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Get Inoculated by Clay Jones’ “Truth S.E.R.U.M.M”





By: Justin Wishart

I had the pleasure of driving Professor Clay Jones to Airdrie Koinonia Christian School to present a talk to grade 11 and 12 students. Jones is a Professor of Apologetics at one of the top Christian universities, BIOLA. He started with a succinct history lesson, explaining how most students do not accept there are objective moral truths – that morality is relative. This is called moral relativism, which Jones summed up as, “you have your truth, I have my truth, your truth is no better than my truth and my truth is no better than your truth, and there is no moral truth with a capital T”. 

Even though this sounds so open-minded and tolerant to our modern ears, Jones insists it isn’t. He presented the students with an acronym that spells “S.E.R.U.M.M.” which shows that moral relativism is absurd and even dangerous.

S= SELF REFUTING: Moral relativists will often say things like, “you can’t push your morality on others!” But, this is obviously absurd, for, the moral relativist is saying “you shouldn’t” do something which is the definition of pushing your morality on others. He is doing the very thing that he says you cannot do. Even more fundamental, moral relativism is a distinct moral system that the moral relativist obviously thinks is right. But, moral relativism by definition says that there is no correct moral system, which means that moral relativism is wrong. In other words, to say that moral relativism is right is to say that moral relativism is wrong. It refutes itself.

E= Evil Enabling: Jones used a technique here where he tries to show things that are so obviously wrong (like kicking a baby down the street) that if the moral relativist agrees this is actually wrong, then his position is false. But if he is to remain consistent with his view, he must agree that kicking a baby down the street isn’t actually wrong. If something as sickening as kicking a baby down the street isn’t wrong, then any “evil” act is permissible. He read quotes by leading ethicists who contend that bestiality and pedophilia are not wrong to demonstrate the path that moral relativism leads. The world where moral relativism reigns becomes a very ugly world.

R= Racist Befriending:  Very often moral relativist are strong supporters of multiculturalism. They find things like racism repugnant, but Jones asked, on what basis does the moral relativist base this view on? Is it wrong to be a racist? The moral relativist must concede that it is not wrong because there is no right and wrong answer. Jones brought out examples of the Jewish Holocaust and American slavery, which were extremely racist. The moral relativist might not like the idea of the Holocaust or ethnic slavery, but unfortunately he cannot actually say it’s wrong. This makes moral relativism a racist’s best friend as it can easily be used to defend racism.

U= Utterly Hypocritical: Jones pointed out that if you are not a moral relativist, you are often labeled as “closed-minded” or a “bigot” to try and silence you. I can certainly attest to the truth of his point as I have been called both of those things often. Jones implored the students to think about this: Can a moral relativist condemn someone who is not a moral relativist? Isn’t that hypocritical? Are they not so “closed- minded” about their moral relativism that instead of an open conversation they try to shut down conversation with insults? It would seem obvious that not only is moral relativism self-refuting, but that it also filled with rank hypocrisy. 

M= Morally Stagnating: Jones asked the students this question: Is it better to kiss your wife or pour boiling oil on her? The moral relativist cannot actually answer this question if there is no right or wrong. Moreover, if there is no right or wrong, then one cannot know whether they are improving their lives or not. Is an alcoholic who struggles and overcomes his addiction actually improving? Improvement implies that there is a standard, in this case a moral standard, to work towards; that you are getting closer to some goal. However, moral relativism says there are no actual goals to get closer to. You can have a personal goal of drinking yourself to death, and the more you drink, the more you “improve” your life. But, this obviously destroys any concept of actual improvement. Hence, moral relativism gives no way to improve as individuals or as a society and gives us no reason to want to improve society.

