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Biblical Absolutes and Relativism

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What is true, what is beautiful, and what is moral?

The great divide in Western culture today is between the nihilism of post-modernity and the transcendent values of Biblical Christianity.

Published in: Spiritual
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Biblical Absolutes and Relativism

  1. 1. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 1 TheThe GreatGreat DivideDivide Biblical Absolutes and RelativismBiblical Absolutes and Relativism ByBy James C. Wright, J.D.James C. Wright, J.D. jcw@FulcrumMinistries.orgjcw@FulcrumMinistries.org
  2. 2. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 2 The Great DivideThe Great Divide  In the West,In the West, post-modernitypost-modernity hashas captured our laws,captured our laws, our courts, our art,our courts, our art, our universities andour universities and our culture.our culture.  Post-modernityPost-modernity nownow defines the structure,defines the structure, hopes and aspirations of our lives,hopes and aspirations of our lives, families, culture and society.families, culture and society.
  3. 3. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 3 Why Worldviews Matter . . .Why Worldviews Matter . . .
  4. 4. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 4 What Is Post-Modernity?What Is Post-Modernity? Post-Post- Modernity:Modernity: There either areThere either are no absolutes,no absolutes, or if they door if they do exist, thereexist, there is no way ofis no way of knowing whatknowing what they are.they are.
  5. 5. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 5 Post-ModernityPost-Modernity The Age of SkepticismThe Age of Skepticism and Relativismand Relativism • Impossible to know what isImpossible to know what is objectively true, moral or realobjectively true, moral or real • Truth, morality and reality areTruth, morality and reality are subjective and relativesubjective and relative • Autonomy and individualAutonomy and individual choice are defining principleschoice are defining principles for societyfor society • ““That may be true for you, butThat may be true for you, but it’s not necessarily true forit’s not necessarily true for me.”me.” Judges 17:6
  6. 6. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 6 Christianity & Post-ModernityChristianity & Post-Modernity Post-Post- modernitymodernity hashas taken hold oftaken hold of most of ourmost of our ChurchesChurches andand is the worldviewis the worldview of aof a majority ofmajority of born-againborn-again ChristiansChristians inin America.America.
  7. 7. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 7 Most ChristiansMost Christians Are Post-Modernists!Are Post-Modernists!  OnlyOnly 32 percent32 percent of born-again adultsof born-again adults in America believe that absolute moral truth exists.in America believe that absolute moral truth exists. • Two out of three born-again adults in America either reject the concept of absolute truth . . . or (perhaps even more scarily) . . . they haven't got a clue!  OnlyOnly 9 percent9 percent of born-again teenagers believe thatof born-again teenagers believe that absolute moral truth exists.absolute moral truth exists. • Over nine out of ten born-again teenagers in America have bought into post-modernity rather than authentic Christianity. -- Barna Research Group, Ltd. (www.barna.org)-- Barna Research Group, Ltd. (www.barna.org)
  8. 8. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 8 Most ChristiansMost Christians Are Post-Modernists!Are Post-Modernists!  In Western Europe, my travelsIn Western Europe, my travels indicate that the statistics likely are farindicate that the statistics likely are far worse – as a result, the Church is very weakworse – as a result, the Church is very weak and anemic.and anemic.  In former communist countries, the need forIn former communist countries, the need for transcendent, absolute truth was moretranscendent, absolute truth was more widely recognized following their experiencewidely recognized following their experience with authoritarian humanism, but this lessonwith authoritarian humanism, but this lesson from history is fading with time.from history is fading with time.
  9. 9. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 9 Worldviews Matter . . .Worldviews Matter . . .  Your worldview has consequences because itYour worldview has consequences because it determines your life’s potential – individualsdetermines your life’s potential – individuals and societies will never exceed the limits ofand societies will never exceed the limits of their worldview without a new worldviewtheir worldview without a new worldview  How we view ourselves and relateHow we view ourselves and relate to those around us, how othersto those around us, how others relate to us, and how we actrelate to us, and how we act depends on our worldviewdepends on our worldview  Our society’s dominant world-Our society’s dominant world- view determines the veryview determines the very structure of our nation andstructure of our nation and our lives, whether we agree with it or notour lives, whether we agree with it or not
