Moral foundations - Objective, Subjective & etc: The forever topic


But that is precisely what I said. Our intuitions are often terribly wrong in the light of science, but science itself is dependent on our rationality, you could think of it as our rationality correcting our intuitions. So it is not our rationality that methodological naturalism considers to be likely wrong, but our intuitions.

EDIT: In fact, it depends on the assumption that our rationality is reliable.


Interesting perspective. I never really thought about that like that before. Even Christ is one and the church is many, so that dosen’t even really spell it out either.

I would’nt hinge my stance on the word 1 flesh, rather the “two”. But that might have been an example since there were only two in the story at that time. I woulnd’t say, hard fast proof, but I can see it a bit of logic for the monogamous camp.

I would always invite any polygamous men or women or gay or straight or confused to Christ. I was discussing what I think may or may not be moral…Which is interesting debate, but not that important in the grand scheme. But I would never turn down anyone to Christ. we are all separated from God and need Christ to reconcile us back to Him.

I don’t see how that aligns with the golden rule. And subjectivity can still bring trouble.

That whole

I don’t the fallen humans can be trusted with this concept oven. Some can misuse this and “claim” a greater good is being done. If the greater good (to one) is to rid the world of blacks or republicans or…That person might truly believe the are doing great things, helping others make the world a better place.

I don’t think Jesus was saying breaking this rule (sabbath) is ok, if it is for a good/better purpose. I think Jesus was explaining the purpose for that commandment. Saying, it was never a penal commandment, it was a liberation commandment. If you trust God, He allows you to rest, blesses that rest. You don’t need to work or maintain your earthly kingdom, God will provide. Rather take one day to remember your the kingdom of God, so the rest of your week goes well. We are also reminded to have daily bread (thoughts/meditate) with God, because He knows we are a short termed memory people and we need constant reminding.

Now knowing the heart of the commandment, sure, it is ok/great to help out your neighbor or the animals which were were told to tend to any day, sabbath or not. Helping is not working to acheive with your own strength. Like if you work or try to grow your earthly business, THAT is what was commanded to not do on the sabbath.

That is why Jesus said, the Sabbath was made for man, not eh man for Sabbath. A forceful reminder that says, God will provide (like He did in Egypt on the passover), it is not of our own hands, so don’t try to work (gain forward progress) on the Sabbath.

I think a more proper argument would be God must exist because of love. all acts of love come from God, God is love. There is no scientific way to deduce that. It is a human experience that really defies most of our logic/instinct. This love that values every human with so much worth, that you would sacrifice your only son for their life. If we could all love as God loves, there would be no need for morals, yet moral fruits would spring up all over the place, Just like with Jesus. He just loved as God loved, and that ended up bearing much moral fruits, Jesus never tried to be moral. But in living as He did, I don’t think one person would ever challenge an act He did as immoral.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #103

Ah, but these are quite different issues, my friend. The case for polygamous people coming to Christ and remaining actively polygamous is 100% open-and-shut. (You haven’t yet met my challenge to prove otherwise.) Scripture says, “God hates divorce,” and only allows for divorce in case of infidelity, according to the most straightforward traditional interpretation. Furthermore, in many of these cultures, to divorce one of your wives is to functionally relegate her to a life of prostitution. Women literally have no other financial recourse. Do you think God would want that? And before you say, “Well, they could stay married, and he could provide financially for her, but not be sexually active with her,” this would then deprive the spurned wife not only of spousal companionship (her right) but also of children, which is a deeply shameful condition in many of these cultures.

The questions of sexual orientation and gender assignment are much more nuanced issues, and it is much harder to make a case from Scripture that LGBT folks who come to church should remain actively sexual as LGBT people. My goal in this post is not to litigate that particular issue one way or the other, actually, but merely to point out that the issues of polygamy and LGBTQIA+ are completely different from the perspective of Scripture. One is open-and-shut; the other is not.


“Do unto others as you would have done unto you”

It is saying to look to your own wants and needs when considering morality. That is subjective morality.

