- Saturday, April 13, 2024

This past Monday, former President Donald Trump issued his long-awaited statement on abortion. He did so via a four-minute video posted on Truth Social. After emphasizing his love for childhood innocence multiple times with words such as “a precious baby” and “the miracle of life,” the former president shifted and made it clear that, in his view, “the states” should determine their own abortion laws, “and whatever they decide must be the law of the land.”

He added, “At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.” He ended by saying (three times), “You must follow your heart.”

This summum bonum (Latin for highest good) of “following our heart” is the foundational battleground of America’s raging culture wars, which, when you boil them down to basics, is a war between moral relativism and moral reality.

Moral relativism is a philosophical argument grounded in the premise that there is no such thing as objective truth that governs a culture, but rather, each individual or community constructs their own truths to suit their relative needs and circumstances. It is the idea that what is true for you may not be true for me and vice versa. There is no such thing as a consistent objective standard. Everything is subjective to the individual.

The idea of “self-evident truths” being “endowed to us by our Creator” is a ruse of colonial times and male toxicity. Within this framework, there are no absolutes and no universal standard of right and wrong. What is just and unjust is constructed by society. It is a product of the collective. The judge is “democracy,” i.e., the rule of the gang, not God.

Moral relativists tell us that what is right for one person is right for her, but if someone else believes the exact opposite, their belief is also right. It ignores the law of noncontradiction. It is summed up in the common retort “Whatever.” It is little more than an adolescent shrug.

Want to steal? Whatever. Want to lie? Whatever. Want to cheat? Whatever. Want to be a woman even though you’re really a man? Whatever. Want to kill babies? Whatever.

You get the point. The bottom line is that moral relativism is the ultimate consummation of everyone following their heart rather than bending their will to some higher and more enduring standard.

Moral realists, on the other hand, understand there is an objective reality in which truth isn’t flexible or fluid. Truth doesn’t bend to the whims of political expediency. What is good or bad, right or wrong, isn’t subject to change just because of someone’s “heart.” Os Guinness says it well in his book “Time for Truth”:

“Truth is true even if no one believes it, and falsehood is false even if everyone believes it. Truth is true, and that’s just the end of it.”

This worldview of moral realism, held by nearly every theologian and philosopher throughout human history up until about five minutes ago, argues that there is always a measuring rod outside of those things being measured and that measuring rod is facts, not feelings. 

Moral realists understand that truth is immutable. It is found in revelation and natural law. It is self-evident, not self-referential. It is endowed by God and not created by consensus.

All of us, whether we’re conservative, liberal or progressive, assume the existence of these absolutes. In fact, we couldn’t live life without them. It’s an absolute, for example, that 2 + 2 = 4. The law of gravity is another absolute. What goes up will come down. Throw a ball in the air, and you know what it will do. And hopefully, we can all agree that rape, slavery, murder and child sacrifice are absolutely and objectively wrong. How you “feel” about these things doesn’t matter.

The prophet Jeremiah told us over 2,500 years ago that “the heart is deceitful above all things.” Samuel warned 500 years before that of the dangers of “everyone doing what was right in his own eyes.” Arthur W. Pink, speaking in the first half of the 20th century, said that following our sinful hearts creates a “spirit of lawlessness, which brooks no restraint, and which is desirous of casting off everything which interferes with the free course of self-will.”

America’s cultural collapse, which Donald Trump persistently bemoans, can all be traced back to this broken worldview that he proudly championed in his Monday speech. How can he or we expect to regain our nation’s footing if there is no rock of truth upon which to stand? With the shifting sand of our individual “hearts” as our building material, it should surprise no one that our house is crumbling.

• Everett Piper (dreverettpiper.com, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host.

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