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To some, the subject of relativism sounds extremely boring. Others tend to associate it with Albert Einstein, confusing the philosophical thoughtform of relativism with the scientific theory of relativity. Here at AIIA, we are inclined to believe that relativism is very possibly the most pressing and potentially destructive deception of our time. Which is one of the reasons that we invited Dick Keyes of the L’Abri Fellowship in Southboro Massachusetts to address 200 young people on this subject at our annual Youth Symposium in May (1995). Following are excerpts from his address and a variety of other related sources.
WHAT IS RELATIVISM?
A theory that conceptions of truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them. -American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd Ed.
The relativist thinks that saying any religion is false is much like saying that chocolate ice cream is false. It’s all rather a matter of preference. -Dick Keyes at AIIA’s ’95 Youth Symposium
“I don’t care how much of this crap is true. It’s changed my life!” -Dick Keyes at AIIA’s ’95 Youth Symposium, quoting a cultist/relativist whose words demonstrate how value is more and more being measured in terms of subjective experience-less and less concerned with truth per se.
IS RELATIVISM VERY WIDELY ACCEPTED THESE DAYS?
66% of Americans now generally agree that there is no such thing as absolute truth. -1991 Barna poll
69% of those polled said that they believe there are no moral absolutes -1992 Gallup poll
There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. -Allan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind
57% of our (churched) young people cannot even say that an objective standard of truth exists. Even if your children are actively involved in church, they are likely to approve the view that there is no such thing as absolute truth; people may define truth in contradictory ways and still be correct. Truth has become a matter of expediency; morality has been replaced by individual preference. -Josh McDowell & Bob Hostetler in Right from Wrong, ©1994 Word
IS RELATIVISM PLURALISTIC?
Despite relativism’s celebration of pluralism, in fact it does not even tolerate pluralism… To say that Christianity (which believes in a personal God) and Buddhism (which denies a personal God…) are really the same in the most important points, is a denial of the plurality that is there. -Dick Keyes in A Series of L’Abri Lectures, No. 2
HOW DO RELATIVISTS DEAL WITH CHRISTIANITY’S EXCLUSIVITY?
In an age of relativism, people are quite uncomfortable when you say you have the absolute truth. In an era when people want to think that their view of what is right and wrong is as good as anyone else’s, you will get a lot of disagreement if you say Jesus’ view is ultimately true. -Cliff Knechtle in Give Me An Answer
HOW DOES CHRISTIANITY RESPOND TO RELATIVISM?
A common illustration of religious relativism is the one where the various world religions are represented by different roads that eventually meet at the top of the mountain, the travelers on each road unable to see others on different roads as they ascend. But this relativistic view of religious truth assumes that the view itself is not that of a mere traveler with limited vision on one of the roads. It assumes that the one claiming this to be the only valid view has alone gained an air-plane’s view of the whole mountain and those climbing it. -Dick Keyes at AIIA’s ’95 Youth Symposium
How is it that the one relating the-elephant-and-the-ten-blind-men parable (of how different people each perceive different aspects of truth) is the only one with sight? -Dick Keyes at AIIA’s ’95 Youth Symposium
Relativism, although it scorns absolute truth, is itself an absolute truth. The relativist is just as absolutist as we are. -Dick Keyes at AIIA’s ’95 Youth Symposium
If there is no God, everything is permissible. -Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Anger toward the Oklahoma City bombers is morally right only because there is a standard; it’s not just that we’d prefer that they hadn’t done it. -Dick Keyes at AIIA’s ’95 Youth Symposium
Relativism is very dangerous. If you don’t understand the problem of sin you will not understand why Christ came. Many people do not believe in sin. Christianity should bring on humility. Where are you before God? -Leah Morey, an 8th Grade student attending AIIA’s ’95 Youth Symposium, from her notes on the Keyes’ lecture