“That’s true for you, but not for me.” Sound familiar? Whether they know it or not, when people thinks this way, they’ve embraced an idea called relativism. Relativism is the idea (or belief) that truth is relative, not absolute.
“You believe in Christianity? Okay, that’s true for you, but not for me. I believe in Hinduism.” Welcome to relativism; I assume there’s no need for further introduction.
The purpose of this post
The purpose of this post is to help us better understand the mind of those we’re seeking to reach with the Gospel. In particular, those who hold to a relativistic worldview. We can better reason with and explain the Gospel to our neighbours when we better understand them. Accordingly, I’m going to write a number of posts sharing what I’m learning from Paul Copan. Each post will focus on a certain aspect of his book, “True for You But Not for Me“: Overcoming Objections to Christian Faith.
In his first chapter, he offers three problems with the objection “That’s true for you but not for me”: (1) self-contradiction; (2) self-exception; and (3) rights. For this first post, I’ll focus on (1) self contradiction.
Relativism says, “There is no absolute truth.” This is a self-refuting claim, for it asserts one absolute truth, namely, that there is no absolute truth. It’s like saying, “I can’t speak a word of English” (Copan, 27). Some people could care less that they believe things that are inconsistent, but for those who do, let’s think about how we can better serve them.
With gentleness and grace, it’s helpful to show them what they really believe when they say: “That’s true for you, but not for me.” What they are saying is “someone’s truth can be someone else’s falsehood.” An example might help: for Tony, evil exists; but for Fred, evil doesn’t exist. Thus, what’s true for Tony is false for Fred. So, nothing is absolutely true or false. If this is the case, as Copan argues, “why believe the relativist if he has no truth to utter? … If claims are only true for the speaker, then his claims are only true for himself, and it’s difficult to see why they should matter to the rest of us” (27).
Let’s get practical! So, the next time someone tells you, “that’s true for you but not for me,” gently ask them this: “Do you expect me to believe that statement?” Yes, that’s it, one question! Off to the races you go! You could even say: “Do you think Jesus would agree with your statement?” Usually “[the relativist] expects his hearers to believe his statement and embrace his view of reality.” But he ought not.