by Bill Nugent
When I was a senior in high school the teacher of my humanities class said that when we study different cultures we must remember that no culture is morally superior to any other culture. The above statement is a classic statement of moral relativism. Moral relativism is the claim that morals are not fixed principles of right and wrong but are changeable according to individual and cultural preference.
The opposite of moral relativism is the traditional Christian view that morals are absolute or fixed principles that apply to all people at all times. Moral relativism on its surface seems broad minded and tolerant but under logical analysis it quickly crumbles into self-contradiction and surprising new forms of intolerance.
Traditional education was based on moral absolutes which were based on the concept of absolute truth. Moral absolutes are standards of ultimate right and wrong. For instance it is always wrong to murder an innocent person. Murder of an innocent person is wrong regardless of location or time. It is wrong whether you are in Saudi Arabia or Germany or China or ancient Greece or medieval England.
Social progress was defined as the movement of all cultures to conform more and more to the moral absolutes. The goal was to have all cultures conform to right standards of economic justice, civil justice, protection of lives, protection of personal property, etc.
In the 1800s there was great optimism that humanity was progressing in moral terms and that all nations would forsake war and would embrace justice. As we entered the 20th century Christian moral absolutes were largely rejected by the ruling classes who turned to secular atheism buttressed by Darwinian evolution. One result of this was the rise of communism, a secular political ideology, which resulted in the systematic slaughter of millions in an attempt to bring an earthly utopia. Fascism similarly destroyed millions of lives through war.
The catastrophic wars and genocide of the first half of the twentieth century led to the abandonment of optimism regarding social progress. The university elite continued to reject moral absolutes and taught that the only way to world peace is to regard the morals of all cultures as equally valid and that all cultural values must be tolerated. They asked “who are we to look down on a remote jungle village that murders female babies or mutilates the female genitalia of little girls through infibulation?” “Who are we to judge the extremely patriarchal societies where men have a dozen wives and kill off other men in blood feuds? Shouldn’t we tolerate this? Isn’t everything a shade of moral gray?” Ironically, moral relativism led to the toleration of outrageous behavior in certain cultures.
Liberal feminists in western countries rallied against the abuse of women in many third world cultures. (Those who adhere to traditional moral absolutes have long been involved in the struggle against infibulation and other abuses of women and girls.) Thus we see a new but limited embrace of a standard of moral absolutes defined by feminism to protect women. Feminists regarded certain other cultures as implicitly inferior and in need of change. The feminists went a step further at the United Nations and wrongly fought for all women to have the ‘right’ to kill their preborn children through abortion. Murder of the innocent preborn was OK in the view of the radical feminists.
The above example illustrates that no person can live, in practical terms, under moral relativism. There will always be outrage at one form of injustice or another. There will be a gravitational pull to a new list of moral absolutes.
The Christian view is that God gave us the true moral absolutes that apply to every person in all societies at all times. God gave these moral absolutes by revelation to the prophets and apostles who wrote them in the Bible. This is what is known as revealed truth. It is also called absolute truth. It formed the philosophical and legal basis for western civilization.
The secular university culture of the West has long ago abandoned God’s moral absolutes. Most academics still verbally (but not in practice) cling to the claim that all truth is relative. They say that each society, indeed each person, has the right to decide their own truth. This is the essence of postmodernism.
This is the concept of man as law. Each person is his own law. Those people of similar law coalesce into political allegiances and movements such as communism, feminism and gay rights. Western civilization used to be united around Christian moral absolutes but with the abandonment of these absolutes has come the splintering of society. It is in this situation that a demagogue or dictator can rise and unify the society under a new set of absolutes of his own making. We saw this pattern in Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin.
The Bible contains predictive prophecies telling of the future rise of a super dictator who imposes his will over all societies on a global scale. This is the individual referred to as the “Beast” in the book of Revelation which is the last book in the New Testament. The Bible also calls him the “antichrist’ (I John 2:18). One brief passage that describes him is the following: “power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues and nations” (Revelation 13:7). The Bible clearly predicts a crisis in which a Napoleon/Hitler/Stalin figure emerges but also shows that the end of that crisis is brought about by the second coming of Christ.
At the time of His second coming Christ will reign over all the earth. God’s moral absolutes will guide the nations into peace, justice and prosperity.