Who makes the Rules? (Reasoning with the Relativist)
The overriding questions of ethics are simply this…
Who makes the rules?
What are the rules ?
Do we have to follow the rules?
For Christians, the answer is obvious. God makes the rules and yes we must follow them. But for the majority of the world, the answer is something like this:
Who makes the rules? you can make our own.
What are the rules? whatever you think they should be
Do we have to follow them? only if it’s right for you.
So is it your truth that matters? - where you make the rules
or is it God's Truth that matters? - Where God makes the rules
This issue of questioning and challenging any and all values is what we call moral relativism. And our nation is drowning in it.
What is Relativism ?
Relativism is not a god, so to speak. But rather it’s a philosophy. The god in relativism….is you.
"a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them.”
What is Moral Relativism?
It is, in essence, the belief that moral absolutes do not exist, but rather we are free to determine what is morally right or wrong based on our upbringing, our social status, our natural desires and the culture around us.
So what seems right to me, may not be right to you. And that’s ok.
What’s true for you may not be true for me. And that’s ok. We become our own standard of measurement. We create our own set of values and principles.
The problem is that with this mindset, there is no basis for where anyone can find objective truth and there is no person morally pure enough in the world who can provide for us a pure and perfect system of values and principles. So with this philosophy of life, we are left to figure this out for ourselves, with, of course, the absolute rule that we don’t offend anyone with our beliefs. However, that in itself is a contradiction of the relativists point of view. If there are no moral absolutes, then you can’t have an absolute rule of any kind.
But relativists do have one absolute.
The only moral absolute of relativism is freedom to think and do whatever you want.
The only sin of relativism is tolerance.
But have you noticed how the so-called “tolerant” are incredibly intolerant if you disagree with them in any way? I personally find the intolerance of the tolerant incredibly intolerable.
Do you see how this philosophy might lead to a severe downward spiral in our society.
It begins this never ending cycle where we eventually end up like the children of Israel in Judges 21:25
"In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
1. Wake Up
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
How do we recognize relativism so we can talk to our neighbors and loved ones about this stuff?
It's all around us
in journalism - remember when you could watch the news and just get the news and NOT an editorial?
in education - relativism is routinely taught in secular universities
This philosophy is nothing new. We see in Acts 17 where Paul encounters various philosophers in Greece, many of which were rooted in what we would today call “relativism."
The rise of communism, marxism, Atheism socialism, the holocaust, slavery, and racism are all rooted in relativism philosophy.
Hot issues of our day like abortion, euthanasia, gender identity, sexual orientation issues…all rooted in relativism.
The problem with relativism, is that it ultimately will destroy our nation and our world. We cannot redefine our reality just to suit a personal agenda. We cannot create our own set of morals based off of personal preferences. There is just no end to that slippery slope. What happens is that we eventually obscure what is evil and even begin to accept it as good.
Dwight Longenekker - “first we overlook evil, then we permit evil, then we legalize evil, then we promote evil, then we celebrate evil, then we persecute those who still call it evil."
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!
Relativism provides no sure foundation for a safe and orderly society.
No culture in history has ever embraced moral relativism and survived. Our own culture, therefore, will either (1) be the first, and disprove history's clearest lesson, or (2) persist in its relativism and die, or (3) repent of its relativism and live. There is no other option.
It is time for the church to WAKE UP and realize that relativism is here and it is taking over.
2. Dress UP
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians uses a metaphor to help Christians gain a picture for how to stand strong in the world.
Ephesians 6: 13-16 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth…
The reason Paul starts his list of the these pieces of Armor with the Belt of Truth. When a Roman Soldier would dress for battle, he would have a tunic underneath that armor.
This all important belt would serve 3 important roles.
- It would hold the tunic in place when the solder would tuck it in.
- It helped secure his backpack and supplies by keeping it strapped to his waist not just his shoulders
- It would hold his sword and his breastplate in place
The belt was basically what held all the equipment of the soldier together. It was a central piece of his armor. And I believe Paul mentions it first in the armor of God because it is truth that holds us together.
Without the truth of the Gospel, our faith is worthless…there is no salvation….peace…or even righteousness.
So dress up ….put on your belt of truth!
3. Wise Up
There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
A relativist doesn’t necessarily have to be right in everyone’s eyes. They just have to be right in their own eyes. As long as their pathway to truth seems right to them and it doesn’t infringe on your pathway to truth , they are ok with that.
Oprah Winfrey summed up this mindset for millions of people watching when she made this statement during her speech at the 75th Golden Globe awards:
“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
But as believers, we don’t believe in atruth, we believe in THEtruth.
I like what Ben Shapiro said in response to Oprah - “there is no such thing as your truth. There is only THE truth and your opinion.”
But nevertheless, a relativist buys into this mindset that their reality is based on their truth…whatever that might be.
The Oxford dictionary’s word of the year was post-truth - "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
This is classic relativism right here.
“We love the truth when it enlightens us. We hate the truth when it convicts us.” – Augustine”
Even at the risk of sounding intolerant, we must have the courage to present to them an alternative based on an absolute truth. Challenge them to closely examine the foundations of BOTH worldviews... one with God and one without God.
So two things:
A. We must Know what we believe
Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Be smart and gentle at the same time.
