Misrepresenting Christians

I received a couple of comments from people who think that I am misrepresenting Christians when I say that some Christians argue that morality is universal. In response, I’d like to quote from When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences by Ronald Brooks and Norman Geisler:

Now some might say that this moral law is not really objective; it is nothing but a subjective judgment that comes from social conventions. However, this view fails to account for the fact that all men hold the same things to be wrong (like murder, rape theft, and lying). Also, their criticism sounds very much like a subjective judgment, because they are saying that our value judgments are wrong. Now if there is no objective moral law, then there can be no right or wrong value judgments. If our views of morality are subjective, then so are theirs. But if they claim to be making an objective statement about moral law, then they are implying that there is a moral law in the very act of trying to deny it. They are caught both ways. Even their “nothing but” statement requires “more than” knowledge which shows that they secretly hold to some absolute standards which is beyond subjective judgments.

I won’t defend the position that there are no objective moral laws (since I don’t agree with it), but I would like to point out what I think are two major flaws in the quoted argument:

First, even if “all men” agree that the four listed things — murder, rape, theft, and lying — are immoral, all men do not agree on how these four things are defined. Therefore, to say that “everyone agrees that murder is immoral” is to commit the fallacy of equivocation, since everyone does not agree how “murder” is defined.

Second, the argument that making an objective statement about moral law proves that the speaker believes there are moral laws is also flawed. This argument would be true if the statement “moral law is not really objective” was a moral statement, but it is not a statement of morality, it’s a statement of fact. We might argue whether or not the fact is supportable or not, but in no sense is it a moral judgment.

For the argument to work, the statement in question would have to be something like “when it comes to morality, there are no absolute truths” or “it’s (morally) wrong to say there are objective moral truths.”

Posted on January 26, 2011 at 7:42 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: Morality

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