Jeremiah 9: The Danger of Subjective Morality
I was reading Jeremiah 9, and I couldn’t help but think about how a lot of what was happening to Israel and Judah in this time is happening in the United States today. As we know from previous chapters, people had been moving farther and farther away from God, and in this chapter, we see this beginning to impact their behavior.
Jer 9:2 Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.
Jer 9:3 They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the LORD.
Jer 9:4 Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
Jer 9:5 Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.
Jer 9:6 Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the LORD.
As the people begin to get farther away from God, their morals begin to fall apart. Why is that? They begin to go away from objective morality, and they start to embrace subjective morality based on apparently whatever they want to do. They slander if they want, or they lie if they want. It seems as if the standards have gone away.
We are in a similar boat in America right now. For most of our history, even if some people were not Christians, it was culturally accepted that Christian morality was a good way for people to live. It had objective standards that people understood and were willing to follow. Unfortunately, we are now moving into a similar type of subjective era.
People want to give up objective morality because they would rather do whatever they want based upon their own minds. This is dangerous territory to move into.
If you surrender objective morality, then what basis do you have to prosecute criminals? How can you say that anything was wrong if all of those decisions are made based on what an individual feels? What if I feel like murder is a perfectly acceptable activity? Without an external, objective standard that murder is always wrong, it is just your opinion against my opinion. You can’t prosecute on that basis.
Even if you argue that laws ought to be based on what the majority felt was right at the time, then would we be comfortable saying that murder was right if the majority of people believe that? I think that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who holds this position.
Subjective morality is a dangerous field. With nothing definite to plant your belief system on, you forfeit any right to define anything as morally wrong. As CS Lewis expounded in The Abolition of Man, we don’t seem to be able to do that very well as human beings. We have this innate Tao that informs us of basic morality and seems to exist beyond just what someone feels. They seem to cross cultures and effectively are more than just right as defined by one particular people group at one particular time.