Tag Archives: Relativism

Some Days – A Poem

Some days I want to believe
the Gospel is a myth
and this is all there is

But only some days

Some days I want to believe
it doesn’t matter whether
my loved ones know Christ

But only some days

Some days I want to believe
to eat, drink, and be merry
is all that matters in life

But only some days

Some days I want to believe
truth is relative, not absolute
and all paths lead to God

But only some days
and not today

I shared this today for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night.

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Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

The Politically Incorrect Narrow Gate

There is a movement in the church to forge a new, “progressive Christianity.” One of the primary tenants of this movement is that all religions and faiths are true for their adherents. In other words, progressive Christians reject the core Christian doctrine that Jesus is the only means of salvation. Although they generally eschew doctrine and “dogma,” they are adherents to the doctrine of relativism.

[Note: As I read through to edit this, I noticed that the initials for "progressive Christian" are P.C. And P.C., or "politically correct" they are indeed. This post, on the other hand, is not P.C.]

I have read and studied the Bible, and I frankly do not understand how this group can consider itself Christian. They ignore most of what Christ said about Himself and the means of salvation. Christ was very clear about the fact that trusting in Him was the only way to truly have a relationship with God. Although much of the writings of the apostles confirms this, one need not read past the Gospels and the words of Christ Jesus himself to see this truth.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

     “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
     Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” John 10:1-9.

There is only one gate, and that gate is Jesus Christ. Those who try to find salvation through their own works and their own efforts are trying to “climb in by some other way.” Those who call themselves pastors in the progressive Christian church have not entered by the One True Gate and are so are not true shepherd’s of Christ’s sheep. They are strangers. Those who belong to Christ will never listen to them.

Also, by claiming that all faiths are equally valid paths to God, the progressive Christians fail to follow Jesus’ great commission given to His disciples:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20.

He didn’t say to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit “unless they have found some other path to me.” There is no provision for allowing alternate paths because to do so leaves people traveling down the broad road to destruction. All other paths are based on each person saving themselves or one the collective salvation of a group because one belongs to the group that has earned salvation for its members.

The progressive Christian movement also focuses on what they call love, because Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God and the second was to love your neighbor as yourself. It is true that the best-known quote of Jesus talks about how much God loves the world and that He did not send Jesus to condemn the world. But it doesn’t stop there. To truly understand John 3:16, one must continue reading the rest of what Jesus said:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:16-21.

Jesus is the light and when we come into His presence and believe in Him, He exposes the depravity of our human heart and the power of God alone to make us righteous. But many do not want to admit that their heart is truly depraved. They prefer to cling to their pride and point to their own good deeds of social justice and loving their neighbor in the way they see fit.

This doesn’t seem like real love to me. A love that allows someone to continue down the broad road to destruction is not true love. A safe love that doesn’t rock the boat or stand upon the hard truths about the human condition and our need for a savior is no love at all. We show that we love our neighbor when we are willing to put our lives on the line for them. That’s what Jesus was willing to do, what He did, for us. And that’s how we know what love is.

I know what Jesus said, and if I am going to follow Him (which I definitely am!) then I am not comfortable ignoring what He said. Why, if there were other ways that God was going to call people to Himself, would Jesus say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me”? John 14:6. What kind of God would say “This is the only way” but not really mean it? I cannot understand claiming to be a follower of Christ but not believing or trusting what He has said.

I know that there are friends of mine who will read this and completely disagree with me, so may even get mad at me. Others won’t bother to even read this far. So be it. I also know I have other friends who will be encouraged, strengthened, and emboldened by what I have written and by the words of our Savior. Along with the great reformer Martin Luther, I respectfully but boldly state:

“Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

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Legal, Social, and Absolute Tolerance

Much of the day yesterday I contemplated what I would write today, and whether I would relate today’s post in any way to the fact that it is the 9th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. There is much controversy in the news surrounding this date because of the proposed Muslim center near Ground Zero and the “pastor” in Florida threatening to burn copies of the Qur’an. As all this swirled in my head, my thoughts kept returning to something I posted back in January. Ultimately, I decided to repost that entry, with this introduction and a few edits. (The chart below is new, too).

In recent news, I read a quote from the imam who is planning the Muslim center in New York (which I unfortunately can’t find now), but it was something to the effect that Muslims, Jews, and Christians all worship the same God, that there is really no difference between us. He quoted the beatitudes of Jesus as recorded in the Bible to say, “Blessed are the  peacemakers.” Although Muslims do not accept the Bible as accurate, he was willing to quote the words of Jesus from the Bible to suit his argument. He was, in essence, espousing the doctrine of relativism.

