Friday, February 01, 2008
Cultural Relativism in the Church
I would like to apologize for the dearth of posts over the past few days. I am always busy, but lately it's been nuts. Add to the mix some rather intense winter storms causing havoc, and I can now use the term "snowed under" and literally mean it.
For today, I'd like to take a very brief look at what is called "cultural relativism." I began dealing with this some months ago when putting together a syllabus on Christian ethics using Scripture, plus some supplemental material from very fine teachers on the subject -- Christian Ethics in a Postmodern World by Dr. James P. Eckman, and Biblical Ethics by Dr. Robertson McQuilken.
In essence, cultural relativism argues that whatever a cultural group approves of becomes right, while whatever the group disapproves of is wrong. There are no fixed principles to guide developing moral codes, therefore culture determines what is right and wrong. Every culture develops its own moral standards and no other culture has the right to judge another’s value system.
It is one thing to see this mindset in the culture around us, but when this mindset gets a foothold in the church, it is beyond troubling. In light of this, examine the following Scriptures: Deuteronomy 12:8, Judges 17:8 and 21:25, Proverbs 12:15 and 21:2. Those are just for starters.
A relativist mindset in the church -- not to mention society as a whole -- has serious consequences that ought to be considered. I myself have experienced the recoil of some of today's students who are unwilling to condemn evil moral horrors because they don’t think they have the right to criticize another. In the church, we often hear Jesus' injunction, "Judge not," thrown up by those seemingly unaware that they are taking that statement out of context and out of balance with Jesus' other statement, "Judge with righteous judgment." The Apostle Paul makes it clear that there are matters that we are to judge, and that includes sinful behavior in the church, as well as correcting false teachers that arise in our midst.
I'll have more to say on this later as time affords.