What is Relativism & Why Does it Matter?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
This is another topic that can be interesting, but again we can’t possibly exhaust this topic in the short time we have together. So I will hit the high points for you. Hopefully you will find this useful as you are bombarded by it on a daily basis. Relativism shapes your thinking every day.
Relativism is simply a covering that a lot of groups use, but in general relativism is the philosophy that all points of view about a given subject are equally valid. People today believe that all truth is relative. They will say that what is true for you is not true for them. In this way they negate the notion of absolute truth. However, this falls apart because they have made an absolute statement when they say things like “all truth is relative.” This is a self-contradicting statement. All things can’t be relative because they just made an absolute truth that all things are relative. Do you see the self-defeating statement here?
Let us look at some of three main groups that fall under the category of relativism:
- Cognitive Relativism – This affirms what we said before, that in our minds there is no absolute truth. What is right for you is right and what is right for me is right. Without this all of relativism falls apart (which it does because it claims an absolute truth that all things are relative).
- Moral Relativism – All morals are relative within your social group.
- Situational Relativism – Right and wrong are dependent on the situation. For example, a hungry man steals some bread to feed himself and his family. This is right for him. However, a wealthy and well-fed man steals the same loaf of bread to eat. This is wrong because he could afford it. If truth is absolute then both are wrong.
How did this become so prevalent? As people abandon God, an absolute law giver, they embrace this thinking and the result is an “anything goes” mentality that begins to take over our society. The effects can be seen in the judicial system, politics, and the media. We find that those things that were once seen as wrong are no longer seen that way (i.e. homosexuality, fornication, adultery etc.). If you come to these people and tell them that these things are wrong you are labeled as an intolerant bigot who needs to be rounded up and done something about. So in this way they violate their own tenants (i.e. all points of view are equally valid). What they really mean is that all points of view are valid, except for those who hold to absolute truth.
A society, just like the Israelites experienced in ancient Israel when there were just judges and no kings, will become fragmented and separated on all social issues (this does take time as relativism spreads through society). Why does this happen? Because everyone does what is right in their own eyes. Without an absolute truth, and an absolute lawgiver, society begins to break down and become fragmented. This can be seen by those who are in power; you can’t go an hour on any news station and not see some example of corruption in the government, at the local and national levels; as society has increasingly become relativistic so has corruption increased by those in power. This kind of corruption and thinking has begun to invade the church world as well. Could it have been any other way? You take people who are exposed to it through the media ever day and are not taught about relativism and how to spot it and push it back and expect it not to enter into the churches? Ridiculous! As Christians we have failed to teach about relativism and it is our fault. We need to start teaching about it so we can understand where these attitudes come from.
Hang on! It is right to drive on the left side of the road in some countries and wrong to do it here. Is this not an example of relativism? Yes it is. Now notice that the statement relativists make is that all truth is relative. These kinds of non-issue issues are relative. Notice that this has no bearing on our moral or ethical thinking, just what side of the rode we drive on. Yes there are some things that are relative, but not all things not the moral/ethical considerations of life. These kinds of things are really non-issues and must be treated as such.
Now a lot of relativists will say that you can’t apply logic to relativism, “relativism” they say “just is”. Well that is kind of odd isn’t it? Why? Because in order to convince someone that relativism is true you must apply logic and reason, which is self-defeating. So this argument is really a non-argument.
So what should you do? Well this is only some thoughts on relativism. It is up to you to do your own research on the subject. This is literally the tip of the iceberg. Won’t you learn more about it? Ask God to open your eyes to it. The Choice is yours.
For more resources look to rzim.org and 4truth.net as some starting places. Buy books, from both sides, and apply logic and reason to everything.