Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Defeating Moral Relativism by Francis Beckwith MP3 Audio

In this lecture for Summit Ministries, Francis Beckwith deals with the extremely common but important issue of moral relativism. This is the view that there are no objective moral truths that apply to all people in all times and places. Beckwith and Koukl ‘wrote the book’ on Relativism, which is highly recommended.

Full MP3 Audio here. (45 minutes)

Video here at Summit.



  1. Michael Baldwin June 9, 2010

    That was good, thanks Brian. Francis Beckwith came across really approachable, cool and actually pretty normal, I like him! Haha.
    Also, there are loads and loads of great videos on their archive page.

  2. Darren Webb June 9, 2010

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Davitor June 9, 2010

    The only thing Francis Beckwith proved is that the judgment he gives is the judgment he gets.

  4. pds June 9, 2010

    Why are you judging him yourself?

  5. Ex N1hilo June 10, 2010

    “Doctor, why do I need the Penicillin? They say that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” LOL.

    Francis Beckwith is a good speaker. He makes a number of significant and good points, especially his demonstration that moral relativism is, at root, self-contradictory and self-refuting.

    I would recommend this MP3 file, with a caveat. That is, I would point out that since Dr. Beckwith’s return to Roman Catholicism in 2007 he has moved to the position that, although Scripture and “The unanimous consent of the Church Fathers” are co-equal authorities with the Teaching Magisterium of the Roman Church; it is the Roman Magisterium alone, and ultimately the office of the Papacy, that hold final authority over the interpretation of the Fathers and, most significantly, of the Scriptures. Effectively, this has given popes and councils the power to add doctrines and dogmas that are found nowhere in Scripture nor in the early Church writers, such as the primacy of the pope, purgatory, and the Marian dogmas. (A “dogma” is defined by the RCC as a teaching that must be accepted by Christians, such that if one denies a dogma, one cannot be saved. For example, if one denies that the pope is infallible when teaching “ex cathedra”—BTW, a nebulous concept in itself—he is anathema from Christ.)

    Dr. Beckwith has been arguing that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is erroneous, and that we cannot know with certainty the meaning of any Scripture; and indeed, we cannot know what is and what is not Scripture apart from the testimony of the Roman Magisterium. And, although I am unaware of Beckwith applying this axiom in his work on ethics and morality, if he were to be consistent, they must bow to the final authority of the Magisterium as well.

    A consistent application of this principle would produce an “objective morality” that is, in fact, built on shifting sands, rather than on the bedrock of God’s Word. Again, although he did not talk about this grounding in this presentation, this is effectively where Dr. Beckwith is right now.

  6. pds June 10, 2010

    Ex N1hilo,

    Is that view of dogma an extream view in the RRC or a common view?

  7. Ex N1hilo June 10, 2010


    What I have written represents the official view, as I understand it. I do try to represent the Roman religion accurately, and I encourage those to whom I have spoken about it to check with a priest to see if what I have said is accurate; that I have not grossly misrepresented what they teach.

    I was raised in that religion and received religious instruction in Roman Catholic schools. And, although I was converted to Christianity at 23, I have continued to study it since. As I am 47 years old now, I was in the RCC about half of my life.

    Now, the RCC is a vast organization, and RC theology is a huge and varied subject, with much disagreement between RC theologians. And, many RCs today view dogma, to the extent they are aware of it, along with the general (non-dogmatic) teachings and practices of their religion as a "take it or leave it" thing. Nonetheless, in official documents, such as the canons of church councils, papal bulls and encyclicals, and official catechisms, you will find lists of dogmas, which must be believed by the faithful, as definitional of the Gospel. One can be ignorant of these dogmas, if unlearned, without being anathema from Christ; but if you aware of them, denying them brings condemnation.

    These dogmas include such biblical doctrines as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection of Christ. But also, doctrines which, while claimed to have a basis in the bible, are difficult to support biblically, and to which Protestants would not agree, such as the also the RC view of the "seven sacraments", transubstantiation, the RC priest as mediator of the graces of the sacrament to the faithful, etc.

    Others seem to be purely philosophical and/or based on claims of extra-biblical revelation, such as the perpetual virginity, immaculate conception, and assumption of Mary, papal infallibility, and the RC teachings on purgatory and indulgences, which had a big part in touching off the Reformation.

    The latter dogma asserts, among other things, that there are Catholics, who, in this life, produce enough merit with God, that they have an overabundance when they die. This merit is collected in a treasury, which the Pope has authority over, and from which he can offer merit to remit the penalties of sins for Catholics in this life and in Purgatory.

    At the pope’s discretion, he may give away portions of this merit. He may promise portions of it in exchange for pious acts on the part of the faithful. Or he may promise portions of it in exchange for cash money. It was the later sort of “indulgence,” dispensing of the merits of the Saints for cash that paid for the building of Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, which most of us have seen on TV.

