Why are you so afraid of subjective moral reasoning?


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

This is another one of the most popular videos on the RZIM youtube page:

The questioner asks, “Why are you so afraid of subjective moral reasoning?” He illustrates his point: “China is secular. They’re not raping or pillaging, and neither are we.”

Some notes from the video:
Ravi starts by asking, “Do you lock your door at night?” The questioner laughs and says, “Yea. Sure.”

  • I hear what you’re saying. It sounds very cavalier though.
  • Do you know who has killed more people in the 20th century than China and Russia? 60 million apiece. Wow. It makes the Holocaust seem tame. The 20th century became the bloodiest century in history. And the reason it became the bloodiest century in history is you can see the weapons of our warfare piling up and there was no guiding principle to take us anywhere.
  • In a perfect world, we don’t need to be afraid.
  • I don’t think the question is fairly stated as what are you afraid of, I am just saying it is basically unliveable.
  • The fact of the matter is if morality is purely subjective than you have absolutely nothing for stopping anybody for being a subjective moralist, to just zing one through your forehead and say, ‘that’s my answer.’
  • If you’re willing to say to me that moral reasoning can be purely subjective, I just say to you, ‘look out, you ain’t see nothing yet if everybody believed what you did.’
  • Subjective morality would be good if we all wanted to be nice people…But the reason you lock your doors, and the reason we have our police, and military, and law courts, is because when subjective morality becomes totally subjectivized, this [mass killings in societies like the former Soviet Union] is what happens in our society.


  1. Why do you think this video is so popular?
  2. What do you see as the appeal of subjective moral reasoning?
  3. What are some creative and interesting ways that you have persuaded people they need to find an absolute basis for morality?

(Kelly) #2

In one discussion I had with an atheist, they told me that an event was needed where mankind would be “forced” to change and become better people. This would then bring in an opportunity for creating the perfect world government because people would now be ready. I asked why events in the past had not produced that result.

(Carson Weitnauer) #3

Hi Kelly,

It is so interesting that an atheist would feel that a radical event is needed to change humanity for the better. I see so many points of connection and agreement.

For instance, it demonstrates a conviction that:

  1. Humanity is in need of transformation - we are not who we ought to be
  2. Transformation will need to come from outside of ourselves - we cannot become good on our own internal capacities
  3. We hope for a perfect world government where people are ready to do what is right.

In so many ways, this is the Christian story. The major and very revealing difference is the means of that transformation.

Your friend has proposed a forcible change, mandated by elites with the power to transform mankind, in order to pave the way for utopia. We’ve seen these experiments before. The Holocaust in Germany, the Russian revolution, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution in China - they have not gone well.

Contrast this with how Jesus solves this problem: through sacrificial love of his enemies. I think Romans 5 would be a great passage to read to your friend and ask them for their thoughts. Not even if they think it is true - but just if it is beautiful or inspiring. Two parts in particular stand out to me:

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Forcible implementation of a better world tends to lead to lies, persecution, and ultimately death of those who will not be ‘improved.’ But self-sacrificial love has a completely different power and goodness to it. And it is by placing our faith in Christ that we receive this desire and capacity as a gift. Our hearts are inwardly renewed so that we want to love those who treat us badly. Praise be to God!