Do "Right" and "Wrong" exist objectively?
The Importance of Right Conclusions
When a person asks, sometimes restraining anger, "Who is to say if (a certain behaviour) is right or wrong - or if "right" and "wrong" even exists?" I sometimes wonder if they mean, "Who are you to say that my view or behaviour is wrong?" No one likes to be confronted with that possibility.
Often this scenario arises when the subjectof debate relates to 'hot buttons' - for example abortion, the nature of marriage, the "right" to make my own more decisions .
Even more offensive in the context of post-modernity's general reluctance to make moral distinctions (rooted in it's broader rejection of philosophical or moral absolutes) is the concept of consequence.
Yet the thought of human trafficking, child labour, or the realization that prototypes of Hitler's death camps were developed by Kaiser Wilhelm II in Africa prior to World War I1 cause sane humans to shudder and rankle. Why? The world cannot actually live with the moral schizophrenia of 1.) a rejection of personal moral absolutes in the 'micro' and 2.) the demand for justice from governments, corporations and history in the 'macro.' The fact is that good and evil, right and wrong, remain powerfully evident in the world, both in the 'micro' and the 'macro.'
The question then is rather 'what is the line between good and evil, right and wrong, and who defines it?'
That line, I would suggest, exists, is defined by God's righteousness, and is expressed as God's law, e.g. simply diagrammed ...
The natural consequence of crossing the line, by which God distinguishes evil from good by virtue of his own character, scripture calls judgement.Consequence (judgment) takes place, according to scripture, both in history and after history.
It is interesting to me that many who rightly rankle at injustice, rankle also at the concept of consequence (judgment). This inconsistency may be rooted in the assumption that the discontent person can define good and evil better than God, or may revert to the view that the difference between good and evil doesn't exist, and therefore consequence (judgement) should not follow.
But every human effort in history to dismiss God's definition of right and wrong has resulted in cruel totalitarian regimes in which power alone rules, or a society in which 'every man does what is right in his own eyes' (Judges 21:25) resulting in the collapse of family life and social order.
There are two other critical differences between human efforts to define good and evil, and God's definition flowing from His character:
1. We are incapable of living up to either our own standards or God's standards (Romans 7).
2. Human political regimes, based on human definitions of right and wrong and utopian visions (e.g. French revolution, communism, western liberalism), are incapable either of a) acceptance of those unlike themselves, forgiveness and reconciliation (resulting in the 20th century in 160 million killed in 57 declared wars + genocides)2, or b) of rescuing those who cross over the line they have defined.
And into thishorror and human inability comes, to those who will accept it, the grace of God in Christ. In Christ God became flesh (John 1:14) to pursue us, across the dividing line, in a "love and rescue mission" where we had crossed over into evil, himself dying in consequence, for us.
"Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Galatians 1:3-5 (KJV)
1 David Olusaga and Casper W. Erichsen, The Kaiser's Holocaust: Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism (Faber, 2010)
2 "Century of Death" National Geographic, January 2006 (Click image for detail)