By Rev. Raymond J. Rooney, Jr., Pastor
P.O. Box 370
Verona, Mississippi 38879
Telephone (662) 566-8839
Web Site: Verona United Methodist Church"We must attack wherever we meet it the nonsensical idea that mutually exclusive propositions about God can both be true." (C.S. Lewis)
I was first introduced to relativism in a college philosophy class. "If a person was born into a society wherein cannibalism was the norm would it be right for an outsider to condemn the practice of cannibalism?", the professor asked me. What about cultures, societies, or groups that practice bigamy? In some cultures marriages are still prearranged with the bride and groom having little or nothing to say in the matter. The list of variations is nearly as endless as the number of different cultures. Hence, cultural relativism. What we in America deem to be right or proper is our matter of opinion. The relativist would say that we have no right to dictate what another culture believes in or practices even if it is radically different from our own mores.
Cultural relativism has since spread into the religious realm exhorting the same kind of unilateral acceptance and tolerance concerning God and faith only it is called pluralism. Beliefs and practices concerning God vary from society to society and culture to culture. Some believe in Christ. Others put their faith in Buddha, Mohammed, or any number of others. Who can be so arrogant as to imply or suggest that any one religion is better than or takes precedence over the others? It is all a matter of personal opinion and one opinion is as good as another. Therefore tolerance is championed as the only true intellectual response to the existing milieu of religions.
The only problem, of course, is that relativism and pluralism conveniently ignore the elephant in the room. For sure, beliefs, opinions, and practices vary. To a certain extent it is right to respect others' views (I say "to a certain extent" because most rational people agree that it is wrong to withhold medical treatment to children or use them as sexual objects no matter what a particular religion or sect advocates). However, it is simply ridiculous to assert that everyone can be right at the same time. As the above quote from C.S. Lewis aptly points out the elephant in the room is known as the truth. There can be many perceptions about the truth. However, when mutually exclusive propositions about God are being voiced it is simply ludicrous and above all irrational to propound that they can be simultaneously valid. Christianity makes it very plain that the only way to God is through the blood of the slain but resurrected Jesus of Nazareth. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. The Hindu may be right and the Christian wrong. Or, the Islamic may be right and the Christian wrong. But by virtue of the basic tenets of each religion's core beliefs it is not possible for the Buddhist, the Islamic, and the Christian to be simultaneously right! Mohammed is not another name for Jesus. Karma does not equate to the doctrine of resurrection.
Everyone can't be right. It has been said that without a voice the truth is impotent. Think about it. Some say that God does not consider homosexuality a sin. Others point out that the Biblical evidence is crystal clear that the practice of homosexuality is, in fact, sin. Both sides cannot be right at the same time. One perspective is true and the other a lie. The truth needs an advocate. The New Age religion teaches that we are gods. Christianity makes it clear that there is only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Both religions cannot be true. One is true and the other a lie. The truth needs an advocate. Secular humanism teaches that the unborn are fetuses without consciousness or personhood thereby making them expendable. The Bible teaches that the unborn are known by God before their conception and uses the same word to refer to the unborn as a toddler and sometimes even a youth. Both positions cannot be simultaneously tenable. The truth needs an advocate.
Unfortunately there is a growing sentiment within the Church that accuses advocates of the truth of being hateful and intent only on causing trouble. One minister at a rally for social activists at the 2000 General Conference of the United Methodist Church had the following to say about several groups and caucuses dedicated to returning the Methodist church to its Scriptural and doctrinal heritage: "They [Renewal groups] are not interested in serving Jesus Christ...They are more interested in preserving white supremacy and male domination...They are not voices of God but voices of white privilege, greed, capitalism, racism, wrong, and American domination of the rest of the world" (Quoted from "UM Action Briefing", Summer 2000 General Conference Special Report, p. 4). How advocating that the church should not change its centuries old position regarding homosexuality makes one a white supremacist or a colonialist is beyond me but that is just a smattering of what many say and feel about advocates of the truth. Others, not as vitriolic as the minister quoted above simply do not understand why Christian apologists (truth advocates) cannot choose to talk about nicer things; things that are not controversial. Both attitudes ignore a very important Biblical admonition to rebuke and expose deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).
Rather than equate advocates of the truth with obstinate troublemakers, I would suggest something else. C.S. Lewis read a paper to an assembly of youth leaders and Anglican priests in 1945 entitled "Christian Apologetics." Early on in the essay he said something that rings true 56 years later and perhaps has greater urgency now than then. Said Lewis, "It is not, of course, for me to define to you what Anglican Christianity is [Lewis was a professor of Literature and not a clergyman]--I am your pupil not your teacher. But I insist that wherever you draw the lines, bounding lines must exist, beyond which your doctrine will cease either to be Anglican or to be Christian: and I suggest also that the lines come a great deal sooner than many modern priests think" (from God in the Dock, 1970, p. 89). I suggest, as Lewis before me, that there has to be a clearly defined point at which everyone is willing to agree "that is not faithful to our church's religious heritage much less to Christianity itself."
The truth needs advocates in the twenty first century. I once theorized (before I became a Christian) that God and Satan were merely alter egos of the same being. I desperately needed (even though I did not want) an advocate for the truth. Thank goodness I heard one. Where would I be if someone had not had the courage to tell me I was wrong and spoke the words of truth? I get the impression that many in the Church today would call Ezekiel's watchmen "troublemakers" as they cried out that the sword of God was coming upon the land. Daniel was pegged as a "troublemaker." As a matter of fact isn't that what some people said about a Man named Jesus? And did not that Man at some point say something about knowing the truth and then being set free (John 8:32)? Everyone can't be right. Error and heresy certainly has its vocal advocates. They call themselves ministers of social justice and reconciliation. What about the truth? Who is willing to be its advocate?
R. J. Rooney