In his farewell address to the nation, delivered September 19th, 1796, George Washington stated:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars.
Washington knew that religion was the source of our morality. He and the other founders understood the dangers of moral relativism, a philosophy that asserts there is no global, absolute moral truth, and that right and wrong are just personal opinion.
There is a rising tide of moral relativism in modern times as well. A 1994 poll by the Barna Group showed that seventy-two percent of Americans agreed that there is no such thing as “Absolute Truth.” Even more disconcerting is that 64 percent of born-again Christians agreed. Some sources claim that by 2002, that number had risen among born-again church youths to 91 percent.
Whatever the exact figure, we should understand that moral relativism is the characteristic spiritual disease of our time.
Another example of this philosophy in action can be seen in the 2007-2008 meltdown of the American financial and banking industry. Those who taught relative morality in their college philosophy and business ethics courses proceeded to live out those teachings on Wall Street and in other corporate avenues. They took risks, misrepresented the truth, and sought monetary gain. The outcome was devastating for those who were on the receiving end of their relative (and financial) morality.
Even those who believed in relative morality at that time were outraged and absolutely sure that those who engaged in deceptive business practices ought to be punished for their unethical moral behavior. This type of reaction speaks loudly to an important truth: deep down inside, almost everyone has a sense of absolute moral truth. C. S. Lewis put it like this in Mere Christianity:
A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.
Man, created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27), instinctively knows God’s moral law and what is right and wrong (Rom. 2:14-15). The Apostle Paul makes this clear in Romans 1 when he says that human beings, although they claimed to be wise, became fools and traded the truth for a lie.
It is not possible to espouse moral relativism and be a true Christian. God has revealed to us in Scripture his objective moral law, which he established for the well-being of his creation. Word comes the absolute truth that serves as the straight line by which all crooked lines can be corrected. Our lives should reflect that truth in everything we do.
Christians lose the ability to be salt and light when they bend to moral relativism in the workplace. They lose the opportunity God has given them to make a difference.
Christians must shoulder some of the responsibility for the increase in corruption and greed in today’s marketplace. Far too often in our vocations we have been physically present but absent spiritually and morally.