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Moral Relativism



Charlie Brown was sitting in the living room watching TV when he heard a loud noise in the kitchen. He went to check it out and caught Snoopy, his dog, raiding the refrigerator. "Hey, what are you doing?" he asked. "You can't just take things out of the refrigerator." Pulling out his Bible, Charlie directed Snoopy to Exodus: "Thou shalt not steal." Snoopy took the Bible from Charlie's hand and flipped over to Deuteronomy 25:4 where it says: "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox while he treads out the grain." While Charlie read the verse, Snoopy slipped out the back door and took up his position atop his doghouse. Having finished reading the verse, Charlie realized what had happened. "I don't see you treading out any grain," he yelled. Snoopy interrupted his meal long to enough to reply: "Yeah, but at least it got me out the back door."


Most Christians, sad to say, have on occasion misused the Bible and its many commands and prohibitions to get themselves "out the back door" in the various situations of life. One of our principal goals in studying ethics will be to learn how to use the Bible properly when it comes to making ethical decisions. But just what is "ethics" anyway?


The English word "ethics" comes from the Greek etheos which means "that which relates to character." Often "ethics" is defined simply as moral philosophy or the discipline by which we determine and justify what is right and wrong or what is good and evil. "We study ethics," writes Joe Trull, "to clarify our thinking about the virtues, values, precepts, and principles that guide our conduct" (Walking in the Way, p. 22). Our concern, however, is with more than just decisions or actions. It is also concerned with the disposition or character of our hearts. Being good and doing good is thus the "stuff" of which ethics are made.


Ethical systems are classified in a variety of ways, depending on which textbook you are reading. In general, however, there are only two systems: Relativism and Absolutism. Within relativism there are a number of only slightly differing options.



Before we examine relativism, we need to know the difference between an objective truth and a subjective truth.


When I say: “Squash tastes terrible” I have said something true because this statement reflects my own personal preference. I haven’t made an assertion about squash, per se, but about my tastes. My statement about squash is thus subjectively true. It is true for me, the subject, but not for the object, squash. The experience of flavor, whether good or bad, pertains only to the subject, me, not the object. If you said, “Squash tastes wonderful,” I cannot charge you with committing an error. It just so happens that your subjective taste is different from mine [although I must say that in a perfect world, the taste of squash ought to be a sin!].


Consider the statement “5 + 5 = 10.” This is entirely different from my statement about the taste of squash. As a subject, I am now making a claim about something external to myself. I’m communicating a belief about an external and therefore objective truth. Mathematical statements are not a matter of personal taste. You might personally prefer that 5 + 5 = 11, but that doesn’t make it so. If you choose to contend for the sum of 11 rather than 10 we could empirically examine and validate which of us is in error. Our feelings about the numbers 10 and 11 would be irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you think 11 is prettier or sounds better or has brought you luck in the past. To assert that 11 is the sum of 5 + 5 is to commit a rational (but not moral), objective (not subjective) error. As Beckwith says,


“subjective truths are based on internal preferences and change according to our whims. Objective truths, in contrast, are realities in the external world that we discover and cannot be changed by our internal feelings. External facts are what they are, regardless of how we feel about them” (Relativism [Baker], 28).


The point of this is simply to demonstrate that ethical relativism, in whatever form it appears, is a type of subjectivism. According to relativism, moral truths are like my distaste for squash. It may be true for me, but not for you. You may like squash. According to relativists, I can no more say “You ought not to steal” than “You ought to dislike squash.” When it comes to issues of morality, says the relativist, the words ought and should are meaningless (except, of course, for the person making the statement).


A.        Emotivism


Emotivists insist that moral language is meaningless. That is to say, nothing true or false is asserted when such terms as "good" and "evil" or "right" and "wrong" are employed. So-called moral language simply expresses a person's emotions about any particular subject or issue. As Scott Rae explains, "the emotivist considers ethical statements to be attitudes masquerading as facts" (Moral Choices [Zondervan], p. 84; emphasis mine).


Objective moral facts are non-existent. When I say, "Murder is wrong," I am not making a statement of fact (like 5 + 5 = 10) or even making a moral judgment about the virtue or vice of murder. I am simply expressing my feeling about killing someone. I either like it or not, but that says nothing about whether or not it is morally right or morally wrong. Therefore, ethical statements are not "ought" statements. An emotivist insists that when I say, "You ought not to commit murder," what I really mean is, "I don't like murder," or "Boo! Murder," or “The taking of an innocent life, Yuk!”


·      The foundation for their reasoning in this way is "the assumption that a statement is meaningful only if it asserts or denies something that is objectively true or false about an object in the universe, so that its truth or falsity can be determined by comparing it with reality" (The Moral Quest, Stanley Grenz, 51). These are what ethical philosophers call descriptive statements. For example, if I say, "The red car outside has its lights on," one can objectively test whether or not this is true (go outside and look!). But to say, "It is wrong to steal the red car" (a prescriptive statement) is to assert nothing that can be objectively or empirically verified. All that I have done is to assert my own emotion or feeling or attitude about taking the red car.


·      According to the emotivist, to assert "Giving food to the hungry is a noble act" or "Hitler was an evil killer" is not to say anything objective or empirically verifiable about generosity and murder. All that I have done is to forcefully express my own personal biases. I have given vent to my emotions. In effect, I have said nothing more than "Hooray for generosity!" and "Boo Hitler!"


·      An example of this approach is the bumper-sticker I once saw on a car. It read: “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.” If there had been cars in pre-Civil War America I can well imagine an emotivist living in the South putting this on his bumper: “Don’t like slavery? Don’t own one.”


What is the immediate and most obvious logical fallacy in emotivism? The foundation for their system is: only statements that can be empirically and objectively verified have meaning (a philosophical view known as logical positivism). The problem is that this statement itself cannot be empirically and objectively verified! Emotivism is inherently self-defeating. Judged by its own criteria, it must be rejected as meaningless, because unverifiable.


Note: a self-defeating or self-refuting statement is one that fails to satisfy itself. That is to say, it fails to conform to its own criteria of validity or acceptability. For example, the statement “I cannot say ‘word’ in English” is self-refuting when uttered in English. The statement “I do not exist” is self-refuting because one must exist in order to make a statement. “Every statement I make is a falsehood” is self-defeating, for if what I just said is false then it is false that statements I make are false. “All truth is relative” is self-refuting because for it to be true one must assume that at least one truth is absolute, namely, the truth that all truth is relative. But if one admits that at least one truth is absolute the statement that “all truth is relative” is false.


B.        Antinomianism


According to antinomianism (which literally means "against law" but here is used in the sense of "without law"), there are no absolute or universal moral principles and hence no such thing as binding moral obligations to be pursued in any given situation.


From a purely logical point of view, this theory, like emotivism, is self-defeating. It asserts that there are no universal absolutes. But the assertion itself establishes at least one: namely, that there are none. The theory is inherently self-contradictory.


C.        Ethical Relativism


Although there are several different varieties of relativism, they all share one fundamental premise in common. Unlike emotivists, ethical relativists do believe that one can meaningfully speak of right and wrong. However, according to all forms of relativism, right and wrong are never absolute or unchanging. They are relative to one's situation or subjective opinions or cultural context, etc. No action is inherently or universally right or wrong but is determined to be such depending on the criteria one employs to make moral judgments. The leading options in ethical relativism are the following:


1.         Ethical Egoism


The ethical egoist insists that the right thing to do is whatever is in a person's self-interest. The only consequence of any action that ultimately matters is whether or not it advances or enhances one's own self-interest. If any act does not advance/enhance my self-interest, it is immoral or wrong. The right thing to do in any given situation is whatever will protect me or preserve me or promote me or bring pleasure to my life. Scott Rae explains:


"In ethical egoism, one's only moral duty is to one's own self-interest. This is not to say that a person should avoid actions that help others, since a person's interests and the interests of others can coincide. It may be that helping others may be a means to the end of a person's own self-interest. It is also not to say that one's short-term interests are primary. One may forego an immediate advantage to insure long-term interests" (77).


This was the moral philosophy advocated by Ayn Rand (The Virtue of Selfishness), to some degree by Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679 [Leviathan], and certainly by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Said Nietzsche:


“What is strong wins. That is the universal law. To speak of right and wrong per se makes no sense at all. No act of violence, rape, exploitation, destruction, is intrinsically ‘unjust,’ since life itself is violent, rapacious, exploitative, and destructive and cannot be conceived otherwise” (Genealogy of Morals [1966], 208).


The weaknesses of ethical egoism are obvious. What happens when my self-interest conflicts with yours? This system has no way of settling ethical conflicts without appealing to some other ethical norm, that is, a norm other than self-interest. Ultimately this system either collapses in anarchy or reduces ethics to a question of power: whoever is able to enforce his/her self-interest is, by definition, right.


Perhaps the most extreme form of ethical egoism was that espoused by the Marquis de Sade, who declared: "Nothing is forbidden by nature." He justified his sadism and perversion by saying that all concepts of virtue and vice are arbitrary; self-interest is the paramount rule: "Justice has no real existence, it is the deity of every passion. . . . So let us abandon our belief in this fiction, it no more exists than does the God of whom fools believe it the image; there is no God in this world, neither is there virtue, neither is there justice; there is nothing good, useful, or necessary but our passions."


2.         Cultural Relativism


With the increasing move in our society to embrace all cultures as equally valid, this system is becoming more and more popular. We are not talking about mere tolerance of diverse cultures, but of the affirmation that all cultures are equally valid expressions of moral truth. What is right or wrong is culturally created. Virtue or vice is the product of each distinct culture. Some cultures practice monogamy and others practice polygamy. Some embrace infanticide while others do not. “Morality, then,” says Louis Pojman, “is just the set of common rules, habits, and customs that have won social approval over time, so that they seem part of the nature of things, like facts. There is nothing mysterious or transcendent about these codes of behavior. They are the outcomes of our social history” (Ethics, 30). As Steve Wilkens explains,


"No ethical system is better than any other. For us to be able to say that the ethics of the Romans is any better than that of Athens, or that the ethics of Islamic fundamentalism is any better than that of Confucianism, requires a common standard outside of these cultures to which they can be compared. However, the existence of an absolute ethical measure is denied by cultural relativism. The only thing we can say about different practices is that they are different, not that they are better or worse. Better and worse are comparative terms that make sense only with a measure that is not tied to any culture" (Beyond Bumper Sticker Ethics, p. 30).


Consider this example:


"Imagine yourself as a business executive responsible for expanding your firm into international markets. As a result of different ethical standards of doing business, you will be faced with the temptation to offer bribes to high government officials to secure access to the market for your product. Although bribes are considered immoral and illegal in much of the West, your clients in this new market will expect them as a normal part of doing business. What will you do? Will you adhere to what you consider to be a universal standard that does not permit bribery? Or will you adopt the philosophy, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do,' and justify offering bribes because that is acceptable in that culture?" (Rae, pp. 87-88)


Does the fact that bribery is a vice in one culture but a virtue in another relativize the moral status of the act? Is it possible to apply universally and timelessly across all cultures a single ethical norm to which all are obligated?


Another example:


Recently an Arab family moved to the U.S. from the Middle East. When the adult daughter of this family chose her own husband (an American), her father insisted that she abide by the traditional Middle Eastern custom in which the parents make all marital arrangements, including the choice of their child's spouse. When she refused, her father took disciplinary action considered appropriate (indeed, virtuous) by the culture in which he was raised: he killed her. His defense attorney appealed to cultural relativism as the basis for his acquittal.


Three critical observations on cultural relativism:


·      First, cultural relativism makes it impossible to criticize another society for its behavior. No matter how bizarre or cruel or vicious or inhumane that society’s principles and practices may appear to be, if there is no absolute, unchanging moral law that transcends society, if there is no external moral standard, then that society cannot be judged. Cultural relativism makes it impossible, for example, to criticize a society that practices apartheid or genocide. If cultural relativism is correct, the government sponsored genocide of the Jewish people “can only be quietly observed, not judged” (Beckwith, 51). Pojman agrees: “If . . . valid criticism supposes an objective or impartial standard, then relativists cannot morally criticize anyone outside their own culture. Adolph Hitler’s genocidal actions, so long as they are culturally accepted, are as morally legitimate as Mother Teresa’s works of mercy” (34). Cultural relativism was actually part of the defense presented on behalf of the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials. John W. Montgomery explains their argument:


“The most telling defense offered by the accused was that they had simply followed orders or made decisions within the framework of their own legal system, in complete consistency with it, and that they therefore ought not rightly be condemned because they deviated from the alien value system of their conquerors” (The Law Above the Law, 24).


