Thursday, 9 April 2015

Relativism Vs. Objective/Absolute Truth


     It has been estimated that about 70% of Americans do not believe in absolute truth, and as few as 38% of those who attend what is perceived to be conservative Christian churches believe in absolute truth.1 Only 9% of American adults hold a biblical worldview, whereas less than one half of one percent of those aged 18 to 23 do.2 The majority seems to favor an open, tolerant, pluralistic society, where individual choice is more important than absolute standards. Relativism currently reigns as the non-standard standard: “What I consider right and wrong is true for me, and what you consider right and wrong is true for you.”
     The “politically correct” agenda, as advocated by media outlets, politicians, the entertainment industry, and other secular entities, has consistently indoctrinated impressionable minds with ideas such as: (1) the supremacy of individual choice as the ultimate criterion; (2) personal feelings and opinions as the primary basis of morality; (3) truth is subjective and relative to circumstances; (4) diverse viewpoints are equally valid; (5) unconditional acceptance, inclusiveness, and tolerance; and (6) the demonization of making negative judgments about others.3
Relativism in Religion
     Postmodernism is a popular model of thinking that affirms there is no real knowledge or facts or truth in the objective sense (only subjective interpretations); no uniform or universal reality.4 And postmodernistic relativism is not limited to atheists, agnostics, humanists, and skeptics. Universalism is the belief that all people will ultimately be reconciled to God. Syncretism is the combining of different religious beliefs, asserting unity and the inclusion of diverse faiths. Pluralism is accepting all religious paths as equally valid and promoting coexistence. It is all too common to hear the adage, “One religion is as good as another.”
     For professing Christians who at least pay lip service to the exclusiveness of the Christian faith (see John 14:6), alternative slogans include, “One church is as good as another,” “Join the church of your choice,” and “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere.” Now that Christianized Relativism is so commonplace in our society, who can be surprised by messages like that of Victoria Olsteen? She announces to the world: “just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God, really, you’re doing it for yourself ...”5
Relativism in Churches of Christ6
     With the inroads of relativism and the denial of absolute truth, we are witnessing among churches of Christ a rejection or compromise of fundamental tenets such as biblical authority, the restoration plea, the distinctiveness of the church, worship guidelines, doctrinal integrity, and a strict moral code. Teachings regarded as harsh or unpleasant or inconvenient are diluted or changed. Grace and unconditional acceptance take precedence over repentance, accountability, and obedience. Rather than appealing to Bible authority and what we know pleases the Lord, greater emphasis is placed on what interests members (felt needs) and/or what attracts people in the community. Doctrinal and procedural change is hailed as essential to salvaging or transforming what is perceived to be an antiquated and dying church.7 Then there are the catchphrases that prematurely end dialogue: “Everyone’s entitled to his/her own opinion.” “That’s just you’re interpretation.” “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.” “Who are you to judge?!”
The Biblical Perspective
     The Bible addresses two types of human judging; one is condemned, while the other is enjoined. (1) Wrongful judgment (Matt. 7:1-5; Rom. 2:1-3; 1 Cor. 4:3-5) involves hypocritical assessments, or trying to discern another’s intentions and motives, or drawing conclusions without having all the facts, or making judgments based on misinformation, or using oneself as the standard. (2) Righteous judgment (John 7:24; 1 Cor. 2:15; 5:3, 12; 6:2-5) relies on God’s word as the standard, evaluates observable actions and substantiated facts, and sincerely has the person’s best interests at heart.8
     If the Bible is to be taken seriously, the following affirmations must be conceded:
