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November 02, 2006



I believe that there are moral absolutes; I also agree with you that there are always going to be exceptions to them. The examples you cite, "Is it wrong to disobey your parents (or any other authority) if they are trying to make you do something wrong? Was it wrong when slaves in the U.S. refused to obey their masters anymore? ", illustrate that very well.

The moral absolute "lying is wrong" is superseded if you tell a criminal you don't know the combination to a safe so they can't steal the contents. Your lie has served a purpose for good by thwarting evil.


But I don't think you can call it an absolute then.


Make it stop!!


Its the old " does the end justify the means".


Hi Bill.

I found your blog the other day during a totally unrelated search. I have really enjoyed what I have seen so far - especially your posts on fundamentalism and how we should view the bible. In fact your blog has inspired me to start writing more theologically relevant postings on my own blog.

I myself am a theology student from New Zealand - currently in my third year of study. I can see where you are coming from most of the time, and can identify with some of the reactions that you get from my own experience of attempting to take some of my studies into the everyday Church. (Especially your post about the tension between sources of revelation - tradition, scripture, experience, reason etc.)

Anyway, thanks heaps for the inspiration and keep up the good work! :-)


How about sin is always wrong? Not giving glory to God is always wrong? I get where you are going with the lying thing, and I understand. I would still agrue that there are moral absolutes.


Saying that sin is always wrong is like saying wrong is always wrong.

I think your example of glorifying God is an important one to think about. Using the graded approach mentioned above, we can say that loving or glorifying God is the highest good. What does this involve, though? It surely involves our specific acts of worship. It seems to me, however, that it also involves loving others or the created world around us.

So what does it mean to not glorify God? Is it wrong to love others without the intent of glorifying God? Or does our act of loving a neighbor by it's very nature glorify Him?

Sorry if this is sounding nitpicky, but what about non-moral actions? If I eat my english muffin without glorifying God am I sinning?

The problem with many so-called absolutes is that they become slippery when we try to define them. We may know that it is wrong to not glorify God, but it's not so easy to define what exactly constitutes a violation of this principle.

Perhaps we could say this: It is always wrong to intentionally not glorify God. That seems more like an absolute to me.


I agree that sin is wrong by definition. It seems that in your example you could lie without sinning. The Bible suggests that we can be angry and sin not - - I sure don't have a handle on this one yet.

How about pride? I'm not talking about respect for your work or health confidence, but pride - - the same sort I struggle with each day - - that is wrong.


As I said before (maybe just to Bill), I think God sees everything in absolutes, or at least I think he must if he has the omni-characteristics that we attribute to him. But I don't think we, as finite beings, are able to discern moral absolutes. And actually, as I was thinking about this in class today (because that's what I do in class), I was wondering whether the statement about God that I made above is really the same thing as saying that there are moral "absolutes" in the way that we are talking about it. In other words, God can know that what I am doing at any given time is wrong absolutely, no matter what (because he knows all of the "matter whats"). But that's not the same kind of absolute as saying that "lying is always wrong".
Also, Tom's post got me thinking. There is no hierarchy of the ten commandments, right? At least I don't think there is. So what happens when they conflict? For instance, using Tom's example, we are told explicitly to honor our father and mother. But are there any situations in which that could conflict with another commandment?


I've been thinking about this a lot today. Suppose we can't define what is an absolute? Maybe only God can do that. We are bound by what we can see, feel, or imagine. But we can't conceive of every possibility when we say "lying is wrong" or "murder is wrong" or whatever. Someone will always find a circumstance to justify doing something against the absolute.

But, as Adam posted earlier, God sees everything in absolutes.I agree with that premise. He is the ultimate Absolute, All-knowing and all-powerful and the absolute judge of all. He knows if our thoughts or actions are righteous or not. Whether we agree on something being absolutely right or wrong, good or evil, is irrelevant to what God thinks.

I don't think we can truly quantify what constitutes an absolute because we are only human. It's in our nature to vacillate and change our position on things. The concept of an absolute is so difficult to grasp because it is foreign to our innate human-ness. At least that's how it seems to me.


Bill, Your questions don't sound nitpicky at all. I will respond with my OPINION that I think is grounded in Scripture. I think if we eat our english muffins without thankfulness in our heart, we take God's provision for granted and that is sin, sin that I engage in regularly. As far as love goes, that would depend on how one defines love. I think if we love our neighbors without the intent of making much of Jesus in their lives and drawing them to Him, we are being kind and nice and sweet, but failing to give God glory due Him and therefore in sin, again, that I engage in a lot. Finally, Adam, I think there is a hierarchy in the 10 commandments in that we can break #1 without breaking the others, but we cannot break the others without breaking number 1, in that when we break them we put ourselves in the place of Godand, therefore before Him. Peace.



I don't know if I can agree with you about this matter of intent. I don't think we're expected to go about our day with the glory of God in mind with each action. I don't think he expects me to have his glory in mind when I flush the toilet or brush my teeth or climb stairs.

I think anything could be done for the glory of God, but that doesn't mean we always have that objective in mind. Did you ever see that old Saturday Night Live skit where the people are constantly talking to Jesus about each and every thing they do? I don't think that's what our lives were meant to be like.

Having said that, I'm sure we could all benefit from being more mindful of our relationship with God throughout the day.


I agree Bill, I was simply speaking about the examples you mentioned. I agree with the principle you are speaking of. I think the specific examples you listed though are examples of how I, at least sin in taking God for granted.



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