What is moral relativism?
In my novel, Under the Shadow, I endeavored to answer this question in an easy-to-understand dialogue. Here is a synopsis of that teaching:
Moral relativism, as I see it, is a blurring of the line between good and evil and right and wrong. It is an attitude that exists in the mind and it thrives when people forget that truth always represents reality (absolute) and therefore it cannot be relative (not absolute).
Truth represents real things, real facts; it is often referred to as a light shining in the darkness; it keeps us pointed in the right direction. Truth is opposed to error and deceit and should be the scepter of every ruler. Truth can never be relative. The decline of truth and the rise of moral relativism are only some of the plagues facing the world today, and it is mortally virulent.
Moral relativists want us to believe, as they do, that moral or ethical truths depend entirely upon the group of individuals holding them. They believe my truth is not necessarily their truth, but it is nonetheless acceptable. Therein lays our dilemma. Truth must conform to essential reality, be constant, real and factual or it cannot be truth.
Why is truth so important?
Truth is important because it acts like a shield that protects the body from danger and acts of violence. It is a means of our defense. Truth is a guide that works to keep us safe; to remove truth is to leave the body and soul undefended. When a society no longer accepts or cherishes the truth, lying, cheating, stealing, and murder proliferate. They are the consequences we pay when we allow error to abound. Call unethical or immoral behavior anything other than what it is or excuse it for any reason, and you have reached the pinnacle of moral relativism. It is the same as walking in darkness.
People and nations are defined by the truths they know and believe and live by. If truth is relative rather than absolute than there is no truth! The only possible end for the society that believes that lie is anarchy, depravity and eventual doom.
An interesting note: Those who believe that truth is absolute will not be surprised to learn that the word absolute comes from the Latin, absolvere, which means to absolve; to set free from guilt or sin. Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6 The underlying meaning of this verse could then be construed to be: Jesus, as absolute Truth, can set free all those who believe in Him and His ability to absolve them from their sins.
In order to enlighten my readers further regarding moral relativism, I included a second teaching in Under the Shadow contrasting it with color blindness. Here is a synopsis of that teaching:
Color blindness, monochromaticity, is a disorder some people suffer from that makes it difficult for them to properly distinguish certain colors. It is generally an inherited condition and it occurs when there is a problem with the cone cells of the eye that see color. There are three types of cone cells: red, blue and green.
While I am not an authority on this disorder, my research gave me an adequate understanding of the condition, which I used to further explain the effects of moral relativism on those who have been deceived into believing they may determine their own truth.
Color blindness: The most common color vision problem people suffer from is the ability to see red and green properly. If an individual is missing one of the three types of cone cells, he is suffering from a condition called dichromacy. The most severe color vision problems occur, however, when an individual is missing two of the three types of cone cells; this produces monochromaticity. It is very rare and those who suffer from it see no color at all, only shades of black, white and gray.
Regardless of how mild or severe the condition is, those who suffer from color vision problems do not see color accurately. However, since they have no knowledge of true color, and no way of perceiving accurately how others view the world, they can not realize how distorted their view of color is. On one hand you could say their truth about color is real, but it is nonetheless still false. Those who do not suffer from color vision disorders see color clearly and distinctly, therefore red is red, green is green and blue is blue. Their truth about color is real truth.
An individual suffering from monochromaticity might point to a red shirt and call it gray because that is their reality, and based on their own distorted knowledge of color they would be right: their red is gray. But those who are able to properly distinguish color would see the shirt as it really is: red.
The Bible states that all men sinned when Adam disobeyed God because he was the federal head of mankind. Mankind then received his genetic makeup, and therefore inherited his genetic defect: sin. We are born “dead in trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1) with the propensity to sin. We aren’t born civilized, we must become civilized as we grow and mature, and how civilized we become depends upon the ethics and/or system of beliefs we are raised with. And while civilized men may become good men, they are not necessarily good men because they are civilized.
Man enters the world spiritually dead and spiritually blind to his own fallen condition. He walks in a darkness that he is unaware of, and his darkness he incorrectly calls ‘light.’ Only a new birth, spiritual regeneration, can bring a spiritually dead person out of the darkness and into genuine light. Regeneration only occurs when an individual opens their heart to God, and accepts His atonement for their sin, Jesus Christ. Only then will they be able to enter into fellowship with God and come into the light.
The correlation between color blindness and spiritual blindness should be obvious: both are disorders that affect a person’s ability to see accurately. Their perception of what is real and true appears to them to be real and true, because it based upon their own experience; nevertheless it is false. Those who put their faith and trust in the atoning sacrifice of Christ are spiritually regenerated, and they come out of spiritual darkness and into the light. One might describe that experience as being similar to someone whose vision was always gray being able to see color for the very first time.