unfortunately, history is full of examples–past and present–of individual nations and world organizations banning together to eradicate crimes against humanity. Of course, people of every political background have seen the horror of genocide:
Nazi Germany WWII—exterminated 6 million Jews
Cambodia (Killing Fields)
Soviet Union (Gulags)
Rhwanda (1 out of 10 people were killed)
Religious persecution in North Korea, China or Iran
Of course, the horrific atrocities of ISIS have ignited a world-wide protest. Almost every civilized country has united in demanding that this behavior stop. Furthermore, the world is committed to using all of its resources to make sure that these brutal murderers are stopped. Clearly, the world has been outraged at the immoral and inhumane behavior of ISIS. However, why are people outraged if there are no universal moral standards or absolutes? Repeated statements that the civilized world must “degrade and destroy ISIS” make little sense unless we believe that their actions are universally wrong. How else would countries have the right to impose their morality upon ISIS?
These two illustrations are helpful conversation starters in a politically correct world where soundbites such as “all morality is relative” are part of the national landscape. If you are successful in starting a genuine dialogue with a friend you can then focus on the most natural follow-up question. What best explains the presence of moral values in humanity? Is it more reasonable that non-physical realities like moral values simply decided to occur at a random moment within the naturalistic process of evolution or is it more reasonable that a divine lawgiver instilled these moral values into his creation? For more insights on this particular issue take a look at my book Footprints of Faith.