Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Myth of Moral Relativism

This struck me last week and I forgot, but I was reminded of it this morning: I don't know any "moral relativists". I hear it from well-meaning religious folks all over the place: This world is no longer one of absolutes but rather full of moral relativism, the teaching that what is right for you may not be right for me. This is supposedly the problem today. This is at the very least a major contributor to our sinful culture of today.

I have yet to meet someone who is completely relativistic in his or her moral take on things. Sure, people may say that there is no absolute truth, but not because they are against the idea of Truth. Rather, they are correctly observing some apparent contradictions in this world. Because they personally do not have a standard through which to filter these conflicts they logically assume there is no absolute truth. But this isn't the definition of "moral relativism" taught in churches. One accurate definition of Relativism is "the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute" [my computer's built-in dictionary]. This is very different from the more sensational religious definition of "those opposed to truth and who believe that whatever you think is true is."

Defining "relativism" this way has led to some really silly statements that I got even in Bible college. A couple examples are as follows:

Moral Relativist: There is no absolute truth!
Christian "Thinker": Do you know that absolutely?

Moral Relativist: You shouldn't tell someone what is right or wrong because you have to know the context of why they did the action.
Christian "Thinker": So you'd be okay with me hitting you in the nose, right? Since you shouldn't tell people what is right or wrong. And besides "shouldn't" is a morally absolute position, you self contradicting relativist, you.

I put "Thinker" in quotes not because I think people who say this kind of thing are stupid (because I've said the same things myself), but because they have yet to think this all the way through. First, when a relativist says that there is no absolute truth his statement is not about the inability to make statements of truth. Rather, he is commenting on the inability to make statements that encompass all reality. In fact, if you actually talked with the guy, you could show him that even his statement of "no absolutes" is not true in some contexts. Instead of doing that, however, we just brush him off as foolish, too far gone, and one of those "moral relativists".

Second, a moral relativist does not believe that people can't make judgments about the relative goodness/badness of a situation. Bopping the guy in the nose would of course be wrong. However, if you bopped him on the nose accidentally as you turned around too quickly, he would say that was fine. Moral Relativism?


I think a more helpful term may be "Contextual Morality". Are there things that are right and wrong? Yes. Are they always that way? That's much harder to say.

Oh, but what about killing babies? Who would say that's okay in certain situations?


Check out Isaiah 13 (especially verse 16). That's God's wrath being poured out on an evil nation. Moral relativism? Nope. Contextual morality.

So what am I saying? Is there no Truth? Is nothing absolute? No, I'm not saying that at all. Rather, I suggest that we stop being so quick to judge the statements of others and figure out what they are really asking. Only by listening can we hope to speak to them with truth and love. In all my years of telling the "moral relativists" around me that they were self-refuting, not once did they fall on their knees and beg for salvation and Truth. Why? I wasn't listening to them, so why would they listen to me?

Stop debating and trying to prove your point. Relax a bit and realize that those around us wrestling with these ideas are just as interested in truth as we, they just have a different starting point and no anchor. Let us use our firm foundation as the starting place to build a bridge, rather than the battering ram to break down their "error"... especially when, after actually listening to them, they aren't wrong.

Contextual Morality is not wrong at all, it's "merely" incomplete without a solid context.

~Luke Holzmann

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Tasty

Not that anyone cares, per se, but I've been down lately. That's the kind of thing people visit blogs to read, I'm sure, so I'll try not to belabor the point. I'm not depressed, but rather perturbed. I have many things I want to get done, be done with, and otherwise incorporate or expel from my life. But nothing's moving, or so it seems.

The good news is that, if I haven't told you a million times already, is up and running. It looks pretty good and I'm doing my best to get the wiki exposure by updating it frequently. But I want to make this more than just a website I have sitting around. I want it to become a real entity. My current thinking is to go Non-Profit, and I have a few reasons for it that I won't post right now. So I've been talking with people and trying to figure out what to do, but, again, nothing has changed. I seem to get the same old answers and advice that I got two years ago and haven't been able to act upon. If I didn't do it then, what makes you think I can do it now? So, I feel alone; abandoned. I've said it to my wife many times recently: I have no allies.

At best that is merely how I feel.

Along those same lines is the bad: I'm rather stuck. Again, not to beat this dead dog too frequently, but Michael Pearl is wearing on me. He has been for about three weeks now. I agree with much of what he says, but it has yet to affect me, to bring about change, to help me Sin No More. He still has huge gaps that he hasn't closed. I'm hoping he does in the last few CDs, but until he does I just feel beaten down and oppressed by some guy who claims to never sin... ever. His friends don't either, apparently. ... What do you say to that?

But it's not all doom and gloom. A new Chipotle just opened by our house, so Wednesday we got a free (yes, completely, totally FREE) lunch. Today, their official opening, gave me a free T-Shirt and another burrito just for being one of the first 200 customers after 3pm. That's good stuff. And not just in the belly department, it's also great marketing that I hope to implement one day... which goes back to the beginning of this post.

