Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Who is President Obama?"---How Relativism Shapes the Culture and Individuals

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The Hill, not known to be a conservative voice, is asking of President Obama, "Who is he? "

"Five months into his second term, allies and enemies are as confounded as ever about who President Obama really is," they report.

They ask, "Is he the dyed-in-the-wool liberal that his biggest supporters and critics suggest? Or is he a pragmatic, even cynical politician who cares more for his popularity than taking risks for his individual goals or living up to his rhetoric?"

One thing is certain. Both sides agree, he does not live up to his rhetoric. What he says and what he does most often stands in stark contrast.

This is not so much about President Obama as it is about a bigger, broader picture.

However, his comments on Father's Day weekend provide a perfect example of one of the core problems in our culture. How relativism shapes and individual and a culture.

Most of us know that often, perhaps very often, among many politicians, there are the moments when they elevate their own ambitions, their career and personal benefits above principle and values.

The Hill article linked above points out a number of seemingly conflicting positions the President has taken including his strong opposition to the Iraq war as a candidate and now the likelihood that he will take America into the civil war in Syria.

The Hill points out the duplicity in his position on the Keystone XL Pipeline. First he opposed it on the grounds of environmentalism--now he is poised to okay it.

Has the environment improved to the point that it is now acceptable to install the pipeline? You can read the comments in the linked article.

The most profound example of duplicity or conflicted beliefs is in the President's radio message on Father's Day weekend.

The President, who is working to advance same-sex marriage and enshrine it into American law as legal and normal and whose Department of Justice has argued before the Supreme Court that children need neither a father or mother to have a culturally and socially sound childhood, said this past weekend, "There will never be a substitute for a father."

He said young people need "a strong male roll model."

He spoke of his own life and the loss he feels as a result of the absence of his own father. "I really never knew my own father," he said, "That's why I try every day to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me." He said, "I've met plenty of other people--dads and uncles and men without family connection---who are trying to break the cycle and give more of our young people a strong role model."

Then, as though he suddenly had a reality check and remembered the party line, he made it plain he was directing his comments to parents who were both "straight" and "gay."

How do those beliefs apply to a family with two mommies or two daddies? They don't.

The argument for a male father that the President made this past weekend is the same argument the supporters of Proposition 8 in California made in defense of marriage.

The Supreme Court will rule on Prop. 8 this month. The supporters of Prop. 8 said the state has an interest in marriage as between one man and one woman because that is the optimum place to raise a child---a male father and a female mother.

On behalf of Prop. 8, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., told the Court, '"The best situation for a child is to be raised by a married mother and father."

But the Department of Justice, directed by the President, told the Court, “As an initial matter, no sound basis exists for concluding that same-sex couples who have committed to marriage are anything other than fully capable of responsible parenting and child-rearing.”

“To the contrary," Obama's Justice Department said, "many leading medical, psychological, and social-welfare organizations have issued policy statements opposing restrictions on gay and lesbian parenting based on their conclusion, supported by numerous scientific studies, that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are as likely to be well adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents.”

“The weight of the scientific literature strongly supports the view that same-sex parents are just as capable as opposite-sex parents,” said the Obama Justice Department.


Relativism has gotten us to where we are in our culture.

For the past several generations, our children have been indoctrinated in the fundamentals of relativism, which stands in absolute contrast to the eternal, unchanging Truth of God's Word.

Our children have been taught there is no consistent standard of true and false, right or wrong, good or bad.

Therefore, my truth is different than your truth and all is equally valid. That is how you get to a place where you simultaneously believe in something and not believe in it.

Relativism provides no moral compass. Each individual drifts about on a sea of uncertainty. Every person does what is right in his own eyes.

John Piper, one of the great theologians of our times, has given a sermon on this subject. I have linked it here. If you want to be informed biblically as to how relativism shapes an individual and a culture, take a little time and read it---or listen to the audio.

Consider this:

1. Relativism commits treason.

Relativism is a revolt against the objective reality of God. The sheer existence of God creates the possibility of truth. God is the ultimate and final standard for all claims to truth—who he is, what he wills, what he says is the external, objective standard for measuring all things. When relativism says that there is no standard of truth and falsehood that is valid for everyone, it speaks like an atheist. It commits treason against God.

