Posts Tagged ‘moral relativism’

2 Samuel 16:5-14
Shimei Curses David

This passage today so easily could be transported today’s world. This problem is not limited to ancient Israel some 3,000 years ago. It is oh so timely. Today, our nation is Shimei and David. Since the elections of Obama and Trump, I have never seen our country so polarized. And, particularly, since Trump was elected and the fact that social media has become so firmly entrenched as part of our lives, we have seen this polarization reach new heights. Lack of journalistic integrity has come to be part of the American landscape.

There was once a time in our land that journalism was a science as well as an art. The news media had standards of proof that were self-imposed. Every claim made in an article in a newspaper or an investigative piece on television had to be corroborated. When we watch the movie, All The President’s Men, or even deeper, read the book by the same name, we see how difficult it was for Woodward and Bernstein to investigate and publish articles about what became “the Watergate scandal”. Sources making claims had to be corroborated from multiple sources before anything got published. It was the standard of journalism. Verify. Verify and then verify again. It was similar to what police detectives must do in their significant capital cases. They must investigate, verify, follow leads, and get to the truth. Accusations must be verified and verified again.

Today, we have social media posts where people of certain positions vilify their opposition with facts presented that are often not corroborated or only present a portion of the information. Political spin is the name of the game today. My version of the truth is what matters. The ends justify the means is what matters. Truth is no longer an absolute. Good news articles in years past would present all points of view on a subject and allow the reader to make their own judgments. Even if the journalist was pro one way or the other, they were required to present all views on a subject as simply the understood part of journalistic standards of behavior. With social media, it is only required that you have an opinion and good photoshop skills. And it is not just those who create social media viral feeds but it is us as consumers of social media that are to blame as well. We see and believe what we see on social media far too easily. We see what supports our opinion and take it as gospel. We see what is in opposition to our opinion and call it fake news.

We were once a nation where compromise was part of the political landscape. The very foundation of our country was a compromise. Just look at how our legislative body in was constructed. There were those states that were already becoming more populous than others so there was fear by the smaller (typically Southern) states that the larger states would impose their will upon the smaller states with impunity. Thus, the equal bodies of the Senate (with two representatives from each state regardless of size) and the House of Representatives (with the size of each state’s delegation dependent upon the population of each state). It was a compromise to ensure that the smaller populated states did not get trampled upon. Throughout American history, landmark legislation was often made through compromises among competing interests of the representatives and senators. Our nation became a great power through compromise – people getting some of what they want but not all, assigning priorities for the nation as to the order of things that were to be accomplished through the competition of needs in Congress, and so on. Although people back then were as passionate about their positions as people are today, they respected results as part of the American system.

The cries of “Not My President” that we hear today are simply not of the American spirit of compromise. We have become a nation that wants to quit the game if we do not get our way. Politics has become gridlocked because we cannot any longer fathom that someone can have a different opinion from us. We would rather shut the government down to prove a point that reach an understanding with our enemies. We think our truth is the only truth. It is a product of the culture in which we live today. Because we live in a relativistic society, truth is no longer absolute. My truth is my truth and I have a right to believe it. Conservatives and liberals vilify each other as being Satan’s children because we no longer see truth as absolute. We can only see the rightness of our position and do whatever it takes to support that position. Even if supporting that position includes creating news stories based on half-truths and distorted factual evidence. Truth is relative to my own needs. My truth is my truth and your truth is your truth. Truth is a possession of individuals now rather than something that is independent of us and owned by God. Rather than pray for our enemies, we would rather see them as completely out of touch with reality – my reality.

Responding to social media posts based on half-truth and distorted factual evidence is a losing game. We have become so relativistic in today’s world that we can no longer see another person’s point of view. Thus, social media arguments about the truth of a situation can go on ad nauseum because admitting that “hey you may have a point there” is no longer a value. Thus, descending into the fray of social media misinformation is a fruitless endeavor even though it may make your blood boil by what you see and read.

That is what I thought about this morning as I read through this passage, 2 Samuel 16:5-14. How this Shimei dude is like the world in which we live today. He was firmly convinced that what he was saying was true without even knowing the real facts nor caring what the real facts were. He simply did not like David because he was not Saul. So, in that way, he is very modern. He could fit right into our world today. Let’s read the passage now:

5 As King David came to Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. 6 He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. 7 “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. 8 “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!”

9 “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?” Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded. “Let me go over and cut off his head!”

10 “No!” the king said. “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah! If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?”

