Brother Ron Barnes
Founder and Pastor

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Objectivism, Subjectivism and Relativism

Dear Brother Ron

What are objectivism, subjectivism and relativism in terms of religious studies? How would these apply to homosexuality?


Dear Coolness

Objectivism is the ethical position that certain acts are objectively right or wrong. Personal opinions do not enter into the equation. Using objective data, the act is either right all the time or wrong all the time. An objective person would come to this conclusion every time for every circumstance.

Subjectivism holds that the nature and existence of every object depends solely on someone's subjective awareness of it. Judgments of right and wrong depend on the individual's perception of those acts and how they relate to his internal value system.

Relativism holds that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead depend on social , cultural , historical or personal circumstances. In other words, an act may be right or wrong, depending on these circumstances.

How these apply to homosexuality or any other behavior depends on your spiritual perspective. If you believe that God's law, as interpreted by religious organizations, is absolute, then behaviors are either right or wrong for everybody, all the time, no exceptions. A person using such standards would rely on an external definition of such behaviors, since any personal definition would not be objective.

If, however, you believe that we are each free to set our own standards of right and wrong, you are the only relevant judge of your behavior. My problem with this is it does not take into account the effect of your behavior on others. If I believe that only I can determine what is right for me, then I would consider how my behavior affects you to be irrelevant. Those who are offended or harmed by my behavior might disagree.

Judging the correctness of an act based on relative circumstances necessarily involves a personal interpretation of the person's relationship to his environment. If I see a certain event from a certain perspective, I might consider it entirely appropriate to react one way. Somebody seeing the same thing from a different perspective might consider my reactions totally inappropriate.

So I guess it all depends on whether you value the standards of religious organizations, other people or yourself. Personally, I like to ask God for guidance. By going directly to the source, I avoid those with organizational agendas. Besides, I consider any human values (including my own) imperfect and questionable.

Best always
Brother Ron