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My run-in with relativism

Our pastor is preaching through the book of I Timothy. Today, he spoke on the overriding theme of preaching and protecting sound doctrine from I Tim. 1: 3-11. One of the challenges to sound doctrine in our age is relativism: “truth for you, truth for me, it’s all good.” This reminded me of my first (and to my recollection only) experience with a logically consistent relativist.

Now, I have met and conversed with a number of “truth is relative, there are no absolutes” types. But none really believe that when you start poking their foundation. What if it is someone’s truth that rape is perfectly acceptable? What if it’s someone’s truth that it is okay to lie, steal or kill. “Well, that’s obviously wrong. But truth is still relative! Except in those cases and when someones subjective truth harms me. But otherwise it’s relative!”

I did however, meet someone who took the “no absolutes” to it’s logical conclusion. In 1994, I was an intern for the National Right to Life Committee. A friend from college was a counselor for an summer civics program for high school kids (something like the Close-Up Foundation.) The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum had recently opened and we made plans to go one Sunday morning. He brought along one of the kids in the program who was under strict orders not to tell anyone he was associating with a wacky pro-lifer.

At the time, you had to get to the museum early to get timed tickets and then wait around for your appointed entry time. So while we waited, we sat on the sidewalk and talked philosophy. (Were you this pretensious in college? I hope I’ve mellowed some, but heavens, I was obnoxious.) Anyway, we were having the truth is absolute vs. Although the problem is greatly treatable with help of some effective treatment, and home remedies viagra samples from doctor for acid reflux will provide quick relief. However, it is the low price viagra discover this best way to avoid getting erectile dysfunction. These are a few viagra uk purchased this simple methods males must follow to ensure safe usage. Many medical experts generally argue cheapest line viagra that the medications which aim at eliminating erectile dysfunction are worthy of great appreciation. truth is relative conversation. (The Kid and I were, my friend was the ultimate politician and wouldn’t get into a discussion that required him to take sides and offend anyone.) We had a lively debate where I defended truth as absolute and knowable. The Kid insisted that truth was relative and that everything depended on perspective, etc. So, sitting as we were outside the Holocaust Museum, I asked the obvious question: isn’t it true that the Holocaust absolutely, completely, profoundly wrong.

His response: “Well, for me, it is. But for someone else, they may be able to justify it.”

. . .

Did I mention The Kid was Jewish? Cuz, wow.

This is the thing, if someone takes this position, the debate is over. Because the only honest response is, “Well, okay then.”

Not too long after that, we went through the museum. It was a moving, challenging, heartbreaking experience. Afterward, none of us spoke, we just sat and thought for awhile. We didn’t revisit the earlier conversation. My friend and The Kid went back to their dorms and I didn’t see him again. I wonder however, if he would answer that question the same way. Somehow I doubt it.

4 responses to “My run-in with relativism”

  1. Karla Avatar

    Thanks for visiting my blog last week during the Fall Y’all Bloggy Giveaway tour. I’ll be giving away another book this week, so stop by again for another chance to win!

    Karla @ Ramblin’ Roads

  2. Renae Avatar

    Hopefully The Kid realized there is no justification for such atrocities. There is evil and staring it in the face makes any light shine brighter.

  3. heather Avatar

    i had a similar conversation with someone too in college. and you’re right- the only recourse was, um, ok. wow. i guess i have nothing else to say. 🙂 lol.

    this whole concept is bizarre. and fascinating… i mean, what happens in people’s lives to get them to think that all truth is relative? and how frightening would that be?

    ahh. i love debate, philosophy, truth, mm. nice

  4. April Avatar


    I hope he did, but if you carry the “there is no absolute truth” to its logical conclusion, that’s where you get.

    I have a theory that people deny truth because they deny The Truth. Anything is better than facing a Holy God who demands justice.

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