THE BEHAVIOR OF FAITH (Part 2) Relativism & Pragmatism

In the time of the judges, God observed, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Philosophers have often flatted themselves by claiming that they have discovered a new perspective, a new view of truth, or a revolutionary worldview. While they may reformulate old ideas, and may dress them up in new verbal clothing, the fact remains that false teaching has been around since Satan lied to Eve.

Paul warns the church in Colossi, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). Vain philosophies have always been a problem for humanity, and the new millennium is no different! Relativism and Pragmatism have been applied to religious views for decades. However, within recent years as popular faith has evolved, these two philosophical perspectives have been highly popularized. Many people do not realize their faith has roots in pragmatism and relativism, so Christians need to examine their faith to determine whether their faith has been corrupted by modern philosophies.

Pragmatism and Relativism proclaim that the truth is not absolute; there is no behavior that is either absolutely right or wrong for any time and in every case.

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There is a distinction between the two philosophies. While pragmatism sees truth in how an act “works” best (if the teaching successfully meets one’s needs, then it should be used), relativism focuses more on the value system of the individual, group, or culture (truth is based on what a person or culture needs or feels). Both ways of thinking lead to rejecting absolute truth, but these philosophies different in how one accepts that absolute truth does not exist.

Faith may be pragmatic if the teaching changes or “evolves,” so the congregation may gain more people, or a person may change their faith to allow for the acceptance of their family members. Faith may be relative if it changes to fit the popular views of the community, or one just adopts the family religion to conform to their environment. If a person cannot show from the Scriptures and defend with verses his/her doctrine and worship practices, then it is likely that the person’s faith is either pragmatic or relative. Those that claim to be Christians, must honestly ask themselves the motives of their religious practices and belief. Is it to please the family? Is it to make life easier? Is it to create ‘good feelings’ in oneself? Or is it really about discovering what the Bible says?

What might be an example of a Christian whose faith is pragmatic or relative? If you hear something in the sermon that makes you wonder or doesn’t sound right, then you go ask the preacher. The preacher tells you what he thinks; if it sounds right, then you accept it on his word alone. This is relativism; if it feels right, it is right.

You have someone who argues with you about a Bible topic and says you are wrong. You compromise and tell them what they want to hear, so they will come to church services with you. You did what was necessary to get what you wanted; this is pragmatism.

When the church where you attend changes their doctrines or policies to get more people in the building, this is pragmatism. When they justify this change by popular feelings or not wanting to offend people, this is relativism. When the church changes worship styles and adds different acts of worship that have never been used in order to appeal to the next generation, this is pragmatism. When the church authorizes these changes by committee or church decree, this is relativism.

To this day, there is only one church that has refused to change the doctrine from the first century, refused to alter the acts of worship first demonstrated in the first century, and remained consistent in their teachings from its establishment; this is the Lord’s church often identified here in our American culture as the Church of Christ.

Romans 16:16-18

Biblical faith is founded in the scriptures, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). God did not authorize faith to be founded on personal feelings or majority vote (Jer. 10:23). Moses commanded, “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes” (Deut. 12:8). Just because a practice or an idea has always been accepted in one’s life does not mean the idea is biblical!

Faithful Christians in the first century “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). One may receive the teachings gracefully and politely, but a dutiful mind will always try and research the source of the teachings (1 John 4:1). Christians must challenge themselves to observe what the Bible says about certain practices and ideas, or if certain ideas and practices have no authority in scripture! Truth should be what the Bible says not what suits my needs (John 17:17).

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