Devout followers of Allah from somewhere in the Middle East sacrifice themselves along with several airplanes full of people in the name of service to their god. Committed Wiccans celebrate the seasons and attempt to manipulate and bend nature to meet their needs with magic, incantations, and sacrifices, all the while worshiping their moon goddess, Diana. Faithful Hindu gurus spend countless hours in meditation and yoga poses in hopes of reaching the paramount goal of moksha, where the endless cycle of reincarnation is finally broken and the soul is reabsorbed into the Ultimate Reality. Displaced Jews are returning to their homeland of Israel in hopes that the prophetic voice of scripture concerning the promise of God’s messiah will soon deliver them from Gentile oppression and allow them to rebuild the temple.
Furthermore, angry atheists expend great amounts of energy in their argument to prove that God does not exist. On the other end of the spectrum, cynical agnostics simply give up the argument altogether by claiming that the knowledge of the existence of God is impossible, so why even try.
These religious philosophies are only a few of the thousands that are being followed in our world today. On the surface, all of these religions and non-religions that people adopt in the hope of finding identity and purpose, seem to be noble. But in reality, it is a sign of a malignant disease within the culture of humanity – we are lost.
To further complicate things, we live during an era in these last days where a sinister concept has crept into the minds and hearts of men – subjective relativism. This idea has at it’s foundation the view that a lifestyle, a behavior, a religion, a premise, a principle, an action or inaction is morally right or wrong depending on whether the individual person approves or disapproves of it. Basically, truth is in the eye of the beholder.
This term reinforces the theory that the criteria for making decisions and judgment calls are inherent within the individual instead of in a truth that transcends the individual. The argument for this principle says that since humans are so diverse in race, gender, experience, environment, wealth, education, psychology, physiology, etc. then it stands to reason that each human being has their own set of standards regarding life. Morality becomes relative to each individual. Under this premise, decisions (including religious ones) are often made based on what a person feels is right or what they have been told is right, even when it flies in the face of logical objective truth. Since moral principles are relative to the individual, this philosophy attempts to trump all arguments for the case of the one true, eternally transcendent God who is the sole Author and Arbiter of truth.
This way of thinking exposes a deeper battle – the battle for truth. While it may seem that the terms are something recent and the religions and non-religions are something fresh, this battle for truth is not a new battle. For instance, 2000 years ago, Pontius Pilate boldly and ignorantly asked this question to Jesus, who is the divine testifier of the Truth, saying,
“What is truth?” John 18:38 (NASB95)
In this battle, the argument against objective truth is further complicated by the seed of doubt that suggests we cannot really know what truth is anyway. The argument continues by arguing that even if truth is knowable, is it absolute and universal for everyone? Can we say to the Hindu, your meditation is a waste of time? Can we say to the Muslim, your prophet is false? Can we say to the Jew, your messiah has already come? Can we say to the atheist, your argument is self-defeating? In an age of moral relativism, many would say “no” we cannot tell someone their belief system is wrong because truth is unknowable and even if it was, it isn’t absolute for everyone. To assume and attempt to do so would be unloving, unkind, inconsiderate, and judgmental.
Relativism and Its Dead Ends
Relativism has led our society down several dead end roads. It seems that those who have adopted this philosophy find themselves cut off at one of these three general destinations – atheism, secular humanism, or polytheism.
Atheism, as we have already mentioned, denies the existence of God and truth. In fact, some are so confident in their knowledge of the absence of His existence that they are willing to spend a lot of time arguing their point. Seems silly to argue about someone who, in their view, doesn’t even exist.
Secular humanism is the belief that humans are the highest source of truth and reality and importance. They promote that evolution has produced human intelligence as the prime factor in determining morality. The false understanding of this morality states that everything is permissible as long as it doesn’t bring harm to anyone else. This belief has produced a loud argument in recent years for the rights of homosexuals and same-sex unions since, as the argument goes, for gay couples to be denied certain governmental rights brings them harm, then it must be wrong to continue to deny them the right of marriage. Furthermore, the humanist would say I am able to establish my own foundation for life because I determine truth and morality because I am of utmost importance and ability. In essence, to sum it up, as they dethrone the absolute truth of God and instead, set themselves upon it, they are saying, “I am God.” I believe many people are walking down this dangerous road even without realizing it.
Polytheism is the belief in many gods. For many, these false gods supposedly determine reality for those who follow. Unfortunately for the polytheist, these gods are often contradictory in their teachings, demanding in their systems of required works for acceptance, and in the end leave their constituents stuck in the pit of despair because although they may promise truth, they do not save. Polytheism is kind of like a black hole where all religions are absorbed into one group. All gods are accepted, all gods can co-exist, all gods produce truth, but in reality they are all false.
