Since I started this blog on Business Ethics and the Book of Proverbs, I have always sought to point to the source for ethical principles. I believe that source is the Bible. Yet some may say, the Bible is just a book written by men, a collection of fairytales and fables, historically inaccurate and full of lies and half-truths. If that is indeed the case, then stop reading this blog now. If there is not a trustworthy, reliable source for ethical truths, then I apologize for wasting your time over the last 18 weeks. In other words, if there is no Absolute Truth, then who am I to offer anything regarding our responsibility to live more ethical lives? I would be a sham and a charlatan, a snake-oil salesman in the 21st century.
But, if there is Absolute Truth, then the principles of conduct and ethics have a solid foundation making them relevant for any society, not just a Christian society. Do you believe in Absolute Truth?
Karl Marx, the father of communism, believed that each society should create its own system of ethics based on its economic status and history, and then the current system of ethics (based on Absolute Truth) would soon give way to a new one where all morals and ethics are relative.
Humanist John Dewey, co-author and signer of the Humanist Manifesto I in 1933 declared, "There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or moral absolutes." Humanists believe one should do, as one feels is right. Everything, every moral, every law, every standard is relative in the humanist's world view. Yet a society with a code of ethics based on no moral absolutes would be a society ruled by anarchy.
Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Jesus established Himself and His teachings, the Bible itself, as Absolute Truth.
So there you have it, Marx, Dewey and Jesus. Two said truth is relative to your circumstances. One said He was and is the truth. Who would you rather believe? A relativist maintains that everyone should be able to believe and do whatever he wants. Of course, this view is emotionally satisfying, until that person comes home to find his house has been robbed, or someone seeks to hurt him, or someone cuts in front of him in line. No relativist will come home to find his house robbed and say, "Oh, how wonderful that the burglar was able to fulfill his view of reality by robbing my house. Who am I to impose my view of right and wrong on this wonderful burglar?" Quite the contrary, the relativist will feel violated just like anyone else.
The very document upon which this country was founded establishes the reality of Absolute Truth. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776.
I conclude that the answer to the question in the title of today's blog is "no", personal ethics are not relative, but are founded upon Absolute Truth. With that being said, I would like to share a concise description of an Ethical person from two verses in Proverbs.
Proverbs 19:22-23, "What is desired in a man is kindness, and a poor man is better than a liar. The fear of the Lord leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction. He will not be visited with evil."
- An ethical person is described as being kind. He strives to live by the Golden Rule, "whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them," (Matthew 7:12). Said another way, it simply states that we are to treat other people as we would wish to be treated ourselves. The golden rule is the ethic of reciprocity. Twenty one world religions have some version of the golden rule in their teachings. Being kind to others is based on Absolute Truth and describes the ethical person.
- An ethical person is known by their honesty. It is better to be honest and poor, than be rich and a liar. Your personal integrity is not to be taken for granted. Honesty builds trust.
- An ethical person recognizes Absolute Truth and has a respect for its Author. "Fear" in a Biblical sense means reverential respect. Regardless of your spiritual preferences or inclinations, living ethically shows your regard for Absolute Truth and respect for its Author. Said another way, morality is present in humanity. There is a sense of right and wrong in the heart of every person. Those who go deeper and profess faith in God are able to develop an even more personal relationship with Him.
- An ethical person is described as someone who is satisfied. There is a contentment and security that governs the life of person that lives honorably. Contentment is elusive to the person who has not truly recognized his responsibility to fill the spiritual vacuum in their life and insist on living their lives without personal faith in God.