“So when someone says there is no truth, if you apply the claim to itself what should you say? IS THAT TRUE?!?” -Frank Turek

It’s been a few months since I graced, or burdened, the front page of ACL with a post regarding practical application of our Christian worldview. So with a fresh deadline approaching I quickly mouse-clicked to my most assured source of material; Facebook. In the last couple weeks I’ve noticed the image below making the rounds on social media.

Relativism

Sharers of this image are quick to use it as a kind of ‘proof’ of the “true for you but not true for me” mantra that moral relativism often repeats. It’s basically a simplified version of the parable of the five blind men describing an elephant; a parable which originated in the India subcontinent and popular among many eastern religions such as Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. In short the parable, and this image, teach that all our perspectives are different, and we can each be viewing or describing an aspect of the truth that might be different than an aspect of the same truth that someone else is viewing or describing.

The image itself is an accurate depiction of pieces, or shadows, of THE truth. The problem arises when people use this image to attempt to prove that moral relativism is true. They believe having the shadows of a part of the truth are the same as having the truth fully, and when another view on the truth comes along that contradicts theirs they quickly adopt this “true for you but not for me” defense. I’m not completely familiar with the “Coffee Party Movement”, and there’s enough wiggle room in the original post that they may not be championing relativism, but many comments in the thread suggested there are many who believe that two things can be contradictory and still both be true simply because it’s “true for me”. This is where relativism leads, and this is where relativism fails before even getting out of the starting blocks.

Relativism 02You cannot hold the view that’s it’s absolutely true that there is no objective truth. Or proclaim “that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” Do you see how that claim is logically invalid? The foundation for defeating the claim is built into the claim itself. Someone could simply say, “Sorry, that statement isn’t true for me.”, and they have validly dismissed it. The claimant cannot say, “well you just don’t understand”, or they’re violating the very nature of their own claim. The worldview they’re ascribing to demands they accept contradictory claims.

Finally, the erroneous nature of claims of relativism are so great that even geometry in this case proclaims it. The image depicting truth is a cylinder. It is a three-dimensional figure. The shadows of what is “true” are of a circle and a square. These are two-dimensional objects and quite different from a cylinder. So while this might accurately show how we could see different perspectives of the truth, since a circle and a square are not the same as a cylinder, this cannot be used to say they are both simultaneously correct representations of the full truth. In fact, you might say that someone using this image to support relativism isn’t just mistaken, they’re not even in the right dimension!

The Gospel is replete with references to truth. Objective truth. We read of believers walking in the truth, the truth abiding with us, loving each other in truth, and being girded in truth. It is a theme throughout scripture that appeals to a higher, objective framework with which to see the truth and in which Christians must abide. Indeed, John says, “The one who says ‘I have come to know him’, and does not keep him commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4). God’s truth is something we come to the knowledge of and apply to our lives. It is not something we decide for ourselves based on our feelings. The only truth we should be championing is that which is objectively rooted in God and reality.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I recently used this same picture with the Youth and used the fact that a “shadow” is never a fully true representation of reality. This pic and others depict nothing more than illusions and we can’t base a world-view on an illusion or a shadow when we can know Truth.

    • Yeah, another great point. Good on you for sharing this and talking through an explanation with your students. Thanks for the comment!

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