·      Second, this view would also mean that social reformers are always morally wrong, “since they go against the tide of cultural standards” (Pojman, 34). People such as William Wilberforce would have to be judged as immoral for his opposition to the slave trade in 18th century England. Martin Luther King would be wrong for his efforts to alter racial prejudice and discrimination in America.


·      Third, cultural relativism, like all forms of relativism, is self-refuting. As D. A. Carson points out,


“cultural relativism affirms that notions of truth and the structures of reason are so decisively shaped within the culture in which they are found that they are relative to that culture. But that means the proposition defining or defending cultural relativism, uttered within that culture, is no less relative; there is no particular reason why someone from another culture should adopt the position of cultural relativism” (The Gagging of God, 176).


3.         Moral Subjectivism


Simply put, according to moral subjectivism, everyone is right. This view is becoming increasingly widespread. Moral subjectivism is being advocated every time someone says, "That may be right for you, but don't impose your viewpoint on me!" Morality is thereby reduced to personal preference.


This view energizes the abortion debate. Pro-abortionists argue that if the fetus is regarded as person by its mother, then abortion is an immoral act. But if another mother views the fetus as less than a person, abortion is a legitimate moral option.


Moral subjectivism comes into play most often in the debate over sexual ethics. No particular sexual activity is inherently and universally right or wrong, but is deemed such by each individual.


4.         Utilitarianism (Jeremy Bentham [1748-1832] and John Stuart Mill [1806-73])


According to utilitarianism, the action that produces the greatest good for the greatest number is the morally virtuous choice. In other words, the morality of any act is determined by the end result. Some even refer to this viewpoint as consequentialism (or teleological ethics) because it focuses almost exclusively on the consequences of what we choose to do. Whatever will maximize the most happiness (or good) for the most people is right. Rules do not determine right from wrong; results do. Utilitarianism is thus purely pragmatic. The intrinsic quality of any particular act is subordinated to the long-term effects it produces. Thus "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness" (Grenz, 35). "By happiness," wrote John Stuart Mill, "is intended [meant] pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure" (Utilitarianism, On Liberty, and Considerations on Representative Government, ed. by H. B. Acton [London: J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1972], p. 6.).


This view has also been called teleological ethics. In other words it justifies principles or rules extrinsically, that is, by the results that following those norms brings. This is to be contrasted with what is called deontological ethics in which moral norms are grounded in duty. According to the latter view, moral obligation is based on something other than its ability to produce a benefit.


Most public, and even private, policy in the western world is formulated on utilitarian grounds.


Can you think of any examples? (1) Parent to child concerning littering: “Now what would happen if everyone did that?” (2) See John 11:49-50! Was Caiaphas reasoning on utilitarian principles? (3) What about the dictum, "Honesty is the best policy?" Why is honesty regarded as a good policy? Is it because honesty is intrinsically right, or is it because truth-telling as a rule promotes harmony in interpersonal relationships and fosters a more stable social structure? When the Christian says "Honesty is the best policy" he/she means "God commands that we tell each other the truth."


Utilitarianism allows one to violate what may appear to be a universal moral law if by doing so you ultimately produce a greater good for a greater number of people. Also known as generalism, this theory asserts that taking a human life is generally, but not universally, wrong. As a general rule, killing someone is morally wrong. But there are times when the rule should be broken, namely, when a greater good is served. In other words, there is almost always an exception to any moral law, and such exceptions allow the individual to resolve conflicts between moral duties.


Utilitarianism was the ethical justification for slavery in the southern U.S. The argument was made that slavery provided cheap labor which proved prosperous to the south and clearly benefited more people than it harmed. The so-called balance of consequences can thus be used to oppress minorities or perpetuate injustice. Hitler sought to justify the Holocaust on utilitarian grounds.


It should be noted that utilitarianism's principle of "the greatest good for the greatest number of people" includes what egoism leaves out. In utilitarianism each person is valuable; one person's happiness or "good" is as important as another's. "Thus utilitarianism is an altruistic approach to the extent that whenever the majority will receive greater happiness, you have an obligation to honor its decisions even if it is not to your advantage" (Wilken, p. 85).


