I have often hesitated to write the following because I believe the answer to our own gaps in knowledge go beyond taking a fish (i.e. just giving the answer) to learning how to fish (i.e. formulating your own reasonable answer). As I have been meeting with churches and schools over past couple years there has been a request for the fish and how to fish. So, for the fish I offer the conversation below.
It is a pretty standard conversation that I have with students. Of course, no two conversations are alike but perhaps it will give some hooks on which to hang your own thoughts. The fishing part comes after the conversation where I hope to explain the principles behind my method.
Moral Relativity is the belief that right and wrong are only defined by the person defining them. In other words, doing that which is right in one’s own eyes. A Bible believing Christian on the other hand believes that there is an absolute standard for right and wrong regardless of whether or not we think it is right or wrong. That standard is God, the Prime Lawgiver, and by extension the Holy Scriptures.
For our purposes the parties involved are the Evangelist (the Christian) and MR (the Moral Relativist. Although this discussion does not lead immediately to the cross of Christ still all such endeavors have as their point to lead a non-Christian to saving knowledge in Jesus. As a result, anyone who engages in like conversation is an evangelist, properly so called.
Evangelist: Is there any thing that is morally absolute?
MR: Because what I say is right, is right and no one has the power to impose on me otherwise.
Evangelist: So is murder wrong?
MR: Weeelll... Not in time of war, or self defense so I think that killing is ok sometimes.
Evangelist: Ok, is rape wrong?
Evangelist: Why is it wrong?
MR: Because it harms another human being.
Evangelist: Why is harm wrong? Physicians need to cut in order to repair. Athletes need to run and lift to the point of pain in order to get faster and stronger.
MR: Ummm...because I don't want harm done to me so I don't want it done to others.
Evangelist: But that sounds like imposing your idea of wrong on others. How about the rapist? Presumably he is not being harmed by raping. What gives you the right to say the rapist is bad?
MR: Perhaps I don't have the right to tell the rapist but I do have the right to govern myself morally.
Evangelist: Do your morals change? I mean, we are fundamentally creatures of change.
Evangelist: Is it possible that you could change your mind on abortion by tomorrow?
MR: Yes, it is possible.
Evangelist: Is it possible that you might change your mind about rape tomorrow? Not that you will, but is it possible?
MR: Yes, it is possible.
Evangelist: By your own admittance and because only you are said to govern your morality, are you a safe person then? Tomorrow it might be that rape is ok, so should your girlfriend go out on a date with you this Friday? Is it possible that tomorrow pedaphilia is ok with you. Is it safe to leave my kids with you?
MR: Well in that case it would be ok for me to rape but not for society.
Evangelist: In the end what does society have to do with this? You began the discussion with what you say is right, is right, for you.
MR: Society gets a say if I let it.
Evangelist: Sure but let's be clear, only if you let it. So if you disregard society and you come to the conclusion that maybe rape is right, are you a safe person?
MR: No, I don't think so.
Evangelist: If you are the sole governor of your moral system and you change your mind about rape who can tell you rape is wrong?
MR: I guess, no one.
Evangelist: If there is nothing morally higher than yourself and it is possible that rape can become morally right then are you a safe person to be around?
MR: Maybe not.
Evangelist: If you are not a safe person to be around then would it be fair to say that you are dangerous?
MR: I suppose...
Evangelist: What makes a person or thing dangerous?
MR: The person or thing is disposed to cause harm.
Evangelist: Indeed, so then has your moral relativism become the catalyst for the very thing you say is fundamentally immoral - to cause harm?
MR: Maybe it does.
Evangelist: I agree.
There is of course the Christian side of the discussion where truth, absolutes, and God are front and center to the discussion. The purpose of this exercise what to test the internal coherence of Moral Relativism, and in the end this is but one way of proving it is not.
Primary to my method is to ask questions. Get use to asking questions, lots of them and for two reasons: 1. To understand your conversant's position and 2. To build relationship through the question because in the end you must have care for their soul, so really and truly desire to understand where they are coming from.
Next, I like to begin with a question rather than a declarative sentence. It can give the sense of putting the other person in control. Then meet the person were they are at. If they say, "What's right for me is what's right, for me." then meet them there.
Sooner or later you will need to introduce the Christian worldview, but if you are able to put a crack in the dam that is their worldview prior to offering your position, it helps. Although it is tempting to chase the disjunction between the person's idea of murder vs rape it is important to stay on the core issue which is moral relativism. In the above example I did not include a foray into the Christian worldview properly so called because I believe moral relativism is intellectually canniblistic - it eats itself and it's undergirding principles.
Still from here I would begin to talk of God as the Prime Lawgiver and sin’s relationship to divine justice. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. If it's been a help at all, praise the Lord. If not, I will endeavor to do better next time.