All of this makes it difficult for those who buy into relativism to accept the idea of judging a premise or lifestyle or religion because for them, truth doesn’t have a universal, concrete standard by which a person can make an accurate assessment of the world around them. In fact, apart from the Lord opening their eyes, it is impossible for them.
But for the Christian, we have arrived at and accepted absolute truth. His name is Jesus Christ. We understand that there is a complete, unadulterated, holy truth that transcends personal opinion. Furthermore, this truth is relevant to all of creation as it comes down to us from the Father who created us, including those who choose to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to it. Just because someone chooses to reject God’s word doesn’t make it any less true. We recognize that this truth outshines the temporal arguments by teaching eternal facts because our eternal God is the Author of it. Therefore, we are able to use these eternal facts as our rule of measurement. In fact, we are commanded to do so. God’s truth demands that we use His word to test all things – including ourselves. Or to be more scripturally accurate, to judge ourselves rightly.
Judge Yourself Rightly
The clear distinction between objective truth and subjective relativism is that with the one we have a rock-solid, clear standard to measure ourselves by and the other is similar to the shifting sand of a sandbar at the river; one day it reads a certain way, the next day it reads differently as the current of the water dictates. One has a timeless, transcendent structure that is authorized by God; the other uses a standard of measurement whereby it is measured by itself and therefore lacks any real authority.
An illustration of this can be found in the early church that I believe helps us to understand this concept. Paul, in his defense of his ministry against the false apostles at Corinth, said that one of the marks of these self-established, self-testing, self-commending false teachers was that they use subjective means to weigh themselves and their ministries.
“…but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12b (NASB95)
But as followers of Jesus Christ, we submit to the timeless, errorless, unfailing word of God which stands as a solid bulwark against our sinful nature.
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NASB95)
It is this word of God by which we test ourselves, determining whether we are in the faith or not.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gives a summary of the privilege of the Lord’s communion along with some instructions. Part of these instructions are a warning against those who would eat and drink at the Lord’s table in an unworthy manner, therefore, he says we must “judge ourselves rightly”.
“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment.” 1 Corinthians 11:27-34a (NASB95)
The context in which Paul is speaking is that of communion when we eat of the bread and drink of the cup in celebration of the Lord’s broken body and spilled blood for the remission of our sins along with the reminder of His return to the earth soon. In this context, he admonishes us that before we participate in communion, we must first examine ourselves. He further explains this as “judging our bodies rightly”. The reason for this is that if we fail to assess our lives, Paul points out that we will eat and drink judgment upon ourselves. So he says we must first take the time to judge ourselves rightly or else there will be another Judge who will judge us. And if we judge ourselves rightly, which I believe he is talking about checking our hearts and lives for hidden sins and taking the time necessary to repent of those sins, then we will not be judged later because,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NASB95)
Paul also stresses that this self-examination process is important and should not be rushed. In fact, he says that if you are hungry before coming to church for communion and you know you have business to take care of with the Lord, eat at home so you won’t be tempted to forego the process of confessing and repenting.
Furthermore, I believe Paul is saying that when we judge ourselves rightly, allowing His word coupled with His Holy Spirit to convict us, we are allowing the Lord’s discipline in our lives. And if we will allow the Lord’s discipline and chastening, then we know according to scripture that we are indeed God’s children who are being spared from His wrath.
“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Hebrews 12:4-8 (NASB95)
So the next time your church or home study group or leadership group offers communion, take the time to judge yourself rightly. Allow the Holy Spirit to search you and convict you in all of your ways. Let God’s word pierce you so that the thoughts and intentions of your heart are judged. You can thank me later for this advice.
All of this of course, is not possible for the postmodern moral relativist who may or may not be connected to a religious affiliation. For them the shifting sands of reason determine that anything goes because anything can be true at any given point in time. Therefore, unless the Lord intervenes, the path of salvation for them is short circuited.
I am not by nature a very confrontational person. In fact, it seems to me that most people I know would really rather avoid confrontation of any sort. But in these last days, as truth has been dumbed down to fit the individual’s preference, the world cannot afford for us to remain silent when it comes to the truth. They may argue it, criticize it, dismiss it, denounce it, berate it, condemn it, and laugh at it, but may they never silence it. My prayer is that the church will never get tired or sidetracked from proclaiming God’s word as the universal standard for all rule and conduct for every living creature.