How Culture is Rejecting Biblical Morality & How to Refute It

by Cris D. Putnam
Biblical-Morality-SuppressedThis essay will address the ways the culture is challenging and rejecting God’s revealed understanding of moral right and wrong and suggest some useful counter arguments. Because God has revealed his moral standards in the pages of scripture, these are necessarily challenges to biblical morality. This suggests two principle areas of attack: 1) the Bible and 2) the existence of objective morality. The atheist denies biblical morality by definition but these assaults come from liberal Christians and other religions as well. While they are often used together, this essay will examine each line of attack, the way it is used and its problems. The denial of Gods’ revealed moral standards entails suppressing the truth and inevitably leads to logical or moral inconsistency (Rom 1:18-21).

The first challenge to biblical morality entails attacking the Bible. This assault assumes various forms and comes from liberal Christianity as well as from secularists. The most dangerous is the former because it often persuades new believers and confuses less knowledgeable conservatives. Challenges from scholars like Bart Ehrman focus on the text and argue that we cannot trust it to be accurate. If we do not have God’s words, we do not have his morals. Others argue that the Bible is culturally bound and not applicable to modern culture. This spans the gap from the egalitarians who seek to usurp biblical gender roles in order to promote female clergy to radical homosexual revisionists indulging in the most incredible eisegesis to assert that the Bible is silent concerning homosexuality. As noted by Francis Schaffer, the slippery slope argument validly applies because the former very often leads to the latter.[1]

Other nominal Christians dismiss the Bible as the deeply flawed product of an ancient patriarchal culture. Radical theologian John Shelby Spong epitomizes the wholesale dismissal of biblical morality by suggesting it promotes slavery and demeans women:

The Bible has been used for centuries by Christians as a weapon of control. To read it literally is to believe in a three-tiered universe, to condone slavery, to treat women as inferior creatures, to believe that sickness is caused by God’s punishment and that mental disease and epilepsy are caused by demonic possession. When someone tells me that they believe the Bible is the ‘literal and inerrant word of God,’ I always ask, ‘Have you ever read it?’[2]

This exemplifies a wholesale compromise with culture. Although he was an Episcopal Bishop it is hard to call him a Christian in any significant way. Truthfully, he is not that far from the atheists.

Atheists deny God’s morality by denying He exists. Still, they attack the Bible to support their position. Often this results in inconsistency. For instance, on one hand they will dismiss the historical narrative of the Bible as a Jewish legend while on the other hand they will use Joshua’s conquest as an example of genocide. In so doing they claim that if he does exist, God is a moral monster. Richard Dawkins has infamously argued:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.[3]

In like fashion, Dawkins’ cohort the deceased anti-theist Christopher Hitchens not only dismissed biblical morality but also leveled moral judgment against it in his best seller God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. The atheist not only rejects God’s moral standards he brands them evil. However, conceding the existence of evil falsifies the second line of attack. If evil exists objectively, then moral relativism has a problem.

The second major way biblical morals are rejected is by denying the existence of objective morality. Known as moral relativism, it rules out the possibility of a transcendent moral law revealed by God. On this view, morality is culturally defined and relative to a particular group. Thus, the majority decides what is morally virtuous and what is not. In effect, it amounts to “the mob rules.” Although it is immensely popular with secular humanists and liberals, history demonstrates that even its staunchest promoters cannot consistently live according to its tenets.

According to moral relativism, it is immoral for one group to judge another by its own standards.  In order to discourage the practice, relativists apply discouraging labels like ethnocentrism. Similarly, the term religiocentrism denotes the conviction that one’s religion is superior to others. Often these are paralleled to racism for emotional effect. They oppose biblical morality as a form of cultural imperialism by asserting that its objective moral truth claims are wrongful impositions. Although this absolute is smuggled in the back door, they ignore the inconsistency. Accordingly, they really do not live by their stated beliefs.

Relativists are only relativists when it suits them. From their stated beliefs, it follows that if the majority decides genocide or racism benefits the group then it should be deemed morally virtuous. Apart from an objective standard, there is no warrant to criticize atrocities like the holocaust. Yet, the Allies appealed to an objective standard and went to war against the Nazis. Furthermore, it turns great moral reformers like Martin Luther King into immoral rabble-rousers. King also appealed to a transcendent moral standard against the prevailing tide of the culture. A consistent relativist would have to reject his claims and support the racist consensus. Most liberals idealize King so this is a very effective defeater.

Extreme examples have a way of clarifying the issue. One might ask the relativist “Name a circumstance when killing children for fun is morally virtuous?” If they agree there is not one, then they have conceded a moral absolute. This demonstrates that given relativism there are no real moral values, merely opinions, like tastes in ice cream. Given relativism, one cannot consistently say “racism is wrong” or “discriminating against homosexuals is wrong.”  They can only say, “I don’t like it.” Relativism actually destroys morals. Moral relativism is an incoherent concept that all rational people should abandon. In truth, it amounts to moral nihilism.

