Eric Metaxas, famous Evangelical author and speaker, went off to college like many Christian kids, naive and ignorant about the environment he would encounter there. He learned about something there called relativism, a concept every Christian parent needs to be familiar with, and needs to guard their kids against. I’ll let him explain what it means:
I first encountered relativism when I went to college at Yale. Before that I had lived in a working-class world where truth was a real concept. In my parents’ world, truth was something noble and beautiful; it was something that people lived and died for, like freedom. To be an enemy of the truth was to be about the worst thing there was. Since Yale’s motto is Lux et Veritas—Latin for “Light and Truth”—I was eager to get there so that I could begin learning what truth really was. I was genuinely excited about the idea of searching for it.
But by the time I got there—in the 1980s—Yale had abandoned the outdated notion that truth was something real, something to be sought after and discovered and treasured. That onetime seminary had instead espoused a winking, postmodern attitude, in which the notion of a singular truth had been replaced by the relativistic theory that there are many “truths” . . . which is to say no truths at all.
Relativism has only gotten more pervasive since the 1980s. The textbook definition is as follows:
The doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.
I was also exposed to relativism in college. My Christian friends and I often shared the gospel on campus. More than once we were serenaded by AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” as we walked through the dorm halls with conspicuous snickers coming from behind the doors. We often engaged in conversations that would go something like this: “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and there is no other way to heaven but by him.” And a typical response would be, “Well, that’s true for you, but not for me.” This is the non-textbook definition.
It seemed obvious to me even back in college that humans don’t get to choose or determine what truth is, and that truth exists independently of what we think or feel. But we live in a culture where almost everyone assumes truth is like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. Fortunately, refuting relativism is a piece of cake because relativism refutes itself.
Think about it. When someone says, “That’s true for you, but not for me,” what are they doing? They are declaring their statement to be TRUE! But how can it be true for everyone when they are asserting that truth is personal to each person? Our relativist friends have a dilemma for which there is no solution, except the obvious one: there is such a thing as truth, and we don’t get to determine what it is!