Moral Absolute....


Hello - Let me first state that I am not looking to be banned. I listen to NPR all day everyday, and I’ve been noticing a trend regarding the subject of a moral absolute and moral relativism…which ties into Catholicism nicely. I think the new Pope just wrote something regarding relativism…and then I started thinking about America, and it’s protestant heritage/founding…I read an article on a liberally biased website the other day and thought I would post it here for your reactions.

Let me state that I believe in a moral absolute…but I thought the logic in the essay was fairly interesting and brought up some good points.


All I really need to say is that

"One of the most dramatic examples of this is an encyclical written by Pope John Paul II, entitled Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendor of Truth.”) In it, the pope wrote that the morality of an act has nothing to do with its result, its social context, its circumstance, its intent, or the process by which a person’s conscience comes to his decision. The act is simply right or wrong, in and of itself, and it will always be that way, no matter what the surrounding considerations. Furthermore, the rightness or wrongness of an act is revealed to us by God, through the highest authorities of the church. They cannot be questioned. Humans are not supposed to wrestle with moral dilemmas, but to apply these revealed truths to every situation and problem in life. "

is a poor and uneducated summary of Veritatis Splendor. A person who cannot understand the instructions should not go putting toasters together.


I couldnt make it through the entire article but what i gathered was that this guys is saying that the modern secularist ideology is more consistent with historical Christianity than the Catholic Church.

That was all i needed to stop reading the article since it was at the point that i knew i could not actually learn anyting from this article.


What a load of crock. This is what passes for journalism on the Left? Perhaps if time allows I’ll do a thorough rebuttal of this piece (although it’s so shot through with holes it shouldn’t really need one). A few highlights of the logical fallacies this argument contains:

Conservatives may object that the power actually belongs to God, and the church leadership is simply transmitting the information. But history clearly refutes this idea. African slavery in America received the full blessing of four centuries of popes. Considering the social and scientific disasters that the Church hierarchy (of all denominations) have been guilty of promoting, from the burning of witches to the enslavement of innocents, no thinking person could ever place blind faith in the fallible leadership of men.

There is a noticable lack of source material here (and throughout the entire essay). Slavery was not condoned by a single Pope. The burden of proof is on the author to show 4 generations’s worth of Papal blessings. In fairness to Protestants, witch-burnings were largely contained to a few colonial towns in Massachusetts. I’d hardly call this a “promotion” by “Church hierarchy”.

the Sixth Commandment says, “You shall not kill,” but levitical law generally gives three occasions where killing is permissible: in self-defense, in times of war, and in the commission of justice.

The author fails to even consider the possibility that the 10 Commandments are more nuanced than the modern English translation. The 6th Commandment was an injunction against murder, not all killing.

Another example is automobile driving. In America, this activity kills 50,000 people a year. These deaths are accidental, to be sure, but our decision to participate in an activity which we already know will kill 50,000 people a year is not accidental. We know that there were virtually no deaths in the days of horse and buggy travel. Yet we assume that 50,000 deaths a year is worth the convenience. Nowhere in Levitical law will you even come close to finding support for this idea, and a moral absolutist would have to renounce automobile travel.

This is nonsense. Morality can only apply to a direct act, not a statistic.

Abortion…, for example, find[s] no mention in the New Testament.

Sure it did “Thou shalt not kill” was pretty clear to 1st Century Christians.

And it wasn’t that the church taught one thing but some of its members did another; no, these errors and atrocities were written into the holiest canons of the Christian church, taught by both pope and saint alike.

The author doesn’t even bother going into what the supposed errors actually are.


Thanks Dr. Colossus for saving me the time. I was pretty much going to say all the same things you said (allthough probably not as eloquently :wink: )


Right on, Dr. C. Just thought I’d address a few more issues in the article.

The most obvious result of putting this belief into practice is that it gives supreme power to the highest leaders of the Church. It is no wonder that religious leaders find moral absolutism so attractive…

So, I actually believe that morals are absolute because I want to control others? I had no idea I was wrapped up in such a diabolical power-struggle. This comment is simply insulting.

Conservatives may object that the power actually belongs to God, and the church leadership is simply transmitting the information. But history clearly refutes this idea.

No, it doesn’t. History gives us evidence about people and how they chose to deal with truth; simply looking at atrocities committed by the Church does nothing to detract from the idea that morals are absolute.

The argument that morals are absolute, then, despite their context, is completely inconsistent with Christian history and practice.

No. Some things are wrong in any context (let’s say, torturing babies). Some things are wrong, but with circumstantial exceptions (maybe driving 80 in a 65 because someone urgently needs to get to the hospital). Some things are cut-and-dry, some are less-so. Christian tradition acknowledges this very consistently.

