If you reject cultural relativism, you should reject philosophical and religious relativism too. You’d think that would be common sense, but surprisingly it’s not a common view.
There are those who dismiss the notion that all cultures are equal, and then either embrace philosophical and religious pluralism, or simply dismiss religion all together.
It’s not hard to see why. People don’t like absolutes in truth and standards because they demand absolute acceptance and obedience.
Whenever Christian standards are appealed to, the philosophical and religious relativist soon raises his head. “There are many religions,” he says. “How can we measure which is nearer the truth?” “They are all essentially saying the same thing.” Insistence on the superiority of Christianity will soon be met with accusations of arrogance and intolerance.
But do we really want to live in a society that is too afraid to embrace absolute truth? That’s where we are today. And as soon as you mention absolute truth, someone will cry, “Oh, but what about separation of church and state?” Apart from failing to understand what separation of church and state actually means, what is the alternative they’re actually proposing? Morality defined by the majority?
David Wells once said, “Truth is now simply a matter of etiquette: it has no authority, no sense of rightness, because it is no longer anchored in anything absolute. If it persuades, it does so only because our experience has given it its persuasive power, but tomorrow our experience might be different.”
A quote often attributed to John Owen says, “Without absolutes revealed from without by God Himself, we are left rudderless in a sea of conflicting ideas about manners, justice, and right and wrong, issuing from a multitude of self-opinionated thinkers.”
What’s important to remember here is that the rejection of truth does not make truth any less true. As Thomas Adams said, “the splendour of the sun is not enlarged by them that bless it, nor eclipsed by them that hate it.”
We reject particular cultures, not because we are relativists who merely prefer one culture to another, but because there is a real objective good and bad. There is a real moral standard, outside of ourselves and our culture, which we individually and collectively ought to conform to. It’s what gives us the ability to judge one culture from another, one action from another, one religion from another.
As Philip Ryken rightly said, “Religion is not a preference. Although people are allowed to hold their own opinions, they cannot make up their own truth. This cannot be done with religion any more than it can be done with mathematics.”
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