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Defending Moral Absolutes In a Relativistic World Copyright by Norman L. Geisler 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "Defending Moral Absolutes In a Relativistic World Copyright by Norman L. Geisler 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 Defending Moral Absolutes In a Relativistic World Copyright by Norman L. Geisler 2005

2 I. Definition of a Moral Absolute A. Meaning of a Moral Duty A. Meaning of a Moral Duty 1. Imperative vs. declarative 2. Ought vs. Is 1. Imperative vs. declarative 2. Ought vs. Is 3. Prescription vs. description 3. Prescription vs. description

3 Facts vs. Values Facts vs. Values What we do What we ought to do Descriptive Prescriptive Sociology Morality

4 I. Definition of a Moral Absolute A. Meaning of a Moral Duty A. Meaning of a Moral Duty B. Meaning of an Absolute Duty B. Meaning of an Absolute Duty 1. Binding on everyone--objective 1. Binding on everyone--objective 2. Binding everywhere--universal 2. Binding everywhere--universal 3. Binding at all times--perpetual 3. Binding at all times--perpetual A. Meaning of a Moral Duty A. Meaning of a Moral Duty B. Meaning of an Absolute Duty B. Meaning of an Absolute Duty 1. Binding on everyone--objective 1. Binding on everyone--objective 2. Binding everywhere--universal 2. Binding everywhere--universal 3. Binding at all times--perpetual 3. Binding at all times--perpetual

5 I. Definition of a Moral Absolute A. Meaning of a Moral Duty A. Meaning of a Moral Duty B. Meaning of an Absolute Duty B. Meaning of an Absolute Duty C. Meaning of a Relative Duty: C. Meaning of a Relative Duty: 1. Binding on some people 1. Binding on some people 2. Binding in some places 2. Binding in some places 3. Binding at some times 3. Binding at some times

6 An Absolute Moral Duty is one that is binding is one that is binding on all persons at all times at all times in all places! An Absolute Moral Duty is one that is binding is one that is binding on all persons at all times at all times in all places!

7 A Relative Moral Duty is one that is binding is one that is binding on some persons, at some times, or at some times, or in some places! A Relative Moral Duty is one that is binding is one that is binding on some persons, at some times, or at some times, or in some places!

8 I. Definition of Absolute Morals Duty Morals Duty II. Defense of Absolute Moral Duty Moral Duty

9 [As an atheist] my argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. Straight Line = Absolute Standard 1. We cant know what is in-just unless we know what is Just. C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity, 45.

10 2. Absolutes are undeniable. 2. Absolutes are undeniable. I am absolutely sure there are no absolutes! You should never say never!

11 The Father of Situational Ethics He declared that we should: 1. Always avoid usingalways. 2. Never use never. 3. Absolutely avoid absolutes. (Situation Ethics, 43) Joseph Fletcher

12 But Fletcher Couldnt Avoid Using Universal Terms Himself He said: 1. Only one thing is intrinsically Good (p. 51). 2. The ruling norm… is love; nothing else (p. 69). 3. Only the end justifies the means (p. 113). 4. No act apart from its foreseeable consequences has any ethical meaning whatsoever (p. 126). He said: 1. Only one thing is intrinsically Good (p. 51). 2. The ruling norm… is love; nothing else (p. 69). 3. Only the end justifies the means (p. 113). 4. No act apart from its foreseeable consequences has any ethical meaning whatsoever (p. 126).

13 3. Moral comparisons demand an objective standard. 3. Moral comparisons demand an objective standard. = Mother Teresa is better than Hitler

14 4. True progress (or regress) demands an absolute standard. We cant know the world is getting better (or worse) unless we know what is Best But we do know a world with less hate, bigotry, and intolerance is a better one!

15 5. Everything cant be relative? It cant be relative to the relative, etc! It must be relative to what is NOT relative!

16 Even Relativists Have Absolutes I. Heraclitus said: No man steps into the same river twice. II. But he had an unchanging Logos beneath the change by which he measured the change. III. Einstein said: Even time and space are relative. IV. But the speed of light was held to be absolute in the physical world, and Absolute Spirit (God) was behind the relative world. I. Heraclitus said: No man steps into the same river twice. II. But he had an unchanging Logos beneath the change by which he measured the change. III. Einstein said: Even time and space are relative. IV. But the speed of light was held to be absolute in the physical world, and Absolute Spirit (God) was behind the relative world.

17 The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either. C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity, Moral disputes demand an objective standard outside the dispute. 6. Moral disputes demand an objective standard outside the dispute.

18 7. We dont invent the moral law any more than we invent mathematical or physical laws. No one invented the laws of math-- and Newton did not invent gravity. and Newton did not invent gravity. Like moral laws, they were discovered!

19 8. Universal moral guilt shows there is a universal moral law.

20 Making Excuses for our Faults It seems then we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. First, human beings all over the earth have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way. Second, they do not in fact behave in that way. The truth is, we believe in decency so much that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity, 21

21 9. We sometimes choose duty over instinct.

