NATURE OF MAN
Relativism assumes that man is neither good nor bad, but neutral. He is a blank slate that can be written on. People are like animals In that you can train them to be and do anything you want. Just as you train a dog to be “house broken,” to sit when commanded, roll over, chase a stick, etc., so also a human.
Because man evolved from the animal world, the only difference between a dog and human is biological. He may be a higher form of life but is like an animal in this important sense of being neither good nor bad.
Psychologists debate the degree to which humans are shaped by their environment vis-a-vis their heredity. All of us have read articles arguing that our problems are the result of environment or heredity. For example, newsmagazines feature articles on schizophrenia, tracing this emotional disorder to an isolated DNA. Hopefully by genetic engineering personality disorders may someday be eliminated.
Philosophically aborting a human is no different than aborting a cat. Emotionally people cannot equate the two, at least not yet, and there is a utilitarian reason for making the distinction: the preservation of our species. Still, as the human race multiplies, making this small planet even more crowded, pragmatism will prevail, bringing us euthanasia as well as abortion. It is interesting to note the increasing visibility of animal rights movements. Relativism is on their side.
Relativism argues that there is no such thing as a set of transcendent absolutes. Such absolutes presuppose a Supreme Being to whom all must give account, and this is an impossibility in relativism’s scheme of things. The norms of society are based on: 1) Fairness – which for all practical purposes means equality, and 2) Wrong – which is in the consequences of the act rather than the act itself (cf. Dear Co—Laborer Letter, March 1988).
For example, when Barbara Walters interviewed Donna Rice regarding her sex scandal, she was asked if she felt guilt. Donna Rice said, “no.” When asked what lessons she learned from it, she said that one has to live with the consequences of an act and that the consequences not only affect you but others also.
This is an amazing conclusion in light of her confession that there was no feeling of guilt. But it is compatible with relativism’s premise that wrong is in the consequence rather than the act, which is another way of saying that wrong is getting caught!
June 27, 1988, Time magazine had an article on ethics entitled, “Not in My Backyard You Don’t!” It highlighted the dilemma that people acknowledge that there is a legitimate need to care for the homeless, AIDS victims, drug addicts, build more prisons, dispose of garbage and toxic waste, etc., but they do not want to pay the price of doing it. Needs are legitimate just as long as they do not touch me.
Time notes, ‘But from an ethical point of view, there is little distinction, so long as society lawfully sanctions both treatment for drug abusers and manufacturing processes that create poisonous wastes. . . The ultimate issue of community is, what do we owe other people?’ (Emphasis added.) ‘Society’ is the only standard. Consequently, people become selfish in an almost absolute way. The only question is, “How does it affect me in this temporal environment?”
People are neither good nor bad, but they are improperly educated. Thus when people do not conform to the norms of society, it is either a genetic problem, as in the case of schizophrenia, or it is a societal problem in that society has inadequately educated the person.
For this reason it is preferable to call penitentiaries correctional institutions. In the recent campaign between Bush and Dukakis the issue of furloughing murderers was debated. Was it wrong to allow Willie Horton, a convicted murderer, back on the streets? If Horton’s problem is educational rather than a depraved nature, then society is to be blamed for improperly training him.
Learning is the highest virtue. Socrates’ philosopher – king in Plato’s Republic is the highest office. The university campus is not an immoral environment. Quite the opposite; they set the norms for acceptable behavior in society. Education is “value free” or “value neutral.” It is the intelligentsia that decides what is best.
The solution to man’s “problems,” therefore, is appropriating more money to improve the conditions that cause people to go astray (e.g. housing, schools, job training, and education). It is not that helping people is wrong or counterproductive, but rather this fails to identify the problem. Does the problem reside primarily in the nature of man or in the way society influences him?
By and large the media favors the left. This is not because those in the media find no fault in the likes of Mao, Ho, Castro and Ortega, but because these men have embraced the correct philosophy and at least are trying to make it work.
Relativism appeals to reason, and reason dictates that man is autonomous and must make his own laws. These laws have as their goal the uniting of mankind in a utopian society. The end justifies the means. “Excess” is justifiable if it is motivated by the correct end or vision.
Because the media sees itself as part of the intelligentsia, it participates in ruling. Thus it does not simply report the news, it editorializes and seeks to influence in the direction of this common vision.
Just as the relativist believes the only difference between a human and an animal is biological, so also between a man and a woman. There is no God-given role to men and women, and therefore no difference. Apart from childbearing, which is purely biological, they are the same. Their uniqueness lies not in how God has created them but in their achievement as they compete with their fellow human beings.
To insinuate that there is a difference in roles is to evoke the harshest of responses. Even in the church it is insisted that the Bible be stripped of its sexist language.
Commenting on the militancy of the feminists, one woman writer says, “These manqué Liberals, struggling with a Puritan legacy in a no-fault culture, seeking salvation without admitting to sin, ask to be delivered from a sterile world but not at the price of surrendering what holds them to it.”
This is a word that has become disreputable in recent years. Partly it is because people want to be independent and in control of their lives. The recommended antidote is for the individual to suppress his rights and freedom for the good of the whole.
On the surface this seems good, even Biblical. And it is good if the individual sees his worth in being redeemed by the One who has chosen him for all eternity to be an “heir of God and joint-heir with Jesus Christ.” This results in a voluntary giving of self in meeting the needs of others.
On the other hand, there is an anti-individualism advocated that has as its focus the welfare of the state at the expense of the individual. This view argues that the worth of the individual is found in his contribution to the whole. As an animal he has no intrinsic worth. Rather than the state existing to serve the individual, as our founding fathers envisioned, it is the other way around; the Individual exists to serve the state.
Interestingly, when the state teaches that the individual has no intrinsic worth, people, instead of becoming self-sacrificing and willing to expend themselves for others, become selfish and self-centered. One university student had written on his sweatshirt, “Nothing is worth dying for.” What he is saying is, “I am not worth dying for.” This means, if he is trapped in a burning building, a fireman shouldn’t risk his life trying to save him.
Because there are no transcendent absolutes and therefore no afterlife, there is no ultimate purpose to life. To talk about purpose becomes a disturbing issue, one to be avoided.
Technology assists in helping people to avoid it. Communication has become entertaining. TV, video, newspapers and magazines seek, by and large, to entertain. Even In church, if the pastor doesn’t ascend out of the floor on a mechanical platform backed by a fifty rank organ and a two hundred-voice choir, he has a hard time keeping his congregation.
There is no time or inclination to read and ponder the great books which probe the issues of life. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture cannot ask hard questions. We don’t want those hard questions asked. We would rather dull our intellects with self-indulgence lest we are forced to ponder the implications of relativism
Relativism has captured the imagination of the intelligentsia. Society is being systematically brainwashed with its tenets. What is the solution?
Many believe it is in “getting involved” in the fray of legislation and protest. I would like to suggest that just the opposite is true.
Peter Berger, a professor at Boston University points out, “Religious institutions serve their most important secular purpose precisely when they are least secular in their activities. Society, under certain circumstances, can easily do without church-operated soup kitchens or universities. But society can ill afford to lose the reminders of transcendence that the church provides every time it worships God.”
It is precisely when the people of God are calling the lost to faith in Christ that they best serve as a strategic counter-balance to relativism.
Yours for the propagation of the Gospel,