February 4, 2020

Know What You Know

In response to the exponential increase in cultural and moral relativism he observed, mid-20th century Christian theologian and philosopher Francis A. Schaeffer once said, “…[W]e should note this curious mark of our age: The only absolute allowed is the absolute insistence that there is no absolute.”

Schaeffer died in 1984. But any cultural observer understands implicitly that the curiosity he observed has metastasized even more in the last 35 years. Indeed, we’ve reached a point in some quarters where positing simple, self-evident, scientifically verifiable facts (i.e., carrying XY chromosomes makes one male and possessing an XX pair renders one female) causes relativists to react with extreme vitriol and even violence, and sometimes costs people their livelihoods and reputations.

The ironic “absolutist relativists” – those who insist that the only absolute is that there are no absolutes and who ostracize those with other views of truth – preach “tolerance” but are actually among the most intolerant people on the planet. And they’ve caused no small number who do still espouse belief in moral absolutes to shrink back and keep quiet for the sake of self-preservation. But at what cost? 

We’ve already endured more than 100 years of relativism’s reign. And with each passing generation, it leads more and more people astray with its illogical non-truth truths. We see its damage all around us – especially in our kids, who, though they know deep inside themselves (Romans 1) that absolute truth does exist, are berated by the bully of relativism day in and day out.

Relativism is but a worldview perspective – one idea of how the world operates. Even if it’s the current prevailing idea, it’s not the only view, nor the most progressive one, nor the “best.” The biggest, loudest kid on the block is rarely the wisest. And, for the sake of our kids, those of us with different ideas must confront the bully.

In other words, if you’re not a relativist – if, for example, you profess instead to be a Christian – it’s imperative that you know the philosophical underpinnings of your faith and that you actively teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6.7). You are allowed – relativists’ rants notwithstanding – to hold a worldview that believes in the existence of absolute truth as presented to us by the God of the Bible, and to train up your children in that truth. But you must take responsibility – by studying Scripture and supporting documents such as a solid catechism – to know what you know and why you know it. It’s foolish – and irresponsible – to coast along without doing so.

When you take the time to ground your beliefs in facts and evidence, you’ll have the confidence to openly share them with firm but quiet grace in the marketplace of ideas populated by angry relativists and those who espouse any number of other worldviews. Even more importantly, you’ll be able to train up your children as you see fit, which is your God-given right and responsibility as a parent.

It all starts with figuring out how to know what you know. Where will you begin?


Photo Credit: Ekta Chawla

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