Relativism has become a popular doctrine in our society today. According to the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, relativism is “the doctrine that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, ‘relative’ — that is, their validity depends on the circumstances in which they are applied.” We are told by society that we must be tolerant of other religious beliefs. And when they say “tolerant,” those who subscribe to the doctrine of relativism mean we must agree that the religious beliefs of others who believe differently than we do are equally true.

I am not one of those who subscribes to the doctrine of relativism. If two beliefs are directly contradictory, then they cannot both be true. If I believe a marble is white through and through, and you believe it is green through and through, only one of us can be right. If I believe the soul of a person lives one life here on earth, and then continues to exist in eternity either in Heaven (in the presence of God) or in Hell (without God); and you believe that the soul of a person is reincarnated into multiple new persons over many centuries until it finally reaches perfection; then we can’t both be right. I am willing to admit that I might be the one who is wrong, but I refuse to believe we can both be right.

In the case of Muslims and Christians, our beliefs are very different and contradictory. Although there are some things both believe, here is a comparison of what I see as the most striking and important differences between the two.

Christianity Islam
Jesus is God incarnate, called Immanuel (God with us) Jesus was just a prophet
Jesus died on the cross for our sins Jesus did not die on the cross
Jesus was resurrected on the third day Jesus was not resurrected
All who believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus are saved and go to Heaven when they die If a person serves God and obeys His will they will be saved and taken to live in Paradise forever
Believers are saved by grace and God receives all the glory for salvation Believers are saved by their deeds and good works and man receives the glory for salvation
The Bible is God’s Holy Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, through a diverse group of authors over thousands of years The Bible has been corrupted, and the Qur’an, given to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel, is God’s Holy Word

Islam is a very legalistic religion in which one earns their way to Paradise by observing the five pillars of Islam and being a good person. Christianity is a religion of unmerited grace and mercy based on a relationship with Jesus Christ. (There are, unfortunately, some Christian denominations that have lost sight of the grace of the Gospel and become almost as legalistic as Islam, but they do not represent the true core of the Christian belief that Christ died to pay our debt.)

It is illogical to me to say that both of these beliefs are right because they are directly contradictory. I am a Christian and believe in the basic tenets of Christianity, as set forth in the Apostles’ Creed. I have studied the Bible and had life experiences that have led me to this belief. I have also studied other world religions, though I have not read all of their holy books, but believe that I have found a true and lasting relationship with my Creator in Jesus Christ. I could be wrong. Maybe, just maybe, the Muslims (or the Buddhists, or the Hindus) have it right. I don’t think they do, because if they do then I, along with all of humanity, am doomed as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. But unless we are honest about the differences between our beliefs, and are willing to explore those beliefs, how will we ever be sure? In the search for Truth, I find the doctrine of relativism neither rational nor helpful. It negates the need to fully understand and explore one’s own beliefs because it doesn’t matter if they are really the Truth; it is enough that my beliefs are true for me.

I also don’t believe one must be a relativist to be tolerant. I once read an interesting take on tolerance that I will try to summarize here. According to the author, there are three levels of tolerance:

1. Legal tolerance is the idea that every person has a legal right to believe whatever they choose and to not be discriminated against because of what they believe.

2. Social tolerance is the idea that one is morally obligated in a free society to treat others with respect and dignity regardless of their beliefs.

3. Absolute tolerance is relativism and is the idea that to be tolerant I must agree that whatever anyone believes is equally as true as what I believe, or at least that it is true for them.

I wholeheartedly subscribe to the idea of legal tolerance and believe it is the foundation of our great nation. I also completely agree that social tolerance is absolutely essential in any civil society and strive to put it into practice in my daily life. But absolute tolerance goes beyond what I can agree with. It is not necessary or helpful for a free, civil society to insist upon absolute tolerance. I also believe that absolute tolerance negates social tolerance, because to say that what I believe to be the Truth is not really the Truth, but only one of many truths, does not treat me with respect or dignity, whether I am Christian, Muslim, or something else.

You may agree with what I have stated in this blog as my beliefs, or you may disagree and believe something different. I will always uphold your legal right to believe as you choose and treat you with respect and dignity as a person regardless of whether we agree. I can gladly agree to disagree. But if what you believe directly contradicts what I believe about the nature of God and the means of salvation, please don’t ask me to accept that we are both right.

