Christianity vs. the Playboy Philosophy – Program 2

By: Anson Mount, Josh McDowell; ©1984
Are there moral absolutes that apply to everyone, or are we free to form our own morality?

Moral Absolutes

Ankerberg: Welcome. I’m sure that you’re acquainted with Playboy Magazine. We have one of its representatives here tonight, Mr. Anson Mount, and he’s discussing and defending the Playboy philosophy that he has helped research; and also Mr. Josh McDowell, one of America’s leading speakers on university campuses. And, gentlemen, we left it off last week in talking about philosophy and life and are there any moral absolutes. Something that you said in the Playboy philosophy, Anson, was this: “Truth may play a part in religious dogma, but we think it is presumptuous for any one religion to assume it has the inside track on truth, divinely revealed.” And you went on to say what you did believe. “We believe in a moral and law abiding society but one in which morality and the laws are based upon logic and reason rather than upon mysticism or religious dogma.” Now, Josh, that has been the challenge from last week. Why don’t you pick it up and give us what you would say to that, and then Anson come on back on that.
McDowell: I think Anson wanted to make a statement first.
Mount: We’re talking about absolute values. Yeah, I think it’s wrong for Christians to believe that everybody in the whole world should live by their precepts, because, after all, Christianity is, compared with some other religions, a minor religion. There are far more Mohammedans and, I guess, Buddhists and Hindus in the world than there are Christians. I think it’s wrong for any religion to say that “The way we believe is right and everybody else is wrong.” I think that’s been one of the problems in the past. But, as far as absolutes are concerned, and now we get into absolutism, and the reason many religions have that idea that they’re right and everybody else is wrong, is this idea of absolutism, absolute truths. Now, I think there are some absolutes. I think cruelty is absolutely wrong.
McDowell: Why?
Mount: I don’t think it needs explaining!
McDowell: I do.
Mount: You do?
McDowell: I know some sadistic people and others that think cruelty is very right.
Mount: Yes sir! There are a lot of sickies around, that’s true.
McDowell: Are they “sickie” because they don’t agree with us morally?
Ankerberg: Anson, not only that, but the thing is, you’ve got an article in Playboy this month on sadism and masochism. So, apparently it’s all being advocated.
Mount: It’s not being advocated. When you do an article on something, that doesn’t mean you approve of it. When you print a cartoon…
Ankerberg: Well, it goes to show the point that Playboy is aware of the fact that other folks hold that point of view, even to the point of taking pictures and showing about it.
Mount: Of course. We’re aware that the world is filled with people who have diverse ideas and who disagree with us. That’s alright, we live in a free society.
Ankerberg: The question is, why would they be wrong, then?
Mount: Why would what be wrong?
Ankerberg: Why would cruelty be wrong?
Mount: I think it’s an absolute truth, since we’re all human beings, that whatever affects human welfare for good is good, and what affects human welfare and happiness badly is bad.
McDowell: Who determines what good is for human welfare? What Eichmann might think is different from you and me. What Martin Luther King thinks is different somewhere else.
Mount: We live in a diverse world. That’s true.
McDowell: Well, who is going to decide there?
Mount: Who is going to decide?
McDowell: I mean, can you say, “Those that believe in cruelty to children are wrong.”
Mount: We each have to decide for ourselves, obviously. Now, let’s get back to moral imperatives and moral absolutes. There is one thing about traditional Christianity that has always confused me about these moral absolutes, and I’m talking about the Ten Commandments. We have always felt that the Ten Commandments, almost all the Ten Commandments, or “Thou shalt not except….” “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” except sometimes you tell a white lie because you’re going to keep from hurting somebody. Right? There are always exceptions. And these exceptions by and large, at least socially, have been accepted. “Thou shalt not do this” except when you’re hurting somebody. You know, there have always been exceptions.
