What Preachers Are Fighting Part 9: Relativism

To go to the most recent posts in this series:

What Preachers are Fighting, Part 6: Busy-ness: An American Way of Life

What Preachers are Fighting, Part 7: Let Me Entertain You

What Preachers are Fighting, Part 8: The Great Preacher

In Part 9, Relativism


In this penultimate post of the series, the focus is on preaching in a largely relativistic culture. While a thousand-word blog post is not the proper place to unpack all of the intricacies of philosophy, preachers and teachers should be very much aware of the power of relativism to influence our culture.

The Bible makes absolute claims about the creation of the earth, the pursuit by God of His people, the historicity of Jesus Christ, His status as God and Sole Redeemer, etc. etc. Bible-grounded Christians don’t just believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We believe He is the ONLY way, truth and life. As we reason together, we accept fundamental absolute truths, as difficult as some may be.

[Isaiah 55:8-9; Deuteronomy 12:8; Judges 21:25, etc.]

The Relativism I’m referencing rejects such absolutes and leaves truth in the eye of the beholder. Relativism believes that to suggest there is only one way to God is intolerant. Relativism believes that its power to choose trumps anything external to it. Relativism warms me it will decide what’s right and I dare not suggest anything that may make it uncomfortable. (In fact, relativism screams: “I’ll smile and accept what you say as long as you stay out of my comfort zone!”)

Relativism loves to say, “That’s nice that you’ve found fulfillment in your religion. I’m happy for you. But there’s more than one way to happiness.”

Relativism winces at concepts like Holiness, honor, tithing, and personal sacrifice. It rejects as narrow and archaic such realities as sin, Hell and judgment.

And because our culture so freely flows with relativism, it does seep into our churches, sometimes disguised as church hopping, refusal to give selflessly, judging a church family by its effectiveness in pleasing us, etc.

As preachers and teachers, we can neither be overcome by nor ignore relativism.

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First, reject the argument of no absolutes as a violation of the law of non-contradiction. For, as soon as one says, “there are no absolutes” they have stated an absolute. (See Schaeffer below.)

Next, don’t assume automatic acceptance of biblical absolutes by your congregation, class or group. Be explicit about the concept. Biblical truth will stand up to reason, don’t hesitate to acknowledge relativism in your teaching for the purpose of countering it.

Finally, be careful about allowing relativism to sneak into your own processes as you study to lead and teach. Have you noticed the trend over the past couple of years, for instance, to soft-peddle Hell? There are high-profile faux-ministers who have even challenge its existence, and therefore the teachings of Jesus. That’s latent relativism. Check yourself for little pockets of relativistic ideas that may creep up from time to time, largely because of the way something may feel or seem to you.


Relativism

“In passing, we should note this curious mark of our own age: the only absolute allowed is the absolute insistence that there is no absolute.”
– Francis Schaeffer (1912 – 1984)

“Since truth is related to the character of God, which is eternal and unchanging (Mal. 3:6; Ps. 90:2; Heb. 13:8), the nature of truth is fixed. Truth doesn’t have an expiration date. It’s not up for revision or re-invention.
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– Alex McFarland, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

“Relativism poses as humble by saying: “We are not smart enough to know what the truth is—or if there is any universal truth.” It sounds humble. But look carefully at what is happening. It’s like a servant saying: I am not smart enough to know which person here is my master—or if I even have a master. The result is that I don’t have a master and I can be my own master. That is in reality what happens to relativists: In claiming to be too lowly to know the truth, they exalt themselves as supreme arbiter of what they can think and do. This is not humility. This is the essence of pride.”
John Piper

“I do not want to drive across a bridge designed by an engineer who believed the numbers in structural stress models are relative truths.”
R.C. Sproul

…“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you will also know my Father. From now on you know him through me and have seen him in me.”
– Jesus in John 14:6-7


Sources

Moral Relativism or Scriptural Absolutes

Flaming Truth: Recalling Francis Schaeffer’s Challenge

RC Sproul: Pluralism and Relativism

 

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