Personally, I think we would be in a huge heap of trouble if our morality ignored what is important to humans. History is littered with atrocities where people ignored their own inner moral character and instead obediently followed a set of rules that were said to be objective. “I was just following orders” is what you get with objective morality. That’s scary.

Will we always get morality perfectly correct? Absolutely not. However, perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of good. We should look to the best tool we have, and I think that is our own subjective sense of morality.

Previously, I was commenting on my own understanding of how most Christians have come to believe. At least from what I have seen, the foundation of a vast majority of conversion event is not the moral argument. The moral argument just doesn’t seem to be a necessary part of Christian theology or being a Christian, so I think it is a bit dangerous to pin the very existence of God on such an unnecessary and potentially flawed argument. The beliefs you describe are great and it sounds like those beliefs have enriched your life. I would also say that subjective morality fits in just fine with those beliefs.


I’m sorry, I think I missed your challenge? I am unaware?

I was speaking on different levels. One from a far less important level, of attempting to “defend” objective morals or what I see them as Biblically speaking. the other thing I was saying that I put much more importance on, is that fact that it doesn’t matter how many morals you break, Jesus atoned for all of them.

A person who acts on their LGBTQ desires or mass murderer (see Jeffery Dahmer who is believed to have repented on His death bed and is in Heaven) I would invite all to Christ. Technically they can still do those things post salvation…and still be saved. However, IF they were still doing those things, one wonders if they ever understood the truth of God and really wanted God to be their Lord and rule their lives. Though judgment is for God not for me. Whatever we grew up in that caused us to be as “messed up” as some are, there are stumbling blocks out there that can and do mislead the sheep of God, and we all make mistakes and “slip” into our past lives. I am thankful to God He still loves us and wants us to know Him and worship Him, and we can’t be separated form God and death has been conquered in Jesus.

Based off of some things you said, I am not certain on the morality of polygamy or not, but again, it would not keep them from becoming or “staying” saved.

I’m can agree with you there. i guess it is always important to look for the intent of the law, over the law in black and white.

I think we can also agree whether objective or subjective, the morals will be broken no matter what.

I wish more people were like you brother. Smart, level headed, open minded.

Romans 2:13-16
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)

I think think agrees with your side of subjective morals. “Law for themselves.”

Yet the important part here is, if you had a Israelite objective law, or a gentile subjective law, if you fail to follow it(as no one can from themselves), it is a sin, a sin being an archery term for missing the mark, not perfection. God is the only one who is Holy and can uphold the objective and subjective law, or man can do it through the power of God if they submit that to God. This is why Jesus was able to live a perfect life subjective God.

But that was the point of the law, to show us that we are not holy, but that God is. The only way to love anyone is to know them. For if you love someone, but don’t know them, that is cheesy halmark love with no substance. But to know someone and not love them, that is rejection. But to know someone, and to loev them in spite or because of what you know about that, that is love. The only way to love God is to know Him, and the only way to know Him is to know how holy He is, and the only way to know how holy He is, is to have a law (whether objective or subjective). Sin takes advantage of that law, and we are separated from the Holy God. Until, Grace/Jesus came to reconcile us back to God.

Rom 5:13
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.

Rom 5:20-21
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Rom 7:7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law.

Rom 8:22
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #106

This is well-worth considering. Generally (maybe always?) it would be heard from a soldier to justify after-the-fact some atrocity. I’m not sure it’s fair to say this gets to the heart of our objective / subjective divide. For one thing, Christians believe that God’s general orders to us are not given in secret or to some secret cabal today to order them to do specific things. You may object and hold up old testament scenarios as just such examples, but that is a long-disputed understanding of what the O.T. allegedly teaches. Sticking just with what (most?) Christians think today, we would reject would-be charismatic leaders who claimed to have specific orders from God to do some nefarious deed. Far from being objective, we would think that such a cult-like leader is probably suspicious at best. Most of us here when we start defending the concept of objectivity are defending general imperatives (like loving others as yourself, or loving your enemies) that still leave open the details of how we can follow those.