But there’s one commandment about which there has never been any acceptable in terms of traditional Christianity, conservative Christianity, exception. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” By the way, the fact that adultery varies a little bit from fornication isn’t taken into consideration. But nevertheless, Christianity and traditional Christians, and especially conservative Christians, have never really ever been able to come to terms with maybe there might be an exception in sex. But, they have always seemed to be willing to make certain exceptions in most of the other commandments.
McDowell: Let me clarify that for you, Anson.
Mount: Alright.
McDowell: And you know in your theology, and you do, at least you’ve said you did….
Mount: No, I never said I know anything.
McDowell: In 1968 you said, “I know my theology and I know it very well.” When God gave the Ten Commandments….
Mount: Well, I had just been to the theological school.
McDowell: Well, that’s the problem, see. Maybe you went to the wrong one, who knows? Look here…
Mount: That was 1968. That was a long time ago, man! I went to the Episcopal Theological Seminary.
McDowell: The Ten Commandments are an expression of the very nature of God. This is the key: “Thou shalt not lie.” Falsehood is a sin. I believe it’s a universal. “Thou shalt not kill.” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” etc.
Mount: Thou shalt not kill, okay?
McDowell: Now wait, let me finish here.
Mount: Now wait a second. When somebody’s suffering from an….
McDowell: What Anson has missed, and even many traditional Christians have missed is this, that when it comes to Christian ethics, it’s what is called hierarchical ethics in the sense, these are all absolutes; but all the absolutes do not carry the same weight.
Mount: Oh, I see!
McDowell: Never. There is never an exception, but an exemption from it. For example, the Bible is very clear that people’s lives are more important than things. People’s lives are always more important than things; that people’s lives are more important than truth telling. This with Rahab, where God honored Rahab’s lie. Why? It says, “Thou shalt not kill,” and “Thou shalt not bear falsehood.” When two moral absolutes come into conflict, Anson, with a Bible basis – and Jesus pointed this out, the greater commandment, the lesser commandment, the weightier parts of the law – when it comes up against, “Should I lie and permit these people to be killed by the enemy, or am I exempt from the lower law and exercise the obedience to the higher law?” I believe that when it comes to Christian ethics, you are exempt from the lower law in not doing the lesser evil, like many Christians hold to, Anson. But I believe doing the greater good. And when you exercise the greater good you are exempt from the universal law of lying. You say, “That’s stretching the point.” No it isn’t. It’s not an exception but exemption. Illustration…
Mount: Makes sense to me.
McDowell: Illustration: The law of gravity affects everyone who is here. It is a universal absolute. However, when I get on the plane tomorrow and I fly into Atlanta, I commit myself to the law of aerodynamics. It does not give an exception to the law of gravity, it gives an exemption from the law of gravity. The law of gravity is still universal. When it comes up against say, me lying, to save a person’s life, then the saving of that person’s life is doing the greater good and before God or anyone else I am not guilty, I don’t even have to confess that lesser evil when I do the greater good. And that deals with almost every moral conflict from lying, adultery, everything, Anson. And here again it comes in the very nature of God demonstrated by Jesus Christ.
Mount: Great! We’re getting closer together all the time.
McDowell: You better believe it! That’s why I’m saying Eichmann and Ehrlichman and all these people are wrong. Why? Because each person, you and me, have been created in the image of God. There is value within an individual. Christ came to demonstrate that. And I can tell anyone that they are wrong when it comes to destroying an individual that is created in the image of God, whether it’s Jim Jones or Eichmann.
Mount: I wish a lot of fundamentalist preachers that I know could have heard you for the last 10 minutes.
McDowell: Well, Anson, I do too! I do too!
Mount: Well, what were you talking about? We got off the subject.
McDowell: We were talking about rights and wrongs.
Ankerberg: Let’s break it up here and I’m sure that some people that are on the university campuses would say, “Okay, McDowell, you just gave a nice way of using your absolute but you haven’t proven the fact that absolutes are even there to start with. What is your truth basis?”
