Relativism is the philosophical position that all points of view are equally valid and that all truth is relative to the individual. But, if we look further, we see that this proposition is not logical. In fact, it is self refuting.
- "All truth is relative."
- If the statement "All truth is relative" is true, then this would be a truth. If it is a truth, that means the statement "All truth is relative" is not relative. Therefore, not all truths are relative (since you claim your truth is not relative) and the statement that "All truth is relative" is false.
- "There are no absolute truths. "
- The statement "There are no absolute truths" is an absolute statement which is supposed to be true. Therefore it is an absolute truth and "There are no absolute truths" is false.
- If there are no absolute truths, then you cannot believe anything absolutely at all, including that there are no absolute truths. Therefore, nothing could be really true for you - including relativism.
- "What is true for you is not true for me. "
- If what is true for me is that relativism is false, then is it true that relativism is false?
- If you say no, then what is true for me is not true and relativism is false.
- If you say yes, then relativism is false.
- If you say that it is true only for me that relativism is false, then
- I am believing something other than relativism; namely, that relativism is false. If that is true, then how can relativism be true?
- Am I believing a premise that is true or false or neither?
- If it is true for me that relativism is false, then relativism (within me) holds the position that relativism is false. This is self-contradictory.
- If it is false for me that relativism is false, then relativism isn't true because what is true for me is not said to be true for me.
- If you say it is neither true or false, then relativism isn't true since it states that all views are equally valid and by not being, at least true, relativism is shown to be wrong.
- If I believe that relativism is false, and if it is true only for me that it is false, then you must admit that it is absolutely true that I am believing that relativism false.
- If you admit that it is absolutely true that I am believing relativism is false, then relativism is defeated since you admit there is something absolutely true.
- If I am believing in something other than relativism that is true, then there is something other than relativism that is true - even if it is only for me.
- If there is something other than relativism that is true, then relativism is false.
- "No one can know anything for sure. "
- If that is true, then we can know that we cannot know anything for sure which is self defeating.
- "That is your reality, not mine. "
- Is my reality really real?
- If my reality is different than yours, how can my reality contradict your reality?
- If yours and mine are equally real, how can two opposite realities that exclude each other really exist at the same time?
- "We all perceive what we want . "
- How do you know that statement is true?
- If we all perceive what we want, then what are you wanting to perceive?
- If you say you want to perceive truth, how do you know if you are not deceived?
- Simply desiring truth is no proof you have it.
- "You may not use logic to refute relativism. "
- Why not?
- Can you give me a logical reason why logic cannot be used?
- If you use relativism to refute logic, then on what basis is relativism (that nothing is absolutely true) able to refute logic which is based upon truth.
- If you use relativism to refute logic, then relativism has lost its relative status since it is used to absolutely refute the truth of something else.
- "We are only perceiving different aspects of the same reality. "
- If our perceptions are contradictory, can either perception be trusted?
- Is truth self contradictory?
- If it were, then it wouldn't be true because it would be self refuting. If something is self refuting, then it isn't true.
- If it is true that we are perceiving different aspects of the same reality, then am I believing something that is false since I believe that your reality is not true? How then could they be the same reality?
- If you are saying that it is merely my perception that is not true, then relativism is refuted.
- If I am believing something that is false, then relativism is not true since it holds that all views are equally valid.
- If my reality is that your reality is false, then both cannot be true. If both are not true, then one of us (or both) is in error. If one or both of us is in error, then relativism is not true.
- "Relativism itself is excluded from the critique that it is absolute and self-refuting."
- On what basis do you simply exclude relativism from the critique of logic?
- Is this an arbitrary act? If so, does it justify your position?
- If it is not arbitrary, what criteria did you use to exclude it?
- To exclude itself from the start is an admission of the logical problems inherent in its system of thought.
People who challenge Christians with "How can you say Jesus is the only way to God?" are good at verbal camouflage, what sounds like concern for tolerance but which is actually belief that Jesus is not qualified to declare the way to God. Their problem is not with tolerance, but with Jesus' authority.
Promoters of religious pluralism say it is applicable in all situations, including religion. However, they don't really believe it. They are willing to accept one way if they believe it is appropriate, and to listen to authority when it is in their best interests or they have confidence in the authority. They don't promote pluralism regarding to breathe or not to breathe (only one way keeps someone living). They follow their employers' way of doing things to keep their jobs. They follow detour signs held by orange-jacketed construction workers. When it comes to religion, however, suddenly pluralism is an absolute and anyone, such as Jesus, who is so narrow minded as to say his religion is the only way to God, is convicted of intolerance.
How does a Christian respond? First, show the skeptic that he is, himself, intolerant of at least one religious view -- Christianity, which makes exclusive claims about salvation. Then, show him that consistent pluralism is meaningless because by giving the same truth value to conflicting claims, it denies truth to any claim.
