I can imagine you thinking at this moment, What kind of person would ask such a stupid question! Hang with me, and you’ll realize it’s not such a stupid question after all.
In my previous post I shared an Alice in Wonderland adventure I had with a postmodernist. As always in such encounters, one thinks of things one could of or should have said afterward. At one point I shifted the conversation to something called the moral argument. Simply stated, this means that the best explanation for morality, the sense that all human beings have of right and wrong and justice, can best be explained by the existence of a personal God. The postmodernist is a relativist, meaning morality is whatever an individual person or culture thinks it is. For them, there is no objective standard of right and wrong which exists outside of their own feelings or perceptions. By happy happenstance I was able to share a perfect example of postmodern relativism just this morning with my son.
Every morning taking my musician teenage son to school we listen to great music. Today we happened to be listening to The Beatles Rubber Soul. The timing couldn’t have been better because as we were listening to a song titled, “The Word.” As we hear these lyrics, it was the perfect teaching moment:
Give the word a chance to say
That the word is just the way
It’s the word I’m thinking of
And the only word is love
It’s so fine, It’s sunshine
It’s the word, love
Now that I know what I feel must be right
I’m here to show everybody the light
It would be hard to find a better declaration of postmodern relativism than John Lennon singing, “Now that I know what I feel must be right.” The examples of such irrational and illogical sentiments in popular culture are legion, so the late great John Lennon is simply an illustration of what today has become ubiquitous. My son got a very nice lecture on the way to his classical Christian school where they most decidedly do not teach that our feelings determine what is right and wrong. Which brings me to our cuddly baby.
In the little debate I described in that previous post I asked my “down the rabbit hole” friend if he could say that Hitler killing 6 million Jews was wrong. After giving it some careful thought, he replied that to Hitler it wasn’t necessarily wrong. And you know what? He was right! If there is no objective moral standard, no way to measure our actions outside of our personal feelings and perceptions, then nothing by definition can be objectively wrong. If the material is all there is, then you cannot get ought from is. In other words, if all we are is dirt in motion, lucky dirt, then what is right and wrong is whatever the hell we want it to be!
At this point I wished I’d asked this simple question: Is it wrong to torture babies for fun? Of course every normal human being who isn’t trapped in Alice’s Wonderland, or who isn’t a sociopath, knows it is objectively, morally, unequivocally, and horribly wrong! Not because we feel it is wrong, but because it is wrong. I would have, then, said that the only way we know that a line is crooked is because we can compare it to straight line. Crooked and straight exist, just as wrong and right do. These things have nothing to do with how we feel.
Yet on the assumptions of the postmodern relativist, you can’t say torturing babies for fun is wrong. Fortunately, those assumptions are themselves wrong. God has revealed his moral law in us and to us in creation and Scripture, but as Paul says in Romans 1, human beings try to suppress the truth. Suppress as they might, truth will always prevail.