  8. Ex N1hilo June 10, 2010

    Another thing Bible Christians would take issue with is the RC view of justification. As far as I can tell, there is no single “Dogma of Justification,” but rather, references to justification as scattered throughout several dogmas. Justification is a process, beginning at water baptism, and continuing for the life of the Catholic, past death, through Purgatory, until the soul is cleansed through suffering and the merits of the Saints from the stain of sin, and released into heaven, after perhaps thousands or millions of years in purgatory.

    Justification is achieved through: Faith in God, including belief of the dogmas of the RCC, plus participation in the sacraments of the RCC, plus personal works of righteousness done in co-operation with, and empowered by the grace of God, plus the merits of the saints dispensed by the pope, plus personal suffering of the faithful Catholic in this life and in purgatory.

    Clearly in RC teaching, Christ didn’t do all that we need to be right with God. He did the greater part of it, and God enables us, by His grace, to make up what is lacking in Christ and His work on our behalf.

    Sorry for being so long-winded. I could go on about this stuff all day. To summarize, I would say that what makes (particularly post-Trent) Roman Catholicism unique, is that it affirms so much biblical truth, while, in the end, denying the sufficiency of Christ to save sinners. That makes it the Enemy’s most brilliant masterpiece.

  9. Davitor June 10, 2010

    Thanks Ex N1hilo, you have so proven that when you abide by a conceptualized moral absolute there is no end to the judgement you give. And so the measure you give shall be the measure you get.
    And I know exactly what you’re going to say in response "are you not judging me"
    No, not at all Ex N1hilo, please continue to do all the judging you want endlessly till the end of time, for then you will prove to me the true meaning of hell. 😀

  10. Ex N1hilo June 10, 2010


    You are correct that I will respond, "I am not your judge." God is your judge. You know this.

    I count it a privilege to inform you of the what God has declared in His word, about His creatorship, justice, and mercy in Jesus Christ.

    But I am, of course, fallible and incomplete in my understanding and ability to present this. Which is why I encourage you to go directly to God's word and ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten your heart and mind to these things. May God bless you.


  11. Davitor June 10, 2010

    Yes Sam, if you spend any time doing God's job all you proving is that you’re not confident He’s capable, as I am doing now.
    And may God give us the fruits in our endeavors as we choose accordingly.

  12. Paul June 10, 2010

    Thanks Ex N1hilo,

    Its my view that the RC does lead people to faith but has many views that are unhelpful and distract from this primary goal. The docrine of Justification seems particulary problematic. Do you think RC teaching is within the bare minimum in terms of salvation? Obviously there is huge variety but what do you think?

    – pds

  13. bossmanham June 11, 2010

    Ex, since Vatican 2, the RCC has lightened up a lot.

  14. Ex N1hilo June 13, 2010


    Vatican II put a smiley face on the RCC. Nevertheless, "heretics and schismatics" like you and I are still under her anathemas, which have not been revoked. They are still official dogmas.

  15. gordinha48 June 21, 2010

    ExN1hilo: although I'm a Protestant, I've known people who converted to Catholicism because they were looking for a kind of spirituality that does not exist in most Protestant denominations. I have studied Calvinist, Arminianist, Universalism and other interpretations of the Scriptures and I have come to the conclusion that salvation is indeed by faith alone, and "He that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" even if one's theology does not agree with yours or mine.

  16. gordinha48 June 21, 2010

    Along the lines of my comment above, here is an excerpt from an essay I read sometime ago:
    "A Protestant writer who converted to Catholicism was Frederick W. Faber, who lived from 1814 to 1863. He wrote a very famous hymn "Faith of Our Fathers". Frederick Faber was first affiliated with the Church of England, but then he left because he was fed up with their lack of passion for Jesus, and he joined the Catholic church, which he felt was much more in line with the way he thought and the way he believed about the Lord.
    Faber wrote "Faith of our Fathers" not long after his break with the Anglican church. He was a deeply devoted disciple of Jesus and he believed that a Christian's relationship with Jesus, ought to be deep and personal. This is what he said:
    "My superiors in the Anglican church could accept some of their nuns taking their relationship with the Lord to this extreme; after all, to them, they were just silly women, but a clergyman? Oh, no! That set their heads awhirl, to be sure. So I left them and I joined the Catholic faith because they were accepting of such things.
    The simple, trusting faith of the Catholics had no limits as to how far such passion could go, as long as it was sincere.The song "Faith of Our Fathers" was my proclamation that I would fight to keep my love strong and pure, and I wrote: "Faith of our fathers, living still, in spite of dungeon, fire and sword; faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death."O Jesus, Jesus" and several others were expressions of the deep, passionate love I felt for my Saviour" (from an essay by Maria Fontaine)

  17. Ex N1hilo June 28, 2010


    One can profess one's love of Christ, but if one is, at the same time, relying on the merits of one's own works and the merits of Mary and the saints to make one acceptable before God, one is denying Christ as one's Savior.

    The RCC's doctrine and dogmas make Christ the insufficient Savior. This is why Rome's "gospel" saves no one.

    Now, if a member of the RCC is trusting in Christ and His righteousness alone to justify them, they will be repulsed by RCC teachings. I believe they will seek to get out. Certainly, they ought to, since the religion of Rome blasphemes their Lord.