Moral UniversalismFebruary 19, 2015
Sunday lunch continues to be an extraordinary opportunity for the intersection of unrushed conversation and table fellowship where Christ is made known in the breaking of bread. This past Sunday was no exception. Having launched into and been thoroughly engaged by a new class on the cultivation of a Christian worldview, we invited our teacher to lunch. The table conversation was the kind I imagine people had centuries ago when time was plentiful, relationships matters and distractions were few.
We talked about many things but one of the subjects was the prevalence of moral universalism in American leadership. Moral universalism is the idea that there are certain moral categories which exist throughout the world and which provide an adequate moral code but which have no basis in a personal God. A person with a moral universalistic worldview might say, “Well everyone knows that’s wrong.” The fact that they are unable to articulate any basis for right and wrong is irrelevant to them. Their epistemology does not require that “knowing” be based in anything, or anyone, beyond their own awareness.
Moral universalism is writ large in such documents as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also happens to be the compass of our current President.
In his Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, he said:
“And when all of us, together, are doing our part to reject the narratives of violent extremists, when all of us are doing our part to be very clear about the fact that there are certain universal precepts and values that need to be respected in this interconnected world, that’s the beginnings of a partnership.”
What are the narratives that need to be rejected? Might any and all narratives that are “exclusive” or exclusionary be considered extremist? What if a narrative includes the convictional belief that if you do not believe and follow the particular individual at the center of the story then you will be cut off from real life now and eternal life forevermore? Must that narrative be rejected? You see where I fear this is headed.
A system of thought, a plan for global peace, a moral code constructed on the kinds of “universal precepts” espoused by the President is on shaky ground. The only firm foundation for an integrated worldview that leads to governance based on the rule of law (and not a tyrannical ruler or elitist class) is the Logos, the Word: eternal, unchanging, all sufficient, living, active, knowable, personal, objective, True.
The attempt to derive law without a Lawgiver is futile because in the end, each human act is personal. In a world run amok where God is rejected and the accumulation of matter is all that matters, then Darwin’s observations hold: the strongest, meanest, most selfish individuals and systems prevail.
Of equal hubris is the attempt to reconcile warring sinful people without a change of heart and mind that leads to a consistent pattern of peace governed not by external law or force but by the inward presence of the peace that passes all understanding which flows from the One whom alone is the Prince of Peace.