We’ve spent time in our past few essays laying a proper foundation to discuss Christian morality. Bottom line, any moral claim is an appeal to an authority beyond ourselves. By saying something is either right or wrong, we are claiming there is an ultimate standard by which human conduct is judged — what we called in our last post a Moral Authority.
In other words, you can say you do not like or prefer someone or something. But the moment you declare someone or something wrong or evil or unjust, you are imagining a standard beyond yourself.
And not just a standard. For even if such a standard were written in the stars, there would be nothing to compel humanity to follow it, any more than the words “eat more kale” would compel us to follow it. If such a standard by which human conduct is judged exists, it is not just a standard but a thing that reserves the right to enforce such a standard. It is not a standard; it is a Person.
The moment you declare someone or something wrong or evil or unjust, you have imagined a universal standard by which all human conduct is judged. Not only this, but also something that reserves the right to enforce such a standard. It is not a standard you have imagined but a Person.
The strange thing about this state of affairs is that the belief in right and wrong seems to be a universal phenomenon. Just as we believe we are rational creatures who can know truth, we also believe there is such a thing as to what should and should not be allowed in the affairs of humanity. One would think this type of thinking would be limited to the religious, but it isn’t. In fact, the most ardent atheists are often the most vocal concerning what should and should not be in human society.
Now if you have had the dubious privilege of spending any time in the humanities area of university campus, you may have been told that right and wrong are not absolute but simply part of a “narrative,” relative to a given culture. Similar to the ardent evolutionist, the ardent postmodernist believes absolute right and wrong are merely illusion, derived not from biology but society. And it is in their right to believe so.
But if so, all objections to Christian values on moral grounds disintegrate. One cannot say what Christians believe is wrong and also that absolute right and wrong is an illusion in the same breath. At least, not if they want to be taken seriously.
You may be persuaded by modern culture to believe Christian values are simply part of a “narrative” and that absolute right and wrong do not exist. But if so, you cannot turn and say Christian values are wrong — if you are to be taken seriously.
One could however object to Christianity on the grounds that it is merely a “narrative” — that it is not Truth but just a collection of beliefs, and therefore such beliefs should not be imposed upon other cultures or anyone else. But they have just used the word should. What should be implies, once again, a moral absolute. If one is going to be consistent and say absolute right and wrong do not exist, then certainly their own moral values don’t exist either.
One could object to Christianity on the grounds that it is merely a “narrative” and therefore should not be imposed upon other cultures. But you just used the word should, which implies once again a moral absolute. If no moral absolutes exist, then certainly your own do not, either.
But let’s pull up the nose of the plane here. I believe most people — especially those most concerned about justice — reject this whole notion of relative truth and no absolutes. Deep down, they know and honestly believe there is such a thing as right and wrong and justice. They affirm, therefore, a Reality beyond themselves by which the actions and states of human affairs are judged.
If this is so, however, it carries with it a rather inconvenient implication: We do not own that Reality. The moment we say “this is how things should be”, we are acknowledging a Moral Authority beyond ourselves that reserves the right to say how things should be. And not only this, but that it is our obligation to conform to its wishes. We do not get to tell the Moral Authority what to do; it tells us what to do.
In other words, we have bumped up against God once again. I mentioned how the belief in evolution (humanity arising from purely material processes and chance) only manages to deny human consciousness and rationality — and with it, the belief in evolution itself. That is, the belief only highlights the undeniability of our divine origins.
Likewise, any attempt to denounce Christian values on moral grounds runs into the same difficulty: It only seeks to show the divine source of morality. If our moral pronouncements have any meaning, then we are not only conscious and rational but also moral creatures living in a moral world. This is something that secular thought cannot account for, but Christianity affirms.
Of course, it is in our right to deny both our rational and moral faculties. But then, what is left in us as a basis to evaluate Christianity, one way or the other?