·      There is an objective body of spiritual truth (John 4:24; 8:32; 17:17; Rom. 1:25; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; 2 Cor. 6:7; Gal. 2:5; Eph. 4:21; Col. 1:5; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 4:12; 11:6; Jas. 1:18).
·      Truth is attainable (Mark 12:32; John 4:23-24; 16:13; 17:20-21; Eph. 5:17; 2 Pet. 3:9).
·      Truth is knowable (John 1:14, 17; 8:32; 14:6; Rom. 2:2; Col. 1:6; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 3:7; Heb. 10:26; 1 Jn 2:21; 2 Jn 1).
·      Truth is mutually understandable (Matt. 13:10-16, 23; Mark 7:14; Eph. 3:3-4; 5:17; Col. 1:9-10; 2 Tim. 2:7).
·      One may err from the truth (John 8:44; Rom. 1:25; Gal. 2:14; 3:1; 5:7; 1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Tim. 2:18; 3:8; 4:1-5; Titus 1:14; Jas. 3:14; 5:19; 2 Pet. 2:2; 1 John 1:8; 2:4; cf. Rom. 1:18).
·      Truth is to be believed (John 8:45-46; Eph. 1:13; 2 Thess. 2:10-13; 1 Tim. 4:3; 2 Tim. 2:25).
·      Truth is to be obeyed (John 3:21; 8:47; 18:37; Rom. 2:8-9; 6:17-18; Gal. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 1:6; 2:4-5; 2 John 4; 3 John 3-4).
·      Truth is to be defended (Gal. 4:16; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 3:15; Jude 3; cf. Acts 9:22; 18:28).
·      Truth is to be proclaimed (John 5:33; 8:40, 45-46; 18:37; Acts 26:25; Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 5:10-20; 7:14; Eph. 4:15; 1 Tim. 2:7).
Conclusion:
     Moral relativism is the necessary consequence of rejecting God and his word in favor of individual preference (cf. Rom. 1:18-31). But history has proven many times over that fallible human beings are an inadequate standard (cf. Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23). Without divine guidelines, there is no such thing as absolute truth, absolute evil, or absolute good, and everyone does “what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). One of the best arguments against relativism is the sad state of our society and world and the turmoil and disunity in religion, including the Lord’s church. An objective standard of truth that is mutually accepted, understood, and obeyed is a logical necessity.Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:2-3 NKJV).
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 “Religious Beliefs of Americans: Does Absolute Truth Exist?,” Religious-Tolerance.org, <Link>.
     2 “Barna Survey Examines Changes,” The Barna Group, <Link>. Alvin Kernan observes that modern education has taken “uncertainty to its nihilistic extremes in the humanities and social sciences, 'demystifying' traditional knowledge, replacing positivism with relativism, substituting interpretation for facts, and discrediting objectivity in the name of subjectivity” (In Platos Cave xvi).
     3 In reality, it would appear that all are exempt from criticism except those who espouse conservative Christian values.
     5 Bill Cosby's response to Victoria Olsteen, YouTube, <Link>. Conversely, see K. L. Moore's What Are You Getting Out of Worship? <Link>.
     6 See Phil Sanders, Adrift: Postmodernism in the Church. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 2000; and the sequel, A Faith Built on Sand: the Foolishness of Popular Religion in a Postmodern Age. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 2011.
     7 See James Norad’s “Why are Churches of Christ Shrinking?” <Link>; and K. L. Moore’s response, Musicals, American Football, and Folks Leaving the Church, <Link>.
     8 “The truth of the gospel is uncomfortable precisely because it is true. The truth of the gospel shows us the strength of self-denial rather than the indulgence of self-affirmation. Clearly stating the truth of the gospel, we have a message with substance and relevance for all of life. It is the way of salvation” (Gregory Alan Tidwell, “The Splendor of Truth,” <Link>).

Related PostsThe Inconsistency of Relativism

Related articles: Dave Miller's “Political Correctness and 'Bashing',” <Link>; Steve Higginbotham's “Religious Tolerance,“ <Link>; Eric Metaxas, “The new normless: the toll of relativism on our kids,” <Link>.

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1 comment:

  1. As I have come to expect from you,brother,a brilliant article:-)

    ReplyDelete