In all these cases, Christians mumble something about the law no longer applying, and for once, they ought to be believed. The third problem with levitical law is that is clearly outdated.

I’m actually too frustrated to respond to this properly. Historical ignorance to this degree is unacceptable when writing something like this. No thought to what sort of nation Israel was to be, its peculiar relationship with God, etc. Plus, what about the fact that levitical law included laws way too advanced to be thought of by men at the time? For instance, the day on which boys were to be circumcised is also the day on which an infant’s platelet count is at its highest. Israelites were forbidden to hunt a certain type of hare - the toxicity of its urine would have been deadly to a desert-faring people with cracked feet. Camels were not to be eaten because it required so much grain to raise them to a reasonable age before slaughter. Many animals were simply unsanitary. I’ll stop.

Liberals note that Paul admitted that the laws of men are not perfect.

So do conservatives.

Paul writes that only God’s grace changes a person… God impresses the qualifications directly on the individual, without the interference of the corrupt powers of the church.

Individual responsibility falls upon the individual, corporate on the corporation. I don’t see the problem. Anyway, this is a knock at hierarchy, not absolutism. He needs to stick to the point.

We should not be surprised that any philosophy that preaches moral absolutism is destined to have lots of hypocrites.

I don’t think he realized what he wrote. Yes! We are hypocrites! It doesn’t mean we’re wrong!

That’s all.


Let me state that I believe in a moral absolute…but I thought the logic in the essay was fairly interesting and brought up some good points.

—I agree with some of the other postings that this article is not all that well put together. I want to say though that I think that the debate between the absolute/relative divide for the most part doesn’t go anywhere. We need a more nuanced view of these things. There’s no doubt danger in both extremes. Moral absolutes can quickly degenerate into absolutisms; after all, every dictator believes in his own moral absolutes, and we know the suffering that has resulted from that. On the other hand, a simplistic relativism leads to nihilism, inertia, despair and ultimately the reactionay rise of the worst kind of absolutisms imaginable. To me the middle ground is in the American tradition of pragmatism and pluralism. I realize of course that pragmatists have always been accused of relativism, and certainly one can engage in relativism in the name of pragmatism. At its core, however, pragmatism is only a kind of method, not a comprehensive philosopy. It only says that truth should be tested and rooted in reality, that our truth statements should be meaningful and effective in the world or in our minds. In regard to moral statements, it’s true that pragmatism would resist the word “absolute” as a sort of metaphysical principle, but would recognize - if it truly is pragmatist and not relativistic - that statements can be treated as absolute for all practical purposes. The most obvious example is the commandment, “you shall not do murder”, i.e., you shall not take the life of another human being without some pressing necessity or sanction. There has probably been no normally functioning culture on earth that has ever allowed murder, the killing of people for no reason. You can’t get much more absolute than that, and yet a pragmatist would see this rule not as an abstraction or a metaphysical principle but as a rule deeply rooted in human reality.
A word about pluralism as well, if I have room, which again is too often assimilated to relativism. Pluralism to my mind is manifestly not relativism, but the recognition of the diversity of human life, language and understanding. It doesn’t say that there are no standards of truth. It says in fact that we should value the truths of our own culture, be unafraid to state them, even promote them, but at the same retain humility in regard to other cultures and their truths. Ultimately, some truths will supercede others, but that’s for history to work out, not to be imposed by fiat or by military force of some government or other authority.


Strength, what exactly are your moral absolutes and to whom do they come from?


[quote=Fieryjades]Strength, what exactly are your moral absolutes and to whom do they come from?

Strength is the new con man (prot pretending to be Catholic) on these foums, ignore him.


In fact, there are several laws that Paul does mention that are diametrically opposed to Christian conservative beliefs today; we have already mentioned the New Testament’s firm support of welfare, the redistribution of wealth to the poor, and even a communist economy.

Lies. The NT does not support a communist economy or redistribution.

Jesus told the rich to sell what they have and give to the poor, but conservatives today believe that the best way to help the poor is to do the opposite: redistribute what little wealth they have upward, by slashing taxes on the rich and cutting federal aid for the poor.

Jesus told the rich to give to the poor. What does that have to do with the Government taking from the rich and giving to the poor? :whacky: Nothing.

Moral absolutism leads conservatives to oppose the murder of innocent fetuses, but moral relativism led them to support the potential murder of millions of innocent Russians in a nuclear defense of America.

Did America nuke any Russians? No?


“A quick review of Paul’s philosophy towards the law explains why. According to the classical viewpoint, Paul taught that the law only serves as a mirror to point out sin and imperfection within a person.”

This is a redundency. The author just completed criticizing the Old Testament. When Paul speaks of the law, he’s speaking of the Mosaic law.
For a serious discussion of this topic, read Refuting Moral Relativism by Peter Kreeft.

closed #12

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