11 Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul[a] have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. 12 And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged[b] and will bless me because of these curses today.” 13 So David and his men continued down the road, and Shimei kept pace with them on a nearby hillside, cursing and throwing stones and dirt at David.

14 The king and all who were with him grew weary along the way, so they rested when they reached the Jordan River.[c]

In this passage, we see that Shimei kept up a steady tirade against David. Although his curses were unjustified because David had no part in Saul’s death, David and his followers tolerated the abuse. Maintaining composure in the face of unjustified criticism can be a trying experience and an emotional drain. However, if you can’t stop criticism, it best just to ignore it. Remember that God knows what you are enduring and He will vindicate you, if you are right.

What we need to be doing today is praying for our enemies and praying for the resurrection of absolute truth. We must pray that people will learn to admit when they are wrong. We must pray that we can admit when we are wrong. We must pray that we do not endanger the gospel message by descending into pointless arguments that cannot be won. We must pray that we discern what are the hills to die on. We must pray to have discernment as to whether it is personal pride that is offended or the gospel message that is offended before we respond to things. We must respond in ways that leave us opportunities to demonstrate the love of Jesus to others. Help us oh Lord, to pray en masse for the end of moral relativism and the return of our nation to a godly pursuit of God’s absolute truths and moral absolutes. Help us oh Lord to become a less polarized nation by dropping our dogged senses of pride. May we see truth as your ownership and that truth is independent of each of us and not something that WE own. Help us oh Lord to remember that we are here to please you and not honor ourselves and denigrate others. We are all here to give you glory and not ourselves.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 17:1-13
Micah’s Idols

One of the most famous lines from the Old Testament is Judges 17:6 which states, “In those days, Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” When you read that and if you are a student of the Bible, you go, “Yeah, man, those Israelites were really a screwed up bunch.” They generally became a more and more depraved people even though God had made them His own people. Today, we call the essence of Judges 17:6 moral relativism.

What is moral relativism? In moral debate in the United States today, many people resort to moral relativism. They argue that there are no objective moral values which help us to determine what is right or wrong. They claim “everything is relative.” In order to defend this position, the relativist puts forth two arguments: (1) Since people and cultures disagree about morality, there are no objective moral values; (2) Moral relativism leads to tolerance of practices we may find different or odd and celebrate that the person has to beliefs. In moral relativism that are not universal truths, no moral absolutes. In moral relativism you can be both a claimed affirmer of life but yet support abortion. We can claim to be anti-slavery but yet we treat our unborn fetuses as if they are our own property to do with whatever we please. We can support gay rights and transgenderism but fail to give a beating but as yet unborn life as if the fetus has no rights. Doing what we feel is right and justifying it as OK is the essence of today’s culture.

The problem for the moral relativist (who is often a secular humanist who rejects God) is they have no good answer to the two-part question: Is there anything wrong with anything, and why? A proper answer to the question necessitates that an individual have: (1) an unchanging standard they can turn to, and (2) an absolute authority that has the right to impose moral obligation. Absent these two things, and morals or ethics simply become personal preferences rather than universal absolutes. Rape, for example, could never be deemed wrong; the strongest statement that could be made about rape would be, “I don’t like it.” Abortion is a choice because turning a life into property which I can dispose of as I please cannot be wrong if there is no moral standard to measure it against. If we do away with God, anything is fair game and everything is relative. Is there anything wrong with nothing being wrong? Our culture now celebrates its so called enlightened freedom from Christianity. We celebrate that the old moral standards that governed our nation up through the 1950s are no longer valid for society. We are now free to be identify today what I want to be – a man or a woman. We celebrate alternative sexual lifestyles as a freedom of personal expression. We celebrate a woman’s right to choose to treat a beating heart as a piece of property to be tossed away like yesterday’s leftovers. We celebrate that we have freed ourselves from conformity to mutually accepted social norms. We now celebrate and protect fringe behaviors as a right that must preserved even at the expense of the prevailing desires of the general society. We even vilify those who pushback against elevating the rights of a few over the rights of the many.

