Author Francis Beckwith taught an Ethics class at the University of Las Vegas. At the end of the semester, a student walked up to him and asked, “Why is truth important?” Beckwith answered, “Do you want the true answer or the false answer?”
The hot topic today is fake news. Americans expect truth from the media and when people feel they don’t get it, it causes public rage and division in our country.
People demand truth from every area of our lives; doctors, lawyers, bankers, teachers, loved ones…etc. We live in a world where objective truth is known and expected by everyone.
In 2nd Thess. 2:8-11, Paul tells us that the Lord will bring an end to those who did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. They will be judged because they did not accept truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. What does this mean? It means that people had a choice, and they chose not to receive the love of the truth.
Do you value truth? Is your heart breaking like mine for a culture that has bought into a lie?
Moral relativism is that lie that says that there is no such thing as objective truth, and that your truth is true for you and my truth is true for me.
What is truth? The Correspondence Theory of Truth says truth is when your beliefs match up to reality. Truth is the world the way it actually is—reality the way God sees it. For example, if I said I was a blonde, I’d be wrong. That is not reality. You can look at my photo on my website and see that I’m a brunette. This is the way truth works. A claim is made, then you check to see if it is true. Everyone checks truth this way. You can’t not use the Correspondence Theory of Truth. It’s how we live.
Everyone knows what objective truth is. But as soon as the topic shifts to religion or morality, people will change what is meant by truth.
There are two different kinds of truth: subjective and objective truth. An example of a subjective truth would be one’s preference for ice cream. If I were to say, Baskin Robbins Baseball Nut ice cream is the best ice cream, that would be a subjective claim because that is about me, not the ice cream. It is my preference, my opinion. Not a claim about how the world actually works. But, if I said, Baseball Nut ice cream cures diabetes, now that is an objective claim (and obviously a false one) because this kind of claim has consequences. It’s a claim about how the world works. It’s either true or false. It doesn’t have to do with one’s preference.
Why am I making this distinction? Why is this important? Because if moral relativism is true, and there is no objective standard of morality, how can we judge anybody for doing anything morally wrong? If morality is like ice cream, we have no more right to make moral judgments about someone than we do to make judgments about someone’s ice cream preference. If morality is like ice cream, who are we to judge rioters for looting, setting cars on fire and breaking windows because they don’t like the outcome of an election or they want to repel a conservative speaker? If morality is like ice cream, who are we to judge the terrorists for decapitating Christians and drowning them in cages? Who are we to judge? That is their reality and is okay for them. Do you see where this mentality leads if you take it to its obvious conclusion?
Morality is not all that is at stake. Americans today view religion as ice cream, and a personal preference, having no regard for whether that religion is objectively true or not. People put their focus more on the similarities between religions and not the differences. There are vital differences, but for the average American, evidence is not important—only feelings. In some places, we can’t even talk about our faith or try to convince another person of the truths of our faith because that would be like trying to tell someone that your favorite flavor of ice cream is better than theirs. That would be unconscionable. Never mind that Christianity is the only religion that is testable and is evidentially true. No other religion can make this claim. No other religion is testable.
Part of being human is that we know the difference between right and wrong. Just as the laws of physics exist, so do transcendent laws of morality. Everybody knows them. Even our Declaration of Independence says that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Self-evident!!! That means we just know it!!
So here’s the bottom line; If you want to know what someone really believes in their heart about whether morality is objective or not, watch them. It’s not in what they say or do, but how they want to be treated. Every one wants to be treated as though objective morality exists. If someone claims it doesn’t exist, then cut them off on the freeway, take their wallet or something valuable away from them for a day and watch their reaction.
Philosopher, author, and professor at Biola University, J.P. Moreland told a story about how when he was at the University of Vermont, he was teaching objective morality in a college dorm. A student said, “Well that’s wonderful for you, but I have a different moral truth. I don’t think objective moral norms apply to everybody. You have your subjective moral truths and I have mine. Nobody has a right to judge someone on their moral actions.” So J.P. reached out and shook the students hand, said, “Thank you very much,” walked toward the door, grabbed the student’s stereo on the way out, and took off down the hall. The student came running after him shouting, “Hey! You can’t do that!” J.P. said, “Wait a minute, maybe I didn’t understand you, but I thought you just said a minute ago that there are no objective moral norms that apply to everyone. You have your moral truths and I have mine, and I think it’s ok for me to take your stereo.” This student’s reaction showed that what he claimed was different than what he really believed, and that we can’t really live in a world of relativism. If someone says there is no objective morality, hang out with them long enough and they will contradict themselves.
Moral relativism has fatal flaws:
A relativist can’t accuse someone of wrong doing because relativism denies right and wrong.
Relativists can’t complain about the problem of evil because evil can’t be real if morals are relative.
Relativists can’t place blame or accept praise because relativism renders such things as meaningless, since there is no external standard of measure defining what should be praised or condemned.
Relativists can’t charge others with unfairness or injustice. These terms would not make sense in a world devoid of moral absolutes.
Relativists can’t improve their morality. One can change their personal ethics but can never become better people because there is no moral standard, which one should live up to.
Relativists can’t hold meaningful, moral discussions. How can there be discussions if morality doesn’t exist? No view would be greater than another.
Relativists can’t promote the obligation of tolerance. This view is self-refuting. If there should be no objective moral rules, then how can there be a rule requiring tolerance?
Relativism undermines the notion of sin. How do we measure a transgression? We must have a standard. God’s moral law that he put on our hearts is the standard by which we can measure what is sin and what is not.
Relativism undermines our mission as followers of Christ. It makes religion irrelevant and easy for the culture to dismiss our views. Religion needs to be our objective foundation. Not put on a subjective level.
My friends, objective truth does exist, and we know it. Our culture has bought a lie that has held them captive. This is why we should care about truth. Let’s have a heart for those who believe these lies and lovingly come alongside them in truth, remembering 1 Peter 3:15, being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.
On this topic I recommend two specific books:
- Tactics by Greg Koukl
- Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith. You can see these on my “Books” page on my website.
 Sean McDowell, Is There Truth? A Moral Law We Can All Know? Biola University on You Tube, April 18, 2012
 The Fatal Flaws of Relativism taken from Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted In Mid-Air, (Grand Rapids, Mi., Baker Books 1998) 61-69
 Fatal Flaws number 8-9 from Brett Kunkle, Truth Never Gets Old, One Minute Apologist via You Tube, August 19, 2013