From Revelation to Relativism

Updated on July 7, 2018
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Bill has advanced degrees in education and political science. He has been a political science teacher for over 20 years.

Introduction--The Surrender

We come back to the starting point: God. Our morals tell us that we must start with God, so does our psychology, our cosmology, and our epistemology. Our history as a species has been one grand experiment: a quest to live without God. The postmodernists and their nihilist and existentialist parents told us that God is dead (or absent). This has been worse than nonsense; it is been a lie and a destructive one. There is no wisdom, no force, no word that can stand against the call that proclaims "I am the way, the truth, and the life." It's time to unclench our fists and surrender to the one that told us thousands of years ago and still tells us without abating: "I am the Lord your God."

What I now give is not the whole story: it is only one telling of it. It addresses the question: "how did we get here"?

The last book in the Bible is the book of Revelation. The word "revelation" is also that philosophy that states that we know about God and the reason that we know about HIm is because He has revealed Himself to us.
The last book in the Bible is the book of Revelation. The word "revelation" is also that philosophy that states that we know about God and the reason that we know about HIm is because He has revealed Himself to us. | Source

Revelation

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. God revealed himself both in the natural order and also by the written word, the Holy Bible. The written word is more precise; the natural order only confirms what is written. For those that did not have the written word, God gave his moral law and wrote it on the hearts of men. Our conscience is a testimony to this imprinting. As evidence of this, certain human characteristics such as hate and torture are universally denounced as evil while charity and compassion are universally acclaimed as good. These universal conditions cannot be explained by evolution as these conditions may or may not be conducive to survival.

Today, you and I possess God's revelation, that revelation that tells us: "I am the Lord your God." God's revelation does not try to prove its worthiness; it merely proclaims its truthfulness. We have the responsibility to affirm its truthfulness.

From Revelation to Natural Theology

After the New Testament was written, men began to say that they could know about God apart from the written word, the Bible. They asserted that we can know about God through the created order. They were right; you can know things about God through nature. This school of thinking has been referred to broadly as natural theology. The appeal of natural theology is that you are appealing to people’s intuitive sense and not the black-and-white claims that are found in the Bible, some of which may or may not be intuitive. The claims of natural theology are that truth exists, and the truth is resident in God and that the truth of God can be seen in the created order.

Natural theologians makes arguments for God's existence from evidence and reason. One of its most important adherents was William Paley (1743-1805) whose arguments for design provoked a response from the likes of Hume, Rousseau, and Darwin.
Natural theologians makes arguments for God's existence from evidence and reason. One of its most important adherents was William Paley (1743-1805) whose arguments for design provoked a response from the likes of Hume, Rousseau, and Darwin. | Source

From Natural Theology to Rationalism

Later, men began to assert that truth does not begin with God, but it begins with us. Our minds employing the tools of logic and mathematics can lead us to the most meaningful truths of the universe. Our thinking (cogito ergo sum) will lead us to discover clear-and-distinct ideas that have the quality of being self-evident.

What about God? Well, we need not look to God as the source of truth. We not only perceive truth, but we also determine it (as opposed to just recognizing it). So, the boundary for truth is not the infinite, it is what appears reasonable to us as finite creatures. God exists—it would be difficult to explain the universe without him, but we through our reason (and later our experience) determine as selves what is true. At this point we are optimistic about this new life and discovery. Truth is not out there somewhere, it’s resident with us.

Many of the rationalists did not realize it, but by making man and his reason the ground of truth was to relinquish the claim that truth was transcendent. After all, if each of us is a source of truth, we don’t have a set of uniform set of clear-and-distinct ideas. As the relativist historian Carl Becker once wrote “Everyman his Own Historian,” so now it was “Everyman His Own Truth.” God had been the subject; man was the object, the creature, but later, man became the subject and God became the object of our intellectual interest and curiosity.

As for the men of the Enlightenment, someone aptly stated that...

For the love of God they substitute the love of humanity; for vicarious atonement the perfectibility of man through his own efforts, and for the hope of immortality in another world the hope of living in the memory of future generations. [1]

From Rationalism to Relativism

The problem with making our reason the bar to which all truth claims must bow is that there is not just one standard of reason, but many and now every man is not just his own historian, but he is his own umpire. But that confounds the idea of truth which is that there is one answer. So now, there is no longer Truth with a capital “T” but truth with a little “t.” We are left with relativism. Now everyman has his own truth, but we can't call it "truth" anymore. To make an important distinction, we can have a situation where each person does what is right according to himself, but we can't call that "truth." We surrendered truth and bartered for opinion in return.

