Moral Relativism

From BibleStrength

The new concept of Moral Relativism has become increasingly in vogue (see e.g. Jeremy Bentham), and argues that morality is simply a societal construct which varies according to culture. This philosophy argues for morality simply being subject to any given person's upbringing, and whatever is right for them is what is right. If morality, after all, does not exist as a force, but simply is the decree of a society, then nothing can be declared truly wrong. However, nothing can be declared truly right, either.

When examining nearly universally recognized examples of horrendous evil, however, such as Nazi Germany's genocides, it becomes apparent that there must be universal right and wrong. Otherwise, Hitler and the Nazis were simply doing what was right for their own culture, and there is no basis for criticizing their actions as immoral. Moral Relativism provides no lens for criticizing such obviously wrong scenarios.

Furthermore, there are largely universal norms when it comes to morality that almost all societies, both today and throughout history, have held, which point to an innate sense of right and wrong. As one example, all societies contain taboos against incest, and the study of anthropology recognizes the incest taboo as universal. While societies may vary as to how they define that, some for example restrict marriage to cross cousins, others to parallel cousins, and others to both, they all restrict incest in one form or another. Even the few examples throughout history which have some form of exception (for example ancient Egypt allowing siblings to marry) they involved royal families specifically which were considered of divine descent.


Where does good come from?

A powerful argument most moral people can accept for God's existence is made by Ravi Zacharias in 'Jesus Among Other Gods' and other of his books.[1] Ravi points out that the critic who accuses God of allowing evil in the world is actually inferring the existence of good as well, for how can there be evil without good? After this, it is necessary to point out that for there to be good and evil in the universe, there must be a moral law by which they exist. But if there is a moral law, then there must be a powerful, moral lawgiver as well. A moral law to the universe does not just arise from nothing. As Ravi puts it,

Essentially Ravi in his second point is pointing out that for people to have intrinsic worth they must have been created that way by a Creator; if we are nothing more than blobs of tissue caused by random chance then human beings lack inherent value. He is making an argument that the intrinsic worth of human beings that allows us to assume they have inalienable rights is of necessity founded on the belief that God is the one who gives them those rights. That explains why the founding fathers like Jefferson and Madison when discussing inalienable rights referred frequently to a Creator, including in the Declaration of Independence, which states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."[3]

At a deeper level, you can't ask why evil occurs to people without assuming people have inherent worth and value, inalienable rights. But that assumes they were created by God with those rights and given those rights and inherent value by God. Those raising the Problem of Evil to attack the existence of GOD are unknowingly acknowledging the inherent worth of human beings, the inalienable right to life given to them by GOD, by which harm to them is 'wrong.'

For more by Ravi on the subject see the following:


As observed by Michael Horner on the question of tolerance, tolerance cannot mean never disagreeing with others or acknowledging all views as equally right. That is a ridiculous and illogical argument. Two plus two, mathematically speaking, is four, not seven, or twenty-three, or one hundred and twenty-seven. All of us hold views about right and wrong and have the God-given right, according to the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, of expressing our beliefs through free speech. Indeed, as pointed out by Horner, one cannot "tolerate" something one already agrees with, the word implies disagreement. True tolerance means allowing others to speak and act without coercion even though we disagree with them, recognizing that God gave them the right to free will just. We can still argue for our own beliefs about right and wrong, and criticize lifestyle actions as immoral. Indeed, everyone holds opinions about right and wrong, those who claim they do not are disingenuous.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Zacharias, Ravi (1994). Can Man Live Without God. Word Publishing. Retrieved from
  2. Zacharias, Ravi (2012, February 26). Into God's Arms. Retrieved from
  3. Jefferson, Thomas (1776, July 4). Declaration of Independence. Retrieved from
  4. Horner, Michael. Do All Religions Lead to God? Thoughts About God.