M= Mind Closing: With all these ideas in place, Jones finished by pointing out that if there are no actual moral truths to search out for, then this creates people who live only by what feels good, or right, to them. This easily leads to hedonism or some similar worldview where everyone does what is right in their own eyes. “Why go through the hard work of finding moral truth?”, can easily lead to, “Why go through the hard work of finding any truth if it doesn’t exist?” It is a short step from basing morality on one’s subjective feelings to basing your life on one’s personal pleasure. Jones pointed out that we see the truth of this in our society today. As we become more morally relativistic we see that we are becoming more and more unmotivated and interested in truth in general. This cannot help but to make people less intellectually astute and the effects of this on society will be incalculable.

In many ways, moral relativism is like a disease that we must provide a vaccine to protect people from. And we can see how the disease of moral relativism is devastating to our society and that we all need the vaccine to stop its spread.

Jones’ serum needs to be administered to as many people as possible and with some practice you can learn how to effectively administer this vaccine to others. The more we contemplate and study the points in the acronym (and more study is needed for each point than this summary) the more effective we become in our ability share it. The vaccine is particularly important to administer to children and youth. The good news is once these concepts are understood we can begin to turn the tide and to bring more sanity back to our society.

  • Anonymous

    While I agree that there is a lot wrong with relativism, I also believe that we need to be careful with how we address the issue. For some people, their belief system here is being compared to a “disease” that needs to be “inoculated.” If the average person heard someone else speaking this way about their Christian beliefs, for example, they would likely respond defensively and close themselves off to any constructive input from the article. As a fellow apologist, I think that more sensitive language and respect is an order that we can honour Christ by the way we conduct ourselves. We do not need to water down the message (by no means!), but we must present the gospel in a way that does not alienate non-believers.

  • Thank you for you feedback and your points are well taken. I would say though that the acronym wouldn’t make much sense if moral relativism wasn’t compared to a disease. That was the main reason for the comparison. And I would also add that moral relativism has in many ways made our society “sick”. So, at least from my perspective, moral relativism is fairly compared with a disease. But, your right in that moral relativist are a pretty sensitive lot and we should not be overly aggressive unless lead by the Holy Spirit to do so. As an apologist, you must be aware that Christianity is regularly compared to a disease and other such terms. I don’t find the comparison troublesome outside the fact that is is wrong. In fact, I would say that if Christianity was false, it would be like a disease, or a Paul said “we are to be most pitied”.

    I do appreciate your warning and value your feedback. Thank you for reading our post and I hope that you continue reading.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your prompt response. I have one more comment. You may not have meant it this way, but to say “we should not be overly aggressive unless lead by the Holy Spirit to do so” could be viewed as a cop out, as I see no scriptural justification for this claim (others have used this phraseology to justify their claims, such as the Catholic Church and the Crusades). A further thought is that it seems that you are saying that since others have called Christianity a “disease” that it justifies Christians calling other worldviews a disease. Wouldn’t this make us no different than non-believers? I tend to see Christians as being held to a higher standard. I say this both in light of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount and his (and the apostles) treatment of non-believers. I do not recall Christ ever speaking aggressively to or about people outside of the religious leaders (leading God’s people) and those that were self-righteous (in the “church” and Judaism at the time). Rather, I remember Christ saying, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” and “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone” (to religious people, about a “sinner”). I do not think that non-believers will accept that they are in the dark until they have been shown the light. In other words, yes relativism is corrupt, but I do not think that it is scripturally sound to “bash” it as non-believers may (not that this was your intention). In the same vein, as Christians, we do not have power over others (not that you may necessarily see it this way). Knowledge is not true power. Christ is the true power through his incarnate and inerrant Word, and through us as his vessels. I more say this as I am weary of those who abuse apologetics and use it as an excuse to take power into their own hands. This may not be so with you, but here are my thoughts. I wanted to make you aware of the image you may be portraying.

    • Thank you for replying.

      There are many Scriptural examples of derogatory terms directed at other religions and philosophies. They are often called false, blind, dumb, etc. Foreign gods, which were the ultimate principle in any religion or philosophy, were often compared to “dung” (although the Hebrew word is much more graphic).

