The Contradiction of Moral Relativism, Postmodernism, and The New Absolutes

By Brannon S. Howse

People of faith are often attacked for their belief in absolutes which we desire to see maintained in our nation’s schools, legal system, and public policy. Strangely, though, while attackers make their claims under the banner of tolerance and moral relativism, they are at the same time trying to force their “new absolutes” on everyone.

In a review of William Watkins’ book The New Absolutes, Rick Wade explains how the new absolutes compete with the old:

[quote] Though these new beliefs might not be “absolutes” in a strict, philosophical sense, they function as absolutes in contemporary society. According to Watkins, the old absolute was: “Human life from conception to natural death is sacred and worthy of protection.” The new absolute is: “Human life, which begins and ends when certain individuals or groups decide it does, is valuable as long as it is wanted.”

Two issues that bring this new belief to the fore are abortion and physician-assisted suicide. Few practices are as fiercely opposed or defended as abortion. Opponents say abortion is morally wrong for all people. Proponents say it is a matter of individual choice. Physician-assisted suicide draws similar responses...they think of it as a right not to be tampered with. It is rooted, they say, in a Constitutional “right to privacy.” 

In claiming this right, however, any foundation in relativistic thinking must be abandoned. For the very “right” proponents claim is itself an absolute. They think the right of individuals to decide for themselves should be observed by everyone else. When they say it is wrong for pro-lifers to try to press their beliefs on others, they are stating an absolute. If they say that the value of human life is a matter of its quality rather than of intrinsic worth, they are stating another absolute. [end quote]


Wade also explains the impact of these new absolutes on religious freedom in America: 

[quote] It used to be held that “religion is the backbone of American culture, providing the moral and spiritual light needed for public and private life.” Now, according to Watkins, we have a new absolute: “Religion is the bane of public life, so for the public good it should be banned from the public square. [end quote] 


One significant reason this has happened is a popular, gross misconstruing of the First Amendment. Countless legal and media sources repeat ad nauseum that the separation of church and state prohibits the government from any involvement with religious matters. Public policy, we hear, should be kept separate from “religious matters.” 

The hypocrisy of the new absolutism is seen most clearly in “political correctness.” To be politically correct is to be in line with certain ideals—abortion rights, multiculturalism, feminism, homosexual rights. To say or do anything which goes against these is politically incorrect. And thinking that way, PC proponents believe, is absolutely wrong. 

Consider, too, the logical problem with saying there are no absolutes. The statement “there are no absolutes” is itself a statement of an absolute truth. But if a statement claiming that there are no absolutes is true, then the statement itself can’t be true. That is a logical impossibility. There simply is no way to conclude we live in a world of no absolutes. 

Liberal arguments are rife with statements that contradict their assertion of moral relativism. To discern the convolutions, you need only to listen to what they are saying. When you catch one, use it as an opportunity to help the person examine the faulty foundation on which the non-absolute, “tolerant” worldview is built. 


Tolerance advocates seem to have found the one absolute truth they are willing to live by: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” The statement has become the great cry for open-mindedness when anyone has the courage to declare that someone else’s belief, actions or lifestyle is morally amiss.

Another form of the same non-judgmental judgment is “that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”  The logic behind the statement goes something like this: “Your truth is your truth, and my truth is my truth. We are both right, and I hold to my opinion of truth.” This is like saying two chairs can occupy the same space around the dining room table at the same time, but it doesn’t work. 

Postmodernism’s anti-rational concept of truth argues that even two opposite and wholly contradictory claims can both be true. Again, to draw a simple analogy: It’s like saying black and white are the same color. But this is the absurdity of postmodernism. Yet it is often blithely accepted as the fundamental principle by which we should respond to each other’s ideas. In his book, True for You, But Not for Me, Paul Copan expands on the fallacy in this all-too-common thinking:


[quote] It has been said that the most frequently quoted Bible verse is no longer John 3:16 but Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” We cannot glibly quote this, though, without understanding what Jesus meant. When Jesus condemned judging, he wasn’t at all implying we should never make judgments about anyone. After all, a few verses later, Jesus himself calls certain people “pigs” and “dogs” (Matt 7:60) and “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (7:15).…What Jesus condemns is a critical and judgmental spirit, an unholy sense of superiority. Jesus commanded us to examine ourselves first for the problems we so easily see in others. Only then can we help remove the speck in another’s eye—which, incidentally, assumes that a problem exists and must be confronted. [end quote] 


If Americans don’t start to judge and punish evil instead of accepting all ideas and beliefs as equal, we will become a nation that welcomes same-sex marriage, polygamy, pedophilia, incest, euthanasia, and likely a host of moral aberrations. I believe, though, that Americans had better start getting comfortable with politically incorrect, non-humanistic forms of making intelligent judgments on moral issues because God will hold us accountable for what we allow. 

Copyright 2006 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative. Banner