Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Two Sermons from DesiringGod

A friend introduced me to a website with some nice sermons. One about Faith and Reason impressed me. It can be hard to talk about that topic well. That sermon is worth reading or listening to.

This friend was more interested in the sermon on Moral Relativism, which I thought was very weak.

The speaker spent a lot of time directly or indirectly criticizing moral relativism for being dysfunctional because it does not give guidance about how an individual or society should behave. But I know many intelligent people who ascribe to moral relativism but not cultural relativism. Empirical evidence clearly shows that individuals and societies function better with certain norms than others. Just because moral relativism does not suggest a set of better norms does not mean it is broken: like calculus or taxonomy it is a theoretical framework with a different purpose, and for which a critique that it fails to establish behavioral norms is a straw man argument.

Also, I've read too much that was better written about the flaws with moral relativism.

For example, C.S. Lewis has written very well about how sane people exhibit a universal built-in moral code, especially regarding how they expect to be treated, with major differences almost always stemming from weighting one virtue to an unhealthy degree (the Mafia exalting family loyalty until it excuses vices, a militant country exaggerating nationalism until it excuses belligerence, etc.) rather than from dismissing any of the universal virtues. Other famous essayists have other well-thought claims about how moral universals and absolutes do exist empirically and logically.

There is also a lot written about how not all moral systems are equally functional. Interesting essays abound regarding how Yeshua's weighting of the universal virtues is healthier for individuals and societies than the weighting seen in other systems. The Middle East is currently an easy theater for this: Jordan and Israel have visible more functional societies than their neighbors because of those two societies value virtues in a balance more similar to Yeshua's.

I've listened to a third sermon from that website (I realized I can listen to a sermon while playing World of Warcraft, but have since been too sick to want either) but it didn't inspire any comments. Maybe the fourth will.

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