  10. 10. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 10 The Roots of Post-ModernityThe Roots of Post-Modernity The “Enlightenment”The “Enlightenment” • Man, through reasonMan, through reason alone, can know whatalone, can know what is true, moral and realis true, moral and real • Science seeks toScience seeks to limit reality andlimit reality and knowledgeknowledge to material world ofto material world of cause and effectcause and effect • Gives birth toGives birth to utopianism &utopianism & resulting tyrannyresulting tyranny – Marxism, fascism & socialism– Marxism, fascism & socialism
  11. 11. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 11 Why Is It Called Post-Modernity?Why Is It Called Post-Modernity?  The Modern EraThe Modern Era • “Enlightenment” resulted in tyranny and genocide • Human reason alone utterly failed to develop any objective basis what is true, good or beautiful  In reaction, the idea thatIn reaction, the idea that truth exists has beentruth exists has been arrogantly rejected.arrogantly rejected.
  12. 12. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 12 Post-Modernity . . .Post-Modernity . . . A worldview that says:A worldview that says: • There is no external authority – everything is relative, subjective and individualistic. • There is no universal meaning or unity to our lives, society or the world – other than shifting alliances of individual self interest.
  13. 13. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 13 Anarchy and TyrannyAnarchy and Tyranny History shows that when a society rejectsHistory shows that when a society rejects transcendent,transcendent, universal norms foruniversal norms for its art, culture, laws,its art, culture, laws, institutions andinstitutions and families, then thefamilies, then the inevitable result isinevitable result is anarchy leadinganarchy leading to tyranny.to tyranny.
  14. 14. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 14 11stst Century RomeCentury Rome 1818thth Century FranceCentury France
  15. 15. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 15 Biblical PresuppositionsBiblical Presuppositions  We start with the presuppositions (premises)We start with the presuppositions (premises) that 1) there arethat 1) there are absolutesabsolutes, 2) which are, 2) which are defined bydefined by GodGod , 3) who speaks to us, 3) who speaks to us throughthrough scripturescripture and hisand his creationcreation, and 4), and 4) gives usgives us faithfaith to believeto believe andand reasonreason to understand.to understand.  Any worldviewAny worldview that denies thesethat denies these presuppositions ispresuppositions is notnot Biblical.Biblical.
  16. 16. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 16 Revelation and ReasonRevelation and Reason  Reason, apart fromReason, apart from revelation, can only lead torevelation, can only lead to relativism, skepticism andrelativism, skepticism and despair because it isdespair because it is impossible to knowimpossible to know objective truth, morality andobjective truth, morality and reality apart from Godreality apart from God  This was the great failing ofThis was the great failing of the Enlightenment – it onlythe Enlightenment – it only worked to the extent reasonworked to the extent reason was shaped by Biblicalwas shaped by Biblical truthstruths
  17. 17. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 17 Three Philosophical IssuesThree Philosophical Issues  All worldviews must attempt toAll worldviews must attempt to answer (even if unsuccessfully)answer (even if unsuccessfully) three philosophical questions:three philosophical questions: I. How do we know what is true? (epistemology) II. How do we know what is moral and good? (ethics) III. How do we know what is real and our essential nature? (metaphysics)  The resulting answers defineThe resulting answers define how we live our lives, relate tohow we live our lives, relate to others and to God, perceive the universe,others and to God, perceive the universe, structure society and shape our lawsstructure society and shape our laws
  18. 18. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 18 First Philosophical IssueFirst Philosophical Issue I.I. EpistemologyEpistemology:: The Problem ofThe Problem of Knowing WhatKnowing What is Trueis True Can finite humanCan finite human beings be certainbeings be certain of anything unlessof anything unless we knowwe know everything?everything?
  19. 19. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 19 Second Philosophical IssueSecond Philosophical Issue II.II. EthicsEthics:: The Problem ofThe Problem of Knowing What isKnowing What is Right and MoralRight and Moral Can imperfectCan imperfect human beings, withhuman beings, with conflicting motives,conflicting motives, know what isknow what is objectively right orobjectively right or moral?moral?
  20. 20. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 20 Third Philosophical IssueThird Philosophical Issue III.III. MetaphysicsMetaphysics:: The Problem ofThe Problem of Knowing What is RealKnowing What is Real and The Essentialand The Essential Nature of Things andNature of Things and OurselvesOurselves With perceptions limitedWith perceptions limited by subjective senses,by subjective senses, can we know what iscan we know what is objectively real?objectively real? Can there be the one (aCan there be the one (a universal standard) anduniversal standard) and the many (diversity)?the many (diversity)?
