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2 ways that relativism falls flat

Pixabay/Gerd Altmann
Pixabay/Gerd Altmann

I recently saw the preview for the new Indiana Jones movie, scheduled to come out later this year. I’m a huge Indy fan, so I was excited to see this.  At one point in the preview, Indy claimed, “I’ve come to believe it’s not so much what you believe. It’s how hard you believe it!”

I thought, well that’s rubbish!

What we believe isn’t at all validated because we strongly believe in it. Things are validated because they are true. Some things are objectively true no matter what our opinion is about them.

What is relativism?

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Relativism is the idea that everyone is right, or that morality is subjective — a matter of personal taste, or preference. What’s true for you is true for you, and not for me, and we shouldn’t tell anyone that they are wrong because there is no right and wrong. Nor are there any objective rules. Anything goes, and nothing is either good or evil. In other words, “You do you.” Morally everything is permitted, and tolerance is the highest virtue.

However, this expectation of tolerance is self-refuting. Why? Because if there are no rules, and no right or wrong, then how can there be a rule requiring tolerance?

Contrary to the popular narrative in today’s culture, relativism doesn’t work in the real world. There are several reasons why. But here, we will discuss two.

Why religion is not relative

Religion is a perfect example of why what Indiana Jones said is not true. Some may say that all religions are the same, that it doesn’t matter what one believes as long as their beliefs are sincere, because we are all going to Heaven anyway, and all roads lead to God. But this is relativistic, and wrong thinking. Here’s why.

There are vast differences between religions in five main areas.

1. One’s view of God.
2. One’s view of sin.
3. One’s view of Jesus Christ.
4. One’s view of salvation.
5. What happens to a person when they die.

Let’s take number five for example. Atheism says that when one dies, they are just gone. There is no life after death. It’s game over. Mormonism says that when one dies, one can become a god. Catholics say that when we die, most of us go to Purgatory. Hinduism says we get reincarnated, and then are born into a different body. A Bible-believing Evangelical Christian who is a genuine Christ-follower will say that when one dies, you either go to Heaven or Hell. There is nothing in between.

Here’s my question for you to consider.

When you die, can you be in all these places at once? Can all these worldviews be true at the same time? Of course not. The fact is, that by the law of non-contradiction, all these different worldviews can’t all be right because they all contradict each other. When one dies, they can only be in one place at a time. Now, this doesn’t mean that one of these views can’t be true. Christianity is true. We know this not by feelings, but by scriptural, historical, and archeological evidence. No other religion can claim this. Christianity is testable.

One’s own sense of subjective confidence that they’re right about their religion is not good enough. One can say that they have an unshakeable faith. But if what you believe in is false, then what you really have is an unshakeable delusion. One needs to have more than just feelings, or good psychological confidence. One must have good reason to believe that their confidence is well-justified. If different people believe different things about God, and they can’t all be right, then they are not being faithful to God, even though they think they are.

Faith should be more than about feelings. In Christianity it is. Christianity is not a blind leap of faith as some like to think. It’s about what is reasonable to let your heart believe based on what we know. Your head will inform your heart.

When it comes to religion, one’s worldview comes down to one thing: authority. From where does one get their authority? There are two kinds of people. Those who know they are not God, and those who think they are. Christians look to God as our authority and His view of reality. The relativist sees himself as the authority in his own life, and the decisions he makes will reflect this.

Why morals are not relative

There was a professor teaching an ethics class at a major university in Indiana. He gave his students an assignment. They were to write a paper on any ethical topic of their choice. Of course, there were certain requirements for the assignment. One young man wrote on the topic of moral relativism. In his thesis, he argued that morals are relative and that we shouldn’t push our views on anyone else. “Anything goes,” he said, “You like chocolate, and I like vanilla,” he contended.

After fulfilling all the requirements for the assignment, this young man turned his paper in with a beautiful blue folder. Days later, when he received his grade, he saw a big “F” at the top of his paper. He stormed into the professor’s office claiming, “This isn’t fair! You didn’t grade this paper on its merits!” The professor held up his hand to silence the young man, and said, “Aren’t you the one who wrote on the topic of moral relativism?” “Yes, that was me,” the young man admitted. “Well, sorry, but I don’t like blue folders. You get an F.” Suddenly this young man realized that he really did believe in objective morality, and this lesson defeated his entire thesis on moral relativism.

The moral to the story is that we know one’s belief about objective morality not by seeing how they treat others, or by what they tell us, but by watching how they want to be treated. It will be plainly evident.

Romans 2:15 tells us that we have the Lord’s requirements written on our hearts, with our conscience bearing witness. What that is saying is that we know what is right and wrong because God made everyone that way. No amount of rationalizing can change what is objectively right and wrong.

Relativism is an attempt at rationalization, and relativism doesn’t make sense in religion or in any everyday living no matter how hard one thinks they believe in something. When relativism bumps into reality it falls flat as its adherents scream for justice.

Claudia is a Christian apologist, national speaker, and blogger with a Master of Arts degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. She is on the speaking team for the Talbot Seminary Biola On-The-Road Apologetics conferences, teaches Apologetics at her church, and leads the ladies Bible study. Claudia has been a repeat guest on the KKLA radio show in Los Angeles, Real Life With Gina Pastore and David James. Her blog posts have been published multiple times in The Poached Egg online apologetics magazine, and she is a contributing writer for Women In Apologetics. She blogs at Straight Talk With Claudia K. After raising two now adult sons, her focus now is to make an impact in the world for Christ.

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