Subjective Moral Reasoning is Absolutely Wrong

By Matt Long

Subjective moral reasoning is the philosophy that morality is determined through human opinion. Those who believe in it compare it to objective morality as determined through the analysis of nature, although Christians would argue that objective morality is defined by God as given in the Bible. Subjective moralists are puzzled by this, questioning why anyone needs a book to tell them not to murder or rape people or turn into Nazis. Why are people so afraid of subjective moral reasoning?

This is a really great question. It's true that any time something is taken to its extreme it can seem unreasonable. The reason subjective morality is so bad is not because of the extreme outlier cases. There are murderers and rapists today that obviously do not ascribe to the morality of the majority population. And for the most part, subjective morality does not lead most people to those extremes. The real reason subjective morality is so bad is because it is mutually exclusive to absolute truth. Subjective moral reasoning states, absolutely, that there are no absolutes, and is therefore, self-defeating. But beyond philosophical reasoning we can outline three primary reasons why subjective morality is to be feared.

First, we need to define morality. The easiest definition of morality is: an intrinsic human characteristic that determines right behavior. Because morality is inherently an individual "feeling," we can easily see how it can be thought of as subjective. What may be right for me you may feel a different way about and have some personal belief or reason not to do that. A good example of this may be speeding in your car. While I may take the stand that speeding is not wrong if I don't get caught doing it, you may feel that the speed limit posted is a standard that you cannot break. And so morality, standing on its own merit, may be subjective and situational. So what's the problem with that?

To answer that we need to next look at how we understand absolute truth. Take the Imperial System of Measurement. Historically, it was a very subjective system. Prior to being standardized, the English system of weights and measurements was fashioned around the reigning king at the time. A foot was literally the size of his foot and a yard was the distance from the tip of his nose to the end of his thumb. You can see how this subjective system would have been different based upon who was ruling at the time.

And here is where the danger comes in. When an architect draws up a blueprint, he or she specifies the exact measurements and dimension of the thing to be built. If the contractor who builds that thing uses a subjective unit of measurements, the final product won't be massively deformed, but it will be just a little bit off. And just a little bit off the mark can have significant consequences.

The same is true with morality. If we do not recognize a universal moral code, and everyone is able to subjectively choose their own morality, it may not result in extreme evil, but it will have spiraling negative consequences. We can see this in our world today. Things that were morally detestable just a few generations ago are today socially acceptable. For instance, premarital sex was considered morally detestable two generations ago, but today sexuality is being taught, if not encouraged, to children at a young age, and pushed through every form of media.

Therefore, if truth must be founded on an absolute, and morality must be based upon truth, there must be some universal standard of truth. This is where the Bible comes into play. The reason we need the Bible is to reveal to us the truth of God and His forgiveness. Certainly, there are many aspects of Scripture which outline righteous living and the moral standards God sets (1 Peter 1:16; John 14:15), however, the reason we need the Bible is to know what is true of God in the first place (Job 36:26; Romans 11:34).

There are many examples in Scripture about God being the truth and His word being true (Romans 3:1-4; 2 Corinthians 1:18-20; John 17:17; Psalm 119:160), and it is evident throughout Scripture that absolute truth is implied (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2). There is no subjectivity with God. One such example is Jesus' statement in John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'" There is no way to reconcile this statement with subjective morality, it must be absolutely true. Jesus is claiming here to be the truth and to be the only way to the Father. Subjective moral reasoning would say that all religions lead to the same place. Christianity states, emphatically and absolutely, all are welcome but you have to enter through Jesus. This is true of most other religions as well, as they all claim to be true.

If God is absolutely true, and He cannot tell a lie, then His word is the source of universal morality. The danger, or what we as Christians fear, of subjective morality, is that those who do not come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus will someday face eternity without Him. Romans 3:23-26 tells us that all of us have sinned, and because of our sin we deserve a death penalty. But verse 26 states that God demonstrates His righteousness by forgiving those who express faith in Jesus. This is the real fear — not what people might do here on Earth or that everyone will go crazy and start killing each other, but that the one who holds to subjective moral reasoning will spend eternity separated from the Love of God.

God's forgiveness is absolutely, truly, available to all through faith in Jesus Christ.

For more, see Ravi Zacharias's answer on his Facebook page.

Image Credit: Name; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Controversial-Issues  | God-Father  | Sin-Evil

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Published 3-20-17