Why Relativism is a Really Bad Idea (with a little help from the Colbert Report)
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word - Truthiness|
“It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything…Truthiness is “What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.” It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true.” – Stephen Colbert
What Colbert is describing with "truthiness" goes by another alias = relativism. Now relativism is all over the place - out there and in here…young and old. I could bore you with statistics, but I don’t have time for that just now.
Relativism is everywhere…but what is it? Atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche succinctly defined it this way:
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
Is good and evil, right and wrong, foolish and wise - really just a matter of personal preference? So, Letterman style, I want to count down the 5 biggest reasons relativism is a bad idea.
5. Relativism is self-refuting (self-contradictory). To see this, take the statement “there are no English sentences longer than 6 words.” (What’s wrong here? – 9 words). Now let’s take the statement “Everything is relative.” If it’s true, its false. What kind of statement is it? A relative statement or an absolute statement? Relativism at its core is self-refuting. (e.g., My brother is an only child).
4. Relativism eliminates the possibility of moral reform. If moral relativism is true, then what is “right” is determined by whatever the majority of the culture believes. But this leads to the absurd consequence that those seeking to reform the immoral practices of society (e.g., eliminating racism) are the immoral ones because they are acting against the cultural majority. This is a powerful reason to reject moral relativism. (cf. Martin Luther King)
3. Relativism eliminates the possibility of moral progress. If moral relativism is true, then moral progress becomes, by definition, impossible. According to a consistent moral relativist, not only was someone like Martin Luther King wrong for challenging the deeply held moral beliefs of his culture, but the change he affected did not technically “improve” the morals of society—it just changed them.
2. Relativism removes our ability praise good and condemn evil. Think about this – if relativism were true, then we would have to conclude that there is no moral difference between Hitler and Mother Theresa. We would not be able to universally condemn the holocaust, rape, or genocide as evil. And we would not be able to universally say that self-sacrifice is superior to self-centeredness.
1. It diminishes sin. As my friend Brett Kunkle puts it, “once sin disappears, grace disappears with it.” You see Relativism neutralizes the Gospel and removes (people’s perceived) need for a Savior. Relativism cannibalizes truth. But if there is no truth there is no Good News—just news.
What kind of world would it be if relativism were true?
“It would be a world in which nothing was wrong—nothing is considered evil or good, nothing worthy of praise or blame. It would be a world in which justice and fairness are meaningless concepts, in which there would be no accountability, no possibility of moral improvement, no moral discourse. And it would be a world in which there is no tolerance.” – Greg Koukl & Francis Beckwith
*This connection was made by Brett Kunkle (STR) in his chapter on Truth in Apologetics for a New Generation :
• Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Greg Koukl and Frank Beckwith
• True for You, But Not for Me by Paul Copan
• Ethix: Being Bold in A Whatever World by Sean McDowell