22 10. We all find some things evil (e,g., genocide, racism & bigotry)

23 11. There are many things we dont want others to do to us (e.g., lie, cheat, abuse, & kill). Do unto others what you would have others do to you --The Golden Rule (Mt. 7:12)

24 12. The same basic moral codes are found in all major cultures Lewis shows that prohibitions against disrespect of parents, lying, stealing, and killing are found in all major cultures of the world (see Appendix)

25 I. Definition of Absolute Morals Duty Morals Duty II. Defense of Absolutes Moral Duty Moral Duty III. Distinguishing Absolute and Relative

26 Distinguishing: Absolute vs. Relative Distinguishing: Absolute vs. Relative Values vs. Instances Values vs. Instances Values vs. Understanding Values vs. Understanding The End vs. The Means The End vs. The Means Command vs. Culture Command vs. Culture Values vs. Which Value Values vs. Which Value

27 Values vs. Instances Absolute Moral Values do NOT change… But beliefs about whether a given action violates a moral value DO change.

28 Values vs. Instances Witch hunters used to believe witches murdered people with their curses. Now, we know they do not. The moral value vs. murder did not change. Peoples understanding of what violated the moral value did change.

29 A persons understanding of a moral value can change over time. The Moral value itself, however, does NOT change. Values vs. Understanding Them The truth of a statement resides in its relation to reality, not in its relation to the individuals judgment about it.The truth of a statement resides in its relation to reality, not in its relation to the individuals judgment about it. Mortimer J. Adler

30 Values vs. Understanding Them A couple understands love better after many years. However, Love didnt change. Their understanding of it changed

31 The End vs. The Means Basic Moral End (the moral value itself) does not change Basic Moral End (the moral value itself) does not change But the Means (how to attain the moral value) may change

32 The End vs. The Means Both pacifists and militarists desire the same end (peace). They simply disagree as to means to attain that end.

33 Just because a moral command is expressed differently in different cultures DOES NOT MEAN The moral command itself is different Command vs. Culture

34 Greeting by a kiss is considered polite in some cultures. In others it would repel. WHAT should be done (greeting) is the same. HOW it should be done is different.

35 Whether Values Change vs.Which Value Applies There are times when the issue is not WHETHER a moral value exists and should be applied, but WHICH moral value should be applied in the given situation.

36 Whether Values Change vs. Which Value Applies A woman contemplating abortion may believe that human life has value. So, whats it gonna be, Mom? But she may have been told that an unborn child is not human.

37 I. Definition of Absolute Morals Duty Morals Duty II. Defense of Absolutes Moral Duty Moral Duty III. Distinguishing Absolute and Relative IV. Determining Absolutes

38 A. From the Top Down: A. From the Top Down: The Moral Nature of God 1. God is the basis for all moral absolutes. The Moral Nature of God 1. God is the basis for all moral absolutes. 2. The moral law reflects the Moral Law Giver. 2. The moral law reflects the Moral Law Giver.

39 Knowing Absolutes God is love--Love is always right God is just--Justice is always right God is just--Justice is always right God is truth--Truth is always right God is truth--Truth is always right God is holy--Holiness is always right God is holy--Holiness is always right

40 IV. Determining Absolutes A. From the Top Down A. From the Top Down B. From the Bottom Up B. From the Bottom Up 1. The effect is like the Cause 1. The effect is like the Cause 2. The creature is like its Creator 2. The creature is like its Creator 3. The moral law is like the Moral Law Giver 3. The moral law is like the Moral Law Giver 4. It is written on our hearts 4. It is written on our hearts

41 Written on our Hearts How to read the Moral Law: By-- Our Inclinations, not by our cognitions; Our Inclinations, not by our cognitions; Our expectations, not by our actions; Our expectations, not by our actions; What we want done to us, not by what we want to do to others. What we want done to us, not by what we want to do to others. In short, read the meaning from out of our nature; dont read our meaning into it. How to read the Moral Law: By-- Our Inclinations, not by our cognitions; Our Inclinations, not by our cognitions; Our expectations, not by our actions; Our expectations, not by our actions; What we want done to us, not by what we want to do to others. What we want done to us, not by what we want to do to others. In short, read the meaning from out of our nature; dont read our meaning into it.

42 Read More About It…. Six Great Ideas Mortimer Adler Six Great Ideas Mortimer Adler Feet Planted Firmly Frank Beckwith Feet Planted Firmly Frank Beckwith in Mid-Air in Mid-Air The Closing of the Alan Bloom American Mind The Closing of the Alan Bloom American Mind Christian Ethics Norman Geisler Christian Ethics Norman Geisler The Abolition of Man C. S. Lewis The Abolition of Man C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis The Revenge of Conscience Jay Budziszewski The Revenge of Conscience Jay Budziszewski Written on the Heart Jay Budziszewski Written on the Heart Jay Budziszewski


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