The Equal Worldview - Relativism
by Maroof Khan, Maria Nigos, Brooke Pauken, and Arvind Vallabha
What is Relativism?
"The way things appear to me, in that way they exist for me; and the way things appear to you, in that way they exist for you" -Theaetetus
Relativism is the worldview stating that no individual opinion is wrong. Due to the fact that each person comes from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, everyone's opinion is somewhat biased, and that bias causes people to think their opinions are correct and others' opinions are wrong.
Journal Question: Can you think of a time where you and another person had an argument over something where you believed you were right and the other believed he/she was right? How did you resolve it?
Different Takes on Relativism
Many people tend to believe that relativism is a false worldview and does not exist in the modern world. The basis of their argument is that though people differ in opinions, they all have the same fundamental moral values as others. However, current events clearly dictate that relativism is very much alive. In many countries around the world, practices such as polygamy, torture, and sexism are more prevalent than others. In the Middle East, based on their culture and founding principles, the people have a different viewpoint than the more democratic American people. Although it is true that most people have the same fundamental moral beliefs, relativism states that people interpret these beliefs in different ways.
Relativism in Contemporary Music
As the lyrics “Wrong things, right things/ Who can say what’s true?” show, this song demonstrates that opinions depend on an individual’s perception of what is right and what is wrong. Since everything is relative to one’s opinions, no one say that another’s opinion is false. An example of this would be in the lyrics “Witches can be right/ Giants can be good/ You decide what’s right/ you decide what’s good.”
Relativism in Film
In the movie A Time To Kill, Matthew McConaughey plays Jake Brigance, a lawyer defending a black man accused of murder. Set in Mississippi, the film largely revolves around the racism of whites towards blacks. During the trial of Brigance’s client, Brigance talks about how the law claims that everyone is equal under the law, but the law is biased since it is based on human interpretation. No one can have the same interpretation due to the differences in their beliefs. This supports the idea of individual opinion and how it differs from culture to culture and person to person, which is at the core of relativism.
Relativism in the Bible
Matthew 21:23-27 (The Authority of Jesus Questioned)
"Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."
What does this mean?
This passage shows relativism when Jesus is preaching in the temple and the chief priests and elders approach him. They question his authority to teach to people and Jesus in return asks them a question which is based on where John’s power to baptize comes from. This stumps the priests as they do not want to anger anyone with their answer. Therefore, they do not answer. This shows relativism because it shows how differences in viewpoints affect different actions of people which in this passage are the priests.
Relativism vs. Christian Worldview
The Christian worldview is far more specific than Relativism.
1. What is prime reality—the really real?
Christian Answer: The Christian worldview states that God is Reality and the Center of all things, the Creator of the world.
Relativism Answer: What any individual believes is reality is relative to their experiences, culture, societal influences, etc.
2. How do we know what is right and wrong?
Christian Answer: As human beings, we have a conscience which helps us to decide between right and wrong. We were given free will, the abilty to choose, by God and with this free will and our conscience as well as the guidance of Christian doctrine we make decisions.
Relativism Answer: There is no definite right and wrong. Like reality, the meaning of right and wrong is unique to each individual due to various influence.
3. Why is it possible to know anything at all?
Christian Answer: We are made in the image of an all-knowing God and our search for knowledge leads us to him.
Relativism Answer: Relativism is a true doctrine meaning that each individual is certain to what they believe as true and false. Nobody can be truly correct because each person has a different perspective on what is real knowledge.
4. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
Christian Answer: Creation is constantly developing and is the self expression of God. Creation will only be complete at the end of time.
Relativism Answer: Each culture has a different opinion on reality based on their society and upbringing.
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