Preaching Truth in a Milieu of Relativism

As the years pass by, the demographic make-up of our congregations is changing.  The adult congregation has a diminishing proportion of those raised in a culture aware of objective truth.  The increasing proportion is now coming from a no-absolutes, no need for coherent worldviews, no objectively knowable truth kind of a mindset.

At other times I have reminded people of the positives that are coming from a “postmodern” culture – positives in the sense of opportunities.  After all, if people are hungry for authentic community and relationships, then we should be rolling up our sleeves at the opportunity.  Nevertheless, there are negatives that are increasingly prevalent in our churches.

It is increasingly common to find people who will listen to truth and affirm it, yet will be resistant to any critique of other “truths.”  After all, so the logic goes, if a good person can come to another conclusion when they look at the evidence, then you cannot critique their view, it must be equally valid.  And, after all, surely the important thing is that we all get on with each other and pursue harmony at all costs.  Thankfully such logic doesn’t hold sway in our criminal courts yet, but as preachers we must be alert to it.

To make a subjective measure of spiritual authority the objective standard for accepting a view will open us up to all sorts of confusion.  After all, if the standard used by some be followed through, then “nice” Christian-raised Bible readers would include leaders of cults, as well as every possible wing of Christendom.

So what do we do as preachers?  I suppose the temptation is to rant.  First at the heretics, then at the culture, then if we get desperate, at the congregation.  Doesn’t seem like the most productive strategy though.  Surely we would do better by prayerfully and consistently demonstrating the reality of Truth as a person, and helping people to follow through the consistency of a Christ-given worldview.  What we may not achieve with a rant, perhaps we will as people observe and get infected by our clarity in a confusing world.  We may not be understood, or see immediate results in the increasingly relativistic congregation, but over time perhaps people will start to see things in a more biblical way.

What do you think?  Do you see the creeping relativism of a generation raised in a culture marinaded in the juices of postmodern values?  Do you have a strategy for influencing your congregation as you preach so that you aren’t simply appreciated as the weekly purveyor of healthy myth?

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2 thoughts on “Preaching Truth in a Milieu of Relativism

  1. Good questions. I would agree with your solution in the main, though. Consistency over the long haul is the remedy. I would maybe be more quick to say that we ought to be strongly vocal about these things (which is to be distinguished from a rant, hopefully.) Our consistency must be in our actions, and also our words from the pulpit. But that has ever, always been our charge and challenge. So nothing new there.

    Postmodernism as a worldview is all skin and no bones…by design…and therefore must necessarily be crushed under its own weight. There are signs in the culture that this is already beginning to happen. Nobody can consistently live as if there really is no truth, and some folks have been trying it for long enough to start seeing the effects. My bet is that postmodernism will go down in the history of philosophy in the same sort of category as Deism–a transitional position that never really had the stuff to stand alone. What it will transition into is another matter altogether.

    But in all this, the preacher’s charge is unchanged. Every human philosophy can, should, and will be cast down as God’s gospel goes forth in Spirit and power to win the day.

  2. Do a sermon series on the meaning of Truth from a Biblical perspective. The Christian worldview hinges on the eternal truth of God and His logical supremacy. I recommend Ken Samples’ book “A World of Difference” because he evaluates Christian truth claims to the test against other religious systems.

    Mostly, you need to present the Christian alternative to post-modern pablum. “There is no objective truth” is a truth claim in itself!

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