McDowell: Okay, my truth basis, and this is another issue I take with the Playboy philosophy of being irrational, illogical, unreasonable. I believe the Christian faith is very rational. I believe God has manifested Himself within the created world.
Mount: Wait a minute. Where do you see in the Playboy philosophy that Christianity is “irrational, unbelievable, and whatever?”
McDowell: Okay, let me get it right here.
Mount: I know.
McDowell: I’ve got it right here somewhere, Anson.
Mount: I don’t believe Hefner ever said that.
McDowell: “We believe in the moral and law-abiding society in which morality and laws are based upon logic and reason rather than upon mysticism and religious dogma. Our reality is based in large part on mystical dogma, not reason. And then it goes and says, “Religion is based upon faith.” Now, how does Hugh Hefner define faith?
Mount: I don’t know. Ask him.
McDowell: You helped him research it, Anson! You’re the defender of Playboy!
Mount: Well, I think what he meant by that is simply that Christianity is based on faith. In other words, people buy something on faith rather than on scientific evidence. Now, I don’t know how you can buy religion on scientific evidence anyway, and I don’t know how you can buy a philosophy of life on scientific evidence, but a lot of people do. Many avowed atheists only believe what they see and what can be proven to them, and there’s too many things in the world that are unanswerable. So that doesn’t work. But obviously there are things in the universe, there are forces in the universe, there are powers in the universe, there are elements in the universe that we not only cannot understand, we can’t even conceive. Understanding God is like an ant trying to understand the human being.
McDowell: Up until Jesus Christ came. Up until Jesus Christ came, Anson.
Mount: That’s exactly right.
McDowell: That’s what I was saying. God has manifested Himself.
Mount: But you must also realize that there are millions and millions and millions of people in the world for whom Muhammad did that, for whom Buddha did that. At least that’s what they think.
McDowell: No, no, no. I don’t think Muhammad ever said that. I just finished debating at….
Mount: I said that there are people for whom all ultimate truth comes from Muhammad and the Qur’an. There are people in the world for whom all ultimate….
McDowell: Okay. That’s right. But what I’m saying is, faith here is intelligent faith. I believe my presupposition is that God has manifested Himself in human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.
Mount: Do you believe in intelligence faith?
McDowell: Yes, I do. I believe in intelligent faith.
Mount: Congratulations, so do I.
McDowell: And that He died on the cross for our sins, was buried, raised again on the third day. Now with all presuppositions, I believe two things. One, it needs to coincide with reality with what is; and, second, is there sufficient evidence to support it?
Ankerberg: Alright, Josh, what is the evidence for your moral absolutes? And then we’re going to get down to the sexual application of that or how we would define sexual relationships from a moral absolute. What’s the evidence for it?
McDowell: Well, the evidence for absolutes is in the Person of Jesus Christ and the revealed Word of God which I believe is the Bible. And I believe in Christ. We can approach it like any other person or event in history. Not using scientific evidence, because that does not apply to an event in history. You apply evidential evidence. The evidential method.
And I believe there we can apply it to the resurrection of Christ mainly, and prophecies fulfilled in Christ that He was the Son of God, that on the third day He was raised from the dead. Dr. Simon Greenleaf, the man who put Harvard Law School on the map, wrote the three great volumes on Laws of Legal Evidence, thought it was all a joke until some students challenged him to apply the three volumes on Laws of Legal Evidence to the resurrection. And he did and he became a Christian. He concluded by saying in his big book that is printed now, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the best established events of history according to the laws of legal evidence administered in the courts of justice.”
Now, I believe as a Christian I need to use my mind, yielded to God, and be able to consider the evidence. But when I see the non-Christians that are influencing people, for example, like Aldous Huxley, the atheist, so many people say, “Well, look at the brilliant man! Look at his arguments against God.” He said, quoting Ends and Means, page 270, “I had motives,” not reasons. “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning.” In other words, absolute in meaning. “Consequently, assumed it had none. For myself the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation sexually and politically.” Now, everybody is saying, “Huxley had an intelligent faith. The Christian has a blind faith.” I say, no, I believe a Christian has an intelligent faith. Huxley had a blind faith.