This is the world in which we live and how little it is different from the world described in Judges 17:6 in this passage of Judges 17:1-13. Right smack in the middle of the passage is the crux of the problem of the people of Israel and so it is with us today. We have effectively in the 21st century wrestled control of our lives from God. We are now our own gods. We decide that which is right and that which is illusion (sorry…that Moody Blues reference just jumped onto the page). We decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. I can decide today that I can ignore hard coded and obvious genetics to say that I identify at least for today that I am a woman when it is naturally and anatomically obvious that I am a man. This is the height of today’s self expression. When we say an elephant is a zebra and everyone supports your right to believe an elephant is a zebra then we can begin deluding ourselves as to what is right and what is true. When we start calling things to say that they are when they are not, we begin to accept lies as truth. Thus, then truth becomes what I perceive it to be. The inevitable conclusion for all this moral relativism will be that there will be no rule of law because there will be, eventually, no universally accepted moral standards. Laws are based on moral standards with everyone determining for themselves and even having the courts defend that it is right for my rights to be held in the highest of esteem even at the cost of problems in society, there will be a decay of law. There will be a decay of knowing or even caring what is right and wrong. Courts are already on their way there. Courts no longer weigh the rights of the few against the rights of the many – what is best for society as a whole. Courts now see individual rights as sacrosanct and what is right and good for society must take a back seat to the rights of individuals. Therefore, when we make the individual the locus of morality at all cost, we are destined to lose any corporate sense of what is right and wrong. I am my own god. I determine what is right for me. It’s been tried, folks, right here in the history of God’s people. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

Let’s think about Israel’s desire to pursue individual self-interest at the cost of the good of society and at the cost of their relationship with the Creator God as we read this passage:

17 There was a man named Micah, who lived in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 One day he said to his mother, “I heard you place a curse on the person who stole 1,100 pieces[a] of silver from you. Well, I have the money. I was the one who took it.”

“The Lord bless you for admitting it,” his mother replied. 3 He returned the money to her, and she said, “I now dedicate these silver coins to the Lord. In honor of my son, I will have an image carved and an idol cast.”

4 So when he returned the money to his mother, she took 200 silver coins and gave them to a silversmith, who made them into an image and an idol. And these were placed in Micah’s house. 5 Micah set up a shrine for the idol, and he made a sacred ephod and some household idols. Then he installed one of his sons as his personal priest.

6 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

7 One day a young Levite, who had been living in Bethlehem in Judah, arrived in that area. 8 He had left Bethlehem in search of another place to live, and as he traveled, he came to the hill country of Ephraim. He happened to stop at Micah’s house as he was traveling through. 9 “Where are you from?” Micah asked him.

He replied, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am looking for a place to live.”

10 “Stay here with me,” Micah said, “and you can be a father and priest to me. I will give you ten pieces of silver[b] a year, plus a change of clothes and your food.” 11 The Levite agreed to this, and the young man became like one of Micah’s sons.

12 So Micah installed the Levite as his personal priest, and he lived in Micah’s house. 13 “I know the Lord will bless me now,” Micah said, “because I have a Levite serving as my priest.”

Here, in this passage, we see that Micah and his mother seemed to be good and moral people and may have desired to worship God, but they disobeyed God by following their own desires instead of doing what God wanted. The attitude that prevailed in Micah’s day was this” “The people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (17:6). How remarkably similar is that attitude to today’s world. However, God has given us standards. He has not left our conduct up to us and our opinions. We can avoid conforming to the standards of our day by taking God’s commands seriously and applying them to our daily lives. Independence and self-reliance are positive traits but only when such traits are displayed within the framework of God’s standards.

Today, as in Micah’s day, everyone seemed to put self-interest first. Time has not changed human nature. Most people still reject God’s right way of living. The people of Micah’s time replaced true worship of God with a homemade version of idol worship. As a result, God’s unchanging, equally applied justice was replaced with chaos. Ignoring God’s standards for living led to confusion and destruction. Morality was on a sliding scale. People who do not live by God’s standards will end up doing whatever seems most expedient to support their own self-interest at any given time. This tendency is present in all of us. God’s Word provides us with the consistent and universal truths by which we should govern our lives. It is the way by which we can tell the difference between right and wrong.

In the end, the moral relativist has no satisfying answer in his attempt to respond to the question, “Is there anything wrong with anything, and why?” There is no standard to turn to and no authority to recognize and respect. In contrast to the moral relativist whose worldview is secular humanism, the Christian worldview provides a solid standard and authority that can be confidently referenced and followed. The Creator God, Who has revealed Himself in His Word is both the standard and authority for morals. From God’s nature comes pure good that serves as the straight line by which all crooked lines can be measured.

