The following is a guest post by Karsten Friske. You can find him on Twitter at @someapologist.
The idea of protesting in an attempt to garner support to make a moral change is not new. With each movement, there exists a side that champions a series of issues and a counter-protest that opposes the change. In recent days, some have advocated for racial justice by marching to affirm the value of Black lives. Others are concerned about election integrity and the rule of law in that area. Both of these primary causes are attempting to evoke social reform and call for justice in the midst of perceived injustice. Yet, undergirding both of these cries for justice is an assumption that justice matters, that we as humans matter.
This may seem like I am stating the obvious, but the implications are buried and broad.
The fight for justice assumes that objective moral values (i.e, it is a good thing to be a firefighter) and obligations (i.e., if you see a house burning, you should call the fire department) actually exist. In other words, these moral obligations and values exist independent of subjective human opinion. If moral values and obligations were all subjective (such as your favorite genre of film), one is merely advocating for a personal preference. Yet, it seems absurd to suggest that Black lives only have subjective worth or that election integrity is a matter of preference.
It’s all relative…except when it isn’t
However, in a world that increasingly follows a cultural philosophy of post-modernism and post-Christian thought, the consequences for such thinking tend to go unopposed. You may ask yourself, “what does it all really matter? People can do good things without a belief in God and can collectively make moral progress by reasoning together!”
Yes, people can do good things without ever affirming God’s existence. People can also join together and make a more just society without ever consulting Scripture. However, they cannot ground why these pursuits matter without an objective starting point.
In a world where subjective (relative) life goals and one’s own “truth” reigns supreme, there exists no room for objective meaning, purpose, truth, value, or even justice. Although this is done in the name of tolerance to prevent a violation of one’s own sovereign will, the implications are far more catastrophic than what it is trying to prevent.
In short, since nobody can be right in a relativistic framework, nobody can be wrong. If nobody can be wrong, there exists no basis to decry injustice or celebrate justice.
If all life is devoid of objective meaning, there is no difference between someone who fights for justice or works to suppress it. In the end, they are simply two groups of humans exerting energy over causes they feel deserve more attention. The signs they carry display words that demand a moral change in a world without the possibility of moral progress or absolutes. The causes that motivated protest are also just as insignificant as the people doing the marching.
The “Noble Lie”
As I hope you can see, the above worldview is incompatible with any activist or anyone who has ever felt wronged. It is for this reason that the proposed solution of a “noble lie” was introduced. In a nutshell, the view proposes that we all know life is meaningless, so we tell ourselves lies that everything we are interested in has some sort of significance, even though it ultimately does not.
The problem with the “noble lie” is that it promotes self-delusion and is self-defeating.
Remember, the problem that the “noble lie” supposedly solves is the incapability of living in a world without absolutes. Yet, it is proposed that we absolutely (or objectively) all create “noble lies” to live in the world. Furthermore, it is viewed by proponents as being “noble” or a benefit to society. How can we know it is noble when we have no ground on which to base what is noble and what is not??
This is the self-defeating web that is woven when one marches without a foundation.
So what’s the solution?
First and foremost is to notice the great consequences these various views hold. With God, we have an objective basis for meaning, morality, truth, and justice, as these are all rooted in His nature. This is only heightened by looking at this whole problem from a Christian worldview where humans are made in the image of God and are of infinite worth. Moreover, the cross of Christ for the forgiveness of sin is open to all (old, young, rich, poor, and any color or creed).
Lastly, Christianity offers a solution to unpunished evil that occurs on Earth (remember, we have grounding to say something is evil in this worldview). God is the ultimate Judge to whom all are called to give an account. Some may choose to live what appears to be an ethical mantra of trying to “be a good person,” but these attempts are in vain.
Although they appear attainable in relation to other humans (such as comparing your sins to that of a serial killer), these aspirations soon fall short when matched to a Holy and Perfect God who is the standard of good. This is why salvation, offered through Jesus Christ as a result of His death on the cross, is a gift. It comes after surrendering a false hope in a subjective standard of good and humbly asking to receive the pardon of which none of us is worthy.
So to conclude, when calls for justice are given with an impassioned plea of “No justice, no peace!” it is my hope that the points raised here will remind you of the foundations needed to even argue for such justice. Additionally, I hope that the consequences of holding a purely relativistic or subjective worldview are clearer to you now than before your reading of this article.
Erik is a Reasonable Faith Chapter Director located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He’s a former freelance baseball writer and the co-owner of a vintage and handmade decor business with his wife, Dawn. He is passionate about the intersection of apologetics and evangelism.