WORLDVIEWS

RELATIVISM - HEDGING ABOUT WITH THE TRUTH [1]

Many of the worldviews we are considering include reference to ‘relative’ or ‘relativism’, or to the absence of 'absolutes' or absolute, invariable, unconditional  truth.

In secular humanism with its removal of the concept of a real God, ‘sin’ does not exist, and ‘truth’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ lose their clear, absolute definition. Each individual decides for him/herself what is right and wrong in each situation.  This is relativism.

In hedonism, where pleasure dictates what is considered ‘good’, we will see that whatever feels good, or makes you feel good, is ‘right’. This is relativism. We will also see that this hedonistic relativism enters our churches, watering down the absolute truths of the Bible into something more pleasing and palatable to the human ego.

In anti-authoritarianism we will see that relativism both feeds and feeds on human hatred of authority, especially the authority of God. Right, wrong and truth are masticated beyond recognition in the process.

In nihilism we saw relativism in its most depressing and destructive expression. Here is the ultimate end of the denial of absolutes and the insistence that all is relative. If everything is relative then nothing, not even the human, has any meaning or purpose.

In New Age pantheism we will see the relativisation of ‘god’. Here, everything is god. God loses his distinctness, his absoluteness, his otherness. He merges with his creation: he is his creation. He merges with me: he is me. This relativisation of god means that there are potentially as many definitions of god as there are people on the planet. The Biblical teachings about God are not considered absolute truth.

In subjectivism we will see truth and reality interpreted through ‘self-coloured’ glasses. Here I interpret everything through my own feelings and perceptions. I take truth to be what I feel and perceive to be truth, rather than basing my understanding of truth on the objective, absolute facts recorded in the Bible. Truth is relative to my feelings and perceptions.

Similarly in existentialism we will see a jettisoning of absolute truth. Here truth is what I perceive to be true – it is what is true for me. And what is true for me is not necessarily what is true for another, nor will it necessarily be true for me tomorrow. Truth only exists as truth when I receive it as truth, and even then it is only truth for me. Thus the concept of an objective, absolute, complete revelation of truth which is the same truth for all people at all times in all places is a non-concept. Such an understanding of truth is nonsense for the existentialist. Again we have pure relativism.

From all of the above we can see that relativism is a very present, pervasive, and persistent ideology. We can also see that it is diametrically opposed to the clear teachings of the Bible.

In the presence of such contradiction of Biblical truth it is essential that we identify and reaffirm the central issues on which the historic Christian faith either stands or falls. In next week's article we will consider five fundamental biblical truths that stand in stark contrast to contemporary relativism.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2011