Case Study: An evangelical church in the inner city with a ministry to drug addicts and the homeless is asked if their building can be used for the distribution of sterile needles. Statistics show that infectious diseases like AIDS are far less likely to spread if sterile needles are available. On the one hand, the church believes that using illegal drugs is absolutely wrong. On the other hand, the church wants to assist in the attempt to reduce the spread of disease, an obvious benefit both for individuals and the larger society. What should they do? Does the long-term benefit that would accrue to the greater number in society justify what would appear to be the violation of a moral rule?


Consider the utilitarian approach to punishment. Whereas many would argue that the guilty should be punished in proportion to the gravity of their crime, utilitarians “believe that the guilty should be punished only if the punishment would serve some deterrent (or preventive) purpose. . . . The proper amount of punishment to be inflicted upon the offender is the amount that will do the most good (or the least harm) to all those who will be affected by it” (Pojman, 109). If it is determined that punishing “Jim” will do no good because that he is unlikely to commit the crime again and no one will be deterred by his punishment, “Jim” should go free.


D.        Relativism’s Fatal Flaws


The following critique of moral relativism applies to all of its forms.


1.         A moral relativist cannot accuse anyone of doing anything wrong. If morality is simply a matter of personal taste, preference, or definition, then you lose any ground on which to make moral judgments about what other people do. Morality simply becomes an issue of your tastes and preferences being different from mine, but not necessarily better than mine. Thus the moral relativist cannot criticize, correct, challenge, praise, or reward someone for something they do.


2.         A moral relativist has no grounds for complaining about the problem of evil. The existence of evil in the world is usually one of the first arguments against the existence of God. But this objection is based on the assumption that there is such a thing as “evil”. But if one is a relativist, on what basis does he/she determine that something qualifies as morally repugnant? If good and evil are not objective truths, external to the subject, then so-called “evil” is purely a matter of personal taste. We might well debate our differing opinions on what is pleasant or unpleasant, desired or not desire, but we cannot debate whether something is “evil” or “wrong” unless we acknowledge the existence of an externally objective and transcendent moral standard by which such ethical judgments can be made. C. S. Lewis describes how this factored into his struggle with the existence of God:


“My argument against God was that the universe seemed to be cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? . . . Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed, too --- for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies” (Mere Christianity, 31).


3.         Related to the above is the fact that moral relativists cannot make charges of injustice or unfairness. The external standard on the basis of which those words have meaning is the very thing all relativists reject. Thus, words such as “injustice” and “unfairness” are empty. Furthermore, there is no real justice if one cannot punish the guilty. But in moral relativism there is no guilt, for guilt depends on blame. But if nothing is ultimately immoral (but only personally distasteful), there is no blame to be affixed and thus no guilt worthy of just punishment.


4.         Relativists cannot improve their morality. They can change it, but neither for the better or worse, for words such as “better” and “worse” imply a moral standard against which such change is measured. But the latter is denied by the relativist.


5.         If moral relativism is true, there can never be a meaningful moral discussion. Two people, for example, would never be able to compare the merits of their respective systems. If all systems are relative to the subject, then no way of thinking or acting is better than the other. As Beckwith says, “if ethical disputes make sense only when morals are objective, then relativism can only be consistently lived out in silence” (68).


6.         Moral relativists can’t promote the virtue of tolerance. One of the primary arguments of relativism is that we must or ought to be tolerant of one another’s views and behavior. But this is self-refuting. Listen to Beckwith:


“To relativists, tolerance means, ‘I (morally) ought to tolerate the moral opinions and behavior of others who disagree with me. I (morally) should not try to interfere with their opinions or behavior.’ If there are no objective moral rules, however, there can be no rule that requires tolerance as a moral principle that applies equally to all. In fact, if there are no moral absolutes, why be tolerant at all? Why not force my morality on others if it’s in my self-interest and my personal ethics allow it? Relativists violate their own principle of tolerance when they do not tolerate the views of those whose morality is nonrelativistic. They only tolerate those who hold their ethical viewpoint. They are, therefore, just as intolerant as any objectivist appears to be” (69).


7.         Moral relativism thrives on the myth of neutrality. Consider this quotation from Faye Wattleton, former president of Planned Parenthood:


“Like most parents, I think that a sense of moral responsibility is one of the greatest gifts I can give my child. But teaching morality doesn’t mean imposing my moral value on others. It means sharing wisdom, giving reasons for believing as I do – and then trusting others to think and judge for themselves.