      Even people within Israel, but who were not leaders, were often insulted. Any number if insults were used, but probably the most graphic was Ezekiel’s very explicit portrayal of Israel as a whore. It’s enough to make me blush.

      Jesus often complained at how dumb His Disciples were and even called Peter Satan.

      The Early Church writers often called the ideas of heretical thoughts in degrading ways.

      I can go on and on, but I don’t think it is correct that Jesus only focused on Jewish leaders, who were not the leaders of “God’s People” as they were apostate. He was also very derogatory towards His own disciples. Unless you would like to draw from that that it is only permissible to be derogatory towards your fellow brothers and sisters, I think the Scripture is clear that we can point out the flaws of wrong thinking and do so in a stronger manner. However, I take what you are saying seriously, particularly since we live in a hyper-sensitive culture. I don’t think we have a divine command to use colourful language, but I don’t see it as being anti-biblical. In my personal life, God has used the words of people who pulled no punches at me to help me grow.

      I do have to say that I find comparing me calling Moral Relativism a disease is comparable to the Crusades, a bit of a stretch. First, even if this idea was used by the RCC for evil does not mean there isn’t truth to the phrase for what I am saying. In order to make your point here, it seems that you would need to find a direct command that you cannot use such language to describe a worldview, as I think the evidential weight is on my side.

      “A further thought is that it seems that you are saying that since others have called Christianity a “disease” that it justifies Christians calling other worldviews a disease.”

      No that is not what I’m saying, but looking at what I wrote I see that I was not clear. This misunderstanding is my fault. What I am saying is that if something is wrong, then it is wrong, and if this is something I believe that is true, I want to know that I am wrong. Many people in our hyper-sensitive culture have great trouble distinguishing between calling an idea dumb is not the same as calling them dumb.

      “This may not be so with you, but here are my thoughts. I wanted to make you aware of the image you may be portraying.”

      Again, I am grateful for your concern. Only someone who is caring would take the time to point out when someone is wrong. I can see that you care and I am grateful for this. I will think on this further and weigh your concerns. Thanks

  • I am not sure Jones understands moral relativity. He makes some very common errors in his thinking, or perhaps it’s one error repeatedly. For example;

    “…like kicking a baby down the street… that if the moral relativist agrees this is actually wrong, then his position is false. But if he is to remain consistent with his view, he must agree that kicking a baby down the street isn’t actually wrong”

    To the moral relativist, morality is simply opinion. When one asks the question “is this wrong?” it really is “is this wrong in your opinion?”. Not “is this absolutely wrong?”. There seems an inability by those making the argument above to ask the question from a relativist perspective, they’re asking an absolutist question to a relativist.

    This error is made again here;

    “Is it wrong to be a racist? The moral relativist must concede that it is not wrong because there is no right and wrong answer”

    A relativist could (and most likely would) respond to this question “yes I think it’s wrong to be racist”.

    And here again the same error: “Can a moral relativist condemn someone who is not a moral relativist? Isn’t that hypocritical?”

    Of course they could yes, and no it’s not hypocritical.

    And again here; “The moral relativist cannot actually answer this question if there is no right or wrong”

    Jones says “Improvement implies that there is a standard”

    A relativist replies; there are many standards, this is the point of relativism.

    Jones says “This easily leads to hedonism or some similar worldview where everyone does what is right in their own eyes”

    Which appears to be exactly the world we live in.

    Jones says “you are often labeled as “closed-minded” or a “bigot” to try and silence you”

    This is more likely a result of the prejudice of the person being entirely unreasonable, and is a statement of fact not an attempt to silence.

    This is a terrible argument he’s making, but I doubt the children he is talking to would be able to spot that.

  • You actually are making his points. You are agreeing with his idea that there is no over arching morality (to the relativistic person) and as such cannot say kicking babies down the road is actually wrong if the kicker says it is right for her. If morality is just subjective, it is not objective and cannot be binding on anyone’s action except for merely the individual. This seems obvious and you seem to agree, so where is the bad argument?