Are there moral absolutes? Or does morality change over time? I’ve been contemplating these questions and how best to articulate my thoughts concerning them. If morality changes over time and something becomes wrong that was not wrong in the past, then we give up the right to judge the past. For instance, when slavery was a normal part of society in
I enjoy history and minored in history in college. I sat through many a discussion concerning Christopher Columbus. I have read documents where he called Native American’s “savage” and spoke derogatorily of this “uncivilized” people group so foreign to him and his culture. The cultural mindset he carried saw them as less than human and often took advantage of them as our history so sadly reports. Professors like to use
Either we confine morality to each community and time period or even to each family or individual and have no right to tell anyone what “ought” to be, or there is an objective morality to which we appeal throughout the generations cross cultures. However, believing the latter creates a necessity for a giver of that objective morality. If morality is not a product of our own invention and is instead objective and true to all people, then we enter into the Christian worldview. Now, I know here is where people are beginning to object and say that I am inferring connections between objective morality and God that cannot exist and cannot be proven. Maybe I cannot scientifically prove God’s existence. However, if we want to continue to dispense with the idea of God we must dispense with the idea of an objective morality for all people irrespective of community, culture, and time. If it was wrong for the European colonies to participate in slavery and to mistreat the Native Americans even though most of them thought it acceptable and right behavior, then right and wrong exist objectively outside of human construct. If instead, one wants to believe that morality changes, and slavery became wrong then they can only say it is wrong for them or their culture, if their culture agrees, and not for those cultures of old or modern ones still practicing slavery. One cannot have it both ways. And if there is an objective moral standard not created by humanity then where would it have come from?
My answer from the Christian perspective is that God is the giver of this knowledge and the standard of goodness by which all things are measured. And with all things being equal, morality is absolute. If humans are to treat other humans with value simply because they are created as valuable then any action that demeans the value of a person whether it be slavery, murder, abuse, rape, etc. is wrong for all people in all times regardless of culture.
Something is less than good when it fails to keep with God’s good nature. Sin literally means “missing the mark” thus not lining up with the standard. The Bible says that all have sinned. We have all missed the mark, because none of us can be holy without God by His grace and mercy making us righteous through Jesus Christ. If we persist in moral relativity we ignore the standard and make ourselves the giver of morality and I think we all know that we are not good and we do things that break our own standards so how can we be a standard giver? The only one qualified to give a standard is one who doesn’t break it, one who is perfect in goodness. The only one who can sacrifice himself for those who break the standard is one who is perfect and without blemish being sinless himself. The only way we find mercy is through the cross of Christ because He breaks us free from the law of sin and death cleansing us from our unrighteousness and empowering us to live righteously.
For the Christian, doing “good” is not means to earn favor with God. It is because of the favor of God that we love to do what is right. Even Christians forget this and sometimes get into a pattern of trying to earn favor with God and to impose this idea on others that their actions gain them favor or take away God’s favor. In actuality, our actions do not merit us salvation for we cannot save ourselves. We strive in Christ to live lives pleasing to God because we love God and not because we are working for something from God.