  21. 21. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 21 Biblical PresuppositionsBiblical Presuppositions A Biblical worldview must start with GodA Biblical worldview must start with God as the Creator:as the Creator: • Epistemology: God created all things, yet transcends all of creation. Only God, therefore, is omniscient and can know everything. • Ethics: As creator, God is sovereign over His creation and thus has sole authority to define what is moral. • Metaphysics: Because all things were created by God out of nothing, he alone determines their essential nature. There are no naked facts.
  22. 22. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 22 Apart From God . . .Apart From God . . . Our Lives Have No MeaningOur Lives Have No Meaning ““In HimIn Him we live andwe live and move andmove and have ourhave our being.”being.” (Acts 17:28 –(Acts 17:28 – Paul preachingPaul preaching on Mars Hill toon Mars Hill to Greek StoicsGreek Stoics and Epicureans)and Epicureans)
  23. 23. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 23 The Gap between God and ManThe Gap between God and Man  As a finite, imperfectAs a finite, imperfect (sinful), created beings, we(sinful), created beings, we cannot know what is true,cannot know what is true, what is moral or what iswhat is moral or what is real apart from Godreal apart from God  Only God can bridge theOnly God can bridge the epistemological, ethicalepistemological, ethical and metaphysical gapand metaphysical gap between us and Him – webetween us and Him – we cannot do it ourselvescannot do it ourselves through human ability orthrough human ability or initiativeinitiative Tower of Babel:Tower of Babel: Man Trying to Reach GodMan Trying to Reach God
  24. 24. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 24 A God Who SpeaksA God Who Speaks  Although weAlthough we cannot reachcannot reach God through ourGod through our own efforts,own efforts, God in hisGod in his mercy hasmercy has reached downreached down to usto us  God speaks toGod speaks to us in Scripture,us in Scripture, which is his authoritative revelationwhich is his authoritative revelation regarding his nature and his creationregarding his nature and his creation
  25. 25. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 25 Biblical orBiblical or Post-ModernPost-Modern Worldview?Worldview?  Secular rationalism as a viable worldview is deadSecular rationalism as a viable worldview is dead (yet we still try to “convince” people that(yet we still try to “convince” people that Christianity is true through evidential apologetics)Christianity is true through evidential apologetics)  Now that the “modern” age has ended, WesternNow that the “modern” age has ended, Western culture faces a choiceculture faces a choice  The only two externally coherent worldviews left areThe only two externally coherent worldviews left are Christianity (reason empowered by objective truth,Christianity (reason empowered by objective truth, morality and reality) and post-modernity (nihilism)morality and reality) and post-modernity (nihilism)
  26. 26. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 26 The Tyranny of Post-ModernityThe Tyranny of Post-Modernity  Post-modernity, however,Post-modernity, however, is internally incoherentis internally incoherent because it rests on anbecause it rests on an inherent contradiction: Itinherent contradiction: It must assert absolutely thatmust assert absolutely that there are no absolutes.there are no absolutes.  Ultimately, this inherentUltimately, this inherent contradiction leads tocontradiction leads to tyrannytyranny  While claiming neutrality,While claiming neutrality, post-modernity seeks topost-modernity seeks to supplant virtuesupplant virtue
  27. 27. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 27 God or Autonomous Man?God or Autonomous Man?  Only a Biblical world-Only a Biblical world- view, rooted in aview, rooted in a transcendent, omniscienttranscendent, omniscient and sovereign Creatorand sovereign Creator who reveals truth, moralitywho reveals truth, morality and reality to rational manand reality to rational man is both externally andis both externally and internally coherentinternally coherent  Only an authoritative GodOnly an authoritative God who defines the limits ofwho defines the limits of human institutions like thehuman institutions like the Church and the State isChurch and the State is able to preserve true libertyable to preserve true liberty
  28. 28. © 2010 by Fulcrum Ministries (www.FulcrumMinistries.org) 28 A Biblical WorldviewA Biblical Worldview ““We demolish arguments and every pretensionWe demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge ofthat sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought toGod, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”make it obedient to Christ.” ((II Cor. 10:5 NIVII Cor. 10:5 NIV)) Unless Christ is Lord over your presuppositionsUnless Christ is Lord over your presuppositions and worldview by submitting to Biblical norms,and worldview by submitting to Biblical norms, He is Lord over none of your life.He is Lord over none of your life.

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