‘This is who I am; you can’t tell me it’s wrong’.
Unfortunately, this seems to be becoming a majority view at the moment. I say unfortunately because there is a glaring flaw in the logic of telling someone that they can’t tell you that what you’re doing is wrong. The act is, in itself, violating its own instruction by telling the first person that they are wrong. How can you solve that conundrum?
Some people say, “As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, how can it be wrong?”. But this assumes that ‘hurting people’ is wrong (which we tend to agree it is). My point, however, is that we all seem to have some sort of thoughts on what is morally right and wrong. But at the same time society is trying to reach some sort of point that you can’t tell a person that what they are doing or how they are living is wrong.
Let’s merge the two statements we’ve seen so far and we get what most people will go with:
“This is who I am… as long as it doesn’t hurt other people, you can’t tell me I’m wrong”
There are two assumptions in this claim:
- “This is who I am” assumes that we are who we were born to be. That is; my physical and genetic makeup determine who I am.
- “as long as” and “you can’t”. No matter how you phrase this argument it comes down to right and wrong. The argument assumes that hurt or interference of another individual is wrong. It further says that you can’t impose (or sometimes even voice) your opinion on another’s life. Both of these points assume an objective moral standard.
Let’s examine both of these assumptions.
Are we more than just the sum of our parts?
If the matter that makes up the universe is all there ever was, then we are merely the result of blind random chance.
Let’s say that by the remotest of chances life sprung out of nothing and the universe just happened to have the right properties and laws to allow that life. That would mean that the only reason I am here writing this is because all of the unguided evolution of the universe has led to me being exactly who I am with no option of being any different.
If this is the case then you cannot tell me that what I am doing is wrong because I could not be any different. Free choice is gone; right and wrong is an illusion; our very thoughts themselves are suspect because they came about by chance.
I wonder what your thoughts are on what I’ve just said. Are they your thoughts? Or did they come to you because you had no other option than to have them?
You may call it wishful thinking (you may have to), but I believe that I make my own choices. I believe that I choose to share these thoughts that I have chosen to believe. I choose to follow through with some acts and not to follow through with others. Just because I have an inclination does not mean I have to act upon it. I am more than the sum of my parts!
What does Moral Objectivity show us?
When you say there is such a thing as evil, you assume there is such a thing as good. When you assume there is such a thing as good and evil, you assume there is a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between the two. When you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral law giver.” – Ravi Zacharias
Today everyone is keen to say something along the lines of “I have my own morals and you have yours and that is ok… we’ll just agree to disagree”. But then in the same breath will say “But you can’t tell me that I have to live by your morals”, or worse “You can’t even voice your opinion of my morals or the way I live”.
Do you see the problem with that? As soon as you appeal to some moral imperative that stops one person from putting their morals on another, you assume a moral law that is above your personal morality… that is, an objective moral law overarching our interactions.
But this brings up two questions:
- Where did that moral law come from?
- How can we define what it is?
Very briefly, as discussion on these points could go on forever: either the moral law is external to us and therefore metaphysical, or it is internal and therefore physically written into our DNA somehow. Either way, it must have been put there by someone.
How do I know that? Two ways:
Firstly, by inference: Every set of Ethics (written codes of morality) that we know of is written by a person or persons (Law, School Rules, Sports Codes of Conduct, etc.). Why would we not assume that this objective code is any different?
Secondly, if this “Code” had come about by random evolution, then we would be back to square 1, thinking that this code is, indeed, subjective and came about by chance. But I don’t think we believe that and I certainly don’t see anyone living that way.
People often, as an example for evolutionary morals, bring up cultures that thought that cannibalism was accepted and right. They say that we’ve now moved past that as a more civilised society. But they don’t just think that it’s wrong now… they think that it was wrong back then as well, just that the cannibals didn’t know it or had ignored that part of their conscience that said it was wrong.
Morality has been set down from the beginning. We know it, we just have to find out what it is.
How do we KNOW right and wrong?
To define it, we need that external source to tell us what it is. As Christians, we know that person to be God our Heavenly Father. He has given us rules for right and wrong in two ways.
Firstly, and most importantly, he has laid out his laws for godly living in his word, the Bible. These were summed up by our Lord Jesus:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. – Matthew 22:37-40
Secondly, he has written his law on our hearts:
“…the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” Romans 2:15
This must be secondary because we know that our hearts can lead us astray. Only God’s Word is unchanging and we must wholeheartedly cling to it so that we can live a life holy and pleasing to him.
We can be confident in the Word of God, that it is for our best and as our Creator he has designed us to be moral beings in his likeness.