Many cultures today – including Western culture – have a subjective, pragmatic, relativistic, and democratic view of ethics and morality. Historic Christianity, however, has an objective foundation for absolute norms. Here are five points Kenneth Samples gives to explain the Christian foundation for ethics (I’ve summarized and slightly edited these):
“1) Morality originates in God’s perfect character and immutable nature. Objective moral principles are not only compatible with the Christian worldview, but are also exactly what would be expected in a world made by an infinite, eternal, holy, just, and loving Creator. The source and foundation for the ethical absolutes reflected in Christianity are found in the God of the Bible. Moral ideals stem from his perfect character and unchanging nature.”
“2) Moral values are objective, universal, unchanging, and discoverable. The ethical principles so central to the historic Christian worldview are distinct from and independent of the human mind and will. Therefore they are objective instead of subjective. These universal values are an ‘abiding and fixed reality common to all.’”
“3) Moral values are prescriptive in nature. Prescriptive moral values involve the distinctly ethical ‘ought’ or ‘should.’ To have objective morality requires a ‘right’ that should be followed and a ‘wrong’ that ought to be avoided. The prescriptive nature of ethics (an immediate and direct moral awareness in humans) compels right or correct conduct.”
“4) Subjective ethics are inadequate, incoherent, and pragmatically unlivable. An ethical approach to life based solely upon an individual’s likes, tastes, or preferences cannot function as a viable moral philosophy. A morality relative to either a person or a culture is ultimately incoherent (in effect, such a morality denies itself). Moral relativism, which pervades much of Western culture, leads to the logical quagmire of thinking that…no code of values exceeds any other, and all moral choices are equal.”
“5) The God of the Bible endowed the universe and especially human kind with value, meaning, and significance. Imagining how a universe without God (and in particular the sovereign Lord revealed explicitly in Scripture) could have value, meaning, and purpose, especially with regard to individual human beings, is problematic. If the universe and humanity are merely products of blind, accidental, and purely natural processes – then a genuine enduring value for life is extremely difficult to identify and justify. Accidental creatures with no ultimate purpose or end are hard pressed to impart any permanent significance to their own lives.”
For the entire helpful discussion, see chapter 11 of A World of Difference by Kenneth Samples.