What is "Relativism"?


#1

I’m no theologian or philosopher, and I want someone to explain what “relativism” really is, and why it is such a crime. Specifically what I do not understand is how certain issues like contraception can be deemed “against natural law.” Where is this natural law? Where is it specifically written in nature that it’s wrong to use condoms, for instance? It isn’t written anywhere. Issues like artificial birth control didn’t even exist 50+ years ago, and to claim that using condoms is a grave wrong is, I think, someone’s interpretation of “natural law.” I’m no theologian, again, but couldn’t a good theologian reasonably interpret natural law in such a way that condoms may be acceptable?

And what about conscience and “natural law?” What should be the outcome what conscience conflicts with “natural law” (or someone’s interpretation of it)? God gave me a conscience which for me exists as my most reliable moral compass. My conscience has me wanting to help the homeless downtown, and considering adopting a needy child with my wife in the future, and it makes me sympathize strongly with the suffering of those with AIDS in Africa, for instance - to the point that I think that whatever “grave wrong” would be perpetrated by the use of condoms would surely be outweighed by their ability to prevent deadly disease. If that’s “relativist” thinking, then call me a proud relativist.


#2

[quote=norbert]I’m no theologian or philosopher, and I want someone to explain what “relativism” really is, and why it is such a crime. Specifically what I do not understand is how certain issues like contraception can be deemed “against natural law.” Where is this natural law? Where is it specifically written in nature that it’s wrong to use condoms, for instance? It isn’t written anywhere. Issues like artificial birth control didn’t even exist 50+ years ago, and to claim that using condoms is a grave wrong is, I think, someone’s interpretation of “natural law.” I’m no theologian, again, but couldn’t a good theologian reasonably interpret natural law in such a way that condoms may be acceptable?

And what about conscience and “natural law?” What should be the outcome what conscience conflicts with “natural law” (or someone’s interpretation of it)? God gave me a conscience which for me exists as my most reliable moral compass. My conscience has me wanting to help the homeless downtown, and considering adopting a needy child with my wife in the future, and it makes me sympathize strongly with the suffering of those with AIDS in Africa, for instance - to the point that I think that whatever “grave wrong” would be perpetrated by the use of condoms would surely be outweighed by their ability to prevent deadly disease. If that’s “relativist” thinking, then call me a proud relativist.
[/quote]

Simply put, relativism means that if it is true for you, then it is the truth.

Contraception was condemned by all of Christianity until the 1930 Lamberth conference (anglicans).

The sacred union of a husband and wife can produce a child. The husband and wife are cooperating with God to create life. When something is used to block this process, the married couple is in essence saying, “We are not ready for children, we know better than God”. Contraception puts up a wall between man and God.

Contraception has been around much longer than 50 years. But perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I can comment on this. God Bless.


#3

[quote=norbert]I’m no theologian or philosopher, and I want someone to explain what “relativism” really is, and why it is such a crime. Specifically what I do not understand is how certain issues like contraception can be deemed “against natural law.” Where is this natural law? Where is it specifically written in nature that it’s wrong to use condoms, for instance? It isn’t written anywhere. Issues like artificial birth control didn’t even exist 50+ years ago, and to claim that using condoms is a grave wrong is, I think, someone’s interpretation of “natural law.” I’m no theologian, again, but couldn’t a good theologian reasonably interpret natural law in such a way that condoms may be acceptable?

And what about conscience and “natural law?” What should be the outcome what conscience conflicts with “natural law” (or someone’s interpretation of it)? God gave me a conscience which for me exists as my most reliable moral compass. My conscience has me wanting to help the homeless downtown, and considering adopting a needy child with my wife in the future, and it makes me sympathize strongly with the suffering of those with AIDS in Africa, for instance - to the point that I think that whatever “grave wrong” would be perpetrated by the use of condoms would surely be outweighed by their ability to prevent deadly disease. If that’s “relativist” thinking, then call me a proud relativist.
[/quote]

The problem with relativism is it refuses to recognize an absolute truth. Without recognition of an absolute truth, you can argue that since nobody is really right, nobody must be wrong either. Take it from there and you have chaos.

