Whether an investigation is conducted in a criminal case or on moral questions, there is a progression regarding the sureness of a belief that can be traced and articulated in a standard format. Each level attained in this format is based upon the certainty ascribed to whatever is being examined. For example, the lowest level of sureness is a hunch or gut feeling. Acting upon a hunch can take an investigator into the right direction or to a dead end. However, nobody can be convicted merely upon a hunch because the certitude of such a belief is too weak to justify a verdict. The next higher level of sureness is “reasonable suspicion.” In criminal cases, reasonable suspicion is a set of facts that would cause a reasonably prudent person with the same level of training and experience to suspect that someone has committed a crime or is about to commit a crime. The so-called “Terry Stop,” in which a policeman stops a person to identify them and obtain basic information is based upon reasonable suspicion. The next higher level is probable cause and it is used in court systems to justify an arrest or a search warrant. Probable cause is a far greater degree of certainty than the initial hunch that may have led an investigator in a specific direction, but it is still too weak to justify a final conclusion. The next level is the preponderance of the evidence, which means that a thing is more likely to be true than not be true. This is sometimes called the “49/51” rule and is used in modern civil cases. The next level of certainty is called “beyond reasonable doubt.” Reaching this level of belief is usually required to make a conviction in criminal cases. The next and highest level of certainty is “truth.” The following chart shows this progression of belief.
Unfortunately, our modern courts have neglected the highest level of certainty, Truth, and have essentially banished it from their justice system. However, if a court does not recognize the existence of Truth, then it cannot recognize self-evident truth. This becomes very apparent when it comes to fundamental questions such as, “Is it true that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, the first being the right to life?” Our forefathers, though diversified among themselves in such things as family status, financial resources, and mental and physical abilities, acknowledged this truth to be self-evident that all men are created equal with a right to life, and they expected to pass such knowledge to future generations. However, in excluding self-evident truth from the legal standard, specific certainties found in our forefather’s justice system have quickly degenerated backwards from the known to the unknown to the point where people now debate whether a human being in the womb has any legal right whatsoever to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.
This paradigm shift regarding fundamental issues of life and the means by which it may justly be deprived reveals that an interconnection exists between criminal justice and moral principles. If moral principles have no absolute value under-girding them, then over time an erratic swing of the courthouse pendulum is to be expected on fundamental issues. However, if moral principles do have an absolute moral anchor, then our modern judges have inculcated our court system with such a heinous error against absolute truth that its fruit will eventually threaten society itself unless absolute morality and self evident truth is returned to case law.
Absolutism is the process of making practically every issue into a black-or-white situation. The key phrase for identifying absolutism is "practically every issue." Unfortunately, every movement that pushes toward attaining or reestablishing set standards of morality is always in peril of stereotyping their concepts of right and wrong into absolutism. One book written by fundamentalist Christians about their church history commented upon this penchant as being a scourge to one’s testimony:
§ “Because of the Fundamentalist' commitment to the truth, there is a tendency among them to over-absolutism, that is to approach every conceivable issue with a totally black-or-white mentality. Our tendency is to view something as either totally right or totally wrong. While this is definitely the case in many situations, becoming locked in that kind of mentality has caused overstatement and over criticism in many unnecessary matters.”[i]
On the other side of the spectrum is relativism: the belief that absolute values do not exist for any position regarding morality. Though such a position is self-contradictory and collapses under its own weight, many atheists adhere tenaciously to it. In addition, government schools and universities have for decades focused upon indoctrinating students into the belief that there are no absolutes when it comes to values, especially in the area of morality and religion. The effect is that people are exhorted not to make judgments, but rather to define and classify values.[ii] This propaganda of values clarification has been so successful that many college graduates have actually come to believe that it is not absolutely wrong for a man to violently rape a woman! Sadly, this trend of not believing in absolute truth is also among religiously minded people. According to The Barna Group of Ventura, California, a 2002 poll revealed that sixty-eight percent of born-again adults and ninety-one percent of born-again teenagers responded that they do not believe in absolute moral truth.[iii]
Physical laws cannot spawn the formation of moral concepts. Ideas on morality are essentially expressions of one’s theology – even when someone is their own god (a religion in which a fool is the most zealous disciple). From Wicca witches and wizards to self-professed atheists, all argue moral values from presuppositions concerning goodness. Whether they deny that they possess a formal creed or they fail to recognize their foundational beliefs as religious, everyone’s view on morally criminal issues rests upon concepts springing from the immaterial realm, not the physical. In other words, moral positions regarding whether a behavior should be considered criminal or not arises from the spiritual realm.
