America has taken a decided turn to the left. This is true politically, theologically, ethically, and morally. Much of the turmoil we're experiencing in the week of Donald Trump's inauguration as POTUS is the severe puzzlement and aggravation that someone espousing more conservative views can still prevail in our left leaning culture. Many conservatives have a wait-and-see attitude about the direction Mr. Trump will take once he assumes the Oval Office. There is a wish among many working Americans that he will take the next road to the right in his leadership of the nation.
At root in these confusing times is the reign of relativism in nearly every human venue.
"Normative ethical relativism is the theory that the moral rightness and
wrongness of actions varies from society to society and that there are no
absolute universal moral standards binding on all men at all times. The theory
claims that all thinking about the basic principles of morality (Ethics) is always
relative" (copied from the website of CCNY.edu). If you'd like to read several
monographs about the layers of relativism you can click here for more.
Going simple, it is the belief that there are no moral absolutes. As a result the culture defines standards and positions on the majority of life issues, from lifestyle to politics to education to religion and right on through the lists of morals, ethics, behavior, and even political platforms.
Preparing to teach New Testament Survey at Charleston Southern University this semester the reign of relativism was a significant issue box in the textbook Encountering the New Testament by Walter A. Elwell and Robert W. Yarbrough. They wrote---
In his best selling book The Closing of the American Mind, Allen Bloom wrote, "There
is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student
entering the university believes, of says he believes, that truth is relative". That
was in the 1980s. Since then some have give up on truth altogether. There is only
what works for each individual. We all think whatever we choose to think.
That was somewhat an ah-ha moment for me. Though all of us witnessed this turn to the left throughout our culture, few of us grasp the challenge to truth that such positions hold. Many Americans are praying for this nation to take the next turn to the right.
Much of the confusion being experienced at every level of American life originates in the conflicting standards cultural relativism offers. Our next turn to the right must be a reversal of relativistic ethics and morals and a return to a truth based guide for living. Holding a Christian worldview this translates to a return to biblical truth as the basic standard for life. Elwell and Yarbrough reminded me of several anchors in this prayer that we take the next road to the right. And, by that, I mean a return to the belief in a reliable and authoritative standard of truth.
1. Humans cannot know all truth (see Romans 11:33-34).
2. God has revealed truth to his creation (Deuteronomy 29:29).
3. The biblical writers had a high view of Scripture as truth (2 Timothy 3:16).
4. God's Word is our sure standard of truth (John 10:35, 17:17).
5. Times and cultures change. God's truth is eternal (Matthew 24:35).
These are certainly perplexing times. Many of our most basic life standards regarding family, marriage, gender, race, authority, the protection of citizens, human rights, and law have been complicated by the competing cultural standards of our diverse population. Taking the next road to the right is a prayer for a return to truth as the basis of life standards in such an environment.
The fullest expression of truth is the person of Jesus Christ. John wrote that Jesus is "the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (john 1:14). He added, "...grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). Of course, my personal faith and Christian worldview holds a high view of Scripture and the core belief that God revealed his truth through the Word of God. And, yes, my prayer that the nation would take the next road to the right includes the heart desire and calling that every person would come to know Christ.
But, even more, the prayer that the nation will take the next road to the right is the wish that our system, at every human level, would be defined by eternal standards consistent with the truth God revealed to guide his creation in our laws, moral judgements, and ethical standards.
The next road to the right is a return to truth.