Tag Archives: relativism

That’s true for you, but not for me (1 of 3)

“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.

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.

Day 9: You’re Judging Me

After talking to a nice lady for a while last Saturday, she told me, “You’re judging me.” I told her, “No, I’m just telling you what the Bible says.” She replied, “No, you’re judging me.” I said, “Now your judging me, saying that I’m judging you.” She wouldn’t admit that she was judging me; only that I was judging her. For her, one thing is clear: Christians are judgemental, not her.

As I’ve reflected on the conversation (and other things she said), I think I better understand her. I think she meant this:

(1) Judging is when you tell someone that what they do/believe is wrong. (2) You are telling me that what I believe is wrong. (3) Therefore, you are judging me.

Though I don’t think she would have received the following analysis at that moment, part of me wishes I would have said, “Are you saying that I’m judging you because I’m saying your wrong?” (Yes). “But in saying that I’m judging you, aren’t you saying that I’m wrong for judging you?” “You seem to be doing the very same thing that you condemn.”

The more fundamental issue at hand is this: she was persuaded that the Christian belief is simply a point of view. She said, “Why are you even trying to get me to believe what you believe?” I said, “Because I care for you and want you to know God; God the Creator, the God of the Bible.” She replied, “That’s just God according to your point of view.” I said, “No, it’s the truth, and it’s true whether I believe it or not.” She said, “No, that’s just your point of view.” And on the conversation went.

Let me sum up her issue with Christians:  who are they to say everyone else is wrong? Their view of God is simply their view; that’s all it is. It has no bearing on others; it has no bearing on reality. They ought not to push it on anyone; to do so is unacceptable, for it suggests that they think they’re right and others are wrong. This culture of thought is poisonous, arrogant, and when articulated with some persuasion, it’s borderline harassment.

Does anyone see the self-refuting nature of this objection to Christian thinking? It says, (1) a person’s belief about God is simply a point of view; and (2) You can’t tell anyone else their position is wrong, for your view is simply your view.

So then how can she be so sure that everything is simply a matter of perspective? Is that not just her perspective? If she’s consistent, all she should be confident of is that her own point of view is merely her point of view, nothing else. How could she know if someone else’s view was merely a point of view? That’s just her perspective. The second she says, “That’s just your perspective,” she’s actually revealing what she really believes. She might not even know it, but she really does believe her perspective is right, and that the Christian one is wrong. Do you see that? The second she refuses the Christian’s claim that everything is NOT simply a matter of perspective, she is saying they are wrong. But that’s something she’s not supposed to do. In fact, that’s the very thing she despises, but she does herself.

These arguments seem so clear to me but as I reflected more on the conversation, I realized something. Consistent, logical arguments aren’t silver bullets for conversion, but God is. May He be gracious and give life to the dead.

Encouragement and Irony: Reflections from Kathy D

This is a post from Kathy D (one of the founding members at GFC Don Mills)! I am so glad she decided to come out for a morning of evangelism! She writes …

Encouraged

Evangelism is something that has never come easy to me. When I received a church email about an upcoming evangelism session, I knew that it would be good to go. However the thought of it made me nervous. This verse shared in the email encouraged me:

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ (Isaiah 52:7)

This verse not only encouraged me, but it rang true, especially when evangelizing with Paul on the streets of Don Mills.

I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmingly blessed as I listened and prayed while Paul shared the gospel with a man named John. John was a chemist (and said he was also a Roman Catholic). When Paul asked him if he knew where he would go if he died and whether or not the Lord would accept him, the man seemed to assume he would go to heaven. This assumption was based on his belief that he was a good man and did good things for society, especially through his profession as a chemist. As we spoke with him, however, it was clear that relativism dominated his philosophy of life.

When Paul showed him in the Bible that Christ said He was the only way to the Father, John replied that to claim this is treading on thin ice. He said we should never tell someone directly that there is one truth.

Irony

I found it ironic that many people, in trying to show love to others by being impartial, are doing the exact opposite. Christians, in showing love by sharing the truth, come across as being incredibly narrow minded. It’s as 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Encouraged

I was encouraged that this man seemed quite engaged with our conversation and when we parted ways Paul gave him a copy of “The Essential Jesus” and his contact information. I pray for John, that he would realize the truth of the gospel and that one day he would tell others that, in fact, there is one truth. Christ is the way the truth and the life and no one can come to the Father except through Him.

Disrespectful Jesus and a Determinded Evangelist

Disrespectful Jesus

I was speaking to a man the other day, I forget much of what we disguised, but I recall feeling compelled to preach John 14:6. His response was interesting: “That’s disrespectful!”  Though things got a little heated from there, I’m glad I was prompted this way because it sparked a very telling conversation.

