“I learned that all moral judgments are ‘value judgments,’ that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ I even read somewhere that the Chief justice of the United States had written that the American Constitution expressed nothing more than collective value judgments. Believe it or not, I figured out for myself what apparently the Chief Justice couldn’t figure out for himself: that if the rationality of one value judgment was zero, multiplying it by millions would not make it one whit more rational. Nor is there any “reason” to obey the law for anyone, like myself, who has the boldness and daring — the strength of character — to throw off its shackles.”1 Sound familiar?
You may not know who said the above quote, and if you are under the age of 30 you might not have ever heard of him.
If all moral judgments were simply value judgments which are subjective, (subjective meaning the subject determines the value of the judgment), then no one would have to behave in a way that steers clear of social faux pas. Not only would political correctness be a thing of the past you could drive right into a crowd of people as George Weller did in 2003 killing ten people and injuring over 60 without fear of repercussions. Technically ruled as an accident, Weller showed little remorse to the carnage. Yet, if Weller felt it was the right thing to do, then no one could argue otherwise if he was just bold and daring because of his personal value judgments.
If this was true “all moral judgments are ‘value judgments,’ that all value judgments are subjective,” then we could not find any objective truths. Objective truths are truths that hold to everyone, regardless of where in the world you live, what culture you are part of, and what family raised you.
For example, we all know intuitively that torturing babies for fun is wicked and evil. Most everyone everywhere knows this is immoral. If someone is unable to recognize this, then something is disturbingly wrong with that individual. Just as we all know without conscious reasoning, you can’t fit a round peg in a square hole. And someone who could not recognize this unreasoned fact we again would know instinctively, something was wrong with them. Taking pleasure in harming helpless and innocent individuals is evil, and this is inherently obvious to anyone whose moral consciousness is functioning.
We have to have a standard in which to measure all moral truths, just like we do time. For instance, if we were to argue about what time it was because our watches were off by a couple of minutes we might debate who has the more expensive or accurate timepiece. But to settle the matter, we would measure the time with Greenwich England where all time is measured.
It is God’s nature that we measure against what is wrong, what is evil, what is corrupt. If we were to rely on measures within individuals then everyone would have their own tape measure, but the problem is everyone’s tape measure would have different dimensions. Someone’s inch might be an inch and a half, another might be 3 inches, yet another might be 2/3 of an inch. Who would be able to measure an accurate distance between two studs? We could not even hang a picture let alone build a house.
If morality is subjective, we lose our ability to complain about what goes on in the world. What would be wrong with North Korea’s missile tests? How could we agree to issue U.N. sanctions against Kim Jong Un if he is just using his own tape measure just like the rest of us? What would it matter if he launched nuclear weapons against South Korea or Japan? How could the death of one matter any more than the death of millions?
Josh and Sean McDowell talk address what this kind of thinking will bring us and where it comes from. “Historically, the brutality of war has included horrific torture of every kind, wholesale rape, and mass starvation…We say these terrible acts are inhumane and inhuman. But the reality is that they are thoroughly human – the result of peoples’ depraved nature. The human race has an unimaginable capacity for evil. In each of our hearts are the seeds of cruelty and corruption.”2
No matter how we phrase the words that make truth private property we lose the meaning of truth. Truth is authentic to everyone everywhere. It does not discern race, color, sex, or religion and the same can be said for inherent morals that are embedded in our very nature. Peter recognized this in Acts when he refused to be silent about the Good News and the teaching of Christ. Acts 5:29
If moral judgments are individual value judgments, they are nothing more than a fashion statement. We simply pick and choose what is attractive to us, useful to us as it walks down the runway like models displaying the latest gowns created by fashion designers. One social analyst put it this way, “However lofty and vaguely poetic such words may seem, the cold fact is that truth cannot become private property without losing its whole meaning.3 Isaiah 5:20
There are absolute truths and if someone ever says to you that there is no such thing as absolute truth, you can ask them if that statement is an absolute truth. Professor Theophilus recognized this and in his book, Ask Me Anything he wrote, “Frankly, absolutes are easy to find…’Do not commit adultery, Do not fornicate, Honor your parents, Love God, Love your neighbor.’ None of these have exceptions. If they will satisfy your friends is another matter. That depends on whether they are just looking for truth or excuses!”4
The individual who threw off the shackles in the initial quote up above was Ted Bundy. He was a serial killer in the 1970’s who had raped and murdered over 30 women. He justified his actions by claiming morality is subjective and not bound by any rules or laws, be it from God or man.
God created us, and we are bound to His standards. His standards are based on His unchanging character. He is not swayed by popular opinion, cultural shifts, or the latest fashion designers. 1 Samuel 16:7, Matthew 9:4. He pierces to the heart and looks at our inner character and motives.
1. Mulnix, Jennifer. “The Happy Life and Moral Life.” Happy Lives, Good Lives: A Philosophical Examination[i], Broadview Press, 2015, pp 52.
2. McDowell, Josh. McDowell, Sean. “What Causes People to Sin Today?” 77 FAQs About God And The Bible[i], Harvest House, pp 54.
3. Groothuis, Douglas. “Race, Gender & Postmodernism.” Truth Decay[i], InterVarsity Press, pp 213
4. Budziszewski, J. “Faith On Campus Letters” Ask Me Anything[i], NavPress, 2004, pp 113
Throwing off the Shackles of Morality by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.