Do you remember the day when the most often quoted verse in the Bible was, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” from John 3:16? That is no longer so today.
Although few people know where it comes from, the most cited verse today is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Why the shift?
The reason is that many people, sadly many Christians too, wrongly identify it with an increasingly popular idea known as relativism. Relativism says that all truth, especially in the domains of morality and religion is relative to the viewpoint of the individual, culture or religion. Hence, “there is no objective, absolute truth,” says the relativist, and “all religious and moral truth claims ought to be treated as equally true and valid.”
This is a favorite tactic to muzzle Christians today, but it has nothing to do with what Jesus meant in Matthew 7:1 (just read the rest of the chapter!). Moreover, such statements are self defeating; they fail to meet their own criteria. If they’re right, they’re wrong.
To illustrate this point, listen to a discussion between Paul and Joe.
“All truth is relative to the individual,” says Paul.
Joe replies, “And my truth, Paul, is that relativism is false. Do you agree?”
“Then you don’t believe that truth is relative to the individual, so relativism is false?” asks Joe.
Bob, seeking to recover, says, “Yes, I guess that I do agree with you then.”
“Then you do agree with me, that relativism is false, right?!?”
For Paul to say anything is for Paul to say nothing.
This dialogue demonstrates the self contradictory nature of relativism. If something is self contradictory, it is necessarily false.
Turning to morality, the one who says that “No one should ever push their moral beliefs onto others” is in fact guilty in doing that very thing. The statement itself is a moral judgment about truth. The words ‘no one’ make it universal; ‘should ever’ qualifies it as absolute, thus making it an absolute moral judgment which everyone ought to believe! But an absolute, universal morality and truth is the very thing this person is clamoring against.
The most popular area of application of relativism is in the realm of religious truth claims.
The fact that there is an increasing diversity of religious perspectives in our culture has given rise to the notion that such diversity proves that religious truth is subjective to the individual and therefore relative. This simply does not follow. The fact that there are an infinite number of possible answers to the problem 10 times 10 in no way disproves that the only true answer is 100. Just because a belief may be subjectively true or false, it does not follow from that that it is not also objectively true or false—even absolutely and universally so. To claim otherwise would be self contradictory.
Again, consider this: “All religions are equally true and valid.” If this statement is true, it is false. For if it is true, Christianity also is true. And if Christianity is true, it is true that all other religions are false. Therefore, the statement that “all religions are equally true and valid” is false. Contrariwise, claiming that Christianity is not true, because it claims that all other religions are false, then the statement is still false because it has now said that the Christian religion is not true. So any way you cut the cake, relativism is false!
I grant, for argument’s sake, that if Christianity is not true, then relativism is the best we can hope for. It also must be granted though that if relativism is false, as shown above, then it is Christianity or nothing; Christianity or irrationalism; Christianity or moral anarchy.
So Christian, may I suggest to you that if you are flirting with the philosophy of relativism, you repent. Relativism renders the Gospel of Jesus meaningless. For biblical salvation presupposes repentance, repentance an absolute moral Law; relativism seeks to do away with that Law, trivializing repentance, undermining biblical salvation, thus making nonsensical the cross of Christ.
And to all who would quote “Judge not...” desiring to identify it with the ridiculous notions of relativism, I would suggest that you rather quote Isaiah, who says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (5:20). Since that is the logical end of relativism.
I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.
St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4
St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4