Moral Absolutes or No: Why Both Extreme Views are Erroneous
by Tara Chapman
May 2009, Roman calendar
Most serious Christians and some others claim that there are moral absolutes; while atheists, evolutionists, and others claim there are not moral absolutes and that truth is relative. In other words, the latter groups claim that truth varies from one individual to the next and "what may be the truth to you is not true for me." Talk about idiotic. But, lets' look more closely at the Christians' view on moral absolutes and absolute truth.
God's Law, organized into ten commandments and then broken down into statutes, IS the truth. And so the quick and easy answer is that, yes, moral absolutes and absolute truth exist. But, the truth of the matter is that it's NOT a quick and easy answer. Like with so many subjects, two gravely opposing sides do not stop and resolve to put their evidence together to arrive at the REAL truth. So, like with so many subjects, both sides have truths/facts, and both sides are in error, because neither has the complete truth.
As I said, the quick and easy answer is that each commandment is true, but that is ONLY true when they each stand by themselves. Since we live in an imperfect world, there are sometimes situations where one or the other commandment MUST be broken in order to keep a higher commandment. The 10 commandments are ordered in a certain way, and perhaps most people do not give this much thought. The first seven commandments call for the physical death penalty in most cases if physically broken. The last three usually do not. And as you shall soon see, there are SOME situations in which certain statutes must be broken in this imperfect world in order to keep the higher priority commandments.
Let me give three examples to demonstrate what I mean:
1. The man-run government under which you live has wickedly demanded that certain persons in the land are to be put to death. These persons are innocent and are being targeted solely on the basis of who they are. You are protecting such persons in your home, whether they are infants, elderly, a different nationality/skin shade, etc. Government officials drop by to see whether there are persons fitting their target description in your home. Oh! There's a conflict here. Is it ABSOLUTELY wrong to ever lie? Well, yes, lying is wrong. But, you are not God. You are a human being with no means to protect these people without lying (or killing the government officials, if they try to murder those persons in your home). Under God's Law, you would be just as guilty of breaking the 6th commandment as those government officials, if you willingly brought them out of hiding and handed them over (albeit, your transgression of the 6th commandment would be on a lower level, but you nevertheless would transgress it). So, you have a choice to either transgress the 6th commandment, transgress the 9th commandment, or you could transgress both (by admitting you have such persons hidden in your home but then killing the government officials so that they cannot enter). Now, WHAT is the moral thing to do? Surely you are not put here by God to be brought into a situation where you HAVE to be immoral. No, of course not. The right thing to do is to LIE to the government officers in order to SAVE THE LIVES of those innocent persons. So, while a "what may be truth to you is not true for me" stance is WRONG and IDIOTIC, the stance that "lying is absolutely wrong" is misleading. Yes, when it stands ALONE, lying is absolutely wrong, but when faced with a choice of lying--breaking the 9th commandment--or murdering--breaking the 6th commandment--lying is the RIGHT thing to do in this imperfect world. I also will include two biblical examples, both of which reveal God's view on lying in order to protect the LIFE of the innocent.
1a. In the first chapter of Exodus, we find that the pharaoh of Egypt had ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill male children who were born to Israelite mothers. The Word tells us that the midwives feared God and so did not do as the king of Egypt said. They OBEYED God by DISOBEYING the pharaoh. Then, we are told that when the midwives were questioned by the pharaoh, asked why they were not killing the male newborns, the midwives LIED by saying that the Hebrew women birthed too quickly, before the midwives arrived. Now, while that may have been the case sometimes, we know that overall it was a lie, because we were previously told that the midwives just disregarded the pharaoh's commandment. THEN, we are told that God BLESSED the midwives. More specifically, it says that God, "dealt well with the midwives...and it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he [provided households for them]" (1:20a, 21).
