THE ABSOLUTE OF GOD AND MORAL VALUE
In 1943, following his historic BBC radio talks of 1941-42, C. S. Lewis published an essay titled, “The Poison of Subjectivism.” Lewis wrote: “Until modern times, no thinker of the first rank ever doubted that our judgements of value were rational judgements or that what they discovered was objective.” However, as Lewis goes on to explain, today’s modern view is that when someone says a thing is good he is merely expressing his feelings about it. By “judgements of value” Lewis meant moral judgments about right and wrong. He called this “practical reason” and said if we “grant that our practical reason is really reason and that its fundamental imperatives are . . . absolute . . . then unconditional allegiance to them is the duty of man. So is absolute allegiance to God. And these two allegiances must, somehow, be the same.”
Absolute moral judgment goes hand in hand with the absolute reality of God. And, the absolute reality of God goes hand in hand with absolute moral judgment. Without absolute moral judgment there is no absolute truth. Without absolute truth there is no absolute moral judgment.
In his essay, Lewis speaks of some who, influenced by the false philosophy of subjectivism, drop “the words truth and reality out of their vocabulary.” We are 75 years removed from the initial publication of this essay of Lewis. There are those today who may retain the words of truth and reality in their vocabulary, but their doctrine only pays lip service to these words. Influenced by subjectivism they say things like: “She told ‘her’ truth,” and “He told ‘his’ truth,” while the statement of each contradicts the other.
Unless it is resisted with vigilance, moral subjectivism will poison every area of human existence. Lewis wrote, “Unless we return to . . . belief in objective [absolute] values, we perish. If we [return], we may live, and such a return might have one minor advantage. If we believed in the absolute reality of elementary moral platitudes, we should value those [politicians] who solicit our votes by other standards than have recently been in fashion. [When] we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities ‘as vision,’ ‘dynamism,’ ‘creativity,’ and the like. If we returned to the objective [absolute] view we [would] demand qualities much rarer . . . virtue, knowledge, diligence, and skill. . . . [G]ive me a man who will work for a day’s pay . . . refuse bribes . . . not make up facts, and who has learned his job.”
A current example of the poison of subjectivism among voters and vote-getters is found in a piece written by syndicated columnist Cal Thomas in which he describes “the rotten fruit of a culture that has long-abandoned the sanctity of life” (America’s Slaughter of the Innocents Reaches New Depths, 7 Feb. 2019). He cites what has been legislated or attempted as legislation concerning late-term abortions in the states of New York and Virginia respectively. Thomas calls the morally relativistic thinking and practices leading to such legislation as “moral rot” like that which caused the collapse of various civilizations. The following statement provides a powerful illustration of what C. S. Lewis meant when he wrote about the “poison” and “ruinous effect” of subjectivism. Thomas writes: “When the story of America is written in the past tense, its collapse will have been caused by our indifference to God, and to all the horrors that historically and inevitably follow it.”
Charles C. Pugh III