Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cultural Relativism

Cultural relativism is the mistaken idea that there are no objective standards by which our society can be judged because each culture is entitled to its own beliefs and accepted practices. No one can object to any society’s intolerance that reflects its indigenous worldview. Because there is no objective moral truth that pertains to all people and for all times, one moral code is no better or no worse than any other (i.e., the moral equivalence doctrine). Thus, we should not impose our values on other societies. It follows that, according to cultural relativism, we cannot object to Hitler and Nazism, Mayan infant sacrifice, China’s massacre of students in Tiananmen Square, South Africa’s apartheid, genital mutilation (i.e., female circumcision) of young girls in Africa, and so on, because each of these practices is justified by the worldview within which it exists. Nor could we contend that one culture is superior to another culture. In addition, we would also be prevented from criticizing our own culture’s practices such as slavery. Further-more, within the perspective of cultural relativism, there would be no need for, or argument for, social progress. Toward what objective goal would we progress?

As Christians, we value all people, regardless of culture, because we recognize that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We also recognize that diversity of culture is a beautiful thing and differences in food, clothing, language, etc., should be preserved and appreciated. At the same time, we know that because of sin, not all beliefs and practices within a culture are godly or culturally beneficial. Truth is not subjective (John 17:17); truth is absolute, and there does exist a moral standard to which all people of every culture will be held accountable (Revelation 20:11-12).

Our goal as missionaries is not to westernize the world. Rather, it is to bring the good news of salvation in Christ to the world. The Gospel message will kindle social reform to the extent that any society whose practices are out of step with God’s moral standard will change—idolatry, polygamy, and slavery, for example, will come to an end as the Word of God prevails (see Acts 19). In amoral issues, missionaries seek to preserve and honor the culture of the people they serve.

God's Heart toward the Lost

In our culture of moral relativism, the statement that Jesus Christ is the only way to God rubs a lot of people the wrong way, because the statement itself seems so narrow and dogmatic. In a way, it is. But this is what Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).

The Bible clearly teaches that there is one mediator between God and man, and it is the Man Christ Jesus (see 1 Timothy 2:5). And Acts 4:12 says, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

Many hearing this will assume this verse means that those who have never heard about Jesus automatically will be sent to hell. But that is a false concept of God and His nature, because if the cross of Calvary proves nothing else, it proves this: God loves people deeply. Why else would the God the Father send His Son to suffer and die?

Here is God's heart toward lost humanity. In Ezekiel 33:11, He says, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live."

The Bible also tells us that God is patient and doesn't want anyone to perish (see 2 Peter 3:9). So God wants everyone to repent. You see, God is compassionate. He longs for fellowship with humanity, for friendship with us.

Jesus described God as a shepherd looking for a lost sheep (see Luke 15). That is God's heart toward all of us. I believe that God will judge us according to what we know. God loves people. And I know He wants to save them.

Culture Relativism- Where are we headed

Cultural relativism is closely related to ethical relativism, which views truth as variable and not absolute. What constitutes right and wrong is determined solely by the individual or by society. Since truth is not objective, there can be no objective standard which applies to all cultures. No one can say if someone else is right or wrong; it is a matter of personal opinion, and no society can pass judgment on another society.

Cultural relativism sees nothing inherently wrong (and nothing inherently good) with any cultural expression. It is widely accepted in modern anthropology. Cultural relativists believe that all cultures are worthy in their own right and are of equal value. Diversity of cultures, even those with conflicting moral beliefs, is not to be considered in terms of right and wrong or good and bad. Today’s anthropologist considers all cultures to be equally legitimate expressions of human existence, to be studied from a purely neutral perspective.

Relativist theories may vary in what they take to determine morality. For some relativists, it is majority opinion that is important; for others, typical practice may effect moral values. For all relativists, though, the fundamental claim is the same: morality is merely a product of culture, and there are therefore no objective moral truths, only truths relative to specific cultural settings.

What are our Priorities

Many times we think we need something when we really don't. Sometimes we want things we don't need. We get our luxuries and our necessities confused.We live in a day that has confused luxuries and necessities. Material things can never bring contentment, for they can never satisfy the deepest need of your heart. Either you can't get enough of them, or when you get them, you find out they don't meet your need.

This round world will never fit into your three-cornered heart. There is nothing wrong with material things; they just cannot satisfy the deepest longing of your heart. Your deepest needs will never be met by material things, only by the living God. I don’t know how much of God you have, but you may have all of God that you want.

Part of the message that we carry as Christ-followers states unapologetically that there is a right and wrong when it comes to cultural, ethical, and moral issues. It's clearly written in God's Word. And we've been given a message of hope and transformation that the world desperately needs to hear and to embrace.


Raj Kosaraju

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