Sir William Blackstone, A.D. 1723-1780, wrote a renowned series of commentaries on British law. In fact, from 1793 to 2004, the United States Supreme Court turned to Blackstone’s legal commentaries roughly 300 times. Blackstone’s understanding of law told him that the certainty of mathematical laws point to the possible existence of absolute moral values. Blackstone also believed that man’s depraved nature made divine revelation on the specifics of absolute morality a necessity. In his legal commentaries, Blackstone wrote:
§ “For as God, when He created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when He created man, and endued him with free will to conduct himself in all parts of life, He laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that free will is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws.”[iv]
Mathematicians have proven that absolute values exist. These absolute values are the same regardless of the situation, regardless of location, and regardless of who has political or judicial power. The fact that humanity can comprehend that unseen mathematical absolute values might exist, discover, and even prove them a reality is remarkable! Nothing about understanding mathematical absolutes in advanced mathematics is required to hunt, fish, or gather food, yet human beings possess the intellect to consider such unseen concepts operating in the material universe. In fact, numbers are concepts – nobody has seen the number “5,” but rather a symbol or word used to represent the concept of five.
Likewise, the unseen concept of moral values does not arise from the material world, yet human beings can at least comprehend the necessity of their existence. The chemicals that form the human body, however, have no mind and thus no care regarding concepts of right or wrong. Even when chemicals are arranged by design into solid-state components to make high-speed computers, and those computers are then linked together into a sophisticated network, none of the devices ever contemplates whether its actions are morally just.
Even among the animals, ideas of guilt or innocence to a crime are foreign concepts. Though Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov demonstrated that dogs can be conditioned to yield specific responses, no beast seeks to examine its system of values. For example, if an ape is found by its peers to be deceased, none of the other apes seek to find out if the primate died of natural causes or was strangled by another ape. A carcass might stimulate a fight or flight response, or put other animals on edge, but no animal detached from a situation has ever had an impartial desire for justice regarding the death of a beast that it never knew. This attribute separates humanity from animals, and it is one reason why it is unsound to try to justify immorality by pointing to the behavior of beasts.
Only humanity troubles itself to determine the cause of death of a stranger. Mankind alone seeks to pronounce guilt upon a murderer or to acquit the slayer if the killing was done in self defense. Such tendencies cannot be derived from the material world. The concept of good or evil can only originate from the domain of the unseen. This is especially true if such concepts are to be established as unchanging:
§ “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
The fact that human beings can comprehend unseen absolutes in mathematics and have some rudimentary concept of being wronged or treating someone right demonstrates that humanity possesses something greater than only a material existence bound by chemical processes. As in mathematics, rational beings should be beyond wondering if there are absolute moral values, and rather seek to discover and prove those absolutes.
On the contrary, many people seek to establish the doctrine that there are no absolute moral values. However, if morality has no absolute value upon which all value systems can be judged, then the unseen dimension of morality is relegated into nothing more than emotion; and if morality is only an emotion, then there cannot be absolute right and wrong. In effect, there would be no viable justification to hold anyone to any set of values or law. If acted upon consistently, this philosophy would unleash total anarchy where everyone did what was right in his or her own eyes - without any ultimate accountability or responsibility.
Some people who reject absolute values yet want some form of legal system propose that rightness is whatever society says is good. Among other flaws in this approach, the “might is right” concept turns justice into an illusion, a sham, and a fairytale. Under a purely democratic system of justice, if society thinks an action is obscene, then the courts find it so. If society later thinks the action is not obscene, then courts also find this to be true. If society changes its mind again, the courts are obliged to follow. Thus, in this system where morality is set according to public opinion polls, there are no objective values to render a steadfast verdict upon issues of morality: welcome to post-Christian barbarism, also known as legal positivism, which says something is right only because the law of the land says so today. A former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, describes this paradigm as follows:
§ “The laws had to have ultimacy, or they could not work as intended. When law loses what only the conviction of ultimacy can bestow, it degenerates into pragmatism, and that means that breakdown is near. Right and wrong then become questions of risk versus reward, and morality then is purely a matter of calculation.”[v]
Francis Schaeffer, a twentieth century philosopher, said, "Today not only in philosophy but in politics, government, and individual morality, our generation sees solutions in terms of synthesis and not absolutes. When this happens, truth, as people had always thought of truth, has died."[vi] Because we have departed from measuring our lives by absolute standards, our morality has fallen to the facade of secular humanism. Secular humanism lacks inner substance, and the ungodly veneer hiding the barbarism of its fluctuating values cannot stand the test of time. As stated earlier, without absolute moral values, if society changes, then the definition of right and wrong change. As such, exterminating Jews or enslaving a black race may be wrong today, but it could be right tomorrow if the emotions of the ruling powers swing or waffle in the opposite direction. This waffling upon basic issues is due to rejecting an absolute value.
