Whatever Happened to Right and Wrong?

By Chip Ingram

We live in a culture that increasingly doesn’t believe there’s a difference between right and wrong.

In a recent Barna research study conducted at a university campus, 20 random students were asked, “Do you believe there is an absolute truth that is true of all people of all time?”

The responses went something like this:

  • “Truth is whatever you believe.”
  • “There is no absolute truth.”
  • “If there were such a thing as ‘absolute truth,’ how could we know what it is?”

This study reflects the beliefs of most Americans today. Other studies have shown that 91 percent of teenagers don’t believe in absolute truth and 66 percent of adults don’t either. Instead, most people believe in an existential concept of truth.

Right and wrong has become subjective – reduced to someone’s opinion or personal perception.

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In the sixties and the seventies, we began to hear phrases like, “Just do your thing.”And, “If it feels good, do it.” Later, we heard phrases like, “Truth is different for me than it is for you.”And then, finally, the one we now hear all the time is, “Who am I – or you – to judge?”

But it hasn’t always been this way. For most of history, humankind has believed there’s a truth that is absolutely true at all times and in all places whether we experience it or not.

That’s because we have always lived on the basis of absolutes in most areas of our lives without even realizing it. For example, a person can say, “I don’t believe in gravity,” but if he or she steps off a three-story building, their belief system will change very quickly!

So what does God say about right and wrong?

Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Don’t be deceived, God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that sinful nature will reap destruction and the one who sows to please his spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

God is clear: there is absolute truth, and when we violate it, there’s a price to pay.

When we see soaring divorce rates, breakups, communicable diseases, people in unmanageable debt, and people with addictions they can’t shake because they’re trying to fill the holes that the world doesn’t fill, this is all evidence of truth violated.

Jesus was the most tolerant and kindest person who ever lived. But He also made outrageous, absolute claims.

He said this about Himself: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” (John 14:6)

That is a very intolerant, non-existential statement, isn’t it?

But it comes from a God who loves and cares deeply about you, about your kids, about your friends, and about your neighbors.

It comes from a God who is pursuing people and who longs for relationship and connection that’s real and absolute.

If you have additional questions on this topic, take a look at Chip’s series “Culture Shock” and “Why I Believe.”

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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