Recently on the For The King Podcast, we recorded an episode with an identical title to that of this blog. This topic is massively broad and an accompanying blog post may help flesh everything out. First lets define some terms
- the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.1
If you are familiar to the philosophical discussion on relativism, you often hear it talked about in relation to morality (cultural relativism). Cultural relativism purports that the reasoning for differences in cultural morality is because morality is actually up to cultures to decide and not transcendent above cultural attitudes. This is a tempting thought because it seems so empirically verifiable. Just look at all of these others cultures and they get along fine! Some cultures include cannibalism, polyamory, abortion, etc. These cultural differences are just unique to each culture and no one culture has a monopoly on morality. There are ,however, different forms of relativism. A more strict view would say that each society is entitled to its own relative cultural norms and practices that manifest in morality, and that no outside culture has a right to judge or speak into that morality. This would lead to being forced to accept the Nazi party’s justification for the holocaust and chalk it up to difference in thought based on cultural differences. This is obviously a silly thought as all people cry out for justice against such things and condemn the obvious evils of the Nazi party.
So what is another alternative view? Cultural relativism can try and save itself by saying that we must be critical of some practices in each society based on why that society is pushing such a practice. Such a view that actually makes a judgment on perspectives can hardly be called relative anymore. If there is ever a standard invoked by a thinker then that standard now becomes the final authority. To make a judgement is to appeal to a higher authority. Modernity proposed that truth is found in the individual, but post-modernity claims that there is no truth. That even the truth for oneself isn’t really capital T truth, but rather just what’s true for you. I hope you can see that slight difference. Modernity was characterized by rationality and whatever one could reach from reason is the final authority of truth, but indeed capital T truth itself. Post-modernity and relativism purports that there is no capital T truth that is binding on all people like rationality was binding for modernity.
The pitfall of relativism (in both forms laid out above) lies in its logical contradiction from its foundation. To say the statement such as “there is no truth” is a capital T truth, is it not? To say that it is absolutely true that there is no truth is in itself a truth. With such a contradiction present one is forced to change their worldview. Why must they change? Their starting assumption of something as basic as truth is flawed. Is there a way out for someone that holds such a position? Yes, however, the only way out is to admit absurdity and try your best to live life based on such foolish principles. Even to rebuttal with a statement such as “well, there is truth we just can’t understand it.” Well my friend, can you understand that statement of truth? If so then you have walked yourself into another contradiction.
This short polemic against relativism could have much more to say but I want to equip the Christian to push the antithesis of such foolish worldviews. There are professors, politicians, scientist, legislators, and many more of our societies leaders that think these thoughts. We must be quick to admit the supremacy of Christ and his Word as THE truth. Jesus says in John 14:6 that he is the truth. All epistemological2 foundations are found in Christ and his Word. I hope to release another blog post soon expounding on the epistemological stronghold of Christ and the epistemological skepticism that comes with naturalism, relativism, post-modernity and the like.
In conclusion, do not let the unbeliever off the hook with such statements. If they commit logical fallacies hold them to that and don’t let them out of that until they give you a satisfactory answer. So many Christians give up in their apologetic when the unbeliever spouts such nonsense. We must be prepared to push the antithesis of their view (thesis). If they don’t except truth don’t give up but press them until they confess themselves consistent in their worldview or admit the folly of their views.
Definition of epistemology
: the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity