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January 9, 2014 / BTM

Please, Make It Stop!

make it stopSometimes there aren’t obvious fallacies in the statements people make.  Perhaps they don’t self-refute, nor is the person who is making the statement doing the very thing he or she is telling you not to do.

Take a statement like this:

There are no moral absolutes – meaning there are no Truths that apply equally to all people, in all places, at all times. 

What do you do with that one?   

When the World Trade Centre was destroyed, many people expressed this kind of sentiment.  According to them, the individuals responsible for the act that killed thousands of people were following their own convictions and could not be held responsible to our convictions.

People like to use this type of thinking against religious beliefs.  “Believe what you want,” they’d say, “but don’t say your convictions apply to everyone because there are no moral absolutes”.

Does this position – that there are no moral absolutes – make sense?  The way to find out is to see if it makes sense when you push it to its limits.

CS Lewis famously stated that a person who holds that there are no moral absolutes will likely be upset if you steal his orange.  That person shows that he violates his own thinking.  He does think that how you have treated him (by stealing something from him) is wrong (a moral absolute).

If you sat down in front of that same person and rifled through his wallet (without asking permission, but without stealing anything from it), he would also likely object.  If you broke into his house and spent the afternoon watching movies from his bathtub, he’d probably feel the same way.  Clearly he does think that moral absolutes exist, and that you are violating them, regardless of how you feel about it.

What if an extremely poor child from Bangledesh broke into this same person’s house and watched movies from his bathtub all day long?  Would he feel differently about the ‘violation’?  He might feel more compassion toward the child, he might more readily forgive her.  But would the essence of a violation of a moral absolute still be there?

I’d suggest yes, because he couldn’t consistently live that way.  He might put up with it for a time.  However, he couldn’t stand you constantly stealing his orange, or rifling through his wallet every day without permission, or the Bangladeshi girl spending all of her time in his bathtub.  Eventually, he’d violate his claim and demand that it stop.  He would have to admit that, at least in this instance, there are moral absolutes.

Greg Koukl’s Tactics provides a wealth of information on how to take different positions for a “test-drive” to see if they make sense.   That’s essentially what I’ve illustrated in this post.  Greg compliments and expands on Francis Shaeffer’s thinking in The God Who Is There by showing how to logically deconstruct an argument to see if it makes sense.  I strongly recommend it to you and your children.

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