Christian Ethics

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Are Christian Ethics absolutist or relative? Let’s take a look at ethical relativism and absolutism.

Ethical relativism states that morality changes with one’s culture, experience, circumstance, and personal preference (Jones et al. 2021, 13). An argument often made for relativism is that what is right for one culture may not be right for another, and that is best. For example, you wouldn’t want to wear shorts and a tank top in Antarctica, but you wouldn’t want to wear winter gear in Florida either. Why would you expect one clothing preference to be better than the other when both were made for their respective climates? Relativism often promotes acceptance and tolerance between people with differing cultures and beliefs. One challenge with this view is that it can become a paradox. If the relativist cannot accurately evaluate reality because of the lense of their culture, doesn’t that mean that their own morality is wrong? Simiairly, if what is right to one relativist is illegal, does that make law unjust? This view could potentially transend into anarchy.

Ethical absolutism is exactly what it sounds like; there are, always have been, and always will be, moral absolutes (Jones et al. 2021, 13). These moral principles apply to everyone at any given time. This helps account for universally valued virtues such as courage and honesty. The difficulty with this ideology is dealing with specific situations. It can also be hard dicerning exactly what morals are absolute.

Christian Ethics defines morality from virtues and principles of the character of God (Rae 2018, 69). It can be applied and integrated with several different approaches, such as virtue, natural law, and divine command ethics. Because of the unchanging chacter of God and the specifically laid out moral laws in the Bible (such as the Ten Commandments), Christian Ethics are absolutist. There are specific laws that are laid out by God (Exodus 20:2-17 and Deut. 5:6-21). Moral obligations can also be determined by God’s character as demonstrated and described by Jesus Christ.

In light of this, something to be considered is ethical subjectivism. Ethical subjectivism is a branch of relativism that says there is nothing objective about morality (Jones et al. 2021, 15). It emphasises that morality is a personal evaluation, so it can change with each individual. Some may argue that Christian ethics can be subjective, as there are numorous different views and interpretations of God’s Word. The immence number of denominations within the church can testify to this. Similairly, because there are instances in the Bible where the will of God seems to contradict previously stated moral laws (Joshua 2, for example), some argue that Christian ethics can have elements of relativism.

However, this doesn’t mean that Biblcal morality is subjective. Details may differ, but that does not mean that every denomination and every viewpoint is correct.  According to Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8, God is unchanging, and thus his will is unchanging. We must also consider that we live in a fallen world, where sometimes the only option is to pick the lesser of two evils.

Are Christian Ethics absolutist or relative?


When most people think of ethics, they often think in terms of absolute standards. They believe that the right thing to do is always the same and that there is an absolute truth to morality. This view has been defended by some Christians as well, who believe in an absolute value system that applies to all people everywhere at any time. However, others argue that Christianity does not have such a strict position on ethics: instead, it teaches us to follow God’s will no matter what our circumstances might be.

The position that ethics is relative has been defended by many scholars.

Relativism is a position that has been defended by many scholars. For example, the Islamic philosopher Ibn Sīnā (founder of classical Sufism) argued that all religions are equally valid. The Hindu philosopher Shankara also advocated relativism. In contrast to these philosophers, some Christian ethicists claim that ethics should be absolute and not relative at all.

However, there are also people who criticize relativism as an approach to ethics in general and specifically Christian ethics.

Some argue that there is an absolute value system in Christianity.

Some argue that there is an absolute value system in Christianity. The Bible is an absolute authority, and it says clearly what God requires of us, what he has done for us and what he will do in the future.

This could be understood as a form of absolutism: if you believe that your moral code comes from God then you must follow his instructions rather than your own desires or opinions about right or wrong behavior. However, this kind of absolutism can also be seen as an attempt to find an objective truth which exists outside our experience (and therefore unreachable by our minds). Some people believe they have found this truth through prayer – but others argue that we need evidence when making decisions about right and wrong actions; therefore we should use our senses rather than faith alone

Those who hold this view are often referred to as “absolutists.”

Absolutists believe that there is an absolute value system in Christianity, and they believe that all Christian ethical systems should be aligned with that value system.

Relativists, on the other hand, believe that morality depends on the social context in which it is practiced. In other words, relativists maintain that there are no absolute rules of morality–that each society has its own unique set of rules for living together as communities (and each individual has their own personal preferences). Relativists don’t think you can derive absolute moral principles from any religious text or tradition because none exists in nature; rather than look at the world around us through Biblical eyes or Greek philosophical lenses only because we want to find answers for ourselves about who we are and how we should live our lives here on Earth (as if some higher power would grant us such knowledge), relativists see themselves as being one part of many interacting parts within nature itself: They live out their lives as best they can under whatever circumstances are available at any given moment without requiring anyone else outside themselves help decide what those circumstances might actually mean when taken together over time – especially since nobody ever really knows exactly where any particular thought comes from anyway!

Absolutists believe that every person must follow God’s will, even if it contradicts the norms of society.

Absolutists believe that every person must follow God’s will, even if it contradicts the norms of society. They often argue that God’s ways are not always clear and that people should ask for His guidance in making decisions.

Absolutists believe that there is one true way to live and they have no doubt about whether they are doing it right or wrong because they know what God wants them to do. They believe that this absoluteness can be proven through scripture or by reading Scripture itself (which absolutists often do). In other words, you cannot argue with an absolutist on any given issue because once you have accepted their stance as right or proper then your argument doesn’t apply anymore; only theirs does!

On the other hand, relativists believe morality depends on the social context in which it is practiced.

On the other hand, relativists believe morality depends on the social context in which it is practiced. For example, some people may think it’s wrong to lie about who you are if there are no consequences for doing so. But this is a subjective view; what’s right for one person might not be right for another person at all. Relativism holds that ethical norms are subjective rather than objective–they’re not universal truths that apply to all cultures or societies but instead vary based on individual beliefs and experiences.[1]

Relativism can be used as an argument against absolutism because it makes room for different views on moral issues without having any absolute standard of right or wrong as its foundation.[2]

Christians can hold both absolutist and relativist views of ethics

  • Relativists argue that there is no universal truth. They believe that each person has the freedom to make their own decisions, and this includes how they choose to live their lives. For some people, the choice between absolutist or relativist ethics may seem like a question of semantics; however, it’s actually an important distinction because it relates to what kind of life you want to live and how your actions can impact others around you.
  • Absolutists hold that there is one true way for everyone–one absolute standard for doing things right or wrong (whether we agree with them or not). These people tend toward strict codes of conduct based on objective moral principles rather than subjective values such as personal preferences or feelings toward another person’s behavior. An absolutist might say: “If I see a homeless person sleeping outside my church building during Sunday services, then I should offer them shelter inside until morning.” In this case, the Christian would be acting as an absolutist because he/she believes in following certain rules even if they don’t necessarily agree with those rules themselves!


The position that ethics is relative has been defended by many scholars. Some argue that there is an absolute value system in Christianity. Those who hold this view are often referred to as “absolutists.” Absolutists believe that every person must follow God’s will, even if it contradicts the norms of society. On the other hand, relativists believe morality depends on the social context in which it is practiced. Christians can hold both absolutist and relativist views of ethics depending on their circumstances (see below for more).

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