So here’s the thing… All Christians believe in moral relativism. …that or they’re very misinformed as to all the morals laid out in the old testament.
Rachel Held Evans did an interesting experiment in which she tried to apply all the old testament laws that applied to women to her life. If you think all of the Bible laws (morals) should be taken literally, please read her book.
Now, most don’t think this is the case. Of course some of the laws were cultural, but (this is what I was taught) some of the laws are absolute principles. This is generally applied to things like the Ten Commandments.
At first this seems great and all. I tend to agree that people shouldn’t lie. Extra-marital affairs are bad. I’d be a bit upset if someone decided to murder me.
The problem is… this list of principles doesn’t exist. It’s not like the writers of the Bible used green ink when writing a cultural law and blue in when writing an absolute moral. People since then have made it up. …and there in lies the problem.
I’m not saying it’s a problem that morals and laws are made up. They’re necessary for society to function. The problem is who makes them up and why. For example: Historically men have usually been the ones in power to make up the rules, so women have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to the rules. Many times (perhaps most of the time) in history woman have been thought of more like property than humans. Today we’d say this isn’t right, but it was considered moral for thousands of years.
The who-rights-the-rules problem goes back to the fruit of knowing good and evil. (And by the way, this isn’t a denial of the existence of good and evil.) If we come up with a very hot topic example, we could look at homosexuality. For thousands of years straight men concerned with strengthening their tribe (having more children) wrote the rules. Could this have had an effect on how homosexuals were viewed?
In one last point to break down Moral Absolutism before rebuilding, lets ask one more question. What about when absolute morals come into conflict? It’s wrong to tell a lie, but if you tell the truth someone is going to die. It’s wrong to have an affair, but if the woman doesn’t offer herself up, the soldiers will kill her children. It’s wrong to steal, but to not take the bread would be an act of suicide (via starvation). Extreme examples? Sure… but if a theory can not withstand experimentation, shouldn’t the theory be changed to account for all the variables?
Fortunately, Jesus did just that. He was asked, what is the most important commandment. He responded with, love god with everything you got, and love you’re neighbor as yourself. (I’m paraphrasing.) He said this is the sum of the law and the prophets. So everything comes down to love. Yes, that wishy-washy, subjective, and always difficult to pin down love is all we got to go on. That’s why morality is relative: because it’s relational. A hug to one person could be a blessing or an insult depending on the culture.
In an interesting twist, in I John it says, “God is love.” So, the thing that is the law is also the god. So…
Everything is relative to love. What is love? Or should I say who is love? What are the rules? Again, wrong question. Better to ask, who do you follow?
To wrap this up (though the subject could probably use a bit more than a blog post) I’d like to suggest an action of love/god/Jesus that seems to repeat through the Bible but is too often overlooked.
Emmanuel (which means God with us). This God enters into the time, space, and worldview of the people he’s interacting with. Yes, he moves them forward, but he starts in their thinking and morality. This is true of Jesus being born, but also of the Old Testament law being given.
What if we stopped looking at rules long enough to enter into the other person’s world as they see it? What if we loved liked that?”