In fairly recent history, two ideas have shaped our culture and our worldview. These two ideas are wrong and they have harmed us. The two ideas are determinism and relativism.
Determinism is the belief that we are not free moral agents; that we respond according to our DNA and our environment. We have no choice, we must respond in certain pre-determined ways. This does not ring true when stated so bluntly, but it is seldom stated so bluntly.
It is stated more like this: The convict had a bad childhood, his father was a convict and his mother was fourteen when he was born. He was raised in poverty, neglected, sometimes abused. He is a victim.
An event a few years back illustrates this. An adolescent in Florida assaulted an old man, fractured his skull and took $50. Determinists say he had no choice, he was just responding to his DNA and his environment. Take this to its logical conclusion and he should not be in prison, in fact, we should release all the poor incarcerated victims.
How does this idea appeal to you? How about we set up six deterministic victims in the house next to yours?
Relativism is the belief that there are no absolute truths; there is nothing that is just right or wrong, it all depends on your perspective. This falls apart immediately, yet has remained a popular belief! It falls apart because if there is no absolute truth, then the claim relativists make is not the absolute truth. Let that soak in for a minute and ask yourself: Why the heck would anyone with half a brain buy this? Well, for one thing, you can use it justify a lot of bad behavior and we often seek to justify our bad behavior.
We do, of course see parts of the truth from our own perspective. One blind man feels the elephant’s leg and says, “An elephant is like a tree trunk.” Another feels his side and says, “An elephant is like a wall.” Obviously, these men have part of the truth and neither has it all. But it does not follow that there is no truth to be known!
There actually is an elephant.
It matters. If we proceed to write a policy, for example, based on elephant parts and provide water and fertilizer based on the fact that he is, after all, like a tree trunk, the poor elephant will die.
There is truth to be known and it is not relative. It does not change. It is worth seeking diligently. Not every poor child with a fourteen year old mom and a convict dad caves in old men’s skulls for $50. We make choices all day long and we are free to make them. Because we are free, we are responsible.
We must diligently seek the whole truth while maintaining the humility to admit that we may not have it all.