Right and Wrong: Absolute or Relative? – Part 2

Hello, my friend.

As introduced in part 1, here is my take on what I think the answer is. As I have already mentioned, I am a Christian and my answer will be based on my research of the Bible.

My answer is that Right and Wrong is absolute.

A Pastor in Barbados had always recommended that if you want to know how something is to work, then go back to the beginning. So we will start there, in the Garden of Eden.

Obtaining the Knowledge

I am sure that we are familiar with what had transpired in the Garden. God had warned Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2: 15 -17). Eve was tempted by the serpent and ate the fruit, and gave some to Adam, of which he took and ate. My question stems from the passage “and then the eyes of both of them were opened” (Genesis 3: 1 – 7); when they ate the fruit, what did they gain?

It is an unusual question to ask, as we know what they had lost following the Bible passages, they were cast out from the Garden and separated from the Presence of God. Though He loved them dearly, he had to punish, (discipline) them for their rebellion.

But what did they gain? After careful reading, I discovered that the answer was within the tree itself. They ate the fruit and they both obtained the KNOWLEDGE of Good and Evil. This implies that they did not have that prior to eating the fruit and it’s safe to conclude that they gained the knowledge afterwards.

The next question will be, what is the result of their obtaining their new-found Knowledge?

God, Cain and Lamech

The next point I’d like to raise to explain this concept further is the First Murder, involving the children of Adam and Eve; Cain and Abel (Genesis 4).

I believe that the innate knowledge of what is Good and Evil had been passed down from parents to children. However, I’m sure that we can all agree that though parents have taught what is right and wrong generally, children grow up and often do the opposite of what has been taught. Why is this?

Going back to Cain and Abel, Cain was bitterly jealous because God favoured Abel’s offerings to Him, of which Cain took personally, and ultimately killed his twin brother. God then punished Cain for his actions, but Cain was worried that someone might kill him. It was then that God declared that if anyone were to kill him will suffer 7 times over and placed a special mark so that no one will dare to try.

This establishes a truth that we all know: Murder is wrong. This is absolute. Retaliation murder is also wrong; though Cain knew that his life was in jeopardy, God protected him with a mark to stop those who, let’s say, for example, wanted to avenge Abel from exacting their false sense of justice or any kind of revenge.

To illustrate this further, I want to talk about the descendants of Cain. one person in particular; Lamech (Genesis 4: 19).

As Cain is the first murderer recorded in the Bible, his great-great-great grandson Lamech is the first person recorded in the Bible to have two wives. Why is this significant? Well, besides the fact that we have additional information about Lamech compared to his father and his father’s father all the way up to Cain, he had made a choice that no one had ever done before him, which is to marry two wives.

I repeat this point because God had declared back in Genesis 2: 24 that “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife and they become one flesh.” , the doctrine of marriage. One man, one wife, one flesh.

We cannot deny that marriage, that is a man and a woman who love and are committed to each other, deciding to be united in Holy Matrimony as one and to spend their rest of their lives together, is a beautiful and almost magical concept. This is clearly a good thing. As Proverbs 18: 22 says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord.”

(Despite the fact that the book of Proverbs wasn’t written at this time) God intended for marriage to be one man, one wife. Yet, Lamech is the first person to have two wives. The next question is: what made him want to obtain two wives?

The only logical conclusion I can come up with is the following, which I will take the form of Lamech’s mind, following what could have happened:

I know that God created marriage. Men find wives to establish their own family and to produce children. Marriage involves one man and one wife and God has intended this to be a good thing. It is a good thing.

However, if it is good to have one wife, it must be twice as good to have two wives.

Is this true? I, as well as many others, will hold that this is not good, that it defeats the purpose of one man, one wife. Why on earth would Lamech think that this is good?

Then it hit me. Why did God not want Adam and Eve, as well as all of us to have that Knowledge of Good and Evil in the first place? The answer is because, humans have a tendency to make good relative to ourselves. Lamech wanted two wives because he thought that it would be twice as good to have two. He had taken an Absolute Good, a good that God established which will benefit the whole and made it into a Relative Good, a good that benefited himself and himself only.

This is what God was trying to prevent.

