Culture

Defying Gravity: Why Relativism is Dying and Everyone is Believing in Absolute Truth, Part 2

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Christianity and postmodernism both hold dearly to absolute truth, yet, I would argue, only one of us is gutsy enough to admit it. How refreshing it would be to come to terms with it and talk honestly about our competing ideas of absolute truth? Like a good many Christians, every postmodern believes in a tightly protected circle of absolute truths. Now, it is a very tightly protected circle, a proverbial club, of issues and ideas that are absolutely truthful. My curiosity still remains: who is it that determines what and what does not makes it into the circle of postmodern absolute truth? Who comprises the committee to determine which truths are let in? I’m sure I won’t be let in; I just want to know the process.

As has been said, “we are entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts.” So true. But I want to know how the committee deems a fact a fact and an opinion an opinion. Someone is making the calls and I’d really like to read the meeting notes.

The canon of postmodern dogma is really fluid and hard to keep up with. My point? I believe Western culture will slowly become less and less relativistic rather than increasingly relativistic. We will live by a set of absolute truths that are determined by the committee above I have described. By that I mean that a certain set of cultural absolute truths will increasingly rule our world, truths that will be established without the help of the Bible. Postmodernism does not discard absolute truth; it establishes its own. For even in the act of denying absolute truth, an absolute truth is born.

As I often do, I make an appeal to all the Cascadian Carls in the world whom I love dearly.

Carl, if there is at least one absolute truth, shouldn’t you be open to admitting that there may be more? And, secondly, where are you getting your version of the truth? What is your source? Who is your authority? And why do you think your version should rule? And, lastly, how do you distinguish what makes the list and what doesn’t?

As the seminar finished up, I engaged in a few questions, answered some of my own, and went on my way. On the drive home, I reflected. And I had one last thought I wish I’d shared at the conference.

An image came to mind. Long ago, St. Augustine looked at truth as gravity. He didn’t envision it as a set of cold, disembodied rules written in heaven; rather, Augustine saw truth as the reality that was created. Kind of like gravity. Thomas Williams offers a compelling description of this in his introduction to Augustine’s book On Free Choice of the Will:

As Augustine understands it, violating the eternal law is not like doing 40 in a 35-mile-per-hour zone when there is no traffic around; it is more like trying to violate the law of gravity…An apple falling from a tree has no choice about whether to obey the law of gravity…[but] human beings can voluntarily wreck their lives by running afoul of the laws that govern their nature. This is indeed a sort of freedom, but it can hardly be the best sort. That very will by which human beings fight against the law of their own nature, a law that they did not make and from which they cannot escape, can be used to love that law and live up to that nature. A should that has such a will is genuinely free; free from a hopeless struggle against itself, free to become what it most truly is.

Truth is gravity. Truth is not only truth when others are looking, or, when our culture has finally made a decision about what truth is. Truth is gravity. Nobody creates gravity. Our belief in it does not validate it. Nor does our rejection of it invalidate it. It just is. And it is connected intrinsically with the way God created. Marginalized peoples are not people of value because our culture has finally decided they are. No! They are people of value and worth because God, the inventor of gravity, has deemed from the foundations of the earth that all are loved and made in his image. The abstract truth that bullying is immoral is not true because our culture has finally come around to it; rather, bullying is wrong because the God of the Bible has put his image into all people and to wantonly oppress any is to slap God in the face. Not to mention that God himself, in Jesus, was bullied.

Christianity is unique because it acknowledges both the reality of gravity, and, proclaims to the world Who invented gravity. And who we are being pulled towards.

Jesus Christ.

As a Christian, I see Jesus Christ as the center of gravity. Certainly, we all can defy gravity. We can fly planes. We can flap our wings. We can jump as hard as we might. But, everything comes down. In the end, everything succumbs to gravity. Gravity always wins.

“Every knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Phil. 2:11)

Talk about gravity. Of course, Cascadian Carl won’t like that. But, if he is honest with himself, he believes that I will myself have to succumb to his version of gravity. And that I will have to change, or be culturally marginalized myself.

The Christian gospel is, in a way, arrogant. I admit it. But it is also creates humility. Because it admits that there is something called gravity, something outside of ourselves which pulls at us. I am not gravity. And it also says that freedom is not seeking to defy gravity. Rather, freedom is living humbly in the confines and limitations of gravity. It not only acknowledges that there is gravity, but, also, from Whom it comes. It connects truth with Truth, Jesus Christ.

It should humble us. The benefit of believing in and admitting there is absolute truth outside of oneself is that if God is absolutely Lord, than I, myself, am not absolutely Lord. That is freeing. To say there is no absolute truth is to set oneself up as absolute truth. No! As a Christian, I believe in absolute truth; and I believe it takes a lifetime to learn what it is and how to live according to it; to learn the ways of gravity.

Conversion, as such, is the endless process of learning to respect gravity. And I am still in process.

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