By Jeremy Dehaan
Saying that we live in an age of relativism is almost a cliché these days. Everyone’s heard that by now. As Christians we know that relativism is false and we’ve probably even got a handful of good arguments against it: if there’s no such thing as absolute truth, is that absolutely true? If I say that man is destined to die once and then to face judgment, and you say that it doesn’t matter if God exists or not, how can both those views be true? Is it equally fine that one guy likes pizza, and the other likes torturing kittens? Relativism has been weighed, it’s been measured, and it’s been found wanting. We’re all agreed there.
But while it’s one thing to level your arguments against relativism, it’s another thing entirely to level your lifestyle against it. For beliefs, even false ones, never exist merely as ideas.” They always take shape in the lives of those who believe them, and from there they take shape in human society. Beliefs lead to actions, and habitual actions turn into patterns of living. This is why pubs, among other things, don’t do well in places like Afghanistan. Relativism, too, is a belief that leads to patterns of living. People who believe in relativism begin to live like they do, and the result is a culture that looks a lot like ours.
It’s really a question of which god you are going to serve
It’s really a question of which god you are going to serve. Scripture tells us that there is one God and that he created everything around us. Even if I had never been born, God would still exist and Christ would still be King. This is true regardless of how anyone feels about it. But relativism leads us by the hand to a new and different god. After all, if all things are equal, then all things are optional: Ford or Chevy, PC or Mac, emo or jock, non-denom or Catholic, gay or straight, male or female, Buddhism or Islam. Reality is the ultimate buffet, endlessly customizable, and all that remains is you and your new god, Choice.
Choice strikes us as a rather gracious god, because he is so non-judgmental.
Choice strikes us as a rather gracious god, because he is so non-judgmental. The worshippers of Choice, those who are trying to remake the world in his image, aim to remove all consequences, or at least all talk of consequences, from our conversations. This ensures that no standard of good or evil, truth or falsehood, beauty or ugliness, can ever be applied to our choices. Our choices are absolute, authoritative, as impregnable as a gay couple, and more sacred than the lives they destroy. It is the task of relativism, then, to do away with the measuring tape against which we can judge one choice to be better than another. This is because relativism is the theology of the god of Choice.
And what is this really all about? What is it about Choice that draws us in so powerfully? I think it’s pretty simple. If everything is a choice, then everything submits to us. Our tastes, our moods, our lusts, our authority, these are sovereign and omnipotent. If we can choose whether or not God exists, then we are greater than God. We can build ourselves a tower that not only reaches heaven, but that destroys it; and we can replace the name of the LORD with the name of Man.
And what a hell of a lot of work. Literally. Those in hell have no rest, nor do those who worship Choice. Moods change, lusts change, and every one choice later becomes another. Life becomes wave after wave of indecision, insecurity, regret, and facing up to the consequences we all pretended weren’t there. You end up unmoored and adrift on that great empty ocean of meaninglessness.
Even the most basic fact that we exist had nothing to do with us, so why should we pretend the same of any other important features of reality?
So this means that what we’re left with is what counts these days as heresy. We don’t belong with body and soul both in life and death to our non-judgmental god, Choice. Even the most basic fact that we exist had nothing to do with us, so why should we pretend the same of any other important features of reality? Besides, why work so hard at customizing your life when you can rest in the fact that your life is a gift? It was given to you to enjoy, an enjoyment that flows only from right worship of the One True God. None of us chose for God to be Triune, for the second Person of the Trinity to take on human flesh, for sin to be forgiven, for death to be conquered. We were never asked for our opinion. In this greatest of all unchosen mysteries we were simply spectators, no more involved in crushing the head of Choice than Israel was when the Red Sea crushed the Egyptian army. Instead, we simply rest in these eternal truths, anchored with bodies and souls in the everlasting embrace of our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.