In James 2:10-11, we see the dynamics of treason in relation to God’s law: “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Why? “For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’” The key to James’ argument here is that he connects our relation to God’s law with our relation to God himself. The reason your failure in one point makes you guilty of all is that the same God gave all the law—and what matters is that in rebelling against the law you are rebelling against him.

Relativism is a pervasive rebellion against the very concept of divine law. Therefore, it is the most thoroughgoing rebellion against God. It is a treason that is worse than outright revolt because it is devious. Instead of saying to God’s face, “Your word is false,” it says to man, “There is no such thing as a universally binding divine word.” This is treason.

2. Relativism cultivates duplicity.

Everyone knows in his heart that believing relativism to be true is contradictory, and everyone also knows intuitively that no one even tries to put it into practice consistently. Therefore, both philosophically and practically, it cultivates duplicity. People say they believe in it but do not think or act consistently with what they say. They are hypocrites. Relativism breeds hypocrisy and duplicity.

It is contradictory because the very process of thinking about relativism commits you to truths that you do not treat as relative. Relativists employ the law of non-contradiction and the law of cause and effect whenever they talk about their belief in relativism and its relation to the world, and these laws are not relative. If they were, relativists could not even formulate the premises and conclusions that they say lead them to relativism. This is a deep duplicity. And when one does it knowingly, it is immoral. The king keeps saying he has clothes on, when he knows he is naked. People keep saying all is relative when they know their very thinking and talking involves principles they do not think are relative.

3. Relativism conceals doctrinal defection.

One of the most tragic effects of relativism is the effect it has on language. In a culture where truth is esteemed as something objective and external to ourselves that we should pursue and embrace and cherish and employ for the good of the people, language holds the honorable place of expressing and carrying and transmitting that precious cargo of truth. In fact, a person’s use of language is assessed on the basis of whether it corresponds to the truth and beauty of the reality he expresses.

4. Relativism cloaks greed with flattery.

Apparently, the apostle Paul was accused in Thessalonica of simply wanting money from his converts. When he responds to this, he shows the link between flattery and greed:

Our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. (1 Thessalonians 2:3-5)

What is flattery? It’s the use of language to make someone feel good about himself with a view to getting what you want. Paul calls it a pretext for greed. When relativism has abolished truth as the governor of language, language itself goes on sale. If we can get more money by telling people what they want to hear, we will give them what they want.

Relativism is the perfect atmosphere for turning language into a pretext for greed by flattering people with what they want to hear. This is no surprise to Paul. “The time is coming,” he says, “when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

5. Relativism cloaks pride with the guise of humility.

If you believe in a truth that all people must embrace in order to be saved, you will be called arrogant. On the other hand, relativism is put forward as the mark of humility. What I want to suggest is not that all lovers of truth are humble, but that relativism is not a humble stance but a cloak for pride.

It works like this. Truth with a capital T—Truth rooted in God’s objective reality and word—is a massive, unchanging reality that we little humans must submit to. Knowing is the humble task of putting ourselves under this reality and submitting to it. Understanding is literally taking the humble position to stand under the truth and let it be our rule.

But what about relativism? It poses as humble by saying: “We are not smart enough to know what the truth is—or if there is any universal truth.” It sounds humble. But look carefully at what is happening. It’s like a servant saying: I am not smart enough to know which person here is my master—or if I even have a master. The result is that I don’t have a master and I can be my own master. That is in reality what happens to relativists: In claiming to be too lowly to know the truth, they exalt themselves as supreme arbiter of what they can think and do. This is not humility. This is the essence of pride.
6. Relativism enslaves people.

In John 8:31-32, Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” If we cultivate a view of truth that makes it unreachable or non-existent, then we create a kind of Christianity that will simply colonize slaves. People are not freed from sin through the fog of relativism. They stay in chains.
7. Relativism leads to brutal totalitarianism.

The formula is simple: When relativism holds sway long enough, everyone begins to do what is right in his own eyes without any regard for submission to truth. In this atmosphere, a society begins to break down. Virtually every structure in a free society depends on a measure of integrity—that is, submission to the truth. When the chaos of relativism reaches a certain point, the people will welcome any ruler who can bring some semblance of order and security. So a dictator steps forward and crushes the chaos with absolute control. Ironically, relativism—the great lover of unfettered freedom—destroys freedom in the end.

Be Vigilant. Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Active. Be Blessed.