Some atheists and pagans speak of civilization evolving behavioral expectations which have come to be called good. They may claim that we know how to improve society better than we did millennia ago, because history has recorded the effects of certain actions. However, such a claim presupposes that a specific outcome, for example, fewer murders, is a good thing – which is in and of itself a moral benchmark. Atheists and pagans cannot prove why this benchmark is a good thing and its value cannot be derived from mechanical prossesses (Such atheists are merely following a gut feeling – the weakest level of certainty). In fact, the system of society determining moral values begs the question, “Is society a good thing or bad thing?” If there can be no absolute moral value regarding whether society is a good thing, then listening to the whims of society or a panel of judges vacillate between what it thinks is right and wrong is pointless. In other words, an atheist judge may say that society is what determines right and wrong, but if it cannot be proved that society is a good thing, then there is no point in arguing about anything in terms of being right or wrong, good or evil (As such, atheists are the servants of circular reasoning when they claim that society creates moral standards over time). Society can only be proved a good thing if absolute values exist, and such admission places society under a rule of values, not the arbitrary creator of them.
“It’s wrong for me,” or “I don’t see anything wrong with it,” are common refrains in conversation today regarding moral issues. However, since mere humans do not create moral standards prior to being born, conception into this material world marks a human being’s entrance into someone else’s morality; therefore, self-morality or self-righteousness cannot be legitimately binding upon the rest of humanity. If something were truly morally wrong, it would be wrong whether a mere mortal in question ever existed. The desire to create one’s own moral values is merely an attempt to be one’s own ultimate standard, and subsequently the desire to object to any moral standard, especially God, that would threaten their own self-righteousness. Again, the self-righteous approach to moral values does nothing for establishing any valid standard of right or wrong, but it is a step into barbarism and an attempt to be one’s own god. This desire to be like God to make one’s own standard of goodness and evil is the same lie that has plagued mankind from the beginning.
Although some people believe the self-contradictory supposition that there are no absolutes, others think that absolute moral values exist and that these ideals were communicated to humanity in the form of laws or commands. Ancient civilizations always claimed the later view as a basis for law. As one writer put it, “Laws are always theologically based, whether or not they are so acknowledged. In the societies of the ancient Near East, laws were always associated with deity. The famous Hammurabi stele, for example, shows the sun god Shemash giving the Babylonian laws to the king.”[vii] The bottom line is that civil government imposes morality upon its citizens through the criminal justice system with every verdict, and the basis of that morality is always derived from a religious premise inspired by the realm of the unseen.
The majority of the world’s religions, however, have irreconcilable differences when it comes to identifying these absolute laws of morality. Muslims, for example, believe that earning interest on financial loans to others is a heinous crime deserving of hell-fire (Koran 30:39, et al). In fact, an entire banking industry has been built for Muslims to avoid loans earning conventional interest or riba. Jesus, on the other hand, praised people for making interest on their money (Matthew 25:27; Luke 19:23), and the Jews were allowed to earn interest on loans to Gentiles (Deuteronomy 23:20) and on other Jews when the economy was very good (Deuteronomy 15:3-5). From this financial example alone, it should be apparent that all religions and their gods are not morally equivalent to each other. In fact, these two ideologies regarding the simplest concept of morality for economics are mutually exclusive. If earning interest on money is not an amoral activity, then logically one view is correct and the other is incorrect. In other words, since “A” cannot equal “Non-A,” then it is an absolute certainty that the historic Judeo-Christian view (A) and the historic Islamic view (non-A) on the morality of earning monetary interest cannot both be right. One of the two must be a false view taught by a false god.
The question that naturally arises is, “Since we are born into someone else’s view of morality, seeing that the very concept of right or wrong existed prior to our mind acquiring consciousness, and since there exists conflicting views of which morality is universally applicable, how can we discover and validate absolute moral truth and thus recognize moral laws?” The following sections are designed to help answer this question.
[i] Ed Dobson, Ed hindson, Jerry Falwell, The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: The Resurgence of Conservative Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), p. 153.
[ii] “Sentimentality, as we have seen, finds expression in autonomous, pragmatically based decisions on right and wrong, and in the refusal to declare absolute standards on all matters, including poverty. What sometimes seems to be an intellectual vacuity in humanitarian polemics is associated with this trait, which we may think of as the propensity to define or to classify rather than to make judgments.” Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction (Washington, D.C.: Regenery Gateway, 1990), p. 74.
[iii] Barna, George.). The Barna Update: Americans are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings (The Barna Group, Ventura, California, www.barna.org, 2002).
[iv] Blackstone, William. Commentaries. 1735. Volume 1.
[v] Schlossberg, Herbert . Idols for Destruction (Washington, D.C.: Regenery Gateway, 1990), p Schlossberg, p. 47.
[vi]Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1976), p. 163.
[vii] James Muilenberg, The Way of Israel (New York: Harper and Bros., 1961), p. 64. Cf. Jacques Ellul, The Theological Foundation of Law (New York, 1969), p. 18.