So full circle we have come.

Out of time for now.

~Luke Holzmann

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Waiting, Wanting, Willing to Die

As we've been reading "Family Wealth Counseling: Getting to the Heart of the Matter" in preparation for figuring out what to do with our lives and as a family, we ran across the passage where "Jay" and his team ask people (mostly elderly) if the best years were before them or not, and why. Many say that the best has already been, that the good-old days were better, and that now it is mostly a waiting game. This didn't surprise me in the least.

Several years ago I was in Michigan visiting my grandparents. My grandfather was still alive and as I came into the sitting room he was there looking off into space. He did this often, and I find myself doing it too from time to time, just stilling still and thinking about who knows what. I asked him how he was doing and he replied, "Just waiting to die, Luke."

That surprised me at the time. Maybe "surprise" isn't the best word. That confused me at the time. What do you say to a statement like that?

He was old and died a few years later. He could no longer work in his coop that was his woodworking shop. I don't think he had any other activities. So he sat and thought. I have no idea what things passed through his mind, and now no one ever will. Those private thoughts have vanished into the past. My grandfather was waiting to die because the future held nothing for him.

It's not as if I've never known the thought of death, or even welcomed it. There have been several points in my life where I have wanted to die; more precisely: be dead, or better yet, never have been born. These were moments when life offered nothing. These were the times when, through whatever juvenile immaturity and perspective, the future was worse than the already terrible present and nothing good could come of it. I wanted to die because the future held nothing for me.

It is often, or perhaps only sometimes, hard to believe that "The best is yet to come" [Whit]. And that is where hopes and dreams are so important. This is the place for Mission Statements as well as practical courses of action. Without either one the future is dismal. We must have purpose and a way to accomplish this.

And this is where the Church, either the institution or the members (or likely both), has failed its congregation. The older generations must be linked with the younger. This will give purpose and pleasure to the "old fogies" and hope and direction to the "young whippersnappers". My grandfather's wisdom and thoughts may still be around if he had been connected with a few youth at his church to mentor. He may also very well be alive today.

There is one last position to death that we should probably all assume: A willingness to die. This is where another question from "Jay's" book could help us: What would you do if you knew you only had 30 days left to live? Here Martin Luther has an interesting perspective: I'd plant a tree [can't find a good reference]. Wanting or waiting to die comes from a lack of hope, but a willingness to die comes from a proper hope. The future will be better, much better. But we don't just want to bop off without making something of ourselves, and so we want to end our lives doing something that will continue beyond us, like planting a tree. And this is where connecting the generations fits so perfectly again.

Years ago while on EuroTrain (now Nexlead) someone said, "By the time you're 35 your life is no longer about you, and the sooner you realize this the better off you will be." I've long thought that, even before EuroTrain. The problem I have is how to implement my desires to help and impact others.

My current "scheme", if you will, is, an on-line media mentoring program. But I'm having trouble making it "go". Anyone out there with experience want to "come alongside me" and help plant this tree of mine?

~Luke Holzmann

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sin No More Now 9 lessons.

After the fiasco (well, it probably wasn't exactly a fiasco but I don't know what it was) of a couple of weeks ago, I've been listening to Michael Pearl's "Sin No More" series. It's interesting.

It's also frustrating.

First, his use of Scripture could we way out to lunch and I wouldn't know. I should be listening to this with my Bible, Strong's and IVP's Bible Background Commentary, but I'm not because I'm listening to it while I drive. Mr. Pearl will read Scripture and then interject his own thoughts on the matter without changing his voice inflection. So I find myself saying, "Wait, does the Bible say that, or him?" He also uses the King James Version without any references to commentary, study, or great thinkers. So, is this his interpretation of Scripture (and his own thoughts interjected) or is this based on good study? I can't tell at all.

Second, he keeps saying that we can be free from sin now. Instantly. He just used that word today. I'm on the fourth CD now (so more than four hours in) and he has yet to say how this happens, how I can be free, and what it takes. So, yes, I can be free from sin now... I just need to hang in there for five or six more hours. Granted, I know he's building a case and working up to it, but it's just annoying. Especially since, over the past couple of weeks of listening to this I haven't seen any positive change.

Don't worry, I'm going to keep pushing through, I'm just expressing my frustration as it now stands. I finally got around to writing about this because this morning at prayer someone read about how the Bible will lead us into all truth (or something like that, and, unfortunately I have forgotten what the passage was), but the question that came to my mind was: So what do we say about those who come to completely erroneous ideas based "on Scripture"?

This goes back to a brilliant question my dad once asked me: What good is it to say that the Bible is inerrant if we can not read or interpret it infallibly?

I still don't have a good answer to that.

~Luke Holzmann