Any ethical discourse that proceeds from the mouth of Christians must rest in submission to the Lordship of Christ in all areas of thought. This statement is as much ethical as it is epistemological. Therefore, it is imperative that all ethics be couched in proper and coherent epistemological language. The conclusions of one’s ethical inquiry will necessarily agree with one’s epistemology, and in fact, have to. It makes no sense for one to assume one position in order to arrive at another – this is a dishonest and mistaken way to think about worldviews. It is an unfortunate and I dare say sinful thing that higher education in all its levels, not to mention basic education, is robbed of epistemology and the proper place of ethics as a comprehensive worldview and in a logically coherent fashion. Instead, our school systems take for granted that 1. Knowledge is possible, 2. Neutrality is possible, and 3. That secularism is neutral and therefore desirable. In order to make room for cultural pluralism, our system of teaching has then become epistemologically plural. This is a correlation fallacy. To imply that just because there exist many cultures and then come to the conclusion that therefore there exists a viable epistemological plurality (that points to some abstract nebulous neutrality) is the result of erroneous thinking. Just because the devil wears 10 different suits does not mean that there exist 10 different devils. Even worse, epistemology is not taught even in high school, for to do so would expose the fallacy of neutrality for what it is. The system posits that it is reasonable for many differing points of view to be taught and then to declare all of them as equally viable choices so that it does not have to point to the obvious fact that morality is not relative and neither are facts. If the schools decided to place epistemology as some educational pursuit, then they will have to arrive at many differing forms of ethics simply because there exist different views on epistemology.
Let it be known that our schools are in fact teaching ethics both implicitly and explicitly. To tell a student that they ought to not cheat on their homework is by nature establishing a universal. But this is not just a means to an end (for a good and honest grade), it is an absolute. When a teacher asserts that homework ought to be done honestly, they are implying that it is a good thing to do homework honestly. Since this is, in fact, what they are implying, then they are also implying that (all variables equal) honesty is objective and universal, even if they do not word it in that exact way. We are hard pressed to think that any reasonable teacher would believe that the statement “homework ought to be done honestly” is a subjective construct that only applies to western culture. When they say this, the way they mean it is in an absolute way. Our language and intentions show this. It is an ethic. But why would a student feel bad if she is caught cheating and why would a teacher feel disappointed when this happens? If it is simply a little social construct that is subjective, then couldn’t the student affirm confidently and honestly that their culture is different enough so that homework shouldn’t really be done honestly but that the student will “do it when she pleases?” By the argumentation that morality is subjective, the student has that right. But let us assume for the sake of argument that the student is right to do this, and the teacher understands this and agrees to disagree with the student that “homework should not be done honestly, but it is a favor for the teacher when the student pleases.” Even if the teacher and student come to that agreement, this would still be a contradiction, since in reality there would be no point of agreement. Since morality is objective, you cannot agree to disagree on two contradictory universal “oughts.” Teachers simply do not think this way and neither do students, or else why would the feeling of disapproval by the teacher happen as well as the shame of the student when they are caught? (Even if they are not caught, the student will still know that it is wrong absolutely because they know, by the testimony of the Law of God in their consciences, that lying is a sin that they seek to suppress but they are not able to do this with totality. Let us take this a bit further. Let us assume that morality is subjective, but that the particular public school has a code of ethics that states: “In our school, morality is subjective and homework can be done dishonestly, but in other schools, this does not have to be the case. Therefore, Sally student is exonerated on this basis.” The problem with this is that the terms “honest” and “dishonest” are polar opposites. Polar opposites assume the laws of logic, and these laws must be universal or else our society would not be able to think let alone work.
So where does epistemology fit into this ethical example I have given? The school’s epistemology not only would be some sort of empirical or rationalist construct, but it would be one that is sinfully rejecting the Lordship of Christ in education. This is what “subjective morality” results in. It results in an ethic that is sinful because of its epistemological starting point which is anti-Christian and therefore antagonistic to God’s revelation (The Scriptures.)
In conclusions, I am convinced that teachers believe that homework ought to be done honestly, and that many of them believe that this is an objective truth. But the incoherence lies in that the only epistemology that has the preconditions for intelligibility in comprehensive ethics and human experience is Christian theism. So if a teacher or school district does not believe this, then their hidden assumptions make manifest their incoherence and hatred of God and His truth. This can be demonstrated by a host of contradictions that they should be ashamed of. We, as Christians who seek to propagate the truth of the Bible must respectfully and lovingly address these ethical issues in our school systems in dialogue and debate.
In Christ and for His glory,
Felipe Diez III