Dealing with Relativism (2 of 2)
Read Part 1 here.
Third, we need to point out the dangers to them.
This also falls under the purview of love, and we must couch it in these kinds of terms. We do not prove the hope that is within us by showing the negatives of another view; however, by shining truth upon the presuppositions and inconsistencies of particular viewpoints, we give the person pause to reconsider his position.
Remember that the common denominator among all lost souls is that they have fallen short of the truths and glory of God. The religious elite sometimes do so by replacing God’s truth with statements that sound spiritual (might we also say, sound "Christian?") while rejecting God’s message.
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' — Luke 7:33–34
Others question whether there is such a thing as absolute truth, or, at least, whether it is knowable. They may even recognize something inherently good in Jesus, but do so while turning away from him.
Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice."
Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, "I find no guilt in him." —John 18:37–38
There are common threads in these two example groups, though they greatly differ methodologically and theologically. Both groups are committed to their foundational beliefs that are summed up in the statement, “I’m right, and you cannot convince me otherwise.” Both groups believe themselves to be somehow superior to Christ’s message, the Christian Gospel… or, might we say today, the normal readings of Scripture. Furthermore, both groups do what they can to suppress the truth in their unrighteousness (cf. Rom 1:18).
John Piper provides seven evil and destructive effects of relativism that I would like to share in brief (to see the ful message, visit http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/2007/2017_The_Challenge_of_Relativism/).
- Relativism is treason. God’s very existence opens the opportunity for truth, and those denying truth deny Him. Relativists must understand in unequivocal terms that rebellion against God is the result of their worldview.
- Relativism cultivates duplicity. Though many hold to relativism, nobody lives as a relativist in their "real" lives. Imagine if relativism were applied to marriage! Relativists should be asked to address the double standard they promote.
- Relativism conceals doctrinal defection. Relativists may continue to use the same evangelical terms we do, though they might not define them for us. “In all these ways, relativism corrupts the high calling of language and makes it a criminal in covering the doctrinal defection of those who don’t have the courage to publicly renounce historic evangelical faith.” Religious relativists should answer whether they reject what historically defines evangelicalism (such as the exclusivity of Christ, the need for conversion, and sola scriptura).
- Relativism cloaks greed with flattery. Those seeking to please others most often have ulterior motives. At the very least, bring a relativist to a point of honest evaluation of his motives.
- Relativism cloaks pride with the guise of humility. "Who am I to say what truth is? I am the one who will not submit to the Truth, and don’t you dare try to impose it upon me." Relativists should be cautioned against false humility, which can be addressed when addressing the other points.
- Relativism enslaves people. Truth sets people free, but in a culture denying truth, none will experience freedom. All relativists, whether they be religious or secular, seem to have a core humanistic value system: point out that only the truth grants the real freedom people need.
- Relativism leads to brutal totalitarianism. Totalitarianism, by definition, is the all-encompassing truth, or a societal situation in which there are no competing truth claims to challenge tyrants. Do not compare relativists to tyrants (thus violating the love principle), but do ask how a truth-less world can guard against totalitarianism.
Fourth, we need to walk away at times.
There comes a time when all else fails, and you are being mocked and scorned. It is abundantly clear that this person has never been regenerated, even if he claims that he has. Perhaps he is not overt in his hostility, but he continues to ask ancillary questions, and cannot seem to comprehend your points.
Perhaps he wants to rile up a Christian.
Perhaps he wants to rile up a Christian.
This calls to mind Proverb 23:8; “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.” Also consider Jesus’ admonition to His disciples in Matt 10:13: “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”
This sounds like a cruel-hearted approach, especially to those of us that care about souls. But consider a couple of things for a moment. First, it is perfectly human for your blood pressure to rise as your important argument is not being received. Yet, you must remember that there comes a point in your conversation at which you no longer persuade men (cf. 2 Cor 5:11) but instead behave in a manner unworthy of Christ. Do not let pride mixed with arrogance (I know I can convince him!) be the reason you continue your conversation.
Second, you might be a vessel the Holy Spirit will use to bring about a person’s salvation. But then again, you may only plant the seed—so trust God to give the increase (cf. 1 Cor 3:5–9). There is no use in continuing in a heated conversation with a person when the Holy Spirit is not in it. Perhaps there is a place to remain (or become) friends with that individual, but don’t even count on that. Be gracious and represent your Lord by ending the conversation and walking away with grace rather than in a huff.
Of course, certainly pray for that soul as you leave. But remember that Scripture nowhere commands Christians to force a person to believe. There will always be those who revile and mock you, and it is a better use of your time to deal with "honest" skeptics and trust that the Lord will deal with the rest.