Monday, February 15, 2021

3 Reasons Relativism is Untenable

Relativism, broadly defined, is the view that truth is relative to each individual and that there is no objective truth.  According to this type of thinking, objective truth is not attainable, and therefore, all truth claims are equally valid.  Thankfully, among serious thinkers, this view seems to have fallen out of favor.  However, relativistic thinking is still quite common in everyday conversations.  This type of thinking manifests itself when someone says something like, "That may be true for you, but it's not true for me."1

In his book 5 Minute Apologist, Rick Cornish points out 3 reasons why relativism is, at the end of the day, untenable.  He writes:

"First, it defeats itself.  The relativist believes the statement, 'All truth is relative.'  But if all truth is relative, then relativism falls into that category and cannot claim to be...true.  Why, then, should we believe it?

Second, relativism is untenable because it entails that opposites are true.  For example, some might assert that it can be true for one person that God exists, but true for another that He does not exist.  Those two concepts, however, are mutually exclusive.  It cannot be the case that God both exists and does not exist.  Either He does or does not.

Third, the relativist view renders knowledge impossible.  Gaining knowledge presupposes moving from a state of no-knowledge to a state of knowledge.  If relativism is true, however, neither state truly exists, and learning is rendered impossible."

Cornish concludes:

"Despite the recent popularity of relativism, it lacks intellectual, philosophical and biblical integrity. As Christians we must recognize and understand it.  We swim in its waters, and should be able to refute it as we engage our culture with the gospel of Christ.  The One who said, 'I am the way the truth and the life' (John 14:6, emphasis added), requires that we know the nature of truth and communicate it well."3

I wholeheartedly concur. 

For those who want to learn more about the challenge of relativism and be better equipped to combat it, I recommend Francis Beckwith and Greg Koukl's book Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Which is just a fancy way of saying, "Nothing is true for everybody.  And that is true...for everybody!"
2. Rick Cornish, 5 Minute Apologist, p. 31.
3. Ibid., p. 32.

Related Posts

Philosopher Stephen T. Davis on Tolerance

Seven Things You Can't Do As A Relativist by Greg Koukl

Relativism by Greg Koukl MP3 Audio


Bob Seidensticker said...

It's not that *all* truth is relative. As far as I can tell, there is no objective *moral* truth. I've seen the claim made dozens of times, but it's never backed up with convincing evidence that objective moral truth exists.

Chad said...

Hello Mr. Seidensticker,

I hope you are well.

As to the definition of relativism, I freely concede that there exist different types and I would commend this article to you and readers who wish to explore relativism more in-depth.

As to your claim that "there is no objective moral truth," with great respect, I simply find this claim incredible. While I admit that moral truths are discovered in a different manner in which we discover truths about the physical universe, I think that atheist philosopher of science Michael Ruse gets it right when he says:

“The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says, 2+2=5.”