When I was a kid, I was warned never to breathe in the exhaust that came from our car. It was poisonous, I was told. So, for weeks after being told this, I would hold my breath for as long as I could whenever I was walking around our car while it was running. Eventually, I stopped doing that because I realized I wasn’t dying being around the car, but I was getting kind of light-headed from holding my breath so long. What I later learned was that carbon monoxide poisoning didn’t come from breathing in trace amounts periodically. No, the danger was prolonged exposure.
We’re in a weird place in the world right now—one that every day, as I look at my Twitter feed and Facebook updates, makes me wish today were the day the sky would split in two, Jesus would ride in on a white horse and save the day. Chances are, today is not that day, though. At least, not if you’re reading this. (And if it is, you’ve got way more important things to do than read it since it doesn’t matter anymore.)
Why are we in a weird place? Because we’ve poisoned ourselves. We’ve been living and breathing a poisonous worldview for decades, one that has stunted our ability to think rationally: relativism.
Relativism is a logically incoherent (and practically inconsistent) worldview that asserts that there are no absolute truths (beyond that one). It, essentially, advocates the sort of lifestyle the Israelites were described as living at the end of the book of Judges: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25). It’s a worldview that says truth is what we make it. What’s true for me may not be true for you, so how can anything really be said to be wrong? Except for saying there is such a thing as an objective standard of truth, of course.
This is the worldview that has brought us to the brink of madness, in virtually every western nation (perhaps most noticeably as you watch the political debates in America). But where does it end? Do people eventually just snap out of the haze? Will we one day wake up and realize we’ve been wandering around like a frat boy with alcohol poisoning, put down the bottle and then clean up the mess? No. Relativism doesn’t lend itself to the sort of introspection such a response would require. Instead, it will lead to something far more terrible:
The formula is simple: when relativism holds sway long enough, everyone begins to do what is right in his own eyes without any regard for submission to truth. In this atmosphere, a society begins to break down. Virtually all structure in a free society depends on a measure of integrity—that is, submission to the truth. When the chaos of relativism reaches a certain point, the people will welcome any ruler who can bring some semblance of order and security. So a dictator steps forward and crushes the chaos with absolute control. Ironically, relativism—the great lover of unfettered freedom—destroys freedom in the end.1
For decades, we’ve been breathing in the poison of relativism. And the madness will not end with us snapping ourselves out of the haze. For in our stupor, we have declared war on truth itself. And things may well get far worse before they get better. But even so, as Christians, we ought not despair. For we know truth does exist—and we know who is the embodiment of truth. We know that there is a Creator who will judge all according to their deeds and that no wrong will be overlooked. We know that even as politicians thumb their noses at the value of human beings—endorsing the indiscriminate murder of babies or suggesting war crimes make for a legitimate foreign policy—that they are like the dew on the grass: they are here and will be gone before the morning is through. But Christ will stand forever.
So while we wait, while we are frustrated, while we are tempted to lose hope, we need to remember this. And we need to push back against the darkness of relativism. We remind all around us of the truth—that there is truth, point them to the one who declares it. The one who is coming soon to make all things new. And to him we cry, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”