God’s image has been impressed upon humanity (Genesis 1:26-27) so that human beings instinctively know God’s moral law and what is right and wrong (Romans 2:14-15). People don’t have to believe in God to know His moral law, but in denying Him, they lose the ability to ground an objective moral law. It is then that we descend into the chaos of calling an elephant a zebra and defending my right to call it a zebra. It is then that everything is fair game and there is nothing to cling to as universal truth. Nothing to compare behaviors against. Nothingness. Everything is OK and nothing is the result. There is no meaning to life. There is no greater good only what I perceive. There is no God. I am my own god. There is no heaven and there is no hell. There is no need for it because nothing can be said to be wrong. We are elephants believing that we are zebras.

The funny thing is…is that one day when our individual deaths occur and/or when Jesus returns, we will learn that there will be no moral ambiguities. We will realize that God really does exist. That there are actual moral absolutes and they we had deluded ourselves by thinking we were zebras when the reality, the universal and unmistakable truth is that we were elephants all along.

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 22:1-20

Balak Sends for Balaam

All roads lead to heaven. Your beliefs work for you and that’s alright with me as long as your beliefs don’t infringe on what I believe. Believe in Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, they are all the same. As long as you believe in something! This is the way we talk today. We combine the belief systems of all religions. You see it everywhere. We don’t talk about God anymore. We talk about the universe. The universe is god. We pride ourselves in being tolerant of all belief systems. The cry of tolerance echoes through the land. As John Funk said in his article, The Religion of Tolerance,

 

“Tolerance has become a very powerful word in the common vernacular and the idea it conveys is that society will grant each individual the opportunity to experience life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without the burdens imposed by bias, discrimination or societal condemnation.  It is believed, or at least propagated, that the lifting of these barriers to personal development will result in the advancement of mankind not just on a personal level but also on a societal level.  Without the artificial guidelines imposed by intolerance, people will be healthier and happier.  At least that is what we are told is the truth.”

 

What we have is a society where anything and everything goes. There are no moral absolutes and everything is relative. This campaign of secular relativism has been successful. What I do is good for me and you have no right to tell me what I am doing is wrong. What were once considered sinful behaviors are now loosed to operate out in the open and to be glorified as us finally getting to the point of human development where everybody can be what they want to be. We pick and choose from the Bible what we want to believe. We pick and choose from the Koran what we want to believe. We blend in eastern mysticism and Hinduism. We throw in a dash of Buddhism and we have the world we want to live in. We now live in an age where we believe in ourselves and use bits and pieces of religions to support our take on life. We mix and match religious thought to suit our needs just like a woman standing in her closet deciding what killer outfit she wants to wear today. In the name of tolerance, anything goes and there is nothing out of bounds. If anyone stands against this tide, they are considered old fashion, bigoted, and Archie Bunker dinosaurs in the high-tech age.

 

We have made ourselves god and we determine what is right and what is wrong not some external force. We decide on what is acceptable and what is not. We do that on an individual basis now. Therefore, what is good for me is good for me and leave me alone about it. I don’t judge you and you don’t judge me. It all sounds really good does it not? I determine what’s right for me in the privacy of my video game, computer-assisted world. As long as I don’t hurt you then we’re OK, right? And vice versa? That means as long as I don’t infringe upon your rights to express yourself, I can believe as I choose and I define what is acceptable and what is not. As well, as long as I do no harm to the people and the world around me and do more good than bad, I will go to whatever is my reward in the post-earthly existence. We don’t want to call it heaven or nirvana because that might offend. So, we go to some higher positive existence after death when we have been more good than bad. There is no hell because that would be judgmental. All of us go to his positive energy afterlife. Hell is old-fashioned (and even we Christ followers shun away from preaching it or discussing it) because it means that some of us did more bad than good and we just cannot believe that in our modern age of tolerance. How can a person who means no harm by their actions be condemned to a place of eternal pain? We want a more neat and tidy world. Reincarnation is appealing in this sense because it provides some sort of universally guided, impersonal justice system where our next life is governed by how much more good than bad we did or vice versa. There is no permanent justice in our belief systems of today.

 

It was this thought of mixing and matching belief systems, dabbing in divination and God at the same time, the ancient Middle Eastern version of today’s world that came to mind when I read today’s passage, Numbers 22:1-20. Let’s read it together now:

 

22 Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.

 

2 Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, 3 and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.

 

4 The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.”

 

So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, 5 sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River, in his native land. Balak said:

 

“A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. 6 Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”

 

7 The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.

 

8 “Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will report back to you with the answer the Lord gives me.” So the Moabite officials stayed with him.