Recently a religious tolerance advocate said Christianity wasn't true because it was intolerant. Tolerance was the only way to test religious truth. We disagreed, offering to give evidence and reasons that Christianity was true and what he believed was false. Immediately, he replied, "That's what I mean. You're wrong because you judge me. Whatever anyone believes is true." You can guess how we answered him: "Be tolerant. Don't say we're wrong. Stop judging us. Whatever we believe is true." Realizing he had been self-contradictory, he tried to recover, saying, "Well, it's true for you, but not for me." Sadly, he only dug his hole deeper. We replied, "Our truth for us is that you don't have truth. So that must be true, because it's our truth. So you're still wrong." Frustrated, he said, "No, you don't understand. If it's true for you, it only applies to you, not to anyone else. It's true for you, but not for me." We couldn't resist one more round: "It may be true for you that our truth is only true for us, but our truth is that what is true for us is also true for you, so you lose, because that's our truth, and you can't apply your truth to us because that's your truth!" He finally threw up his hands and admitted that his system was getting nowhere. What followed was an honest, friendly discussion about what kinds of evidence and reasons it would take to qualify someone to speak with authority about how humans can know God.
In addition to learning about the claims of Christianity and Jesus Christ, he learned that tolerance is only a virtue if it is applied appropriately, not universally. C. S. Lewis explains, Some people say this attitude is "intolerant." "He's the sort of man," they complain, "who thinks his own beliefs are true and everyone else's are wrong." But after all how can any man help doing that? A man must think his own belief true because if he didn't it would not be his belief. "Your belief" means "what you think true." And if you think the thing true, of course you must think the opposite false. But this is a very different thing from saying that those who hold the opposite belief are necessarily bad or stupid.
Having discarded the tolerance camouflage, we can turn to meaningful discussion on the merits of different salvation claims.
The following is a fictitious dialogue based upon what a Christian Witness (CW) should expect to encounter in attempting to share the Gospel with a typical New Ager (NA).
CW: Hello, I'm a Christian and I would like to share a few things with you. Did you know that our concept of God has a lot to do with how we live our lives now and what will happen to us when we die?
NA: I feel that each person is only responsible for what he or she believes, and not for what others believe. The problem with you "Born-Agains" is you claim that you alone possess the truth and that everyone else is wrong. That's religious bigotry!
CW: Then you believe truth to be relative, and not objective?
NA: I guess you could say that. It's like someone once asked, "What is truth?" In other words, your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth.
CW: Actually, that "someone" was Pontius Pilate when he was speaking to Jesus Christ before His crucifixion. I see that question more as an indication of his ignorance rather than an example of some higher understanding of reality.
Anyway, you say that Christians are religious bigots because we claim that truth is objective-- that is, it can be grasped as a definitive concept. If what I believe is just as true as what you believe, and yet we completely contradict each other, then it is obvious that at least one of us, if not both, must be mistaken. In the name of religious tolerance, you have surrendered rational thought. Besides that, what you have stated is, in fact, actually intolerance.
NA: What do you mean?
CW: Well, you claim that truth is relative, and that all beliefs are therefore equally true, no matter how contradictory they may be. But then, in the same breath, you deny the very core of Christianity, which claims that truth is objective. If you are to be consistent with your own statement that everyone's truth is equally valid, then you must also accept the truth of the Christian faith that everyone's truth is not valid, including your own. And if you are thus forced to accept my truth that your own beliefs are not true, how can you expect me to accept what you yourself have thus denied to be true?
Or, if you wish to deny that Christianity is wrong on this point, then you have still denied your own position, because you have already stated that all truth claims are valid. Either way, you refute yourself. So you see, relativism poses as open-mindedness, but is, in reality, merely foolishness.
NA: If that's the way you want to look at it, then I feel sorry for you. I hope that you won't live the rest of your life with such a narrow view of things. Anyway, Jesus Himself never condemned other people's religions. He taught us to love each other and to live in peace with other men, not to point our fingers at them. Doesn't the Bible say, "Judge not, that you be not judged?" That's why I think you Christians are hypocrites. You don't even practice what you claim to believe.
CW: Actually, you've taken that verse out of context. What Jesus meant was that we are not to judge self-righteously. This does not mean that we are not to discern right from wrong according to the standards set forth by the Word of God. Besides, if you are not willing to face the fact that relativism is nonsensical, then you have no grounds upon which to call us hypocrites, for that would be an objective observation on your part.
You are also quite incorrect in stating that Jesus never condemned others. The Gospels are full of His rather angry rebukes of the religious leaders of His day. In fact, in one place, He even called them "children of the devil" (John 8:44, 1 John 3:10). He was also very exclusive in regards to truth. Let me quote you His words in John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Jesus was obviously anything but a pluralist when it came to religion, for He said salvation was attainable only through Him.