1b. In the second chapter of Joshua, Joshua sent two men to spy out the land of Jericho. A harlot named Rahab hid the two men in stalks of flax on her rooftop. The king sent someone to Rahab to order her to deliver the two men that they knew had gone into her house. She LIED by saying that they had come but had left, and she said that the king's men should pursue after them. She then went to the two men and said that she knew the ETERNAL was the God of heaven and earth and to please promise her that she and her family would be saved when Israel came against Jericho to destroy it. They instructed her to tie a scarlet line and hang it from a window in her house and that they would save her and her family alive, unless she uttered the men's business to anyone else. She kept quiet, and when Israel came against Jericho, Joshua saved her and her family (chapter 6), and God was with Joshua.
2. You are stranded on a remote island or in some wilderness. You have found a source of water, but you are starving. You do everything you can to find something FIT ("clean") to eat, but you can't find anything or whatever clean plant you might can find is not enough alone (or causes you to have diarrhea in high amounts). However, there is a plentiful UNFIT ("unclean") animal available, whether it be crabs in the ocean that come up to the shore, lots of wild rabbits or wild boars (pigs), or whatever. You know that if you were in NORMAL living conditions, consumption of these animals would be DETRIMENTAL to your health and well-being. They are FORBIDDEN by God's Law, falling under the 6th commandment. However, DELIBERATE NEGLECT of one's body to keep it in a living condition ALSO violates the 6th commandment. So, you have a choice. Kill and eat unhealthful food that could cause you health problems (and possibly death) but would nevertheless provide you with protein, vitamins, and minerals; OR totally neglect your body and continue to starve to DEATH because of your total or great lack of food. It's BETTER to take one's chances with the sub par menu items than to certainly die from neglect. You can continue to hold on to the hope of survival and/or rescue where you have a future of good health and eating, if you eat the unfit food, while if you starve to death, you have NO HOPE of a future of good health and eating. The LIVING can praise God, but the dead cannot (Psa. 114:17). Again, BOTH the neglect and the eating of unfit food fall under the 6th commandment. Which statute or principle is HIGHER? Total neglect is a more serious offense. This example would also apply to some lifesaving drugs that are detrimental to one's body but will allow a person to go on to live and be able to mostly correct the damage later through fasting, detox, and good diet. The other alternative is to die. This would apply to extreme emergency, life-threatening situations. People should not regularly take in highly detrimental drugs and/or unfit foods. God knows the difference, and so do His righteous servants.
3. Someone in your household is bleeding to death or has some other extreme life-threatening emergency. Your vehicle won't start. You go seek help from your neighbor, but your neighbor is not home. However, you neighbor has another vehicle there with the keys in it. Under normal circumstances, taking off with your neighbor's car is absolutely morally wrong, a transgression of the 8th commandment. In a life-threatening situation, however, nonliving material PROPERTY pales in importance to a human LIFE. If there is NO way to potentially save the individual except to use that car with the keys conveniently in it, then is the right thing to do is to transport the individual to life-saving HELP in your neighbor's car. You can worry about making up for the transgression of the 8th commandment against your neighbor later, when you return his car. Pay an agreed-upon amount or whatever. And if your neighbor is a God-fearing person, then if he gets his car back, that would probably be enough. He'll probably be glad his keys were in his car to help. If he's a hateful character, then you may very well have trouble ahead of you, but you chose LIFE. Neglecting to do everything you could to save that person's life would have been a transgression of the 6th commandment. Temporarily stealing a neighbor's car for saving a human life is a transgression of the 8th commandment. This particular spiritual statute under the 6th commandment is of higher priority than this particular spiritual statute under the 8th commandment.
Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house (Proverbs 6:30-31).
If a person is starving, no righteous person will hate that person for stealing to eat, but the transgressor will nevertheless be expected to make amends. In God's perfect Law, people are supposed to leave the edges of their fields unharvested so that the poor can eat. Then, there would be no stealing. If people would not oppress the poor, we wouldn't have people feeling the need to steal in order to eat. How much more should a man not despise someone who takes a car TEMPORARILY to save a fellow human's life?
God has shown mercy in many cases and has allowed lower commandments to be broken in order to show mercy and love and so that people can keep HIGHER PRIORITY commandments.
Study also: Psalm 119:142; Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; I Samuel 21:1-6; Luke 6:1-10