The culture denies biblical moral standards by attacking the Bible or the notion that moral standards are objective. They might deny God exists, that he has spoken through scripture, or that scripture is reliably preserved. They might also question the existence of objective morality. In so doing, they run the risk of embracing moral anarchy. These points lead to the conclusion that the Apostle Paul was right in connecting the suppression of truth in unrighteousness with increasingly futile thinking and a seared conscience.


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[1] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway, 1984), 136.

[2] John Shelby Spong, “Q&A on the Bible as a weapon of control,” cited at (accessed October 23, 2013).

[3] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (Great Britain: Bantam Press, 2006), 31,

Thinking About Moral Relativism

Highly recommended reading on relativism

Is morality merely a matter of opinion? Many in our culture today believe that it is. They believe issues like same sex marriage and abortion are up to each individual to decide. Moral relativism is the view that when it comes to moral issues there are no universally objective answers on ethics, no inappropriate judgments, no rational means to make moral distinctions that apply every time, in all situations, for all people.[1]  Thus, morals are subjective opinions in the same way as someone’s taste in music, art or ice cream. A subjective truth claim makes the claimant the subject of the truth. For instance, if I say “I like butter pecan ice cream” the statement is about me not the ice cream. However, if I say “this ice cream has melted” then the ice cream is the subject. This second statement is an objective claim because it can be checked by anyone who examines the ice cream. Accordingly, if it is a runny mess then my claim is true, if it is still frozen my claim is false. Similarly, moral relativism is the position that morality is akin to taste in ice cream. But is this really the case? Aren’t there moral issues that seem genuinely objective?


I believe it is demonstrable that morality is objective, even if it is not always easy to discover. Obvious examples can be found in the extremes. Historical atrocities like the holocaust are universally believed to be truly evil. Child abuse and rape are universally believed to be immoral. If someone disagrees, we generally refer them to a mental health professional. C.S. Lewis is famous for observing that to understand that a line is crooked then we must have some sort of idea of what a straight line looks like. Thus, it follows that when we clearly see these things as evil, we are judging them against a similar standard of how things ought to be.  We do not invent this standard we discover it, just as we don’t invent mathematical or logical truths, we simply observe them.  Relativism denies the existence of these standards and argues that there is morally neutral ground, so we should not judge others.

Yet there is a profound incoherence in this foundational principle of the moral relativist. By saying we ought not to judge others they have imposed their own absolute moral rule. In fact, they are judging those who they perceive as judgmental, making them the worst sort of hypocrites.  Indeed, there is no morally neutral ground and moral relativism promotes intolerance of anyone who does not agree with it.  To elevate tolerance is in itself a moral ought. In fact, given relativism, there is no basis to complain about evil, fairness, justice or accuse others of wrongdoing. Relativism is ultimately contradictory and self-refuting. We do not each have our own individual moral truths; everyone instinctively recognizes a large body of moral standards. People begin with moral propositions.

The burden of proof is not on the person who holds to moral absolutes rather it is on the one who claims they do not exist. The proposition that “it is always wrong to torture innocent children for fun” needs no defense. In fact, anyone who disagrees is diagnosed a psychopath and we routinely lock such folks away in prison for life. If moral relativism were true, we would have no ground to stand on. We would be in the position to say, “While I disagree with torturing innocent children for fun, it may be fine for you.” But this is barbaric and against the foundational concepts of civilization. No one can really live this way, which explains the hypocrisy noted above. The best explanation for the objective morality that we instinctively observe is that the very fabric of reality was created by a rational moral agent.  As Christians, we argue that this agent is the God of the Bible and objective morality is a reflection of His holy nature.


[1] Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1998), 12.

What is Truth?

Is the Holy Spirit communicating to our post modern culture by arranging the manuscript evidence? I think so!

The oldest verified fragment of the New Testament is the John Ryland manuscript, dated at 100-135 AD. Quite curiously, it contains the famous discourse by Jesus and Pontius Pilate form John 18:37-38, “Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

Our culture asks, “does truth even exist?” Of course it does! The Bible claims to be the objective Word of God. Whether man understands it or not, whether he recognizes it or not, and whether he applies it to his life or not, it is still the Word of God. If you are an honest truth seeker I suggest that you set your presuppositions to the side. God reveals truth through the Bible.

Are there many ways to God?

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Mt 7:13-14)

Yes indeed we are narrow-minded as Christians when we say that Christ is the only way to God, but is not a matter of mere preference. We are as narrow as the Lord Jesus Christ. So while it would be nice for us to equivocate in order to win friends and influence people — Jesus has not left that option open to us.