Presentation on theme: "Defending Moral Absolutes"— Presentation transcript:
1 Defending Moral Absolutes In a Relativistic WorldCopyright by Norman L. Geisler 2005
2 I. Definition of a Moral Absolute A. Meaning of a Moral Duty1. Imperative vs. declarative Ought vs. Is3. Prescription vs. description
3 Facts vs. Values What we do What we ought to do Descriptive PrescriptiveSociology Morality
4 I. Definition of a Moral Absolute A. Meaning of a Moral DutyB. Meaning of an Absolute Duty1. Binding on everyone--objective2. Binding everywhere--universal3. Binding at all times--perpetual
5 I. Definition of a Moral Absolute A. Meaning of a Moral DutyB. Meaning of an Absolute DutyC. Meaning of a Relative Duty:1. Binding on some people2. Binding in some places3. Binding at some times
6 An Absolute Moral Dutyis one that is bindingon all personsat all timesin all places!
7 A Relative Moral Dutyis one that is bindingon some persons,at some times, orin some places!
8 I. Definition of Absolute Morals DutyII. Defense of AbsoluteMoral Duty
9 1. We can’t know what is in-just unless we know what is Just. [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.C.S. Lewis - First Principle of Justice[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. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?C.S. LewisMere Christianity, 45.Straight Line = Absolute StandardStraight Line = Standard
10 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 using“always.”2. Never use “never.”3. Absolutely avoid absolutes.(Situation Ethics, 43)Joseph Fletcher
12 But Fletcher Couldn’t 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).
13 3. Moral comparisons demand an objective standard. =Mother Teresa is better than Hitler
14 4. True progress (or regress) demands an absolute standard. We can’t know the world is getting better (or worse) unless we know what is BestBut we do know a world with less hate, bigotry, and intolerance is a better one!
15 5. Everything can’t be relative? It can’t be relative to the relative, etc!It must be relative to what is NOT relative!
16 Even Relativists Have Absolutes Heraclitus said: “No man steps into the same river twice.”But he had an unchanging Logos beneath the change by which he measured the change.Einstein said: Even time and space are relative.But the speed of light was held to be absolute in the physical world, and Absolute Spirit (God) was behind the relative world.
17 6. Moral disputes demand an objective standard outside the dispute. 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. LewisMere Christianity, 25.
18 7. We don’t 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.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. LewisMere Christianity, 21
22 10. We all find some things evil (e,g., genocide, racism & bigotry)
23 11. There are many things we. don’t want others to do to us (e. g 11. There are many things we don’t 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 DutyII. Defense of AbsolutesMoral DutyIII. Distinguishing Absolute and Relative
26 Distinguishing: Absolute vs. Relative Values vs InstancesValues vs UnderstandingThe End vs The MeansCommand vs CultureValues vs Which Value
27 Values vs. Instances Absolute Moral Values do NOT change… But beliefs about whethera given actionviolates a moralvalue DO change.
28 Values vs. InstancesWitch hunters used to believe witches murdered people with their curses.Now, we know they do not.The moral value vs. murder did not change. People’s understanding of what violated the moral value did change.
29 Values vs. Understanding Them A person’s understanding of a moral value can change over time. The Moral value itself, however, does NOT change.“The truth of a statement resides in its relation to reality, not in its relation to the individual’s judgment about it.”Mortimer J. Adler
30 Values vs. Understanding Them 1985A couple understands love better aftermany years.2005However, Love didn’t change.Their understanding of it changed.
31 Basic Moral End (the moral value itself) does not change The End vs. The MeansBasic Moral End (the moral value itself) does not changeBut the Means(how to attain themoral value)may change
32 The End vs. The MeansBoth pacifists and militarists desire the same end (peace).They simply disagree as to means toattain that end.
33 The moral command itself is different Command vs. CultureJust because a moral command is expressed differently in different culturesDOES NOT MEANThe moral command itself is different
34 Command vs. CultureGreeting 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 WHICHmoral value should be applied in the given situation.
36 Whether Values Change vs. Which Value Applies A woman contemplating abortion may believe that human lifehas value.So, what’s it gonna be, Mom?But she may have been told that an unborn child is not human.
37 I. Definition of Absolute Morals DutyII. Defense of AbsolutesMoral DutyIII. Distinguishing Absolute and RelativeIV. Determining Absolutes
38 IV. Determining Absolutes A. From the Top Down:The Moral Nature of God God is the basis for all moral absolutes.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 rightGod is truth--Truth is always rightGod is holy--Holiness is always right
40 IV. Determining Absolutes A. From the Top DownB. From the Bottom Up1. The effect is like the Cause2. The creature is like its Creator3. The moral law is like the Moral Law Giver4. 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 expectations, not by our actions;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; don’t read our meaning into it.
42 Read More About It…. Six Great Ideas Mortimer Adler Feet Planted Firmly Frank Beckwithin Mid-AirThe Closing of the Alan Bloom American MindChristian Ethics Norman GeislerThe Abolition of Man C. S. LewisMere Christianity C. S. LewisThe Revenge of Conscience Jay BudziszewskiWritten on the Heart Jay Budziszewski