Using the example in the first post, the thief had deprived the money of the shop owner for his own benefit. That deprivation caused the shop owner financial and emotional strain and resulted to him taking his own life. How can the act of stealing money of which we do not see the potential consequences of what could happen as a result of the theft be seen as an Absolute Good? It isn’t. Then what is an Absolute Good? In this context, it would have been better for the thief not to have taken the money in the first place. This is good, an Absolute Good that is. If you don’t have, you don’t have. It’s absolutely wrong to deprive someone of something that belongs to them, just as it is an absolute good not to take something that does not belong to you.

And it’s not just stealing. It could be lying, gossiping and, of course, murder.

I conclude this by leaving you with this my thoughts:

An act of which the original and sole intention is to cause harm to or to deprive of a benefit from a person that does not benefit society as a whole and only benefits the person who has harmed or deprived another is bad; I can go further and call it an act of evil. It could be harm to a person’s emotions, finances, physical or mental state for the purposes of benefiting the malicious party in any way, shape or form which comes at a loss to the victim is an act of evil.

I concede that this is a large topic, and I can only hope and pray that I have explained my thought pattern clearly, but what do you think? Please leave your comments in the comment section below.

Thank you for taking the time for reading this (lengthy) post, my friend.

God bless you and see you next time.

Tunde T. Amao

Right and Wrong: Absolute or Relative? – Part 1

Greetings, my friend.

I still remember when I took my seat in my first International Human Rights lecture at my university, and my lecturer who has a wealth of knowledge asked us a simple, yet thought-provoking question: is human rights absolute or relative?  As we discussed this point in class, I thought about asking the same question in regards to what we know (or don’t know) about Right and Wrong.

Now I have to admit, I am not a Philosopher, (although I’d love to have all the know-how on Philosophy at my disposal; I imagine having different categories within the mental realms of the brain, flicking sources and information at will) and I am bound to my own understanding of philosophical concepts, nevertheless this challenges me to explore all these in my own time, and to share with you, of course. I may mix up philosophical concepts or, what would be unfortunate, get them wrong totally. To the philosophers out there, please leave your comments below so that I may learn and correct myself.

Keeping the focus on the concepts mentioned above, Absolutism, simply put, is something that is concrete and widespread; it cannot be changed or ignored without incurring some particular consequences, E.g we know that killing something is absolutely wrong. Relativism, again, in my own understanding is something that is permissible only within a set context, for example, one rule or way of life may be acceptable in one culture, but totally wrong in another. The best way I can explain this concept is the following statement that you’ve probably heard someone say: “Just because it’s right for you doesn’t mean it’s right for me.”

Now that the concepts have been explained, we can go forth and attempt to answer the question. As I am a Christian, my analysis will be from the Christian perspective. I will be writing a separate post illustrating my answer. Also, whilst writing this post, it had dawned on me how broad this subject is, and will condense it as much as I can.

I believe and have a strong conviction that Good and Bad are absolutes, even though elements of relativity can pop up here and there. I read a debate earlier on and an example of The Thief was used. The Contender illustrated that if she was a thief and was to steal money from the store, and left a note indicating that they would pay it back in a months time as she wanted the money for support, which will improve her life a lot and will strive to reimburse the funds, then is this truly a bad thing?

The Instigator whilst rebutting had stood his ground and said in this context that stealing from others is wrong. He added a few extra facts to The Contender’s illustration stating that the amount stolen, whether a great amount or not had placed his business in financial difficulty having only one day to pay his all debts. Unable to do so, he loses his business, and his wife and unfortunately commits suicide.

Having said all this, my thoughts are this:

An act which deprives another of a personal, emotional, financial, mental, physical is absolutely wrong. However, this statement is not an absolute statement. We can think of many situations where the overall benefit of an aspect of life is good, but given its own unique context, it is concluded that the act is not right and should be set aside.

A good example of this is two friends who both have feelings for each other and would want to establish a relationship. This is good. However, they both are aware of the inner conflicts that they have. We know that holding a relationship requires time, dedication and emotional maturity, whilst having to balance that with their own projects and ventures as individuals. Sure, being in a relationship is good, but for these individuals, it wouldn’t be the right choice, (unless they believe they could do it and juggle everything else simultaneously).

In the light of relationships, the answer is clear-cut. The concept as a whole, well, it’s not easy to give a definite answer.

As mentioned earlier, I will be writing a separate post on this matter, to illustrate this point even further, but I leave you with this same question. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Thank you for reading, friend.

Tunde T. Amao