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Tolerance Does Not Always Equal Love

I was reading the blog of a 20-something Christian woman this morning. She had written a couple of articles on tolerance that I found very interesting. We live in a culture where tolerance of whatever anyone wants to believe or do is considered the most important virtue. But this young woman argued that complete tolerance is the opposite of true love. I thought this line of her article in particular made a great point:

“Where Tolerance will let you do as you like though it will destroy you, Love won’t agree with or approve of the things you do, but will die for you anyway.”  Thorns and Myrtles.

If you are a parent, consider this. Your child wants to eat nothing but sweets and candy because she believes they are the best and tastiest food. “Vegetables, after all, are just gross,” she says. As a parent, you have two choices. You can tolerate your child’s behavior, or you can tell your child she is wrong and that she must eat her vegetables, fruits, and grains. The wisdom of our culture would dictate that it is unfair for you to tell her what is right and wrong, but love tells a different story. If you care about and love your child, you must choose the second option. Tolerance is not an option for the loving parent because to allow the child to eat only sweets and candy will cause them serious health problems.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “I can tolerate him.” It’s not something you say about someone you care about or love. It’s something you say about someone who matters not to you in the least. He’s there, and that’s okay; but if he wasn’t, that would be just fine, too. So why do we value tolerance above true love? Real love, the type of love Jesus exhibited on the cross, is a love that wants what is best for others. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16. He laid down His life that we might be freed from bondage to sin, that we might enjoy the freedom of living as God intended us to live.

Jesus told us to love our neighbor. This is the second commandment after loving God. We are to love our neighbors as Jesus loved us. We can learn something about how Jesus loved us from the story of the woman caught in adultery as recorded in John ch. 8. After suggesting that he who was without sin should cast the first stone at her (stoning being the punishment for adultery), and everyone having dropped their stones to the ground and walked away, Jesus spoke to the woman: 

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11.

Do you see what He said at the end? “Leave your life of sin.” The love of Jesus involved an understanding of right and wrong, of what was sinful, and He asks those who follow Him to leave their life of unrepentant sin. Jesus did not tolerate this woman’s behavior in the sense that we use the word tolerance today. But He did love her with a love Divine. With a love that is greater than all the tolerance the world can muster.

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It’s All Relative . . . Or Is It?

Relativism has become a popular doctrine in our society today. According to the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, relativism is “the doctrine that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, ‘relative’ — that is, their validity depends on the circumstances in which they are applied.” We are told by society that we must be tolerant of other religious beliefs. And when they say “tolerant,” those who subscribe to the doctrine of relativism mean we must agree that the religious beliefs of others who believe differently than we do are equally true.

I am not one of those who subscribes to the doctrine of relativism. If two beliefs are directly contradictory, then they cannot both be true. If I believe a marble is white through and through, and you believe it is green through and through, only one of us can be right. If I believe the soul of a person lives one life here on earth, and then continues to exist in eternity either in Heaven (in the presence of God) or in Hell (without God); and you believe that the soul of a person is reincarnated into multiple new persons over many centuries until it finally reaches perfection; then we can’t both be right. I am willing to admit that I might be the one who is wrong, but I refuse to believe we can both be right.

In the search for Truth, I find the doctrine of relativism neither rational nor helpful. It negates the need to fully understand and explore one’s own beliefs because it doesn’t matter if they are really the Truth; it is enough that my beliefs are true for me.

I also don’t believe one must be a relativist to be tolerant. I once read an interesting take on tolerance that I will try to summarize here. According to the author, there are three levels of tolerance:

1. Legal tolerance is the idea that every person has a legal right to believe whatever they choose and to not be discriminated against because of what they believe.

2. Social tolerance is the idea that one is morally obligated in a free society to treat others with respect and dignity regardless of their beliefs.

3. Absolute tolerance is relativism and is the idea that to be tolerant I must agree that whatever anyone believes is equally as true as what I believe, or at least that it is true for them.

I wholeheartedly subscribe to the idea of legal tolerance and believe it is the foundation of our great nation. I also completely agree that social tolerance is absolutely essential in any civil society and strive to put it into practice in my daily life. But absolute tolerance goes beyond what I can agree with. It is not necessary or helpful for a free, civil society to insist upon absolute tolerance. I also believe that absolute tolerance negates social tolerance, because to say that what I believe is the Truth is not really the Truth, but only one of many truths, does not treat me with respect or dignity.

You may agree with what I have stated in this blog as my beliefs, or you may disagree and believe something different. I will always uphold your right to believe as you choose and treat you with respect and dignity as a person regardless of whether we agree. I can gladly agree to disagree. But if what you believe directly contradicts what I believe, please don’t ask me to accept that we are both right.

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