A Moral Compass – Part 3

compass2We are looking at the basis upon which people make moral decisions. In the previous post, we saw that many make decisions by looking outward, considering the opinions of other people. Today we will see that others look inward, basing their judgment of right and wrong on their own personal preferences.


Previously, we considered President Obama’s statements in regards to his support of homosexual marriage. As his remarks were made in the midst of an election year, it would be interesting to see how his opponent, Mitt Romney, responded. Here are his words:

“My view is that marriage itself is a relationship between a man and a woman, and that’s my own preference. I know other people have different views…”

While I agree with his assessment, the basis of his belief seems to be his own preference, namely what he thinks.

Another opponent, Ron Paul, came up with a similar answer, stating that his own opinion is that marriage is between a man and a woman, but the government should stay out of it.

So, who is right? President Obama argues on the basis of the preferences of others while his opponents argue based on their own personal preference. Is preference a reliable indicator of truth?

You may have noticed that preferences change over time. After all, have you ever repainted a room or changed the décor in your house? Have you ever looked at your high school pictures and said, “What was I thinking wearing that!?”

Our opinions and preferences change from time to time, so if they serve as the basis for truth, then truth will also change.

When I was serving as a short-term missionary in Russia back in 1997, I once found myself lost while trying to find a church. I did not know the town or the language, but I did know one thing. Right across the street from my apartment building was a statue named Avrora. If I could find her I could get home. I walked for a while in the direction I thought I should go, but soon realized that I was not making any progress. Somehow I managed to ask a couple people where Avrora was and each time I followed the direction they pointed I found myself no closer to my destination. Eventually I boarded a bus and rode it until I saw the beloved statue.

I knew the whole time that I was lost that if I could just see Avrora I would be OK. The people I asked weren’t much help. I didn’t know if their opinion of the way I should go was right or wrong, but all I knew was that I needed to get to Avrora. She was something solid that I could trust.

Should it not be the same with our search for truth? As we traverse through life, we need to have something solid and unchanging to give us direction. We need something absolute.

If there is no absolute authority, we can never say whether something is right or wrong. Truth would be relative.

Can we therefore say that homosexuals “should” be allowed to get married? No, because that statement requires an absolute authority.

Furthermore, would we be able to say that homosexuals “should not” be allowed to marry? Again, the answer is “no.”

Without an absolute authority, there is no “should.” Use of the word “should” indicates that some things are right and some are wrong.

John Oswalt points out that “unless the authority for moral behavior lies beyond ourselves, wrong will rapidly become right, and right will become wrong.”1

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

PREVIOUS – Click here for A Moral Compass, Part 2
NEXT – Click here for A Moral Compass, Part 4

1 John Oswalt, The New NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah, 121.

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