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The Love of the Scripture and Philosophy

A view of relativism in Biblical scholarship
Apr 19, 2004 06:58 PM EDT

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

[John 1:1]

In the era where spiritual thirst for the truth of God has accentuated and become conspicuous more than ever, many seek answers in the dynamic framework of human thought and ideologies. As we continue to search for God’s truth, it is imperative what we must distinguish in our method to seek. The common thread of both secular philosophers and Christian intellectuals is the desire and motive to further understand truth. However, the groups are sharply bifurcated into categories of science and theology, owing to their views and expectation of answers with which both realms of thought are concerned.

The former, secular philosophers have yet to attain the whole truths and reject the confirmation of necessary existence of such entity; whereas the latter, Christian intellectuals confirm the already-existent absolute truth found in the Scriptures. Therefore by accepting mainline philosophical epistemology while wholly embracing the presupposition of existence of answers in the word of God, the believers may elucidate indoctrination but continue to receive confirmation of absolute inerrancy of the Scriptures.

Moral relativism has incited many debates and arguments in the recent commentaries. An effort to criticize radicalized form of relativism is ill-substantial if not bashful of the ones who tend to overly simplify the matters. To discuss relativism in some degree of rigor, we must first measure the scope of coverage allowed by the full capacity of man to rationalize, given the various biological senses that provide direct empirical data. Secular philosophers have struggled to and continue to struggle finding a resolution to objectivity and subjectivity.

In the midst of searching for a common reference from which to measure either objective or subjective knowledge, during the 18th century, French philosopher and mathematician Renee Decartes discovered a well-known dictum in Latin, “ergo cogito sum” which means “I think therefore I am”. Further exploration in this matter yielded a conclusion that self is an abstract concept without sufficiently concrete definition and is the closest entity of much sought out absolute objectivity. Philosophers have delved even deeper into this area and have developed metaphysics by endeavoring to abstract a layer higher: defining the definitions.

It is clear that even secular philosophers admit to a certain limit in the psychological and philosophical capabilities of man due to his finitude in consummating the governing realities. Then in order to continue with academically constructive conversation, philosophers are coerced to choose a step of faith to believe that self must exist because the alternative would nullify all efforts of research.

Therefore, just as there are irreducible, must be true a priori knowledge in philosophy and unquestionable axioms in mathematical systems, a Christian intellectual may ask, “why not faith in God?” Even the most scrutinized rationalization conclusively requires one’s choice to choose a constructive path of elucidation for the limits of man fail to allow him to realize any form of absoluteness within him. In this general context, relativism appears to be true. Furthermore, a degree of dogma becomes a necessity in any genre to require steps of justification in validating truths.

For an atheist who does not sustain any further hope to discover absoluteness remains confined to his choice and succumbs to relativistic life of meaninglessness. However for the believer of Christ, he is able to transcend the imposing limitations of realities and embrace the categorical power and love of the eternal Father. For reasoning is an ability of man but revelation is the glory of God.

God’s revelations are given unilaterally to man in the dogmatic form such that man is not able to further rationalize the Word of God. By acknowledging this, we must be humble in heart to receive the gospel spoken by Jesus Christ, the very embodiment of revealed truth and revere its full authority.

Moral relativism is not a valid mode of Christian thought and must be rejected. The ethical code of conduct and the laws derived from the Biblical teachings are universal to believers and any lesser extent would only undercut the far-reaching efforts of Christian values.

It is however important to note that fundamentalism is not a healthy position of mission-oriented bodies of Christ. Cultural differences are natural outcome of diversified nations around the globe; the disparities must be fully respected and encouraged to only flourish in the pluralistic society.

One moderate form of fundamentalism that continues to plague our American tradition is a crusade mentality. This is a vestige of past histories of imperialism, an unwarranted imposition of American culture and values upon foreign nations. Such acts are uninvited and are only harmful in promoting global unity and positive American influence.

In 1 Peter 3:8, the apostle advises, “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”

The greatest wisdom of all is in the Word of God; we must ceaselessly long for His truth to be revealed so that our thirst may be quenched by the water of life that never runs dry.