But all that said, I tend to agree with AMWolfe that I’m just glad people think it important whether or not they can agree on what philosophical label to bestow on it.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #107

I guess I need to stop letting you get my goat with such statements. Understand that from my perspective of Scriptural morality (and this just sort of illustrates, doesn’t it, the challenge of objective morality?), being polygamous is acceptable but not ideal. And certainly being attracted to members of the opposite sex is also acceptable. (Scripture talks about behavior, not attraction; and this is an even more contentious topic than polygamy so I won’t dive into the weeds.) I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong, Scripturally, about these two things. So when I see you lump polygamous and LGBT people in with mass murderers, saying, “It’s okay, God accepts them, too,” it really bugs me. It’s as if you’re saying, “It’s okay, you can be American, God will forgive you of that, too.” Oh… Oh, really? Was it a sin to be American? I missed that verse.

So our hypothetical polygamous Muslim convert, if he were really following Jesus, would have made his second wife a prostitute by divorcing her. Gotcha.

Perhaps I didn’t use the word “challenge,” but here:

Nevertheless, lest we talk past one another again, I agree that whatever morality you believe in, as Christians we believe in the power of grace over legalism. I’ll grant you that point. But I disagree with the subpoints you use to get there.


Sorry, that wasn’t my intent. My intent was to say that God excepts the entire spectrum of human sinners. I would go back and edit it out if you wish, but then you would have to go back and edit your posts quoting my posts.

I completely agree with you here. It is an unfortunate word which is quite ambiguous. I was referring to those who behaved in that way, not just thought.

I don’t think anyone would try to outlaw a person’s thoughts. But when you try to outlaw homosexuality, the argument usually is (the govt shouldn’t be in my bedroom, or what I do in my bedroom is my business…which implies acting on it). I don’t know a statistical number (though I would be really interested to know it) how many homosexuals never act on it? I am pretty sure the name is mostly synonymous with the act. Though you are technically right, it is the act, not the thought that is against the Bible.

But then again, the thoughts of an angry person or a person of lust in their mind is murderous or adulterous. So to an extent, the thought can be biblically wrong. Though I understand that I can be attracted to a female and not have a lustful thought as a heterosexual and homosexuals can probably do the same. But have you ever been to or seen a gay pride parade? It isn’t for eyes younger than 18 in most cases. It is usually frought with all kinds of lustful images. Homosexuality is again generally pretty synonymous with the acts, and not just the thoughts of attraction.

But I think you were missing my point. I when I compare a homosexual (person who acts on it) and a murderer (which is an angry person, who acts on it) I am simply comparing them to a person who steals a snickers at the grocery store, a or a man that has sex with a woman he is not married to (heterosexual act). I am not trying to bash the LGBTQ community or those with the polygamous lifestyle. And if polygamy isn’t a sin (which maybe it isn’t) I am sure that person still did an act that was a sin, as all have sinned). I am comparing them to a holy God. Any miss at that mark is a sin. I was simply trying to cover the “spectrum” from a “docile sin” like homosexuality to a “grave sin” like mass murder, all sins.

Again not what my intent was. I am not even really sure when we started talking about polygamy? I first brought up a man having sex with multiple partners (unmarried). And yes, when someone is given the grace of God and is reborn, they would generally not need the sexual satisfactions as they once did to fulfill them, and they would try to have fewer if not zero sexual partners outside of marriage. MY point being that someone who is truly saved is reborn, they are no longer chasing their former desires, rather they are chasing how God would want them to live, their mind is transformed.

That is all I was trying to say. Sorry for misleading by the words I may have poorly chosen. I edited the parts of my posts where I noticed some incorrect things said. Feel free to point out any more in a PM and I will try to edit the those too.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #109

No need to apologize, by the way, I’m sorry I got so hot under the collar about it all… and on quite the tangent of a conversation at that.

In post #74, you started talking about what is good, acceptable, and bad, and yes, you were talking about fornication at that point. In response, John Dalton expressed shock that you seemed to put slavery on the same level as sleeping around. Responding to John, Roger shifted the conversation from sleeping around to OT polygamy, and you responded to Roger that you didn’t think polygamy was ever deemed acceptable in the Bible.

