Are you an absolutist or a relativist?
My freshman year of college, I heard Ravi Zacharias speak one night. While I don’t remember his talking points with much precision, I do remember that he railed against relativism, ‘proving’ that there are absolute truths by pointing out that a relativist’s premise that “there is no truth” is an absolute statement in itself.
I thought that was very clever, and I also adopted that worry that our society was moving toward relativism as the dominant worldview or ethic, and that God, faith, Christianity itself was quite directly threatened by this perspective. So for many years I concerned myself with knowing Truth (capital “T”!) and with evangelizing others to believe that same Truth.
Today, I would say I am functionally a relativist, but mostly because once I really started examining my faith, I had trouble discerning what the Truth is. My theological wrestling to try to uncover Truth as between various strands of Protestantism and Catholicism led me to more questions, not less – yet most of those same denominations clamored loudly that they have the corner on Truth – they are right! Their interpretations are correct, they understand the context properly!
But how was I supposed to know who was right, and therefore who to join up with?
It eventually dawned on me that all of us humans bring our filters and biases to the task of discerning Truth. And that spiritual-realm Truth is always mediated, and therefore interpreted, by finite and fallible humans. So even if Truth is out there, what are the chances that we humans have figured it out, and how would we determine which humans really had got it right?
Eventually, I threw up my hands at the impossibility of ever truly knowing Truth, at least as it relates to God, to matters beyond the physical realm. And that’s when my whole faith foundation started crumbling away.
Today, I would say that I am still open to there being an absolute Truth, and I would say that in matters of morals or ethics, I still hold to fairly firm lines as to what behaviors are okay and not okay. But I have come to a place of granting others much more space and leeway to believe as they wish because I certainly can't claim to know the Truth in spiritual matters.
Polonious's adage "To thine own self be true", which leaders in my college fellowship used to skewer with criticism, has become a meaningful touchstone. And I am absolutely okay with that.