Earn the right to be heard with your kindness, gentleness and genuine love for others.
Engage in what Francis Shaeffer called “pre-evangelism.” Seek first to understand their worldview and then gently and lovingly present the Christian worldview. Paul did this everywhere he went, but we see it vividly in Acts 17.
When talking to someone who you know comes from a relativistic mindset…start with some common ground and go from there.
So we must wise up.
We must know what we believe.
B. We must clarify what we believe - Know your Bible. Know how to explain the doctrines of faith, salvation, grace and forgiveness.
These are good dinner table discussions with your family or your Christian friends. So talk about it with each other. It will help you “flesh out” how you explain your faith in Christ to others.
1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...
The word “answer” is the Greek word apologia….it is where we get our word apologetics from.
“The purpose of apologetics is to mold the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of Christianity something more than a logical absurdity." - Charles Colson
So we must
Wake up - relativism is all around us - It’s my truth vs. The truth
Dress up - put on the belt of truth
Wise up - know what you believe and clarify what you believe
4. Rise Up
16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.
Paul was completely aware of the culture in which he was present, and its beliefs. But not only that, his greatest desire was for them to know Christ. But He had to understand their religions, their Gods and their customs and meet them where they were in the conversation. The was a burning passion that provoked him to reach out to these people.
But notice what he did next.
Act.17:17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.
Paul reasoned with them - He didn’t argue or fight or talk about them behind their back or post things about them later. He reasoned with them - face to face.
And he did so on their turf - with Jews in the synagogue, gentiles in their places of worship, and in the marketplace!
And he did it daily. Witnessing for Christ should be an as you go lifestyle…always open and ready for a conversation with someone who might be hurting or in need, or simply curious about the hope you have in your heart.
“The enemy advances when Christians relax.” - David Fiorazo
If we begin to talk to our friends and loved ones about all this, is it going to cause some rather uncomfortable conversations? You bet. But it all depends on your love for them and the tone which you use. If people know you have a genuine love for them and that your truly do care about them, and you’ve shown them so by things you’ve done for them, then they are generally open to a conversation like this.
There is no traction without friction.
“When the church is truly the church, a community living in biblical obedience and contending for faith in every area of life, it will surely revive the surrounding culture or create a new one.”
So we've got to Rise up... and do what?
Point people to THE truth….not a truth…but THE truth!!
“ Our job is not only to build up the church but also to build a society to the glory of God.”
This is the reason Liberty University plays such a vital role in, literally, the future of this nation. Because at Liberty, we are raising up thousands upon thousands of young champions for Christ who don’t ascribe to Relativism. And we are sending them out to the pulpits across the world to preach the truth. But we are not just sending out preachers and worship leaders and missionaries….no! We are also sending out top notch lawyers, doctors, nurses, business men and women, athletes, engineers, secular musicians, artists, politicians, scientists, and much much more!! We are literally on a campus full of world changers for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the good of mankind and for the future of the nations. Praise God for Liberty University! It exists to point our world to the truth!
What is truth you may ask? (Just like Pilate asked Jesus in John 18.)
Truth is that which is factual, actual and real.
And when we encounter something that is true, then we know we can trust it.
Truth develops trust.
Watching the news to me now is like watching pro-wrestling. you flip back and forth between those channels and you’re asking yourself the same question…is it real or is it fake!
Trust is built off of truth. If someone or something proves themselves untrue….then you lose your trust in them.
But that’s one of the primary reasons you can totally rely on Jesus! He is exactly who he said He is…You can trust Him.
He is the Living water, bread of life, Son of man, the good shepherd, the true vine, the light of the world, the Chief Cornerstone, grace-giver, promise keeper, Savior, redeemer, Friend …and He is the Way, the Life, the Truth!
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Let’s let the truth speak for Himself
Jesus is the embodiment of God’s truth. It is the truth of Jesus that brings hope and life and forgiveness and peace and real freedom. You cannot manufacture that kind of truth from your own existence!
John 8:31-32 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
"To the relativist, the only moral absolute is freedom. And the only sin is intolerance.” - Tim Keller
“Real freedom comes from a strategic loss of some freedoms in order to gain others. It is not the absence of constraints but it is choosing the right constraints and the right freedoms to lose.” - Tim Keller
In life...You can sin all you want, but the natural law of sin’s result is disappointment, emptiness, and death. Sin always ends up making a travesty of our lives.
God is dead - said Neitzche. But in the end - Neitzche is dead - said God.
Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The choice is yours….you can do it your way, but I would suggest you try it God’s way. His way has proven in the lives of countless millions…including mine…to be the true way to live. And if you have the truth in Jesus…you are truly free.
Law of thrusts vs. the law of gravity
"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Just like a plane uses the law of thrusts to overcome the law of gravity, so the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus overcomes the consequences of sin and death.
When you place your life and your trust into the hands of Jesus…when you allow Him to constrain your sinful nature with his arms of love…you will discover a greater freedom you never dreamed possible. For this is freedom for your soul.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy grace now like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
Truth has a name….Jesus
Freedom has a name…Jesus
You want THE truth? It is in Christ alone
You want real freedom? Freedom is in Christ alone
Romans 8:36 "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."