In a recent essay, Ravi Zacharias devoted a few paragraphs to the importance of moral reasoning and an ethical foundation. He reminded us of the insight that can be found in the book, The Roads to Modernity. Gertrude Himmelfarb makes a very powerful statement in the book. She argues that the difference between the European Enlightenment and the English and American Enlightenment was really one word.
For the French philosophers, reasoning was supreme. For the English and American philosophers, moral reasoning was supreme. Edmund Burke makes a similar observation in his commentary. Ethics, morality, and moral reasoning were important not only in that period of time but also were important in the framing of our government.
Ravi Zacharias then goes on to tell of a dinner in a European country he attended. One of the heads of a prestigious school of business proudly stated that a class in ethics was not part of their curriculum. “As the topic of conversation moved from curriculum to impact, several moments later he said that in the last national election three of the candidates were graduates of their school. “What happened,” I asked? “One lost because he was a womanizer, the second lost because he was an alcoholic, and the third, because he was corrupt” was his answer.” Ravi Zacharias then said that his wife whispered in his ear, “Maybe it’s time they started teaching ethics.”
Yes, it probably time they began thinking about teaching ethics in that school and in the major universities of Europe and America. The problem, of course, is they can’t even agree about the moral foundation necessary to effectively discuss ethics. Once you reject a belief in biblical absolutes, any ethical conversation quickly devolves into a discussion about personal moral preferences. This is often what we are left with in this world of postmodern personal truth and relative ethics.