This weeks 'thought' comes to you from John Piper. It is found in his book, "Think - The Life of the Mind and the Love of God." And though it will require some thinking, and an intellectual critique of the major under girding beliefs of our culture, it is worth the time to consider it, since what's at stake is knowing God, and loving God, and even being saved (John 17:3). Enjoy!
"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being." Hebrews 1:3
"Jesus is the fullest revelation of God. 'Whoever has seen me,' he said, 'has seen the Father' (John 14:9). This means that knowing and loving Jesus is the test of knowing and loving God... 'The one who rejects me, rejects him who sent me' (Luke 10:16). If they loved God they would love him. Why? Because he makes God known more clearly and more fully than any other revelation.
Yet everything I have said so far is pointless if knowing is impossible, or if nothing is there to know [as would be the case if relativism was true]...
The pursuit of knowing God for the sake of loving God would be vain if there were no such thing as reliable, objective knowledge of real things. But one of the most common notions today is that such knowledge is impossible. One of the names for this attitude is relativism... Some [relativists] claim there is no objective, knowable reality outside ourselves. They say that our thinking does not produce reliable knowledge of God or anything else outside of us. Instead, our observations and our thinking simply give rise to expressions of personal or communal preferences and perspectives. So thinking does not lead us to universally valid truth or beauty or goodness defined by the nature and will of God, it simply leads us to expressions of what we feel and perceive... In this view, truth, if the word is used at all, does not refer to universally true statements about God and man and life. It may refer to your own inner integrity--acting in accord with the world as you see it. But it doesn't refer to truth that all people should agree with...
Relativism comes into play when someone says, 'There is no knowable, objective, external standard for right and wrong that is valid for everyone...' This is the essence of relativism: no one standard of true and false, right and wrong, good and bad, or beautiful and ugly, can preempt any other standard. No standard is valid for everyone...
One seed of relativism is the deep, sinful, human desire not to be ruled by God or by any standard claiming the authority of God. This deep-seated rebellion can express itself in many ways. One is simply to say: 'God, I don't bow to your standards. I create my own.' Another more subtle and more common way to rebel is to say: 'God's standards don't exist.' Or: 'God's standards can't be known. That is, there is no universally valid standard for judging my behavior. Therefore I am free from any authority outside myself. I can do as I please.' These are the seeds of relativism. This is where it comes from.
[Yet] relativism is not a coherent philosophical system. It is riddled with contradictions -- both logical and experiential... Claiming truth for a statement that nullifies truth is self-contradictory... And every businessman knows that philosophical relativists park their relativism at the door when they go into the bank and read the language of the contract they are about to sign.
People don't embrace relativism because it is philosophically satisfying, they embrace it because it is physically and emotionally gratifying. It provides the cover they need at key moments in their lives to do what they want without intrusion from absolutes."
In other words, most relativists don't really believe in relativism; they simply use relativism when its to their advantage and reject it when its not. In fact, at its core relativism is really little more than a sophisticated form of pragmatism which seeks to give people a rational (though contradictory and intellectually incoherent) basis for living in a duplicitous way -- confessing one thing, but following it only when it benefits them.For instance, though relativists deny all moral absolutes, they often adhere to the absolutes they deny when relativism would be to their disadvantage. When a cashier at a store is supposed to give them $50 dollars change after a purchase, and instead shoves $45 of it in their own pocket and gives them only a $5 bill as change, I have yet to see any professed relativist say: "Oh, that's fine, after all everything is relative." The same is true in regard to abusing their children, burning down their house, or stealing their car (especially if it's uninsured). In such cases I dare say most relativists I know would react as if the absolute nature of the 8th commandment was indeed absolute! They would interpret,"Thou shalt not steal," to mean, "Thou shalt not steal" (at least, not from me)!
Yet when it comes to the 7th commandment which forbids adultery outright, the, "Thou shalt not" -- when such people find themselves tempted to do so, and do not want to resist -- is conveniently said to be relative, and an appeal is made to the relativist's creed: "Everything is relative, there are no moral absolutes" (irrational and self-contradicting as that statement is).
What then is relativism? A philosophy used to justify making the self, instead of God, the arbitrator of all absolutes. Not doing away with absolutes, but affirming absolutes when their relativism would be to their disadvantage, and denying absolutes when relativism can be used to thier advantage. In that sense we could say that relativism is the ultimate expression of self-centered thinking.
It not only leads to the inability to know (and thus love) God -- and in a very real way experience His salvation -- it also (as we can so easily see in our society) leads to selfishness and ungodliness in all of its least desirable forms. As Piper goes on to point out: "The immoral dimension of relativism is most obvious when relativists live their lives. They simply do no live them as if relativism is true. Professors may play the academic game of relativism in their classes, but... Nobody is a relativist when his case is being tried in court and his objective innocence hangs on objective evidence. The whole system of relativism is a morally corrupting impulse. It brings with it duplicity and hypocrisy. It is a great bluff."
When Jesus said the truth will set you free, He meant us to understand that objective and unchangeable truth exists. And it is our task under God to search for it, find it, believe it, and then live in accordance with it -- and not just us, but all people everywhere. In the Name of Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, Pastor Jeff