Defying gravity: Why relativism is dying & everyone is believing in absolute truth, part 1

November 3, 2014 | By: 0 Comments


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Recently, I had the opportunity to teach a seminar at the Christ and Cascadia Conference in Seattle, Washington, entitled, “Ghost Town: Spirit and Church in an Individualistic World.” I was delighted to find a seminar room packed with eager scholars, pastors, and Christians desiring to think through what living the gospel in the city entails.+
I feel I have something to say about this. Not a final word, but something. As a pastor in the urban core of Portland, I’ve been given a privileged place to creepily watch my neighborhood for trends and insights as to emerging beliefs and faith. In my seminar, I decided to share a few of these insights. To do so, I needed a fictional character. Years ago, I’d heard that Rick Warren created a fictional character named “Saddleback Sam” who epitomized the kind of individual Saddleback Church sought to engage in Southern California. I, on the other hand, came up with “Cascadian Carl” as the fictional name for a young, non-Christian, progressive, postmodern person who lives in an urban center of a post-Christian city like Portland.+
Cascadian Carl, I began, believes in absolute truth and is not a relativist.+
Let me unpack. Truth, in the postmodern (or “late modernism” if you like) world, is said to be fundamentally local, contextual, and subjective. This philosophical complexity is consistently boiled down into a widely quoted cultural cliché few of us have been able to escape: “what I believe is what I believe, what you believe is what you believe.” Within these constructs, truth, morality, and ethical values are viewed largely as self-created within either an individual, or, a given culture appearing differently from community to community. The latent epistemological by-product of this, as it were, is that religious truths are inherently cultural and subjective, never universal and objective.+
For the postmodern, truth and morality change from zip code to zip code.+


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