He went on and said more. If my memory is correct, I think he started to question whether Jesus really said that (or meant that). He tried to defend Jesus (that being his unbiblical idea of Jesus), arguing that Jesus would not hold such an absolute and exclusive view.

In particular he kept commenting on the exclusive claims of Christ, saying things like: “that’s crazy,” “that’s disrespectful,” “I can’t believe that,” “that’s not right.” He talked about other religions, other scriptures and issues of interpretation. My attempts to reason with him seemed unprofitable at large (but you never know how the Lord will use those conversations!). Near the end of our talk I told him, “If I were you my knees would be shaking because one day you will stand before Jesus and He will judge you. He says in the Bible that He will judge the world. You will give an account to him.” He replied by telling Steve K. and I that we’ll have to agree to disagree and encouraged us to move on. Things ended on the friendliest note possible (in light of the nature of the exchange). Interestingly, he said what we were doing (out sharing what we believe) was good. Good? Yes, he said, “good.”

That ended our conversation. As I thought over what we had discussed, I was struck by the fervency, absoluteness and certainty of his relativism. His relativism seemed unshakable. And he was not alone. There were two others I spoke with that day who were deeply rooted in religious relativism! The one told me “when you say someone is wrong you are walking on thin ice.” The man who said this is a Chemistry prof at York U. (We talked for a long time!).

A Determined Evangelist

All that being said, not everyone believes such things. I talked to a nice Muslim man earlier that day. He would describe religious relativism as crazy. And there are lots of Muslims in Don Mills! Even so, I am determined to get better equipped to know how to better reason and preach the Gospel to committed relativists. Of course, there is nothing better than the Bible when it comes to getting equipped for the Lord’s work, but there certainly is a place for learning from others.

Alex Philip, who is a close friend of mine (and Chaplain at Peoples Christian Academy), recommended “True For You But Not For Me”: Overcoming Objections to Christian Faith by Paul Copan and Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions by . So, over the next couple of months I will be reading and reviewing selected chapters from these books. I will review them and interact with them over a number of blog posts.

So, if you’d like to read along with me, grab the books and share your comments. I pray that God will use these books to better equip us to do what the Thessalonians did – to sound forth the word of the Lord that man people may “turn from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead.”(1 Thess 1:9-10). Stay tuned!

Those we are Reaching – What are they Thinking?

Though it was grey, cold and rainy, Saturday morning was a great morning of partnering in the Gospel with Nabel .  Though we weren’t able to strike up many conversations, there’s one conversation in particular that I like to touch on … the first guy we talked to.

We met him at a bus stop and chatted for about 3-4 minutes. Here is a little synopsis of his background and worldview. And I quote (or paraphrase):

1) “I don’t really believe anything”

2) I used to have religion, but not anymore (he had a Catholic background)

3) “Whatever makes you happy is right for you”

4) “All religions are the same” … they’re all equal

Not everyone that I meet ascribes to these tenants. Nor do all people see the world this way. Nevertheless, this kind of thinking of quite prominent in our day. There are many ways of approaching people with these beliefs. The purpose of this post is not to show how to refute each statement above, but to keep Jesus central.

Even though there is a place for showing the incoherence of a problematic worldview, and discussing issues of authority and epistemology from a number of angels, I rarely meet relativists who know much about what the Bible actually teaches about Jesus Christ. I find that addressing worldview problems and issues of authority naturally come up as I share who Jesus is according to Scripture and some of the things he said (especially John 14:6!!!). I like to give’m Jesus. They’ve gotta deal with Him! I know world view stuff is important, but Jesus (and His words) fair well the ring of worldview discussions.

We didn’t have the time to talk to this man about Jesus, for the bus came and he was gone before we knew it. Nevertheless, I thought this post may be a timely reminder on what those we are reaching are actually thinking. And I hope it is also an encouraging reminder in your personal evangelism to preach Jesus (Acts 8:35; 9:20).

For those of you who have time to read more. Here is another  window into what is becoming an increasingly common worldview in our age. What follows are the words of a teenage boy who wrote to me. He wrote this in a booklet I tried to give him – he took it and handed it back to me with the following note:

“Think about what makes you happy. Do it. Heaven is now. Hell is whatever you choose it to be … Everything is temporary. Everything. Believe in yourself. Not Jesus. You are God. You are the universe. You are the cosmos. Also, animals live in the life of freedom. Live in the life of an animal.”

May the Lord give us wisdom to know how to best reach these peoples with the truth.