I submit that most of those people suffering from AIDS are victims of moral relativism, “sex outside of marriage doesn’t hurt anyone, so go ahead enjoy yourself”. Had these people been exposed to the absolute truth, they would have known it was wrong, thus preventing the spread of AIDS.


#4

Mickey

*Simply put, relativism means that if it is true for you, then it is the truth. *

*Well said. An example: When two homosexuals want to get married and call it natural, we know it is not. Never in the history of the world until modern times has it been called natural by anyone. Ergo, the people who call it natural are only the people who decide they want it to be true for themselves, regardless of what the whole world thinks and what nature has decreed.


#5

Hello,

It is certainly admirable for you to care about all such subjects. As far as condomns for AIDs. I don’t know why, but the media does not talk about Uguanda. Uguanda is, I might be wrong, the only African country that has turned its Aids Crisis around. It did this by preaching abstinence(I can’t spell) Here is an interesting website.

www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0074.html
Uguanda dropped its cases of aids in Pregnant women from 21.2% to 6.2%! Zimbabwa, a country passing out condoms, is not dropping its Aids cases.

As far as your other question, relativism is deciding what is right or wrong according to your situation. Therefore, the holocaust can’t be condemned because there is no ultimate right or wrong, just everyone’s personal opinion based on their individual circumstances. Can you imagine how chaotic that would be?


#6

[quote=norbert] Specifically what I do not understand is how certain issues like contraception can be deemed “against natural law.” Where is this natural law?
[/quote]

Natural law is fairly easy to identify. In regards to contraception, what is the natural consequence and biological purpose of sexual intercourse? Procreation. Anything which attempts to change this purpose, such as contraception does, goes against “natural law”.
In addition to natural law there is Gods’ law: Genesis 1:22 - And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
Genesis 1:28 - And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Genesis 9:1 - And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
God nowhere says: “go , have sex like animals, make it a sport, use each other for your own sexual pleasures with no consequence”.
God also shows His displeasure to using contraception:
Genesis 38:9 - And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. 10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.
Here God punishes a person (by death) for disobeying the law given to man to “be fruitful and multiply”


#7

[quote=norbert] Where is it specifically written in nature that it’s wrong to use condoms, for instance?
[/quote]

The CCC.

[quote=norbert] AIDS in Africa, for instance - to the point that I think that whatever “grave wrong” would be perpetrated by the use of condoms would surely be outweighed by their ability to prevent deadly disease. If that’s “relativist” thinking, then call me a proud relativist.
[/quote]

Aids cases have actually increased in countries spreading condoms not decreased. The only areas that have shown dramatic decrease are those teaching abstinence.


#8

You asked about natural law.

Natural law would be this:

“If you walk on thin ice, it will crack and you will fall in.”

Is the ice’s cracking a punishment? No, it is a consequence.

A positive law, meaning that it is positied, would be, “If you walk on the thin ice, we will write you a ticket and you will pay a fine.”

You seem to think that the Church is saying: “Don’t use condoms, or we’ll write you a ticket.” That’s not it. The Church is saying:

Contraception blocks the primary purpose of sex, to procreate.


#9

Momentarily side stepping the contraceptive issue and natural law discussion, I have been meaning to ask some of the same questions about “relativism.”

I think the word is overused and disagree with the notion that relativism is somehow bad while “absolutism” or whatever is good.

In fact, Jesus constantly “adapted” rules which were being applied too rigorously by the Pharisees. He worked on the Sabbath, which was considered an absolute breach. He cleverly endorsed the absolute penalty of stoning the adultress in such a way as to condemn it. Sometimes he interpreted laws more strictly than their literal meaning, such as equating being angry with one’s brother rather than killing.

That’s because Jesus is not about giving us a million rules. We already had that before Jesus came. While many seem to think that Jesus just added onto the rules, what He really did was come so that we may be adopted into His family, transform our hearts, be healed, and then naturally follow His call as sheep to a shepherd. Therefore we quit worrying about the rules because we no longer desire anything unlawful. This is how He fulfilled the rules, not by demanding strict adherence to a static, written code.

