Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Marius Lombaard, "Necessarily Absolute Relativism?"

My good friend from down under (South Africa, I guess) recently wrote a book review and his subsequent thoughts. As usual, his thoughts are irenic and challenging. Marks of a humble soul.

Sometime during the last year I read a book that was really thought provoking titled: “Truth… & The New Kind Of Christian”.
Although the books main subject deals with Postmodern Christianity, specifically the Emerging Church, a book can be written on the subjects of the last few chapters alone.

In this post I won’t go into detail about post-modernity or the emerging church (I might write a detailed book review later though); rather I want to touch base on an interesting distinction that changed the ways I view truth and knowledge.

For most people, the alternative to absolute truths are relative truths. And most average folks will live by one of those standards of truth. You either believe in absolutes, or you believe that everything is relative.

Relativity says: what is right for you, isn’t necessarily right for me and vice-versa. Don’t dare to tell me what I ought to do, because truth is relative, and who are you to dictate what is right or wrong for me? The conclusion is therefore that truth is not absolute, but rather relative to the person.
Absolutes say: there are absolute truths in this world. Doesn’t matter what you say:
  • Murder is wrong
  • Rape is wrong
  • Torturing babies for fun is wrong
  • Genocide is wrong
  • Slavery is wrong
Therefore the conclusion is that there are absolutes we should all live by. We can’t escape it, it is a fact of life that we all live by absolute truths.

Some people have suggested that the truths we live by are merely how we have evolved and that society has decided what is right and wrong. But if this is true, then we are led to believe that we could have evolved otherwise, and society could have developed and chosen otherwise. That is, it could’ve been decided that murder, rape or genocide is not wrong after all. But that possibility is absurd! A culture or society that believed this would soon exterminate itself and cease to exist and develop, since it’s people would be justified in their emotions and anger to murder each other for the silliest things that so easily and frequently kindles our anger.

So it is at least clear that there are at least some absolutes we all live by. But I want to introduce a third possibility: objective truths. What are objective truths? How does it differ from absolute truths?
In “Truth… & The New Kind Of Christian”, Smith looks at four properties of truths to see in what ways they are the same, and in what ways they differ:
For Smith's and Lombaard's thoughts, continue HERE.


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