The purported value of ethical relativism, the idea that there are no transcendent, binding rules for right and wrong that all humans are morally required to submit to, is that it allows us to live in peace. That is, if you have your ethics, and I have my ethics, well then there is no real need for us to fight over whose ethic wins. (So long, as, of course, our lives never actually cross.) The real value is far more sinister. We find ethical relativism appealing because we find our own guilt unappealing. Though we seek to suppress such knowledge, we all know that God is, that He is holy, that we are not, and that we are in trouble. Not the kind of pleasant thoughts one wants to go to sleep thinking on, so we suppress that truth. Do away with ethics and we do away with His holiness, our guilt, and therefore our trouble.
Trouble is, we don’t live in our own solipsistic bubbles. Our worlds do collide. Consider the case of Jason Collins, the NBA player who recently announced in Sports Illustrated, that he engages in sexual acts with men. On the one hand we are not supposed to judge him. After all, there is no transcendent standard that says men should only take their pants off with their wives. On the other hand, we are supposed to not judge him. Wait. How did that get in there? Sodomy is fine because there is no moral standard we all must meet. But we must all approve sodomy because there is a moral standard we all must meet. Says who? If there is no transcendent moral standard by which we must condemn sexual perversion, where did this transcendent moral standard come from, that insists we must not condemn sexual perversion? Somebody is imposing their own ethic here, and it’s not the Christians.
Jason Collins is the first male professional athlete to admit he mistreats men. For that he has received magazine covers, applause from the entire Good Morning American television crew, congratulatory phone calls from the first lady, and a thumbs up from her husband. Where, I am left wondering, was all this for the first male professional athlete to admit he mistreats dogs? Where was the Michael Vick coming out party? I want to live in a world where dog fighters need no longer live in fear and shame. How many young dog fighters could have been set free from unspoken bigotry if the world had simply affirmed Michael when he bravely acknowledged his habits? It’s a cold world when a dog fighter can’t be affirmed in what he is.
That’s different? Why? Because dogs can’t give their consent, while Mr. Collins’ victim and victimizers can and do? So who made consent the magic word? (And is it really that magic? What about adult incest? Will we celebrate our diversity, and hand Jackie Robinson’s mantle to the first professional athlete to come out of the adult incest closet?) Why does consent make all personal moral decisions now become transcendently sound moral decisions? Did God say consent is the key? Or was that just some men? And if other men disagree? Why is consent privileged, thereby making child molesters suddenly become evil? By what standard?
Ethical relativism is not merely absurd. It is instead that tool by which God’s judgments are not just banished, but judged as beyond the pale. The end game isn’t “Nobody gets to affirm right and wrong” but “You Christians may not affirm right and wrong.” Which is why sexual perverts do not merely ask for tolerance but demand affirmation. Their own worldview won’t allow it, but when has that ever stopped them?
Is law a good thing or a bad thing, and how can we tell? In Basement Tape #115: L is for Law, we consider the law of God, its proper place in our lives, and how it reveals the very character of the God who gives it.