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Defining Moral Values


There is a cancer among modern intellectual thinking. It poses a serious threat to the health of our country. It is called "relativism."

Last year's election uproar over "family values" or "moral values" exposed the divide between those who hold to absolute truth and those who interpret truth according to their own worldview.

At the center of this argument is the debate over "right" and "wrong." Some contend that these concepts are relative. Yet daily occurrences belie this belief. Consider this week's headlines.

A South Carolina jury didn't buy the so-called "Zoloft defense" and convicted 15-year-old Christopher Pittman in the slaying of his grandparents three years ago. They decided that murder is not relative -- it is wrong.

Defrocked priest Paul Shanley was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison for raping a boy in the 1980's. Again, no relativism here -- rape and pedophilia are morally wrong.

Thousands of Californians may have had their social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other valuable information stolen in one of the largest identity theft scams to date. Once more, nobody is defending these thieves -- it is wrong to steal.

The relativist uses faulty guidelines for determining right and wrong. They are typically fall into one of two ideas.

The first is majority rule. This idea, however, fails most intellectual tests. Societies vacillate far too much to rely on a corporate concept of right and wrong. Slavery was once acceptable in America, but that never made it right. Oppression of women is acceptable in much of the world, but it is still wrong. My generation's disapproval of homosexuality has, in many ways, given into the pressure of "tolerance." But what if the next generation decides to tolerate pedophilia? Does that make it right?

Majority rule is as dependable as the human psyche -- a foundation as shifting as the sand beneath many posh California homes. They look good for a while, but when the rains come, they crumble.

The second, and more pervasive, measure of morality is the pain question. In other words, does this action or idea hurt someone else? If not, it must not be wrong. This logic carries out in ways such as: slavery hurts people, therefore it is wrong; war causes suffering, therefore it is wrong; gay marriage hurts nobody, therefore it must be alright; entertainment simply reflects life, so there are no boundaries.

This seductive idea has its appeal. However, it causes difficulty with concepts such as drug abuse, assisted suicide, and other self-mutilation, since the actions of one person do not technically hurt someone else. It causes all sorts of intellectual contortion to justify abortion this way, since a baby in the second trimester can survive outside the mother's womb, yet is still a legal candidate for termination.

But the most glaring flaw in this thinking is that it looks to humanity to define right and wrong. The most stable civilizations have always looked beyond themselves to a higher order. Despite the attempts at revisionist history, one cannot read the early writings of our founding fathers and ignore the fact that the idea of a supernatural, Supreme Being pervades our core principles.

There are absolutes. Truth can be discerned. But we must stop looking to ourselves for the answers and rely on a more enlightened way.

Author: James Robison

Word Count: 550

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.