Why Should Christians Be Concerned about Moral Relativism?

Contributing Writer
Why Should Christians Be Concerned about Moral Relativism?

Have you heard the term “moral relativism” and wondered what it meant? Imagine you are at work and see a coworker stealing a candy bar from someone else’s desk. When you ask the person why they are doing so, they say, “She doesn’t need it because she needs to lose weight.” You press further and say, “That’s stealing!” Your coworker says, “It doesn’t seem like stealing to me. It seems like I’m doing her a good deed.”

That is a rudimentary example of moral relativism, an ethical belief that no absolute truth exists.

Everyone is entitled to their own truth because they don’t believe in a standard of beliefs or behavior. “Their” truth may be based on life experiences (good or bad) or perhaps picking and choosing their morality based on various world philosophies. It opens the door for each person to think and act based on their own version of morality (or sometimes lack thereof).

In her Gospel Coalition video “How Does Relativism Contradict Itself?” Rebecca McLaughlin explains that this philosophy has a consistency problem: “Relativism is the belief that there is no universal truth—that all truth is specific to its culture and its time. And at a basic level, this contradicts itself because it is a universal statement.”

Why Is Moral Relativism So Popular?

The Barna Group, “tracking the faith of America” for more than 40 years, has reported from their research that Gen Z (the 69-70 million people born between 1999-2015) especially believes there is no absolute truth. Young moral relativists believe each person has their own truth and one shouldn’t impose one’s truth on another. My truth. Your truth. No truth. While that may appeal to people who don’t want to be constricted by rules, it leaves people lost and at odds with the morals of others.

While moral relativism is popular with younger people, it’s common among every generation. I asked my atheist sister to read an apologetics book with me a couple of years ago that was very open to all beliefs (at the beginning). She refused, saying that she already knew what she believed. I asked her to explain, and she said she was a humanist. When pressed further, she said, “I believe that people are generally good, know what is right and wrong, and will act accordingly.” When I asked, “So since Jeffrey Dahmer and Adolph Hitler did what they thought was right, that made them good?” She could barely breathe afterward. Her truth had been knocked out from under her, and there was nowhere left to stand. Of course, I tried to tell her it’s not a matter of being good; it’s a matter of a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ and following His truth, but she wasn’t interested in any person or power that had the ability to place any restrictions on her.

While my sister is not of the Gen Z generation, she has always believed this way and has become more firmly entrenched the older she gets. She would say, “If everything is relative, does it matter what anyone does?”

Does the Bible provide any insights on moral relativism’s ideas and dangers it presents?

Does the Bible Say Anything about Moral Relativism?

Essentially, the entire Bible addresses moral relativism since this philosophy means there is no standard of truth (authored by the God of the universe). It is a rejection of God entirely. It started at the beginning of time when God told Adam and Eve the standard of behavior that He expected from them. They chose their own truth. In the next generation, Cain knew what God expected, and he took the power of life from his brother Abel. Cain created his own standard of behavior and what he thought was right.

The rest of the Bible is a history of God and His chosen people—who didn’t always follow His standards, as laid out in the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament and the words of Jesus in the New Testament. God’s people were initially called to be separate from the world, follow Him, and then follow Jesus. Those who created their own truth outside of faith in God were enemies of God.

The Apostle Paul put the situation plainly in his letter to the Romans:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18-20, emphasis added).

Therefore, people who believe that their values, thoughts, and behavior need not follow any particular standard (especially not God’s standard) are enemies of God, destined for destruction.

Though they may not open a Bible, God has given the world His word so that they would know Him and be in a right relationship with Him. Here are a few verses that would point them in the right direction:

  • “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25:5)
  • “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” (Psalm 119:60)
  • “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18)
  • “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31-32)
  • “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)
  • “[Jesus said] Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
  • “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)

Does the Bible Describe the Dangers of Moral Relativism?

Jesus says if we reject Him before men, He will reject us before God. As Clarence L. Haynes’ article on moral relativism says, “While values can change from person to person or culture to culture, the same is not true of basic morals. There may be some room for leeway, but remember, morality deals with what is right and wrong. There must be a basic standard in identifying what is morally good or evil. If not, then there is no accurate way of judging what is good or bad. Our culture would then become like Israel during the time of the judges.”

In fact, “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Sounds very similar to the time before the flood when it says in Genesis 6:5, “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Though it sounds like they didn’t have any, their morals clashed with the faith that God wanted them to have in Him, and therefore many were destroyed.

What Is the Biblical Solution to Moral Relativism?

The Biblical solution is belief in the truth about God, His Son, and His Word. But that’s the problem: people who think morality is relative do not believe. God can change the heart of anyone, and “the fields are ripe for the harvest.” So, He calls believers to witness His truth to a lost and hurting world of unbelievers. While we may be uncomfortable about witnessing to people, we must realize that moral relativism isn’t just an issue for that person–it affects our society. The more individuals who think “anything goes,” the more our institutions make morally relative laws. From elementary schools, local and national legislation, law enforcement, and more, a growing emphasis on “My truth is my truth” is a slick and steep slope.

If you want to become more adept at witnessing to others, I highly recommend Timothy Keller’s Reason for God, Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict, or Ray Comfort’s The Way of the Master.

Photo Credit:©GettyImages/BrianAJackson 

Mary Oelerich-Meyer is a Chicago-area freelance writer and copy editor who prayed for years for a way to write about and for the Lord. She spent 20 years writing for area healthcare organizations, interviewing doctors and clinical professionals and writing more than 1,500 articles in addition to marketing collateral materials. Important work, but not what she felt called to do. She is grateful for any opportunity to share the Lord in her writing and editing, believing that life is too short to write about anything else. Previously she served as Marketing Communications Director for a large healthcare system. She holds a B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Cornell College (the original Cornell!) When not researching or writing, she loves to spend time with her writer daughter, granddaughter, rescue doggie and husband (not always in that order).