What Is Relativism, and Who Cares?

Relativism has come into its own in the late 19th century, and has had a profound impact on society, and on the church. This movement challenges the traditional idea that there is objective truth, and, as Emil Brunner put it, “that our theoretical knowledge or moral action is true or right.” Instead, relativism posits that truth and reality is relative to our context and experience.

Put simply, relativism says “truth for you isn’t necessarily truth for me.” It is “any view that holds that a concept, meaning, or truth is dependent upon a particular situation or object” (Millard J. Erickson, The Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology, 168).

So who cares? What does that have to do with the Church?

A dangerous strain of relativism has been creeping up the walls of the church for decades, threatening to weaken its foundations. Relativism says “you Christians are alright with me, but so are the Muslims and the Hindus. We’re all looking for truth in our own way.” It whispers “Christian, who is to say that your religion is the true religion? Buddhism is surely another peaceful, moral way to God. There are many paths up the same mountain.”

Jesus combated relativism 2,000 years ago.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

The way. The truth. Do we believe it? Do we preach it?


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