Relativism is a philosophical belief that there is no absolute truth. It stands in stark contrast to the Christian belief system which holds to objective and absolute biblical truths, one of which is that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Let’s explore the differences between relativism and Christianity and how we might use that understanding in everyday life.
What is Relativism?
Relativism is the belief that there are no absolute truths – instead, each individual can have his or her own set of beliefs and values, and none can be judged as being more right or wrong than another. This idea allows for a great deal of personal freedom when it comes to religion; however, it also means that no one religion can be considered objectively “true” or “good”. Relativism is often expressed in phrases like ‘my truth’ and ‘your truth.’
How Does Christianity Differ from Relativism?
Christianity differs from relativism because it holds that there is one true God who created everything in existence (including us). As such, Christianity holds that this God is sovereign over all things and His word (the Christian bible) should be taken as truth. Furthermore, Christians believe in salvation through Jesus Christ alone – not through any other religious figure or practice, nor through accumulation of good deeds.
How They Differ
The most obvious difference between relativism and Christianity is the fact that one allows for an individualistic interpretation of the world while the other does not. Relativism does not recognize any higher power or authority beyond what each individual believes, while Christianity does recognize such a power in the form of the Trinity. Christians believe absolute truth is rooted in Scripture while adherents to relativism do not necessarily accept any one source as being authoritative or true over another source.
Another way in which Christianity differs from religious relativism is its view on morality and ethics. According to Christian teachings, our moral behavior should reflect the character of God Himself – He sets a standard for us to follow so that we can live a life that is both pleasing in His sight and beneficial to our well-being. We believe that this morality and ethical behavior is a response to God’s grace and salvation through Christ, not a response to cultural context.
On the other hand, religious relativists believe that morality can change depending on different cultural contexts – what may be acceptable behavior in one culture may not be acceptable behavior in another culture: it’s all relative.
One key flaw to religious relativism is the foundational principle that there is no absolute truth, because this only applies to areas where the relativists’ personal choices might be impinged. For example, most relativists won’t question the absolute truth that Paris is the capital of France, or the absolute truth that 2 + 2 = 4. But they will argue against the absolute truth behind moral and ethical codes. This sometimes reveals that they are not rebelling against religion per se, but rather any higher power over their individualism and personal choices.
Understanding the differences between religious relativism and Christianity can help us have informed conversations about our faith. By learning more about other systems of thought and how they differ from Christianity, we can better articulate our faith to seekers and skeptics.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… (I Peter 3:15, NIV).
For a better understanding of religious relativism, please join us for the series “Searching for God.”