Does Christianity Depend on a Belief in Moral Absolutes?
Many theists also assume that their belief in God necessitates a belief in moral absolutes, or vice versa, and that those absolutes can be known absolutely. Yet a number of famous Christian saints have disagreed. Despite his own theistic beliefs, for example, Thomas Aquinas claimed that “human actions are good or bad according to their circumstances." Although practical moral principles are true and applicable most of the time, he went on to explain, they may not apply in certain situations.[i] Aquinas made such claims because he recognized, as he put it,
“That our understandings are so enslaved and so closely chained by our senses that they can apprehend nothing perfectly, and that their weakness is such that if they come to judge things which are certain in themselves, they shall become uncertain.”[ii]
Nor was Aquinas the only Christian “relativist,” as it were. So, for that matter, was St. Gregory of Nazianzum, who wrote:
“While we continue in this life, we only see the reason and design of the creation and created things through a cloud. So thick is the darkness which obscures our understanding, so great an obstacle is the weight of our bodies.”[iii]
We even find allusions to the relative nature of our morality in the Bible. In Eccles., viii 16, 17, Salomon says that “despite our labors and our sleepless nights in our attempts to know wisdom and truth, that tho the wise man shall pretend to have discovered it, yet shall he not be able to find it.” Ironically then, recognizing the limitations that necessarily accompany our human nature makes the atheist more like Christ than many a Christian.
Worse, however, is that such a "God" only ever demonstrates how being like God exempts you from being bound by the very morality He is said to have authored. To be called to be like God, therefore means being called to operate outside of such morality, which is why Jews, Christians, and Muslims have all engaged and theologically justified ideas of 'Holy War," despite what a clear oxymoron such a phrase is.
Of course ,the justification of Holy War is always in a self defensive posture, especially one that must defend souls from being lead astray through devilish deceptions designed to lure all souls to eternal damnation. As such, any immoral action can be defended as moral, no matter how evil it may look to mere human eyes, if that evil is thought to be absolutely necessary to save someones eternal soul. Every cruelty imaginable, in this sense, can always be cast as an act of kindness, when eternity is on the line.
By comparison, moral relativism has the advantage of being a belief system that, like an ecosystem, can evolve and is more self-sustaining. While one only works for as long as a belief in God is maintained, and starts to crumble with the encroachment of doubt, the other, by being independent of such beliefs, can be relied on to keep such beliefs in check.
In this way, the former is forever chained to a belief in an unobtainable ideal, while the latter is free to be an idea that is as alive and applicable as we are. It is the latter that forms the very basis upon which our laws rest by being a standard that is applied (at least in theory anyway) universally. This means such a morality is applied even to schizophrenics, who have very different ideas of empathy, and psychopaths, who have no empathy at all.
Like Einsteins E = mc 2, moral absolutes are only "absolute" in that they are relative, when the E equals the mc 2, when we do unto others as we would have other do unto us. Every other system is simply an invitation for those who seek the power of the Sanhedrin, those false prophets who duped their sheepish followers with the religious belief that morality, meaning, and eternal life though God's grace, love and forgiveness, could only ever be obtained by forcing people 'to serve the law ' that they controlled, and shaped as it suited them to do so.
And when Jesus pointed out that such a perspective only allowed the Pharisees and the Saducees to accrue ever more of the power and wealth they so unjustly enjoyed, much like the false prophets of America's prosperity gospel today, they killed him for it.
But by Christianity glorifying the murder of Christ, they sanctify the greatest human evil as the birth of their own beliefs. The paradox being, obviously enough, is that in this way, the cornerstone of Christian morality is simply the altar of human sacrifice. For Christians, this is only proof of the transformative power of God's love over the evil of murder through the resurrection. For everyone else, it only proves that the true miracle of religion is how it can be used to convince people that virtually any act of murder, or evil for that matter, can be a perfectly acceptable part of God's divine moral plan.