The Death of Relativism

by Michael C. Sherrard

Relativism came to popularity in Western culture, where the dominant worldview was the Christian worldview. Ideas like sin and repentance were accepted and normal. Biblical precepts gave society its moral boundaries. Those who chose to live outside those boundaries needed to do one of two things: convince people that their actions were not wrong or erase the idea of wrong all together. Rather than persuade others that their beliefs were right, crafty and deceitful men and women perpetuated the idea that we are all right. It was a dishonest and spineless approach.

When truth is not on your side or you have no power, you need relativism. When you are not in a position to make people do what you think is right, a clever way to justify your own “personal right” is to propagate the idea that everyone is right. So pop philosophy and its bumper stickers gave us statements like “That’s just my personal truth” and “What’s true for me doesn’t have to be true for you.” And the more people heard these things, the more they started thinking in non-absolute terms. Add to that a good dose of skepticism and philosophical rhetoric, and suddenly people thought that even if truth does exist, we have no way to know it. For centuries, this relativistic philosophy eroded the notion of absolute truth from western society and gave people the license to believe whatever they wanted.

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But now relativism is fading because it is not useful. And while it didn’t fashion a society free from moral norms, it did buy time until an anti-Christian set of moral norms could be enforced. And that is where we are today. Our culture no longer declares that we all have personal truths. Instead, people are speaking in absolute terms again. There are clearly “right” and “wrong” ways to view a variety of society issues. Relativism was merely a bridge to take the West from the Christian worldview to another. The bridge has been crossed and relativism is dead.

Leveraging Relativism’s Demise

It may sound surprising to you, but the death of relativism is to our benefit as believers. I don’t think we need to convince people anymore that truth exists and that it is absolute. We do not have to fight to persuade society that truth claims should be applied equally to all people. They already affirm this. Do we think it’s okay that some people are racists? Do we look the other way when people mistreat others because of their skin color? Do you know anyone who thinks racism is as valid as any other belief? No, our society says it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what your social upbringing was. You are not allowed to be racist. Even if you haven’t done anything that counts as racist, you can still be punished if your thoughts come out. With respect to racism, Western society is collectively acting on the belief that it is wrong, always wrong, even fundamentally wrong…

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The Death of Relativism | RELATIONAL APOLOGETICS