Spiritual Relativism

The Supreme Court ruled that “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (“The Casey Decision”). We live in a country that says that the ultimate truth is whatever every individual wants to be truth. I can decide the meaning of my life, of the universe, and even why we exist. You can also decide the meaning of life, of the universe, and why we exist. And guess what? That's the heart of freedom, of liberty!

I can't help but be saddened by this idea that has permeated not only secular society but also Christian society as well. Many times in the past couple years I have gotten into conversations with other Christians, and when we invariably disagree, they say “Well, for me, I think this, but you can still think that,” “I think this is true, but I'm not saying you are wrong,” “we each have to decide what is truth for ourselves,” or “we each have a personal truth based on what we believe.”

I want to die a little inside every time someone says something like that because it is embracing the horribly atheistic idea of relativism. Relativism says that there is no absolute truth but that we can each decide what is truth. And unfortunately, that idea is permeating into the Christian circles. And that's beyond dangerous. There is one truth. True, there are interpretations of that one truth, but only one truth, and if two “interpretations” contradict each other, then one of them is wrong. If we step outside of interpretation and start fiddling with the truth, claiming we can declare what is truth, well, then we're embracing relativism. To say that we are the ultimate source of discernment and truth is to put ourselves up as little gods. We may say that it's the Bible we believe, but if we're all following scripture, why do we all have different interpretations?

Can we be content to just “agree to disagree?” Jesus didn't say “I am the ways, the truths, and the lives.” He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Singular, not plural. He also prayed for our unity, and Paul chastised Corinth for veering and not agreeing on doctrinal matters: “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose” (1 Cor 1:10). Jesus also prayed that we would be unified as he was unified with the Father: “I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.” James also exhorted his followers, saying, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that [s]he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

So, if Jesus, Paul, and James are all preaching unity and one truth, who are we to preach disunity and relative truths? It is not fun to admit when we are wrong. Goodness knows I hate it. But, it is foolishness and a sure sign of pride if we will not admit that we could be wrong. We are not the ultimate authority, God is. His truth has never changed.

John Kenneth Galbraith said it well when he said, “Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” But, unfortunately, we have to not only prove that we're not wrong but also prove that we're right. If Truth is there, then we must be sure that we do believe the truth and not just believe it but know why we believe it. Otherwise, we may as well be a kid who believes in Santa because mommy and daddy say he brings the presents and we never saw proof otherwise.

Why do we believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior? Why do we believe in the Cannon of Scripture that we do? Why do we believe what we do about Holy Communion? Why do we – or do we not – believe that the Saints can intercede for us? What is the truth of the matter? We need to not be afraid of having good discussions and having our belief's challenged. We don't grow if we don't ever question and doubt. We need to earnestly seek the truth, not just listen to what we were told growing up. Our faith shouldn't just be what we we've been raised to. It needs to be our faith. Our vibrant, living faith that we are willing to put ourselves behind.

So, we need to stop “agreeing to disagree” on critical issues. I'm not talking about if the blue shirt or red shirt looks better. I'm not talking about if you should pray the Our Father every day or not. I'm not even talking about whether or not Theistic Evolution or Creation is the manner God used to create the world. I'm talking about the big issues that really do make big differences. We can debate on the means, but we can't debate on the ends. One of us may be right.... but one of us has to be wrong. We can both be wrong, but we can't both be right. Otherwise, we've abandoned Truth. And if we abandon Truth, we have abandoned true Christianity.

Comments

  1. So true! Too many times, I've noticed people use verses like Romans 14:22 ("So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.") as an excuse for relativism or theological laziness, ignoring the fact that this verse in context is talking about lifestyle choices not critical points of theology.

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