Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Friedrich Nietzsche by Edvard Munch
Friedrich Nietzsche by Edvard Munch

Following up on Peter Blair’s post that we linked to yesterday , Sarah Ngu writes at Fare Forward  about the shortcomings of the typical Christian arguments against relativism.

“Relativizing the relativizer” only works if the relativist “actually [cares] about having an airtight, logically consistent worldview,” which not all people do, she points out. And some people are relativists not merely “out of a desire to be their own master” but also “out of a sense of injustice, because they associate capital T ‘Truth’ with historical injustice.” Ngu explains :

In the 19th century, it was True that Africans and Asians were somehow less human. In the early 20th century, it was True that women were not to be trusted with voting rights. It is no wonder then that the postmodern tends to suspects an Oz-like wizard behind the flashy projections of “Truth.” The standard apologetics’ explanation for relativism is often traced back to thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche, but the real question is why his argument that the powerful define truth begins to seem more and more plausible.

I hadn’t thought about the attraction of relativism in quite these terms before, but my own limited experience with today’s young relativists—-or rather, selective relativists, as most of them believe in at least a few moral and metaphysical absolutes—-would fit her explanation. My relativistic friends aren’t just self-seeking hedonists or lazy metaphysicians. Rather, they’re skeptical of truth claims because historically, many people have indeed used them to justify cruelty. Ngu’s conclusion:
The Gospel is a meta-narrative whose truth is not to be denied, but rather substantiated and backed up, not just by sophisticated arguments for truth and morality, but also by standing for the widow, the fatherless and the orphan, or whoever is weak and powerless amongst us. If not, it will simply be dismissed as just another self-serving Truth.

Note her emphasis on a both/and approach rather than an either/or one. Philosophical argument and moral witness are not competing approaches to apologetics; they are complementary. Read her whole post here .

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles