Posts Tagged ‘relativism’

There are many paths to the top of Mount Fuji

September 17, 2009

In Japan, there is a saying, “There are many paths to the top of Mount Fuji.” It means that there are many religions, and they all lead to heaven. One missionary to Japan heard this saying many times, and each time he would reply, “There are many paths to the top of Mount Fuji, but once you get there, there’s only one way to heaven.”


John 14.6

Morality is relative when morality is human.

September 11, 2009

Morality is relative because morality is human.

David Starkey, Soul of Britain, 2000, BBC1

But how does he know morality is (of) human (origin)? His conclusion, ‘morality is relative’, follows from the premise ‘morality is human’; but this is a major claim to knowledge – ironically, an omniscient claim.

Why should one tell the truth if it’s to one’s advantage to tell a lie?

Wittgenstein, aged 8 or 9 in Wittgenstein, Ray Monk, p.3

No reason if morality is human.

I feel murder is bad, but maybe you don’t

September 11, 2009

Take any action allow’d to be vicious: Willful murder, for instance.  Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice . . . You can never find it, till you turn your reflexion into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, toward this action.   Here it is a matter of fact; but ’tis the object of feeling, not reason.

David Hume

Since there is nothing but one person’s ‘disapprobation’ and another’s approval of an action, then there is not higher standard by which to judge. I like chocolate ice-cream, you like vanilla – there isn’t a ‘right’ flavour. I don’t like murdering children, some people do. (‘Ought’ is not derived from ‘is’.)

If all I can do, as Hume is saying, is look within, then the child killer may feel justified. Ultra relativism is the end product.

There are no moral phenomena, only a moral interpretation of phenomena.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 108

What Would a Cultural Relativist Do?

September 10, 2009

When Wesleyan missionaries arrived in Fiji in 1835 they found a society “in which infanticide, human sacrifice and cannibalism were endemic”…in 1868 out of a population of 120,000 almost 106,000 were reported to be in regular attendance at public worship.

Brain Stanley, Bible and the Flag, Apollos, 1990, p.112

Presumably this ‘cultural imperialism’ was a terrible thing and the natives should have been left to engage in their ‘infanticide, human sacrifice and cannibalism’

What Would a Cultural Relativist Do? Time to make a few WWCRD bracelets?

(it is an illusion) that indigenous cultures prior to the missionary impact were in a condition of static perfection. This mythical view is itself a peculiarly arrogant form of cultural imperialism, founded on the notion that non-Western societies knew nothing of change or innovation until brought into contact with the modernizing West. On the contrary, almost all cultures exist in a state of perpetual flux, and represent an amalgam of diverse and often contradictory influences. The choice confronting  indigenous cultures has not ben between change and no change, but between a number of possible directions of change, som evidently more beneficial than others.

ibid., pp.170-171

Not ‘My country right or wrong’

September 10, 2009

Hudson Taylor opposed British action in 1856 over the ship ‘Arrow’ and the British attack on Guangzhou.

Roger Steer, Hudson Taylor, p.128

The gospel is the rule that evaluates all cultures and societies – including one’s own. Relativism claims that all cultures are equal and Nationalism (nearly) claims one’s own culture is superior to others and is the judge of others. The gospel is the criterion that avoids both these errors.

The New Age is a perfect product of its time

September 8, 2009

…the New Age is a perfect product of its time: an exemplification of modernity rather than a rejection of it. It is the acme of consumerism. It is individualism raised to a new plane. The eclecticism of the New Age is not just a matter of being tolerant…not only that we can all discern truth, but that what we all variously discern is true. The individual consumer is not only the final arbiter of what he or she wants to believe and practise but also the final arbiter of truth and falsity. It is individualism taken to the level of epistemology, so that in place of the sectarian arguments over which revelation best embodied the one truth, there is complete relativism.

Bruce, Religion in the Modern World pp.221-222, in Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism, 2001, p.155

Naturalism undermines ethics

September 8, 2009

Naturalism places us humans in an ethically relative box. For us to know what values within that box are true values, we need a measure imposed on us from outside the box; we need a moral plumb line…We need a measure imposed on us from outside the box.

James Sire, Universe Next Door, p.100

And with no Judge before whom we are actually, legally guilty, we are left only with guilt feelings.

Man is the measure of all things

September 6, 2009

Man is the measure of all things…Whatever in any city is regarded as just and admirable is just and admirable in that city for as long as it is .

Attributed in Plato’s Theatetus, 196C or 160D

1. ‘thought to be so’ by whom? The majority?

2. Slavery in the British Empire was ‘regarded as just’ by most for a time. It took a Wilberforce to say, ‘It is not just, just because most say so.’

3. Man is the measure…Which man and which men? Were Lenin and Stalin the measure for the Soviets? Tough luck for the Ukrainian kulaks then.

Fire burns both in Hellas and in Persia; but men’s ideas of right and wrong vary from place to place.

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, V, (vi) 2

Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself.

September 3, 2009

Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism

…there is no human nature, since there is no God to conceive it. It is man who conceives himself, who propels himself towards existence. Man becomes nothing other than what is actually done, not what he will want to be.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism

Man is a useless passion.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

Having no essence, man, so Sartre presupposed, was what he made himself through action. Such a life become authentic. But this left Sartre with the problem of how to protest ‘immoral’ action. After all, there is, according to him, only authentic and inauthentic action. Hitler was authentic, so too Mao, Pol Pot, Charles Manson perhaps.

Sartre hated Nazism but his philosophy had no antidote to it, no reason to resist it. He had no ‘man in the image of God’ to counter Hitler’s characterization of the Jews as untermensch (sub-human) and therefore disposable.

Sartre should have reexamined his presuppositions. Thereby he would have avoided the bind his philosophy will always have on those who seriously accept it.

Knowledge Requires an Omniscient Knower

September 3, 2009

…there must be comprehensive knowledge somewhere if there is to be any true knowledge anywhere but this comprehensive knowledge need not and cannot be in us; it must be in God.

Cornelius Van Til, Defense of the Faith, P&R, 1967, p.41