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Good and Bad, Relatively Speaking
Saturday, April 12, 2014 by Vicki Dorshorn

Often in today's relativistic culture, people will answer the question we've been considering with this: "The same thing can be bad to one person and good to another." With this logic (or lack thereof), we could say that murder or rape may be good for one and bad for another; of course, it may be "good" for the perpetrator, who is sick (evil), while it is bad for the victim. If this idea was accepted by the criminal justice system, what a real mess our society would be in: nothing would be illegal or punishable. Prisons would be empty, but no one would be safe. Violent criminals would run rampant in the streets. Would you like to live in a society like that?

Of course, we have to acknowledge some things as bad and others as good, even though good may come out of bad, as we've discussed in earlier posts. (See "Bad Things - Part 5" from 3/29/14.) The relativistic view is taken by those who want to make nothing bad or "wrong" so that they do not have to acknowledge an objective and absolute moral law or sovereign law-giver. Relativism may sound good on a base level, but it is a self-contradictory position; its logic fails basic tests. Two opposing views cannot both be true at the same time in the same place. As Dr. Ravi Zacharias says, "Even in India, people look both ways before crossing a street, because it is either the bus or them—not both."

Among the many definitions of "good" are these: Serving its purpose well, beneficial, having desired qualities, morally excellent, virtuous, well-behaved, dutiful, agreeable, kind, pleasant, wholesome, sound, reliable, safe, valid for, having worth, etc.

Among the many definitions of "bad" are these: Defective, inadequate, wicked, evil, not prosperous, decayed, rotten, criminal, corrupt, unwelcome, distressing, faulty, etc.

There weren't as many in my Webster's Dictionary for "bad" as there were for "good." (That should tell us something as to which is preferable.)

Obviously, the same action, event, or item could not be both of those to the same person at the same time under the same circumstances. And if we were to discuss rape, for example, could we ever rationally say that it is beneficial, has desired qualities, is morally excellent, kind, pleasant, safe, or any of the other definitions of good? People might jokingly say that it is, in their vain attempt to escape objective moral law, but it would be people who never had been raped. (See "Bad Things - Part 1" from 3/1/14.)

As I said in the beginning, those who are victims of a crime or survivors of a natural disaster will most usually admit that the event itself--experiencing it--was bad, even though good may have resulted. But that's a slightly different topic, isn't it? That's about events, actions, happenings. A forest fire will spark new growth eventually; it is a way that nature regenerates itself. As the saying goes: "Inside every cloud there is a silver lining."

Relativism is a little trickier when it is applied to morality (right and wrong) than it is when considering the goodness or badness of an event (like losing a job or other generally unfortunate circumstances).  When considering moral behavior and matters of truth, relativism breaks down as a worldview. Moral relativism, also known as situational ethics, is a topic in my upcoming non-fiction book, When the Wrong Thing Seems So Right.

So then, we can conclude that there are things that are bad and that those bad things happen to people. Next blog post will consider the worldview that gives meaning and purpose to the allowance of bad things.  

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