"Relativism is the philosophical position that all points of view are equally valid and that all truth is relative to the individual."  In other words, truth is what you want it to be. "Relative" can essentially mean "wide ranging" or "not absolute". Thus, the relative mindset believes that any idea of absolute truth (something that is true regardless of if someone thinks it is or not) is impossible.
Various kinds of truths
Within the topic of relativism there are two kinds of truth. First, objective truth (synonymous with absolute truth) is a statement that is true for everyone. For example, 2+2 will always equal four. Even if someone thinks it is five, they are wrong. Secondly, subjective truth is a statement that is based on one's own personal view. Subjective can mean that it can be understood with different meanings. The statement is thus subjective to each individual.
Relativism treats truth as if all truth is subjective. If one person believes stealing is wrong, that belief is subjective (or relative) to that individuals belief. Thus, it is "right" for them, but should not be something another individual is forced to believe.
Various kinds of relativism
Relativism has been distinguished into different categories based on what it is "relativizing". The most commonly encountered category in Christian circles is moral relativism, the belief that what is morally right for one person is not morally right for another. This has been especially popular in the topic of "cultural relativism" where cultures hold differing values.
Implications for Christianity
The relativist worldview has profound effects on Christians. It strikes at the heart of the claims of Jesus, concluding that his statements are true for Christians, but not true for them. Any view of morality is dismissed as a persons personal beliefs, ones which are not to be shoved on any one else who does not believe them to be true.
Other implications are found in that relativists reject the idea that there is one way to God. One must accept all religions, understanding them to be true according to what each person believes to be true.
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Problems with relativism
At first glance, it appears very difficult to get around the relativists conclusions. However, there is actually an internal contradiction within their arguments. It can be understood as follows:
- Relativism denies there is any objective or absolute truth - something that is true for everyone
- Yet, relativism is saying that it is "absolutely true" that there is no "absolute truth"
The contradiction is obvious, and claim also becomes hypocritical. The denial of absolute truth cannot be considered "absolute truth".
- Francis Beckwith & Gregory Koukl, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air. (Baker, 1998) ISBN 0801058066
- Paul Copan, True For You But Not For Me. (Bethany House Publishers, 1998) ISBN 0764220918