Moral Relativism – Does It Work On A Personal Level?

Moral Relativism holds the view that there are no absolute standards of right and wrong. Moral choices are made at the time dependent on the culture one is in or the situation one is in.

meadow-680607_640 Photo by geralt. Courtesy of Pixabay.

Moral Relativism began to be taught in some of our schools and universities in the 1980’s. Some have come to believe in Moral Relativism and we see that played out in scenarios where people justify and rationalize their actions based on what they want to do at the time. We also see it displayed where people choose to do wrong because they believe that”the ends justify the means.” After all, it’s all relative!

As a belief system Moral Relativism has its flaws. If one follows it on a personal level, it begins to break down rather quickly. A Moral Relativist may believe that it is okay to lie to a teacher about not turning in his homework if it will help him get a better grade. He may steal money from a friend because he believes he needs it more than his friend. He may sleep with a friend’s wife because it feels “right” at the time and he will excuse his actions based on his belief system. 

The Moral Relativist may justify his actions to himself but will react quite differently when these actions are perpetrated against him. Have you ever seen a Moral Relativist react when someone stole his car, slept with his wife, or lied to him about something? He is usually outraged because someone has done him “wrong.” I have not seen one willing to apply his own philosophy to another and accept that the situation is “relative to the other person’s point of view.”

The flaw with Moral Relativism when it is applied on a personal level is that it breaks down when the moral and ethical situations are reversed. No one wants to be lied to, cheated on, or stole from. We all have an innate sense of right and wrong and even if we will go against our own innate beliefs to achieve our ends we will decry another who does us wrong according to our own innate standards.

Whether one wants to believe it or not, we are all born with a conscience. If you watch toddlers, you will see that they know when they have done wrong. There is a look on their face when they lie to you. When they steal a cookie they instinctively hide in order to eat it. They know if they hurt another they have done wrong. Small children feel guilt when they have violated their own conscience.

Whether one wants to believe it or not, there are universal moral laws and they are placed inside of us by our Creator. People of all cultures know that lying, stealing and murder are wrong. No matter what their religious beliefs or ethnicity, there are universal standards of morality written into each human being. Those standards when broken cause us to feel guilt because our conscience tells us we have done wrong.

(for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or excusing them) Romans 2: 14-15