A Semester as an Ethics Student: Truth in a Moral Relativist World

The fall semester is over, and what a journey it has been! Despite an extremely heavy workload, I have had such an enjoyable experience at the college this semester, from fun times with friends to interesting classes to the ways that God has showed up and moved in an unbelievable manner. It has been a blessing! Not only that, my faith has grown, and this growth is of course attributed to the ways God has worked on my heart and to daily personal time with Him, but also in other ways as well. One such way is my Contemporary Ethics class. 

It's unusual to take a college class and walk away with a strengthened faith, but this semester has been anything but usual, and I am so grateful that I decided to take this class despite the fears that accompanied me walking in. Ethics is ultimately a class about morality, and learning how to use modes of reasoning to back up a particular stance in a contemporary ethical issue. My fabulous professor covered a different ethical issue each week in class, after we read the text and wrote our essays backing up our stance on each issue. Of course having to write a paper pretty much every week usually meant me cramming to write it the night before/morning of, as my schedule was booked solid with papers, homework assignments, and tests on a weekly basis, but nonetheless, my writing skills grew, and my ability to reason and to reason well strengthened significantly. 

So, with that being said, I figured I'd share some things I've learned in this class that may just strengthen and grow your faith too!

1. I've learned that morality cannot be discussed without God, as God is the ultimate standard of morality.

At the beginning of the semester, we had to write a paper discussing our moral compass and worldview in the process of making moral decisions. Here's a portion of that paper, and what I have held onto when taking a stance on each ethical issue throughout the semester:

    In a world driven by constant change and independent thought, the standard of morality is too often considered temporary and subjective. People forget what they know to be true and turn to the idea that what is wrong for one person could be right for another, or vice versa. However, this idea of subjectivism is dangerous. My moral compass is rooted in the ways and character of Jesus Christ; without having a Biblical worldview, a true standard does not exist in evaluating whether a choice is morally right or wrong.
    Under this worldview, God created Heaven and earth, and mankind was formed in His image. There are moral laws that God commands for His people to obey, but due to the first sin of Adam and Eve, the world is now sin-filled and broken. No one is considered righteous in the sight of God through their own doing, because every single person has disobeyed His moral law at some point. Thus, Jesus left His high position in Heaven and humbled Himself, coming into this world as a human. He died the most horrible of deaths on the cross, not because He did anything wrong, but because He took the punishment that every other human deserves as a result of sin. Three days later, He rose again, declaring Himself the Son of God and defeating sin and death. Everyone can be forgiven and made righteous in the sight of God, but only through Jesus and what He has done.
    When facing a moral decision, many turn to their own version of what morality, or truth, is to them. But, truth doesn’t differ from person to person, but is one Person: Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The ultimate standard of morality, Jesus is the only One who has never done wrong. He is the only One who has ever walked this earth in holiness and who can completely obey God’s law. It is only through Him that God sees me as righteous and “morally good”. He is the standard of perfection. His righteousness covers my own unrighteousness.
    Therefore, my ethical decision making is dependent upon who Jesus is, and what God says is morally right. I am not considered “righteous” or “morally good” in God’s eyes by what I believe is morally right or wrong, or by my own works. Morality is not subjective; it is not up to me to decide what morality is, but it has already been determined through God’s law, which is found in the holy Word of God. So, I should seek to obey God’s law, even though I’m bound to disobey His commands; Jesus died for me so I could be forgiven when I do. Thus, in the face of making moral choices, I turn to the Bible, a reflection of the only standard of morality, Jesus Christ. I ask myself: “In this situation, what would honor the Lord and most imitate the character of Christ? What would Jesus do? What does the Bible say about this particular decision?”.

Ethical relativism has become the norm of this world. Truth is no longer absolute, and sin is justified because of the idea that "what is wrong for one person may be right for another". I've learned that the truth of morality can only be found in Jesus, and I've grown more on fire about standing up for truth in a moral relativist world!

2.  I've learned that ethical decisions are not always black and white. They involve searching the Scriptures, and seeking the heart of GOD. 

Some ethical issues and moral decisions are clearly black and white. It's easy to state in the case of abortion that taking the life of a baby in the womb is absolutely wrong, as even before the moment of conception, God has thoughtfully and carefully designed a plan for our lives, and surely considers each person a human who has value and who has a future filled with His amazing plans. However, issues like the practice of capital punishment were not so much a black and white matter. It's in these big ethical issues, along with the little moral decisions we must make on an everyday basis, that we must search the Scriptures and seek God and His heart and ways. It's not always black and white, as morality can get complicated. But we can view these moments of having to make a difficult decision as an opportunity to learn God's ways more fully and to seek Him to understand what He desires for our lives.

 3. I've learned why I believe what I believe, and the viewpoints of others.

This class has opened my mind to the sticky issues of morality and what others believe about certain ethical issues. It has allowed me to understand the viewpoints of others and to be able to fully support my reasoning for why I believe what I believe, and to be able to share that with others! It is so important to research, but not just research your side of an issue. Research it fully. If you're pro life, research the issue of abortion completely. Understand why you're pro life, and why others are pro choice. Examine the problem at large. And of course, this goes back to point 2, which involves searching the Scriptures and seeking the ways of God...again and again and again! We ended the class with an ethical topic of our choice, and as a shelter volunteer and animal lover, I ended up writing and presenting the issue of animal welfare/rights. Because of my research and studying of the Scriptures, my perspective of the idea of animal rights completely changed, and I continued to grow more passionate about the welfare and ethical treatment of animals. It's amazing what a little research can do!

It's a faith enriching process to be able to back up your beliefs, and to understand where others are coming from. I'm grateful to leave this semester with a greater understanding of many of the big ethical issues in our nation and world, to know why I believe what I believe, and to have grown in my knowledge of the Word, of my understanding of God, and in the thought processes of others.
If you're in college (or if they offer it in high school), take an ethics class. Regardless, research the ethical issues at large! This class has been a call to researching the ethical issues that pop up in my life or when advising others who are facing ethical decisions, and to be able to hold fast to knowing and sharing TRUTH in a moral relativist world.

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