Hi Everyone, Happy March 2021. I hope everyone is keeping healthy during this recent coronavirus health scare. Well today, I’d like to touch on a topic that I’ve been diving into more fully recently. The topic of Relativism. Brandon Vogt a great Catholic author, offers some interesting thoughts on Relativists in our culture.
What is relativism? It’s the view that there are no absolute facts about truth, goodness and beauty. It holds that all claims are relative either to someone’s personal beliefs or culture. Ex: People say, “if it’s true for you it’s right”. That’s the personal form of relativism. Or, ” if the culture says it’s true then it’s true, or if the culture says it’s not true, then it’s not true.
Relativists believe that there are no statements that are absolutely right for all people, at all times, in all places. So they think that a particular truth ex: God exists, or there are only 2 genders, are only sometimes true for some people someplace. “You might think it’s true for you but others might think it’s not true for them”.
Vogt says that Pope Francis describes Relativism as “the spiritual poverty of our time.” Just as with truth, relativists believe that all moral rules are flexible too. Ex: sex outside of marriage is wrong, or we should not kill unborn children. They see these rules based upon personal beliefs or preferences.
You can probably see why Relativism is a problem, especially for Catholics. Since God is absolute and unchanging, Catholicism is based around absolute truths and morals. Ex: God exists, Jesus is God and murder is wrong. But if these truths are only relative, religion becomes no more than personal preference. Hey you like Catholicism, I like Atheism. You like country music, I like classical.
Vogt also says, for the full on relativist, all claims about truth and morality including religion, are like this. Food, sport, morality, religion, concern nothing more than personal preferences and opinions that are relative to each person. To be fair, and what the relativist gets right, is that some claims are relative. Like what foods are the best and what sports teams are most exciting, those are personal preferences for sure. But not all claims are relative.
When we say, God exists, we mean that’s an absolute fact, for all people at all times in all places. So, relativism and Christianity are incompatible. That’s why Pope Francis has denounced relativism with such forceful language.
Pope Benedict XVI said in a homily before he was elected, “The world is moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has its highest goal, – one’s own ego and own desires. He explains that the relativist doesn’t look outside himself to find truth, goodness and beauty, he looks inside himself to one’s one ego and own desires the Pope said. The standard, of what is good, true or noble is not God or the bible, or natural law, it’s myself.
Here’s why this matters says Vogt: the relativist is the most difficult person we will ever engage about religion and morality. The reason is not because they disagree with us or poke holes in our arguments. Just the opposite. They rarely push back against our reasoning. Instead, they tend to greet our views with a dismissive smile and say ” well, that’s what you believe, that’s true for you, great. Who am I to judge, but that’s not true for me.”
Whenever you start discussing religion, or morality, they typically won’t be open to joining you, on a shared pursuit of the truth because they often don’t believe that there’s a shared absolute truth to be discovered. Robert Barren says: is their interest in truth sincere interest, or are they seeking truth to meet their needs?
Robert Barren says in bis book “To Light a Fire on the Earth” that the modern person instinctually says, “Who are you to tell me what to do? or Who are you to set limits to my freedom?” And the Christian instinctively says, “order your freedom to an objective truth that makes you the person you are meant to be”.
Ok I will stop right here. Please don’t shoot the messenger here. This is just some of MJ’s “food for thought” for you to all chew on about the interesting topic of Relativism this March, 2021. Thanks for taking the time to check this out. Stay well my friends and wash you hands lots this month. MJ xoxo