Today it is considered socially inappropriate to challenge another person’s beliefs. A tolerant age insists that we respect those beliefs regardless of their merits. In the words of William Gairdner, it is now expected that “you will curl up with your warm little truths and I with mine, and we will simply agree to disagree on most of the important things in life and leave each other alone” (The Book of Absolutes, p.xiii).
Gairdner goes on to say that in such relativism, where the only absolute is that all truths are relative, we have “consigned ourselves to intellectual and moral loneliness. We have each gone into hiding with our little knapsack of private beliefs, and we’ll just keep them there for our personal use, thank you very much.” But beyond the distressing fragmentation of human relatedness caused by relativism, we must ask the question, “Is it True that there is no Truth?”
Gairdner helps us with a list of stinging objections to the widely-held assumption that all is relative. What can you say when somebody tells you that your passionately held conviction may be true for you, but it’s not true for them?
His first objection is that relativism is self-refuting (The Book of Absolutes, p.31). Gairdner writes, “If we take seriously the relativist argument that all truth claims are equally valid, then the claim that relativism is false must also be true.” He reminds us that Plato made this point in refuting Protagoras a long time ago: “Protagoras admits ... that the contrary opinion about his own opinion (namely that it is false) must be true.” That was enough to silence relativists for centuries.
Having put the knife into the argument, Gairdner gives it one more fatal twist. When somebody claims that relativism is true, we should ask: is absolutely true or relatively true? If it is absolutely true, then not all truth can be relative, and therefore relativism is false. But if it is only relatively true, then it is not true for all people who do not believe it.
Fortunately, not only is Jesus the Truth; but also, his truth makes perfect sense to all who do not have an ulterior motive in their desire to suppress it.