What happens when two objective morals come into conflict? When this occurs it is called a…
2. Moral dilemma
Some people argue against objective morals by presenting a moral dilemma, one that seems to indicate that in the end all morals are relative. The Bible actually helps us with an example.
In the Old Testament book of Joshua chapter 2 we read about spies Joshua sent to check out the city of Jericho. The King learned about the spies and sent men to kill them. When they arrived at Jericho they went to Rahab’s house because they heard she was hiding them. What was Rahab going to do? Rahab did what she thought was right, she lied to protect the spies Joshua had sent. Her lie was successful as the King’s men took off in the direction she said they went. After the King’s men left, the men she hid in her house honored her by sparing her life when Joshua’s men came and destroyed Jericho. According to the Bible lying is an objective wrong. Yet, in James 2:25 (NIV) we read “In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” Rahab, who lied to protect life, is honored by James.
What we have here are two morals in conflict. First, the Bible speaks out against lying, Leviticus 19:11 (NIV)“Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” Second, the Bible speaks out against not protecting the innocent, Psalm 82:3-4 (NIV) “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Rahab was forced to make a decision. A moral dilemma occurs when a decision has to be made and one objective moral has to be violated. So what do you do in this situation? We do what Rahab did; she chose the higher objective moral value, protecting life over telling a lie.
During a presentation I had a Christian disagree with me on this issue. He said it was wrong to lie in all circumstances; Rahab should have told the truth. I asked him if a killer came to his door with a gun and asked if his young kids were home so he could shoot them, what would he say? He said he would tell the truth and let God protect his kids. I said, are you kidding me? I know what you’d do…you’d lie just like every parent in the world. You would be protecting the life of your kids, a higher objective moral. He refused to agree with me. Truthfully, I think he could argue his point all day long but in a real situation he’d lie to protect his kids.
Remember, just pointing to moral dilemmas doesn’t mean objective morals don’t exist. It just means in those circumstances you choose the objective moral with highest value. Don’t let someone fool you by pointing to moral dilemmas; this is not an argument against the existence of objective morals.