Sunday, August 23, 2009

Without the Bible, It's All Relative

We live in this strange postmodern society where everything seems to be relative. Truth, if it even exists, is up for grabs. One person's beliefs and opinions, no matter how outrageous, are seen as just as valid as anyone else's. In fact, the only thing you cannot do is say that one idea is better than another.

You know all this. We are surrounded by it every day.

So what do we do in light of this? As Christians, we look for a source of absolute truth. We know the source of that truth is the bible. Without a source of absolute truth, everything becomes relative. With a source of absolute truth, relativism is destroyed. What is right and what is wrong can be known. We can know God's truth because He has stated it clearly in the bible.

We know all this.

Just as a reminder about what the bible has to say about itself, here are a few verses:

Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever." (ESV)

Isaiah 55:8, "
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord."

II Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."

Hebrews 4:12, "
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

We Christians quickly say that the bible is true and authoritative. The interesting thing is that while we always say the bible is true, we often hesitate to say the bible is authoritative in all areas. Specifically, we certainly say the bible has authority where it commands, but we often shy away from saying the bible is authoritative in what it models for us.

Why is this? It must be because we do some things that are not modeled for us in the bible, but we want to keep doing them. This is the case in day-to-day living and in the gathering of the church.

The problem with this is that we, when we reject the biblical model, are creeping toward relativism in certain areas. How do we know if what we are doing as individuals or as a church is the right thing to do? What do we look to? If we have rejected the biblical model, then we have nowhere else to go. All ideas are up for grabs. There are no absolutes because we have rejected the absolute that was modeled for us in the bible.

The interesting thing in all this is that the bible says that we have been given all we need to live as God wants us to. In II Peter 1:3, Peter writes, "
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence" (emphasis mine). We have been given all things we need to know to please God.

What Peter is saying is that the bible is sufficient. We do not need anything else. We do not need to look anywhere else. We do not need to come up with ideas on our own.

When it comes to decision-making in life, we have two options: the bible or relativism. Which will we select?

With the absolute truth of scripture (commanded or modeled), we know exactly what to do. Without the bible, it's all relative.


bwsmith said...

Thanks for your thoughts. All history does revolve around one question:"Did God really say . . .?"
How we answer define who we are and Whose.

Eric said...


I agree. If God said it (which He did), then the only logical and safe response is to obey it.

I continue to be amazed by the number of people in the USA who claim to be followers of Christ yet reject His word.

Alan Knox said...


As you know, I also believe that Scripture is very important, that God gave us Scritpure, and that Scripture is important for the church today. In fact, the purpose of my blog is to call the church back to what we find in Scripture.

However, what do we do with the fact that neither Paul, nor Peter, nor John, nor Timothy, nor Titus, etc had Scripture in the sense that we mean by the word today? Similarly, neither Clement, nor Ignatius, nor Polycarp, nor Justin Martyr, nor Tertullian, etc. had Scripture in the sense that we mean by the word Scripture today. Yet, the church managed to grow during that time. How did that happen? How did they make it without Scripture?


Eric said...


This may sound simplistic, but I think they did at least three things:

1. They looked to the OT and took principles from it (II Tim. 3:14-15).

2. They relied on the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

3. They looked out for the good of their brother before self.

Jeff Nelson said...


Why number 3?


Good question. Could it be, at least in part that at that time a significant oral tradition was still in existance?

I think the Holy Spirit played a more prominent role then what we typically see today and as Eric stated, they took principles from the OT.


Alan Knox said...


I agree completely with what you said. I think we still need all three of these, though we can now include the NT in #1.


Eric said...


As for #3, I'm not suggestiung that we subjectively interpret scripture based on the felt needs of others. However, I do think we need to always keep the good of others in the forefronts of our minds in all we do. I'm sure the early church did this, as evidenced by their behavior in Acts. Additionally, the Holy Spirit would never lead us to act in a way that harms others, so this acts as a check against faulty interpretation.

Eric said...


I think we could all use a little more reliance on the leadership of the Holy Spirit. I know I need to try to do less on my own and just follow His lead.

Lew A said...

Hey Eric,

I think I understand your point, but I disagree with one major aspect of it. I would say that much is relative even with the Bible. I don't think the Bible has power to cure relativism. After all, how many people read the Bible today and twist and contort the meaning? Or people who just disagree about different things.

It is God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus who guide us to Truth. They are who convict us to believe Scripture. We cannot trust the Bible to tell us the truth just because the Bible says it is true. That is a circular argument. I could write you a letter that reads, "this letter is from God." That doesn't make it true. Even if it was a letter inspired by God, it would be God who convicted you of that truth - not the letter itself.

So, without trying to be relativistic... "to me" the two options are not "the bible or relativism." The two options are, relationship with God or no relationship with God.

God Speed,

Jeff Nelson said...


Agreed - in Acts we see people thinking of others first. Something we could use more of today.


Eric said...


I agree that people, if they so desire, can come up with just about any interpretation of scripture that they want to. Clearly, the Holy
Spirit tells what the true meaning of scripture is.

I will say that the primary way we know God is through His word. We need the bible as an anchor. Many other folks would say that their God (whatever that may be) is their source of truth. It is the God who has revealed Himself to us through the bible that is the source of absolute truth.

We know God's truth through the scriptures. Without the bible, we would be left looking at nature. That would lead to all sorts of interpretations.

I still think it is bible (with proper interpretation empowered by the Holy Spirit) vs. relativism.