If a static, written code could possibly guide us through all of our individual situations, then the Holy Spirit would be somewhat redundant.

Alan


#10

[quote=AlanFromWichita]Momentarily side stepping the contraceptive issue and natural law discussion, I have been meaning to ask some of the same questions about “relativism.”

I think the word is overused and disagree with the notion that relativism is somehow bad while “absolutism” or whatever is good.

In fact, Jesus constantly “adapted” rules which were being applied too rigorously by the Pharisees. He worked on the Sabbath, which was considered an absolute breach. He cleverly endorsed the absolute penalty of stoning the adultress in such a way as to condemn it. Sometimes he interpreted laws more strictly than their literal meaning, such as equating being angry with one’s brother rather than killing.

That’s because Jesus is not about giving us a million rules. We already had that before Jesus came. While many seem to think that Jesus just added onto the rules, what He really did was come so that we may be adopted into His family, transform our hearts, be healed, and then naturally follow His call as sheep to a shepherd. Therefore we quit worrying about the rules because we no longer desire anything unlawful. This is how He fulfilled the rules, not by demanding strict adherence to a static, written code.

If a static, written code could possibly guide us through all of our individual situations, then the Holy Spirit would be somewhat redundant.

Alan
[/quote]

That’s very well said, and echoes much of what I have been thinking lately. “Relativism” is considered an evil scourge by many, but I think unyielding, unthinking absolutism is not necessarily better. We all have the ability to develop a well-informed conscience, guided by the Holy Spirit, and I think this has to play some role - an important role - in our own moral decision-making in life.


#11

[quote=AlanFromWichita]Momentarily side stepping the contraceptive issue and natural law discussion, I have been meaning to ask some of the same questions about “relativism.”

I think the word is overused and disagree with the notion that relativism is somehow bad while “absolutism” or whatever is good.

In fact, Jesus constantly “adapted” rules which were being applied too rigorously by the Pharisees. He worked on the Sabbath, which was considered an absolute breach. He cleverly endorsed the absolute penalty of stoning the adultress in such a way as to condemn it. Sometimes he interpreted laws more strictly than their literal meaning, such as equating being angry with one’s brother rather than killing.

That’s because Jesus is not about giving us a million rules. We already had that before Jesus came. While many seem to think that Jesus just added onto the rules, what He really did was come so that we may be adopted into His family, transform our hearts, be healed, and then naturally follow His call as sheep to a shepherd. Therefore we quit worrying about the rules because we no longer desire anything unlawful. This is how He fulfilled the rules, not by demanding strict adherence to a static, written code.

If a static, written code could possibly guide us through all of our individual situations, then the Holy Spirit would be somewhat redundant.

Alan
[/quote]

The Pharisees were obeying the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of the law and they were not repentant.

The adulteress disobeyed the letter of the law but was repentant and was given forgiveness.

In neither instance and on no occasion did Christ say we can disobey his new covenant which is a stricter moral code than the old law. He also never said that we can interpret the law so that we can do what we want and still say we are obeying Him.


#12

[quote=AlanFromWichita]While many seem to think that Jesus just added onto the rules, what He really did was come so that we may be adopted into His family, transform our hearts, be healed, and then naturally follow His call as sheep to a shepherd. Therefore we quit worrying about the rules because we no longer desire anything unlawful.
[/quote]

Do you honestly no longer desire anything unlawful?


#13

[quote=norbert]That’s very well said, and echoes much of what I have been thinking lately. “Relativism” is considered an evil scourge by many, but I think unyielding, unthinking absolutism is not necessarily better. We all have the ability to develop a well-informed conscience, guided by the Holy Spirit, and I think this has to play some role - an important role - in our own moral decision-making in life.
[/quote]

But if your “well informed conscience” tells you that contraception is ok, or abortion is ok, or homosexual “marriage” is ok, then that ain’t the Holy Spirit telling you that.