Speaking of the modern relativist, the historian Carl Becker said, "Each historian who writes history is a product of his age, and…his work reflects the spirit of the times, of a nation, race, group, class, or section...”
Speaking of the modern relativist, the historian Carl Becker said, "Each historian who writes history is a product of his age, and…his work reflects the spirit of the times, of a nation, race, group, class, or section...” | Source

From Relativism to Despair

We move from relativism to despair and nihilism—There is no Truth with a capital “T” or a little “t”. We are alone. There is no word from God or a will of God. That means that our universe is filled with wonder, but it is still empty: empty of purpose and meaning. We are born, we exist, we die, they bury us. That is it. We are not special; there is nothing unique about us or our existence. One day, we will be completely forgotten. It will be as if we never existed at all. Thinkers will tell us that there is a difference between existentialism and nihilism, but if these philosophies are right (and they can’t be), there is no meaningful difference.

Power and the Great Man—But some of us can be remembered longer than others. That’s right. Some of us, like Caesar, Oliver Cromwell, Peter the Great, Alfred the Great, Ghengis Khan. They continued to be remembered and why? It has nothing to do with truth; it has to do with power. In Crime and Punishment, the aspiring nihilist, Raskolnikov proclaims the anthem of power:

Liberty and power, but above all power! Over all trembling mortals and over the whole antheap!

Power above all. So, now, we do not seek truth—there is no truth to be found. All we are left with is power if we want to have a meaningful life. So the use of power becomes the preoccupation.

Modern man has proclaimed "there is no hell," yet treats his fellow man as if he is the manifestation of his eternal anguish and despair. Jean-Paul Sartre captured this condition in his play "No Exit" in which it is proclaimed "Hell is other people."
Modern man has proclaimed "there is no hell," yet treats his fellow man as if he is the manifestation of his eternal anguish and despair. Jean-Paul Sartre captured this condition in his play "No Exit" in which it is proclaimed "Hell is other people." | Source

Power and the Tribe—Next, not everyone is empowered. Some because of their birth or privilege have power; others do not. A person with power can create his own identity, his own existence. But a man without power has no identity to speak of. Therefore, he must find his identity elsewhere. He must find it in a group, because groups of people can exert power because of their number. The power is not in their individual will; their power is in the many of them. Therefore, the group becomes important; it alone can exhibit the power that I need and it is the source of my identity, my existence.

*So here we are, identity politics. The unrelenting emphasis on the liberation of groups as they struggle for emancipation. We are told that there are many groups, regularly referred to minorities, women, blacks, gays, now animals that are oppressed and are in need of being emancipated.

The Way Out

So here we are: we have been brought to the point where we everyday hear someone state some absurdity that gets tolerated and those that oppose it are shouted down. The string of adolescent name calling seems to stretch out over the day only to be wielded like a blunt instrument the next day.

We thought we could do without God; we snubbed our nose at religion's simplicity and we labeled those that proclaimed His message as "simpletons." We rejected the simplicity of revelation and got a generation that questions the obvious. Yes, skepticism is healthy to a degree, but mindless questioning helps no one. Is there a way out of this?

Yes, but it will cost us our pride. We will have to admit that we took a wrong turn centuries ago. We will have to admit that our doctrine of unaided human progress was a mistake. We will have to admit that all the time and attention given to philosophies like existentialism, postmodernism or its recent stepchild, the politics of identity are lies. They can’t be true anyway since they deny the possibility of truth.

The way out is revelation and faith in its truthfulness. The revelation of God, the Bible, points the way to Jesus of Nazareth who tells us “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus Christ is not only the only way to heaven, he is the only way for those that say “I can’t live without the truth” and really mean it.

NOTES

[1] It is unclear who made this statement. Perhaps Carl Becker. Quote is contained in Deepak Lal, Unintended Consequences: The Impact of Factor Endowments, Culture, and Politics on Long-Run Economic Performance (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998), 104.

© 2018 William R Bowen Jr

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    • maven101 profile image

      maven101 

      3 months ago from Northern Arizona

      Perhaps I should have said no moral absolutes...

    • Bibowen profile imageAUTHOR

      William R Bowen Jr 

      3 months ago

      Maven, I agree that if you embrace existentialism and objectivism, you're left with relativism. Your response is bewildering though since your claims are made in an absolutist fashion as if you believe your claims are true and that we should take them as truth. Thanks for reading.

    • maven101 profile image

      maven101 

      3 months ago from Northern Arizona

      The personal empowerment of Existentialism is proclaimed by Camus in his take on Sisyphus and the philosophy of Ayn Rand...Both convinced me of its validity following college and throughout my life...I find no logic in the idea of a "Supreme Being"...Biblical references merely illustrate the senseless statements of men in a self-sustaining rapture proclaiming to be "The Word of God"...The Universe is silent, life is transitory, death is final... If one rejects the notion of God, who is to say what is good and what is evil? No one, since there are no absolutes: There is good in evil and evil in good.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very interesting point of view. A good explanation of divergence.

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