Have you ever shared the gospel or any other truth with another person only to have them respond, “If that works for you, that’s great. That just doesn’t happen to be my thing”?
The underlying implication of that statement is that truth does not exist. Each individual lives in his own private reality, but there is no such thing as truth that is independent of our own experience or opinions. In fact, in today’s world, a person who claims to know truth is viewed as shallow at best, but is more likely to be branded as a bigot.
The result of this perspective is relativism. Everyone has a right to their own private truth, but no one has a right to make a claim to the truth. The surveys conducted among young people in evangelical churches reveal that this relativistic perspective has gained significant traction in their thinking. For example, they are far more hesitant than adults in the church to subscribe to the view that Jesus is the only way to salvation.
What is the source of this relativistic orientation? In the past several posts we have been discussing the influence of Carl Rogers on contemporary American culture. This cultural trend represents yet another of his contributions to the current American belief system. Here is a quote in which he expresses conclusions that lead to these relativistic sentiments.
Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me. Neither the Bible nor the prophets— neither Freud nor research— neither the revelations of God nor man—can take precedence over my own direct experience.[i]
Here we find Rogers asserting that experience is the final authority in determining truth.
A salient characteristic of experience is that it is personal. Only I can experience my experience. Consequently, if truth is based on experience, no public truth exists, but only personal truth. The influence of Rogers in propagating this position of experience being the final authority has spawned and supports relativism in our society.
Notice that he concludes that experience is even more authoritative than his thoughts. We can conclude from this perspective that facts and reason will not help us in the pursuit of truth. Therefore, marshaling facts and reason in an attempt to determine truth is useless. In other words, making experience the basis for truth eradicates the authority of facts and reason.
Prime Minister Netanyahu in his speech to Congress presented a factual, rational case for not allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons. Yet Pres. Obama is forging ahead with his agenda to do just that, and the media seem to be supporting his plan. This current event provides us with a clear demonstration that in our culture rational analysis is no longer considered authoritative.
In his book Slouching Towards Gomorrah, the late Robert Bork spoke of “the astounding claim that rationality itself is neither possible nor legitimate,” which has become a dominant perspective in academia, “that what counts as rationality is socially constructed, that there are different ways of knowing, which means that reality has no stable content, not even in principle.”[ii]
Even people who believe in truth may not know the truth. But people who don’t even believe in the existence of truth are far less likely to discover it.
Jesus taught, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32 NKJV) Therefore, the relativism promoted by Rogers and the resulting denial of the existence of truth is placing American society in bondage. In fact, bondage comprises a hallmark of our society, displaying itself in practically every direction we look. We are in bondage to sex, food, materialism, power, entertainment, government handouts, and a host of other despots. Consequently, Charles Sykes describes America as A Nation of Victims.
Our only hope for freedom resides in rejecting the relativism of Rogers and embracing the truth of Scripture.