 

9 God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?”

 

10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: 11 ‘A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.’”

 

12 But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”

 

13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”

 

14 So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

 

15 Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 16 They came to Balaam and said:

 

“This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.”

 

18 But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God. 19 Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.”

 

20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

 

There is enough negative press for Balaam within the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 23 and Joshua 13) to know that Balaam, though seen almost in a positive light here, comes to a just end. Even the New Testament speaks negatively of Balaam (see 2 Peter 2, Jude 1). Here, he is almost seen positively, but he is seeking self-gain in all of it. He is doing what is best for Balaam. He is mixing and matching belief systems to suit himself. Sound familiar? Balaam reminds me of the world we live in now. Balaam wants a little of the Jewish God and little bit of his beliefs in divination. Whatever will work out best for his desires! It reminds of that classic line from Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby says, “Help me Jesus! Help me Jewish God! Help me Allah! AAAAAHHH! Help me Tom Cruise! Tom Cruise, use your witchcraft on me to get the fire off me!”

 

That is the world we live in now. Balaam would fit right in. Mixing and matching to suit ourselves. Believing in whatever is most advantageous to our desires. Morality on a sliding scale of today would suit Balaam just fine. It is all just Satan lying to us. More good than bad and go to heaven or whatever your perfect afterlife may be called. It sounds appealing. It is appealing. It takes all the pressure off. Without moral absolutes, I can rationalize away my transgressions against universal good and minimize them while I glorify my self-righteous nature. We control and barter out the value of our transgressions against an impersonal universe, the universe god, that is simply an impersonal ledger of rights and wrongs. We negotiate away our bad deeds through justifications and explanations. Sounds like us today, right?

 

The New Age amalgamation of beliefs plays right into Satan’s hands. We are drawn away from God to believing in ourselves. There is ample evidence that man is sinful and when left to his own devices that we will spiral out of control. We are sinners, plain and simple and there is no amount of extra good that we can do to replace our innate badness. As CARM.org says,

 

“The Bible has much to say about the nature of man, the world, purpose, truth, morality, etc., and so does the world. More often than not, the secular world view is in conflict with the biblical one.  For example: Where the world asserts that man evolved, the Bible says he was created and ultimately responsible to God.  Where the world says that morals are relative, the Bible says they are absolute.  Where the world says that there is no need of salvation and redemption, the Bible clearly states that all people are in need of deliverance from their sin.  The contrast is obvious and profound.  Both cannot be true.”

 

The truth is that there is a God. He is holy, perfect and pure. He reigns over the universe He created. He created the laws that govern how the universe works and He created the Laws of our we should live in relation to Him and one another. He requires perfect holiness for us to abide in His presence forever in heaven. We, however and realistically, have failed to keep his commands because we cannot by nature be holy 100% of the time for our entire lives. That is what is required, 100% holiness all the time for a lifetime. We are incapable of that. We are sinners. When we commit our very first sin, whether it be in thought or deed, we are immediately disqualified from heaven. Done. That’s it. It’s over. Not to mention the lifetime of unholy thoughts and acts of sin that we commit daily each and every day of our lives. We are done. We are condemned to hell by our own sins. We are not perfect and never can be. We need an intervention if we can even remotely think of going to heaven. We need the perfection of Jesus Christ. Jesus reconciles us to the Father through His perfect, sinless life which was sacrificed on our behalf. God poured out his wrath against sin, all sin of all time, against Jesus on that cross that day. It is up to us to have the faith to believe that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and that His sacrifice on the cross was for our sins. He paid the price for the sure judgment that is to come for our sins in the absence of our belief in Jesus Christ. That is the truth that is eternal and not subject to moral relativism. This truth will stand regardless of how much man tries to discount it and put himself in charge of his own destiny.

 

There will be a reconciliation of all this moral relativism when the earth’s history is drawn to a close by its Creator. Are you willing to be blinded by secularism and get it wrong when that day comes? Are you willing to bet your eternity on it? Regardless of our current moral relativism, the truth of God has stood for eternity. Are you saying that it’s all wrong now? What has been universally true for eternity is now false and the product of a non-reasoned mind? Wow. We will find out at our own deaths or when Jesus returns whether we believed in mystery and you all of a sudden have a hold on the truth? I think I will take my chances with the truths of the Bible and my belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for my sins and who arose from the dead to give me evidence of a hope and future.

 

Amen and Amen.