Ankerberg: Anson brought up a good question. “Why Jesus? Why not Muhammad or Buddha?” Okay? And it seems to me that a possible answer might be the fact that Buddha and Muhammad never claimed to be God in the flesh.
McDowell: Yeah, but even if they did claim, was there evidence? See, Buddha didn’t. Confucius didn’t. Muhammad didn’t. Muhammad Ali did, but the other Muhammad didn’t. But Jesus did. However, you have the prophecy fulfilled in his life. You have the resurrection.
Mount: Jim Jones did!
McDowell: That’s right, but Jones never got raised from the dead. Christ said one main thing would show me that “I am” the Son of God, the revealed Word of God, and that there is absolute truth, was His resurrection.
Ankerberg: Okay, I’m sure we’re going to come back to that. Let’s move on, because a lot of people out there are saying, “Okay, you’re talking about the Playboy philosophy.” Let’s get down to the sexual relationships. And, Anson, I want to come right back to you on this. We’ll push Josh on the fact of applying his absolutes to the area of sex. You said, “I have the feeling that more casual sex winds up in a good healthy marriage than the traditionalists would like to think. It’s not the fact that a preacher stood in front of you that makes it moral. It’s the quality of the relationship. It’s also true that if it’s a good relationship, if it’s a moral relationship, it’s very likely going to end up in marriage.” My question is: What is a “quality relationship” and why don’t we hear more about what that is in Playboy Magazine?
Mount: You do!
Ankerberg: What is a quality relationship?
Mount: A quality relationship is a loving relationship between two people, neither of which uses each other, both of which are kind to each other, and they have a working, loving, warm – and again we’re getting into terms that have to be defined – healthy relationship. Now, everybody has their own definition of that.
But what I want to point out is that it is possible to have a very demeaning, cruel and vicious relationship within the bounds of matrimony. It’s possible to have that outside matrimony. Or, it’s possible to have a good, kind, loving, healthy, responsible sexual relationship inside or outside marriage. The fact that somebody, a preacher, says words in front of you doesn’t make it one way or the other.
But what I want to point out is that we started, in a sense “we,” we were the spokesmen for this rebellion against some of the darker and more neurotic and more repressive puritan ideas of 25 years ago. And we kind of won the war in a sense. The world is a more open, at least this country is a more open society now in terms of sexual interests; in terms of sexual realism; in terms of accepting diverse ideas about sexuality; in terms of recognizing that sex is a good, wholesome part of life just like a lot of other things are, and that it isn’t by definition “dirty” and to be forbidden. So, we’re there.
But the pendulum, like pendulums always do, swings a great deal one way. We got into that ridiculous period with group sex and wife swapping and the idea that the perfect sexual life is picking up a new date at a single’s bar every night of the year. A lot of people, especially young people, took their new freedom to extremes. And now what they’ve done is they found out on their own that it’s unsatisfying. You see the pendulum swinging back in the other direction now. We see younger people finally deciding that sex is not good, is not most enjoyable when it’s with a stranger on a one-night stand. It’s within the context of a loving and happy relationship. They’re beginning to learn that. And so even if they’re not getting married as much as they used to, the pendulum is swinging back from that extreme hedonism. Now, the point of it is, the pendulum is never going to swing back the whole way. We’re never going to go back to that horrible period that was in the late 30s.
Ankerberg: I think the question is, Anson, if we agree with you that the revolution has been that good. And we still need to define terms like “quality” and “love” and things like that. Josh?
McDowell: I don’t think the revolution has been successful. I don’t think you’ve won the war, Anson. I don’t think it has been successful.
Mount: When I say “successful,” I meant we’ve freed ourselves from the more unpleasant parts of puritanism. Now…
McDowell: To a greater bondage maybe.