My parents’ morals were deeply rooted in religious conviction but tempered by tolerance – the essence of which is respect for other people’s views. They taught me that reasonable people may differ on moral issues, and that fundamental respect for others is morality of the highest order.


I have devoted my career to ensuring a world in which my daughter, Felicia, can inherit that legacy. I hope the tolerance and respect I show her as a parent is reinforced by the work she sees me doing every day: fighting for the right of all individuals to make their own moral decisions about childbearing.


Seventy-five years ago, Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood to liberate individuals from the ‘mighty engines of repression.’ As she wrote, ‘The men and women of American are demanding that . . . they be allowed to mold their lives, not at the arbitrary command of church or state but as their conscience and judgment may dictate.’ I’m proud to continue that struggle, to defend the rights of all people to their own beliefs. When others try to inflict their views on me, my daughter or anyone else, that’s not morality: It’s tyranny. It’s unfair, and it’s un-American” (“Self-Definition: Morality”).


Beckwith and Koukl (Relativism) have some objections to Wattleton’s seemingly eloquent essay, and I will add a few of my own.


·      Wattleton’s essay assumes the reality of morally neutral ground, a place where one can stand that implies no moral judgment. Yet Wattleton is herself anything but morally neutral. She speaks often of certain values which she believes are the essence of good morality.


·      For example, Wattleton believes she has a “moral responsibility” to give her view of morality to her child. What if the law of the land doesn’t believe that, as was the case in Communist China under Mao, who argued that the state alone has that responsibility? If Wattleton had lived under that regime, would she have worked to pass laws that allowed her to morally train her daughter? To do so would be to impose her morality on people whose morality says you shouldn’t do that. My point is simply that all laws enforce someone’s morality on someone else.


·      Wattleton also argues that each of us should respect the other’s point of view. She then suggests that any point of view other than hers is immoral, tyrannous, and un-American. In other words, if you disagree with Wattleton’s position that all points of view are equally valid, then your point of view is not valid. Her argument is self-refuting.


·      In fact, Wattleton has devoted her life to imposing her morals on others. In particular, she advocates the view that “fundamental respect for others is morality of the highest order.” This is itself a personal moral position which she strives to mandate politically. The “legacy” that she strives to ensure for her daughter is her (Wattleton’s) point of view. “How does she ensure this? By passing laws. Wattleton has devoted her career to ensuring a world in which her point of view is enforced by law” (33). I don’t object to Wattleton using the political process to enforce her point of view. Rather I object to her claim to being neutral and tolerant. She isn’t. She is anything but neutral: she is committed to “ensuring” that her view of morality be politically enforced. The moment you speak and give your opinion you forfeit your claim to neutrality.


·      I don’t object to the idea that “fundamental respect for others is morality of the highest order.” That’s a wonderful virtue. But it is a moral virtue. It is not moral neutrality or tolerance. Wattleton would be radically intolerant of anyone who tried to pass a law that undermined “fundamental respect for others.” I would probably join her in doing so. But I would openly acknowledge that such action is my attempt to “impose my moral value on others.”


·      Wattleton believes it is “tolerance and respect” to fight “for the right of all individuals to make their own moral decisions about childbearing.” I agree, except when that “moral” decision entails killing the child you are bearing!


8.         The absurdity and inconsistency of relativism in its many forms is illustrated by the following incident in the life of J. P. Moreland, author of Love Your God With All Your Mind (NavPress, 1997).


"One afternoon I was sharing the gospel in a student's dorm room at the University of Vermont. The student began to espouse ethical relativism: 'Whatever is true for you is true for you and whatever is true for me is true for me. If something works for you because you believe it, that's great. But no one should force his or her views on other people since everything is relative.'


I knew that if I allowed him to get away with ethical relativism, there could be for him no such thing as real, objective sin measured against the objective moral command of God, and thus no need of a Savior. I thanked the student for his time and began to leave his room. On the way out, I picked up his small stereo and started out the door with it.


'Hey, what are you doing?' he shouted.


'What's wrong with you?' I queried. 'Are you having problems with your eyes? I am leaving your room with your stereo.'


'You can't do that,' he gushed.