NA: That's just your interpretation. I think that what He meant was that He came to teach us all to look within ourselves to determine our own approach to God. I believe that all religions will eventually lead a person to God, even though on the surface, they seem to take different paths. It's kind of like the spokes of a wheel that start out from different angles and yet all end up connecting to the same hub. Or, perhaps you've heard the story of how three blind men tried to describe an elephant. The first one felt a leg and said the elephant was like a tree. The second felt the trunk and described the elephant like a great serpent, and the last one felt the tail and insisted that the elephant was like a vine. Of course, none of them was really wrong, and when they put their experiences together, they had a complete picture of what the elephant was really like.
CW: I have a little problem with your reasoning. Let me show you why. Essentially, you have stated that behind all religions is really the same God. That would be fine if we were dealing only with His character. Let's say one religion emphasized God's love, another His holiness, and another His justice. That's when your elephant analogy would work here, since God is every one of these things, and more.
However, you've got a big problem when you try to do the same thing in regards to the nature of God. This is when the different religions totally contradict each other. We Christians, as well as orthodox Jews and Muslims, are monotheists and believe in one personal God. There are other religions, such as Mormonism, that are polytheistic and believe in more than one god. Still others, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, are monistic and pantheistic and teach that everything is part of an impersonal "God-force." That is, in fact, what you also believe, isn't it?
NA: Yes, I believe that we are all God. You just need to realize it.
CW: Okay. If I were really God, then I would also be all-knowing, and therefore fully aware of my own identity, wouldn't I? The fact that I am not aware of this, clearly indicates that I am not God. And if I am not God, then something exists outside of what you believe to be God that he or it is apparently unaware of. And since you claim that all is a part of this "God," which I have thus proven to be false by my ignorance of this "fact," then you also cannot be God, since you have demonstrated your own fallibility by making a statement that isn't true.
NA: You're a smart aleck. I use "I AM" as a mantra sometimes when I meditate. The Ascended Masters teach that it has essentially the same vibrational qualities as the Hindu word "OUM," and is a great way to raise one's consciousness.
CW: Well, I don't know about what your "Ascended Masters" have told you. We ourselves are personal and self-aware. If the creature is personal and self-aware, then so must also be the Creator, since that which creates is necessarily greater than, not less than, that which it has created. Would you agree?
NA: I suppose, but I fail to see your point.
CW: My point is that having thus established that the Creator is self-aware, then we must also say that He exists apart from and transcendent to that which He has created, since He obviously could not have created Himself. It is evident, therefore, that He is not subject to either time or space, since they are also aspects of the finite universe. Thus, we must also say that God is the supreme "prime mover." And if He is supreme, then He is by nature unique, since supremacy precludes any others that are equal to itself. Consequently, there can only be one such God, excluding at once all forms of polytheism or dualism. We have therefore narrowed it down to the monotheistic religions. Do you remember what those are?
NA: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. But how do you know that Christianity is true and not the other two?
CW: I'll show you. First of all, we can immediately eliminate Islam from our consideration, since it is really only a modification of polytheism. All Mohammed did was select Allah, who originally was the moon-god, from a pantheon of pagan deities and claim that he was the only true God.
Secondly, we can eliminate Judaism, because it was completely fulfilled in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, who was its promised Messiah. This can be proven by the hundreds of Old Testament prophecies that He fulfilled during and after his ministry. We are therefore left with Christianity, which worships Jesus as the manifestation of the invisible God in human flesh.
NA: I believe that Jesus was a good teacher, but I don't believe that He was God. That's a mistake His followers made later on.
CW: That is a common opinion, but not a valid one. Jesus very clearly claimed to be the God of the Old Testament in such passages as John 8:58 and others, in which He applied the divine Name "I AM" to Himself. The Jews of His day certainly understood who He was claiming to be, because they repeatedly tried to stone Him for blasphemy. And since this is what the Scriptures clearly tell us, you are left with only three choices. First, if Jesus was mistaken when He claimed to be God, then He obviously suffered from delusions of grandeur and was therefore insane. Second, if He was, in fact, completely sane, then He attempted to deliberately deceive His followers into believing that He was what He was not. In other words, if He was not in fact God, as He claimed, then He was either a lunatic or a liar. Either way, He could not have been a "good teacher," as you have said.
If, however, you are not willing to accuse Him of being either of these, then you must conclude that He was telling the truth about who He was. And if He really was God come as a Man, then He had every right to restrict salvation to Himself. This is why He said in John 8:24, "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins."
Let me show you something else in the Gospel of Matthew. In chapter sixteen, Jesus was talking with His disciples about who the people thought He was. Public opinion about Him was essentially the same back then as it is now, because everybody had their own idea about who Jesus was. Now, here in Mat.16:15, He got a little more personal when He asked, "But whom say ye that I am?" Read Peter's answer for me.
NA: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." (verse 16).
CW: Now read what Jesus said.
NA: "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." (verse 17).
CW: This is the Jesus that I know and serve. Let me tell you a little about what He's done to change my life.
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