Once a person, or culture, accepts a belief in relativism, any idea of absolute truth or morality that transcends culture becomes nonexistent or irrelevant.
George Orwell once said, “The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”
I believe it is fair to assert that Western culture has drifted towards the doctrine of relativism.This idea is also referred to as postmodernism. Relativism is the belief that there is no absolute truth, only the truths that a particular individual or culture happen to believe. Once a person, or culture, accepts a belief in relativism, any idea of absolute truth or morality that transcends culture becomes nonexistent or irrelevant. Carried to a logical conclusion, every individual at some point determines what is true or moral.
The biblical passage that captures this idea says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). The problem with such self-centered behavior is that it leads to division, hatred, murder, theft, sexual sin, and more; in other words, a breakdown of society, since society is identified as a group bound together by common concerns.
One can see this doctrine of relativism on many fronts, some of which are higher education, entertainment, politics, and ethics (i.e. abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, etc.). The entire LGBTQIA discussion and debate about sexual identity is fueled by an atmosphere that denies any concept of absolute truth. Pornography, prostitution, drug use, and other practices once deemed harmful are embraced and promoted as acceptable personal choices. After all, who can speak with absolute authority to the choices of others without being labeled as an intolerant bigot?
This doctrine of relativism also plays out on the stage of religious faith. There can be no onetrue faith because individuals must choose a faith that is true for them personally. Secularism, Islam, Christianity, or Hinduism are all of equal value because they are all equally true. The exclusive claim of Jesus that “I am the way, the truth, and the life” must be incorrect (John 14:6). The idea of relativism would explain that faith in Jesus is your truth and thus good for you, but not a universal truth applicable to all.
A poem by Abraham Edel expresses the relativism that exists concerning moral values today:
It all depends on where you are; It all depends on who you are;
It all depends on how you feel; It all depends on what you feel;
It all depends on how you’re raised; It all depends on what is praised;
What’s right today is wrong tomorrow; Joy in France, in England sorrow;
It all depends on points of view; Australia, or Timbuctoo [sic];
In Rome do as the Romans do;
If tastes just happen to agree, then you have morality;
But where there are conflicting trends, it all depends, it all depends…
How can Christians find a positive way to engage and seek common ground with people indoctrinated by postmodernism? Here are a couple of things that might be helpful for us to consider.
First, we should examine our own hearts and minds to determine whether or not we have been influenced by the prevailing world view of relativism or if we hold to a consistent Christian worldview. It is difficult to live in the world and not be influenced by it. The mind of the Christian is not conformed to the world’s way of thinking, rather, it is to be transformed by the Holy Spirit and word of God (Romans 12:2).
Scripture warns believers to avoid the deceptive belief systems of the world. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
The hardness of our hearts and indoctrination into the world can lead to a “depraved mind” to the point that even though we know the truth we deny it and practice things that lead to deathand give our approval to those that practice sinful behavior (Romans 1:28-32).
Second, seek to know the scriptures and the God who revealed truth to humankind. John 17:17 says, “Thy word is truth.” Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). Proverbs 3:1 says that “The words of God give life.”
The slippery slope of relativism brings people into more and more captivity and slavery to sin. The concept of personal self-fulfillment without any thought of moral constraints is appealing. But, sin destroys, leads to addictions, broken lives, broken homes, abuse, in short, it leads to death (James 1: 12-16).
Are the words of God infusing vitality, encouragement, healing, meaning, light, and purpose into our lives? Or are we letting the ways of the world lead us into darkness, captivity, depression, addiction, and death?
Truth liberates and sets people free from the bondage of sin and death. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Seek truth!
Third, live the truth. Those of us who claim to be Christ-followers should live by the truth of the gospel so that others can see the consistency of our faith and practice.
Dr. Jack Cottrell once wrote: “A basic rule of life is that behavior follows belief. Put another way, ideas have consequences. Actions are determined by what one believes to be true, whether it is actually true or not” (Christian Truth for a World in Decay, August 24, 2016).
In a culture of sin and death, how am I an agent of life and hope?
In a divisive and argumentative world how am I a person of peace?
In a culture of political, economic, and racial division, how am I a minister of reconciliation, proclaiming the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace?
In a culture of darkness, how am I light that seeks to point others to the True Light?
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).