Quotes about Relativism
Public-opinion research points to a deepening paradox in society: the combination of commitment to religion with a deepening moral relativism. For example, while 91 percent of the American people consider religion very important in their lives, 63 percent reject the concept of absolutes.
We live in the climate of postmodernism. Western society encourages sin in an enormous extent and resists definition of, or clarity about, sin. Postmodernist philosophy is fiercely antinomian, that is, opposed to law. Right and wrong are judged on the basis of subjective human feelings. The result is a slide into an abyss of lawlessness. The consequences of lawlessness are seen in the alarming increase in family break-up, divorce, crime and overcrowded prisons.
Beneath all the rhetoric about relevance lies a profoundly disturbing possibility – that people may base their lives upon an illusion, upon a blatant lie. The attractiveness of a belief is all too often inversely proportional to its truth… To allow “relevance” to be given greater weight than truth is a mark of intellectual shallowness and moral irresponsibility.
One principle that today’s intellectuals most passionately disseminate is vulgar relativism. For them it is certain that there is no truth, only opinion: my opinion, your opinion. They abandon the defense of the intellect; those who surrender the domain of the intellect make straight the road to fascism. Totalitarianism is the will-to-power unchecked by any regard for truth. To surrender the claims of truth upon humans is to surrender Earth to thugs. Vulgar relativism is an invisible gas, odorless, deadly that is now polluting every free society on earth. It is a gas that attacks the central nervous system of moral striving. “There is no such thing as truth,” they teach even the little ones. “Truth is bondage. Believe what seems right to you. There are many truths as there are (many) individuals. Follow your feelings. Do as you please. Get in touch with yourself.” Those who speak in this way prepare the jail of the twenty-first century. They do the work of tyrants.
Christian civility does not commit us to a relativistic perspective. Being civil doesn’t mean that we cannot criticize what goes on around us. Civility doesn’t require us to approve of what other people believe and do. It is one thing to insist that other people have the right to express their basic convictions; it is another thing to say that they are right in doing so. Civility requires us to live by the first of these principles. But it does not commit us to the second formula. To say that all beliefs and values deserve to be treated as if they were on a par is to endorse relativism – a perspective that is incompatible with Christian faith and practice. Christian civility does not mean refusing to make judgments about what is good and true. For one thing, it really isn’t possible to be completely nonjudgmental. Even telling someone else that she is being judgmental is a rather judgmental thing to do (Richard Mouw)!
Relativism no longer means: your claim to truth is no more valid than mine; but now means: you may not claim to speak the truth.
Relativism says this: “truth is what you perceive it to be, and what is true for you may be false for somebody else.” In our present society, you’re perfectly free to believe whatever you like, but the one thing you may not do is to deny its antithesis. You can say, “I believe that this is true.” But you cannot say with impunity that that which opposes it is false. We have a whole generation of Christians who have been brainwashed by the spirit of relativism so they’re completely hesitant to say, “I deny that error over there.” We don’t have heresy trials anymore because, in relativism, there is no such thing as heresy.
Truth is now simply a matter of etiquette: it has no authority, no sense of rightness, because it is no longer anchored in anything absolute. If it persuades, it does so only because our experience has given it its persuasive power, but tomorrow our experience might be different.