Polygamy is (as you can see) something of a soapbox sort of topic for me, so I jumped in at that point. I probably shouldn’t have. I didn’t mean to pounce on you. Just wanted to make people think outside their usual categories.

Thanks for the discussion; I hope I didn’t offend. I think (to bring it back at least a little bit to the topic at hand) that this all illustrates just how hard it is to find an “objective” morality.



I see that sir lol.

That is always welcome, thank you for doing that.



It’s also difficult to say that God wouldn’t order his people to commit genocide since God did that very thing, at least according to the Old Testament.

And Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’" (1 Sam 15:1‑3)

I don’t want to go too far into the weeds with this example, but the moral conundrum it presents is difficult. It is sort of like the Problem of Evil that philosophers have argued over for millennia. I doubt we will solve all of these riddles in this thread, so I won’t attempt to do it.

What I would like to point to is the difference between being blindly obedient and being a moral person. At least from my point of view, objective morality leads to demands of obedience and removes the responsibility to even debate what is moral. Subjective morality puts the responsibility for being moral on us humans. In the case of the Amalekites, Saul didn’t wipe them out in defiance of God’s orders, and God actually rejects Saul as king for not obeying. How does that all fit in? I’m not sure, but it definitely offers an interesting moral question.


I don’t think it says Saul didn’t kill all the women and children and was rejected for that.

1Sam 15:9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves[b] and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

It says he kept the things he thought would be beneficial ,and destroyed the weak. Basically picking and choosing what to follow God on and what not to. Not out of love or the greater morals of saving lives (actually using God’s words to justify killing the weak) but to keep some nice animals that they were instructed to kill.

vs 15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

Then trying to gain favor with the Lord his own way on his terms. Following the Lord’s instructions is how to honor Him, not violating the instructions and then attempting to bribe Him.

I am fine with not going into it. I just felt it necessary to explain that it Saul was not rejected as king for refusing to kill infants or uphold his inner morality as it appeared to me like you were insinuating.


Ignoring instructions for your own greedy self interest is one thing. What I am talking about is when people blindly follow instructions and ignore their own sense of morality. If someone or something is viewed as being the unquestioned source of an objective morality, then wouldn’t this lead to a situation where “I am just following orders” is used as a justification for any and all actions? It seems even scarier if “I am pleasing the god I believe in” is the justification.

This also brings us to one of the criticisms that is often laid at the feet of atheists: “Atheists just don’t want to be accountable to God”. Without getting into the whole “God does/doesn’t exist” debate, I think the reality is a bit more nuanced than that. Atheists don’t want to blindly follow a list of commandments that they find immoral. Atheists hold themselves accountable to their own sense of morality, and they are held accountable by the culture they live in. I am certainly not saying that Christians don’t hold themselves accountable, in fact I believe they do. However, I think we should at least acknowledge that our own moral sense has a role to play in this whole debate.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #114



I think you are anthropomorfising God a little bit to much in that comparison.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #116

To the extent that ‘objective’ morality actually does the things you say here, I would agree with you that it would be a bad thing.

Since I read the O.T. through the lens of understanding of Christ in the N.T., the charges of alleged genocide in the O.T. don’t bother me much since I know that God is not a cruel God and any reading that sidesteps Christ’s life to make God look that way is a misunderstanding of God’s nature, and must be a misunderstanding / misapplication of scripture. I don’t doubt that people did terrible things to each other back then, just like we do now. But our trying to wrest O.T. (or any) scriptures out of their original context and remake them with modern sensibility often seems to mislead us about scriptural teachings.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #117

BTW, I’ll ask you (or anybody else who hangs out here) … have any of you ever heard of Jordan Peterson? Apparently he is supposed to be all the latest rage to listen to on youtube (especially among young U.S. men in the social media scene). However, since I heard that, everybody I’ve asked (including my teenage students) had never heard of him. And since, (with a few notable exceptions) our average age here trends up toward geezerhood, I’m going to be surprised if any of you have.

He’s a Canadian psychologist who just wrote a book on how to live your life, and his message is apparently resonating with a lot of people – especially people who would like to see the far left challenged and defeated. I think such folks are quick to adopt him as their new shining champion, though perhaps not without some unease. Like any complicated person, he tends to surprise you and defy categories.

All that said, my reason for bringing it up on this thread is that in this particular youtube video, he says some interesting things about morality. And I’m curious as to how some of you (especially atheists) react to it.

[added edit: the video above is probably a bad place to start if you’re just curious about Jordan Peterson generally. For one thing, it is titled: “the problem with atheism”; but don’t let that fool you. He quickly springs toward the practicality of beliefs and seems to have little patience for the actual question of God’s existence. In fact he acknowledges his (still) unfolding thoughts on that in some videos, so I hesitate to get on any bandwagons that want to pigeonhole him as an atheist. But those Christians for whom there is no such thing as non-essential doctrinal detail – they would probably write him off as atheist pretty quickly. But I don’t like playing those games. If you want to know what he really considers himself about, then watch this Rubin report interview of Peterson. That will give you a better idea about Peterson generally.]

(John Dalton) #118

Sure, he’s been all over the place recently. He first got major attention when opposing an Ontario bill extending hate crime protection to transgender people, on the basis that it would legally force people to use made up pronouns. That’s been disputed, but something similar happened to him at the U of Toronto I believe and similar things seem to be happening in academia in general. (Obligitory Jonathan Haidt reference–his talk with him goes into these issues.) I posted a clip a while back, probably from the same podcast (he may have done a couple):

It seems to encompass his views on religion pretty well. I’d say he’s neither an atheist or a Christian (I’m not really sure if he overtly identifies as one.) He rails about postmodernism a lot and how it’s Marxism in disguise. Oh yeah he’s making upwards of $50,000 a month from his Patreon apparently. He’s definitely an interesting guy, and a great speaker. You may want to check out his Bible talks on YouTube. I watched most of the first one and have been meaning to check out more.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #119

I have two younger friends (outside the BioLogos Forum, that is) that are really into his stuff. Definitely on my radar. (I’m only halfway to geezerhood, by my calculations. :slight_smile: )

(John Dalton) #120

I’ve seen this talk before and talked about it elsewhere. It’s a short clip and I’m sure he’d have more to say, but it seems to me he jumps around quite a bit. It’s equally rational to be some kind of psychopathic “rational” actor taking whatever they want. Dawkins and Harris came from a world based on presuppositions and their ethics are a consequence of the history of religion and mythology. A transcendent morality underlies Western culture, and you can’t remove it without leaving the culture in mid-air without any support.

I agree with him that some kind of pure rationality is not going to come in and replace religious belief–that’s not who we are. Then again, people are adaptable and other social constructs could take its place. The idea of God isn’t written in stone anywhere in our makeup, and its track record doesn’t suggest that it deserves that kind of respect. Nothing will be replacing it without the social force behind it to make it a viable alternate proposition.

It is undoubtedly rational to some personalities to simply “get everything I want.” To me though, he’s making a strawman of exaggerated conceptions of the power of rationality. We’re social animals with a complex evolved psychological makeup which is driven far more by social concerns than rational ones. It’s interesting he mentions psychopaths, who are among the people least motivated by social concerns.

As far as the idea of adopting presuppositions, I think it’s very hard to say. I started reading Jesus Wars by Philip Jenkins again, and he makes the point that internecine strife in earlier periods of Christianity is indistinguishable from some of the harshest religious conflict happening today. What’s changed? I don’t think anyone would deny that Christianity has been influential in Western culture, but I’m not convinced we owe all of our Western moral and philosophical heritage to it. I certainly wouldn’t assume it blithely as Peterson seems to here. I’d also note that Christianity has long enjoyed a privileged position and has excluded other viewpoints. Even TODAY in the US some find it unwise to admit not believing. How much so throughout our history? How about alternate beliefs?