Moral Ambiguity

This article was original published in December 2008 and has been updated for relevancy. We hope you will find this message a blessing in your walk with Christ.

Moral Ambiguity: who decides what is Right and what is Wrong?

In recent years, I have become more aware of a growing trend in the world today, a trend called Post-Modernism. Admittedly, I am always a bit “behind-the-times” when it comes to any sort of fad or trend, so it took me a while to fully comprehend the concepts behind the Post-Modern movement.

Basically, Post-Modernism is a response to Modernism, an age of science, of reason, and of experimentation. Modernism began when people stopped blaming crop failures on witches and understood the cause was poor agricultural practices; when people stopped relying on superstitions and sought to find logical answers through science, math, and natural laws. Modernism taught that everything can be explained scientifically.

However, science cannot provide the human race with the absolute truth we have been seeking. Despite amazing advancements, the answers science has given have only led to even more questions. As a result, there has been a shift in popular thinking in a different direction.

Post-Modernism is the rejection of the existence of absolute truth and the promotion of relative truths. Due to the differences found across the world when it comes to cultures, moral codes, and other important life-issues, the post-modern thought is that no one way is correct. For example, the moral standards of one society may not be the moral standards of another, so who is to say which is right and which is wrong?

While I agree that we all need to be more tolerant, this way of thinking can lead to some horrific extremes. If truth is in the eye of the beholder and morals are relative, then why does almost everyone find certain activities so sickening and classify them as morally wrong?

Much of the world was horrified when they heard of Josef Fritzl, an Austrian man who, for twenty-four years, held his own daughter captive in an apartment under his home and fathered seven children with her. However, if moral standards are relative, we should not put our own standards on others. Let’s go one step further: if there is no absolute Right and Wrong then some could argue that what Fritzl did was morally right in his own eyes, even if others view it was morally corrupt.

What about the actions and crimes of murderers, pedophiles, rapists, and thieves? Most criminals were only doing what they deem right in their own eyes. Their moral standards are simply different from other people’s standards. But the philosophy that everyone is free to do whatever is right in their own eyes does not make the heinous crime of Fritzl acceptable. Some may argue that morality is not based on any one individual but on the moral codes decided upon by the community. However, just because a society at large decides something is Right or Wrong, does that make it so? That would mean that the atrocities committed by the Nazis in World War II, the genocide in Rwanda, and the massacres and cruelty currently happening in the Middle East could be considered morally acceptable. What about any of a million other unspeakable acts committed by a community, society, or nation throughout the history of the world? The victims of these atrocities would argue otherwise.

So, the bottom-line is, who has the right, the authority, to decide what is Right and what is Wrong? The individual? The community? Society as a whole? The government? A dictator? The majority? The minority? Both? Neither?

This puzzling question is not a new one. After the Hebrews sinned against the Lord in the wilderness, Moses said to them, “You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes.” (Deuteronomy 12:8)

Friends, there is a universal standard of morality. Certain things are just plain wrong, no matter where you live in this world or what culture you were raised in. There is Right and Wrong. There is Good and Evil. Without some basic standard of Right and Wrong, Good and Evil, our world would fall into utter chaos.

It is written, in Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” We do not have to be fools. The Lord gave humanity a moral standard: the Ten Commandments.

Many people, even Christians, feel that the Ten Commandments – the Lord’s moral law – is antiquated, a relic of ancient history of mild interest but no longer applicable to the modern world. However, in this age of moral ambiguity, is the Law truly out-dated or does it still relevant to our modern lives?

During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught the importance of keeping the Commandments of God. “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” (Mark 10:19) If following the Lord’s Moral Law was important to Jesus, then should not we, who claim to be followers of Christ, likewise follow the Commandments?

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus’ teachings do not negate the Ten Commandments. On the contrary, He actually explained and expounded upon their meaning and importance. In Matthew 5:17, He says: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”

Some say that Christ replaced the Ten Commandments when He gave the Two Great Commandments, but let us look a little closer:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40.

The first commandment given by Jesus here summarizes the first four Commandments (Exodus 20:3-11), which deal with our relationship with the Lord. The second commandment summarizes the last six Commandments (Exodus 20:12-17), which guide our relationships with other people. We discover that Jesus did not replace the pre-existing Law of God with new commandments but was summarizing and simplifying the purpose behind them. In fact, Christ Himself was directly quoting from passages found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

We are all sinners and cannot live up to the glory of the Lord Almighty (Romans 6:23), but when we allow Jesus Christ to cleanse us from our sins, He will help us become new people with a new heart that longs to do what is right. With the Lord’s commandments as our guide, we do not have to rely on our own warped sense of right and wrong. We have a moral standard that is above our faulty reasoning and logic. Following the guidelines, the principles, laid down by them is very relevant to the modern world.

So why should we observe these ten simple commands? The Law of God is intended to protect us from evil and the consequences of sin. Many times, the consequences of our violation of God’s Law do not just affect us but hurt others around us as well. Think about how the world would be different if everyone obeyed the commandment: “You shall not commit adultery” and thousands of families would not have been torn apart and left broken and scarred due to someone’s infidelity? Or how obedience to the command: “You shall not murder” could have spared millions of broken-hearts from the sorrow of the senseless loss of a loved one? (Exodus 20:13, 14)

The Law of God is not a cruel punishment but meant to protect us from evil and harm. Click To Tweet

It is written, in Deuteronomy 10:13, “…keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good”.

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About Jacquelyn

Jacquelyn Van Sant lives in Mesa, Arizona, with her husband Bradley and their one-year-old son. She works as a web application developer for a large American university and is an active member of the Tempe SDA Church in Tempe, Arizona. In her free time, she enjoys singing, writing, drawing, and hiking. Jacquelyn wrote songs for Christian recording artist Jessica (Fisher) Cyiza's debut album New Life (2011).