Mount: We still have a lot to learn.
McDowell: It’s like being thrown out of jail into the hole.
Mount: We still have a lot to learn about human sexuality. We still have a large part of the population that has to learn that sex is most rewarding within the context of a loving situation.
McDowell: Anson, this hits my heartbeat because I see the suffering out there. Last night you told me that you helped put together the Playboy philosophy and everything else.
Mount: No, I didn’t. I told you I helped do the research.
McDowell: Okay. But isn’t it interesting, now, you might correct me here, but I read the thing four times last night…
Mount: And much of the research, by the way, came from theologians.
McDowell: …and not once is the word “love” used. You’re just talking about, yes, loving relationships. Anson, I read it four times and I couldn’t find love.
Mount: You didn’t, huh?
McDowell: I couldn’t find it. And here you’re saying the Playboy philosophy is in a loving relationship. Then why in the world didn’t the bible of Playboy, say “love”? I mean, at least once, give me a hint! I think we have lost. I think, as much as I disagree with much of the puritanical past, I disagree more, and I am burdened more, and hurt more emotionally with the bondage of the present.
In fact, Armand Nicolai of Harvard University, at an advanced scholars seminar in Chicago, I think, really showed what’s happening today. He said, “Sexual liberation, easier opportunities for sexual gratification, have not produced a lessening of aggression. In fact, it seems to have increased restlessness, discontent and conflict.” Rollo May, the therapist, says, “Therapists today rarely see patients who exhibit repression of sex.” In fact, Anson, they come for the opposite reason. “Many talk a great deal about sexual activity. Practically no one complains of cultural prohibitions and not being able to go to bed as often and with as many partners as they want to. Rather, they complain about the lack of feeling and passion.” Rollo May goes on and says that in the Victorian age they enjoyed sex more than people do today.
Mount: Because it was forbidden.
McDowell: Not only forbidden, they have a little different attitude today.
Mount: Because it was forbidden.
McDowell: I would say in the Victorian day they had a little more attitude of the worth and the value of the individual than people do today.
Ankerberg: Okay, we have to have a summary statement from both of you.
Mount: You’re reporting what psychiatrists say now, that the large percentage of patients who come in complain not because of repression, because it doesn’t interest them anymore. Twenty or thirty years ago a large percentage of the psychiatrists said that most of their sexually disturbed patients were people who were coming in whose sexuality had been so repressed that it had surfaced in very undesirable ways. It had surfaced in very unhealthy ways. Now that doesn’t happen anymore. We don’t have people who have these strange, weird psychological problems because their sexuality is repressed. We’ve got other problems.
McDowell: Now we have the strange, weird, in-depth hurt, emotional problems today. You know George Leonard?
Mount: And that’s exactly why I’m saying that the pendulum is swinging back toward a more middle of the road thing now.
McDowell: I think it has to go even further back than even the middle of the road, Anson. I really do.
Mount: You think we’re going to go back to the point…
McDowell: See, back in the 40s and the 50s, now I went back and researched this out…
Mount: You think it’s going to go back to where preachers tell us that sex is dirty.
McDowell: Oh, no!
Mount: Oh, I hope not!
McDowell: But see, the problem is that down through history, Anson, there has been a portion of those that have said that. But I think I can say from my research, the overwhelming majority have not. I believe that anyone with any common sense can go back and see what the Bible says about it. And I’m convinced that one of the most beautiful books on sex is the Bible. I think the sex and the love and everything that I have for my wife started when I became a Christian at the university and I saw the beauty and the value of the two becoming one flesh in the commitment of marriage and sex. And I think that’s what we need to swing back to. We had to come out of that – some in the puritanical. However, the mass majority were not there of Christians. I do not find that in research.
Ankerberg: We have to wrap it up and continue this next week. I think we’ll open up with a very interesting chapter from one of Josh’s books “What is the Most Important Sexual Organ in Your Body?”

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