#14

[quote=norbert]That’s very well said, and echoes much of what I have been thinking lately. “Relativism” is considered an evil scourge by many, but I think unyielding, unthinking absolutism is not necessarily better. We all have the ability to develop a well-informed conscience, guided by the Holy Spirit, and I think this has to play some role - an important role - in our own moral decision-making in life.
[/quote]

Read this - [/font][font=Arial]LIBERALISM IS A SIN


#15

[quote=norbert]That’s very well said, and echoes much of what I have been thinking lately. “Relativism” is considered an evil scourge by many, but I think unyielding, unthinking absolutism is not necessarily better. We all have the ability to develop a well-informed conscience, guided by the Holy Spirit, and I think this has to play some role - an important role - in our own moral decision-making in life.
[/quote]

As a Catholic, obedience to the Church (the bride of Christ), is how you will develop a well-informed conscience.


#16

[quote=chadwilliams]But if your “well informed conscience” tells you that contraception is ok, or abortion is ok, or homosexual “marriage” is ok, then that ain’t the Holy Spirit telling you that.
[/quote]

How do you know that? I know my mind and conscience better than any person, I’d day. I pray plenty, and I know that I gain a lot of insight through the grace of God. My conscience tells me that using condoms in areas of Africa where HIV is endemic is not a gravely moral wrong, and I’m comfortable with that.


#17

[quote=Mickey]As a Catholic, obedience to the Church (the bride of Christ), is how you will develop a well-informed conscience.
[/quote]

That doesn’t make sense. My dog blindly obeys. I, a human being with an active and functional mind, think. I can’t help it that I think; it’s just something my silly brain does. My “conscience” arises from my brain/mind (or soul?). My conscience is certainly informed by what I have learned from the Church, but it also derives from experience and reason, and from the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Conscience is the ultimate moral compass. It is adaptable and sensitive to nuance and unique situations. Why would God give us minds and consciences if he didn’t want us to use them?


#18

[quote=buffalo]Read this - LIBERALISM IS A SIN
[/quote]

Sorry, but I can’t read anything with such a stupid title.


#19

[quote=norbert]How do you know that? I know my mind and conscience better than any person, I’d day. I pray plenty, and I know that I gain a lot of insight through the grace of God. My conscience tells me that using condoms in areas of Africa where HIV is endemic is not a gravely moral wrong, and I’m comfortable with that.
[/quote]

Because the Holy Spirit, being God, does not lie. Contraceptives are meant to prevent conception. The best way to prevent HIV from spreading is to stop fornication, ie. Abstinance. Condoms are not 100% effective in preventing diseases. I don’t think anyone in thier right mind would have sex with a person who they knew was infected with AIDS, even if they had a condom.

The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and cannot err in matters of faith and morals. The Church says that contraception, abortion, homosexuality, are all sins. Why would the Holy Spirit tell the Magisterium that all these are sins, but would tell you that they are not??


#20

Relativism has been well defined in the thread.

The problem that the Pope has with it is that because of relativism, the CCC is not recognized world-wide as the “truth”. Because of relativism, there is no pressure on anyone to embrace “the truth”, which to the Pope and many others, is the CCC. The only people who accept the CCC as “the truth” are the subset of Catholics who believe it is true. There are many (probably the majority) who call themselves Catholics who don’t believe 100% that the CCC represents the truth. Every Catholic I know has a disagreement with the Church on at least something in the CCC, and chooses not to believe it.

And of course, the Muslims have their own version of the truth which is not the CCC, and so do Hindus, and Buddhists, etc. And then there are people who don’t fully align with any of those groups who have their own personal version of the truth, which they follow.

Complaining about relativism is similar to complaining that there are people who don’t agree with you. It’s completely pointless. No matter how strong statements are made in 28 point bold type on the Catholic Answers Forum that “the CCC is the only truth”, or “Liberalism is a sin”, the fact of the matter is that those who disagree with that statement, couldn’t care any less. There is no way the world will ever agree on “one truth”, no matter what it is. I personally believe that “relavitism” (which is a bad word here) is what makes mankind so wonderful. God loves us all, he gave us Christ, and the Catholic Church, and is doing work through all kinds of people in all different kinds of ways that we will never understand. It’s a mystery of God, and is not up for me to question. In fact, the CCC itself let’s people off the hook who don’t know the CCC to be the truth. So I’m not sure why relativism is called a horrible “dictatorship”.

Pete


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