by Dr. Steve Kumar

Relativism is not a new belief. It is as ancient as the human race. It is not the wisdom of the mind but the error of the soul. Although relativism may appear to be sensible on the surface, it could only be maintained at the expense of reason. Relativism is an illusionary belief. Its view is internally incoherent and logically inconsistent. Alexander Solzhenitsvn was insightful when he said, “It is a terrible thing to be in a society where there is no law; it is equally terrible to live in a society where there are only lawyers.” Relativism is not only the enemy of truth but the enemy of the good.

The first flaw of relativism is that it begs the question. The relativist does not prove that relativism is true but merely assumes that it is true. This is arbitrary and invalid. One must demonstrate the soundness of one’s views before one invites others to embrace it. Relativism is presupposed to be true, presumed as a proven premise and used as an established truth in the process. What is the basis or the ground for relativism? To believe relativism is true one must accept the absolute laws of logic and rationality to qualify as a true belief but such laws are questioned under relativism, therefore relativism can never be regarded as true. Why should anyone accept relativism? As a theory relativism is not intellectually respectable or rational. It provides no logical criteria. In the light of relativism, no person (e.g. Hitler, Stalin, Judas) ever does anything wrong and therefore they could never be condemned. Consider the relativist’s dilemma: A mystical pantheist told a British officer in India, “My conscience tells me to burn a widow with the corpse of her husband.” The officer replied, “My conscience tells me to hang you if you do.” As evangelical philosopher Stuart C. Hackett notes, “If values are wholly relative to an individual valuer, there is no way of explaining how two persons can differ concerning an ethical question, or any other question, for that matter.” An unproved assumption is not worthy of belief. Seven hundred years before Christ the prophet Isaiah understood the error of relativism and pronounced judgment on those who regard evil as good and good as evil (Isaiah 5:20).

The second flaw of relativism is that it refutes itself. Truth by nature is non-contradictory. No theory is true if it falsifies itself. The analytical British philosopher Antony Flew rightly suggests, “To tolerate contradiction is to be indifferent to truth.” The trouble with relativism is that if it is true. it is false. Statements like, “There are no absolute truths!” “Everything is relative!” “Nothing is true!” are self refuting. These statements are grammatically sound but logically false. Take the statement, “A married bachelor drew a square circle on the blackboard that doesn’t exist.” They are deceptive statements. They break the very law they promote. The person who says, “Trust no one!” is in fact inviting you to trust him. Relativism is a false system because it promotes what it denies. Take the example of the existential professor who told his class, “There are no absolutes.” One of his students raised a thoughtful question, “Professor are you absolutely sure?” The professor was absolutely confused by the question.

Recently, a psychology student in Sydney who attended my lecture on relativism said, “Truth is subjective. We all perceive truth in our own way.” I asked her, “Is that really true?” She said, “Yes!” I informed her that if truth is truly perceivable then truth is not subjective. Furthermore if truth is totally subjective, how could she know what I know and how could she tell me what she knows? The fact that she disagrees passionately and is prepared to argue rationally indicates that the concept of relativism is not only meaningless but self-refuting. If a statement or position is self-contradictory then it is necessarily false. In the light of relativism it would be impossible to condemn cannibalism rape, racism, cruelty and other actions. The logician Richard Purtill from Western Washington State University correctly notes, “The relativistic view is incompatible with any moral objection.”

The third flaw of relativism is its own dogmatism. While relativists may argue that one must not be dogmatic or be an absolutist, yet relativists are equally dogmatic about relativism. They believe that relativism is absolutely true. Christian philosopher Gordon H. Clark rightly observes, “Objections to dogmatism are always dogmatic, and relativism is always asserted absolutely.” Relativists do not succeed in giving up absolutes–they merely redefine truth subjectively and arbitrarily. When the relativist says, “There are no rules” or “There are no absolutes,” what transpires is not the rejection of dogma but the affirmation of another. What we often fail to see is the unspoken assumption, “(It’s a rule) there are no rules,” or “There are no absolutes (except this one).” Nobody is right (except myself). In the battle for truth relativism is presumed to be the truth without justifying its dogmatic claim. No relativist can escape the charges of dogmatism.

Since relativism begs the question and fails to provide a logical ground for belief and since its assumptions are contradictory and incoherent. wisdom calls us to reject it. Relativism leaves us in the ocean of subjectivity and leads us to the death of truth.

THE REALITY OF TRUTH

Truth is the light of God which reveals the true meaning of reality. The apostle John affirmed this point when he wrote about the logos of God, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world,” (John 1:9).

Truth is fundamental. Without an objective standard of truth no individual can make a sensible choice in our world of ideas. It is the key that opens the door to the meaning of life. It is the fabric which holds our existence together and dives direction and purpose. Without it our existence is an endless repetition of triviality. Our struggle for existence would be as meaningful as blind man in the dark room who was looking for a black cat that wasn’t there.

An event from New York illustrates the point. During one cold night a drunkard was seen walking around a lamppost. A man stopped and asked what he was doing. The drunkard replied, “I am looking for the key to my house.” The man joined in the search but they found nothing. “Are you sure you lost it here?” the man enquired. “No! I lost it a block away,” “Then why are you searching here?” demanded the man. “Because there is enough light here.”

If God exists he holds the key to truth. The brilliant Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is regarded by many scholars as the finest Twentieth Century mind. While working on his masterpiece, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, he came to an amazing conclusion: “Man doesn’t have sufficient perspective from within the world to build an external structure of truth and value.” From a human perspective truth is an impossible ideal but from a divine standpoint it is a reality. Without an objective absolute revelation from God humanity simply drowns in a meaningless sea of subjection. In a time when our culture is uncertain about the truth. When people believe that nothing is knowable, that no one can be sure of anything, we have something unique to communicate. Jesus Christ is the best reflection of God’s. In Him there is no fear of deception. We must first know the truth if we are to bring any reformation to our Society. As Tom Snydder concludes, “we must accurately perceive truth so that we can proceed righteously in truth.” In the light of our predicament Jesus Christ offers the remarkable solution, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

By Dr. Steve Kumar

In a time of intellectual, moral and spiritual crisis the West is being influenced by a new movement which promises peace, prosperity and a New Age of Enlightenment. The message of the movement is radical and its solution is unconventional, but many are joining the bandwagon thinking it is the panacea to the human predicament. This new mind-shift is transforming Western values, culture and life-style. Foreign ideas and bizarre beliefs are moulding the minds of many people who are desperately seeking for answers.

This new view of reality, popularly termed “The New Age Thinking” is quickly dominating education, science, medicine. business, psychology. politics, religion. cinema, media and even the military. It is estimated that up to 60 million in America and 20 million in Europe believe in some form of New Age Movement. The growing influence of New Age thinking is evident in the great success of actress Shirley MacLaine’s books, Out On a Limb, and Dancing in the Light. Her autobiographical occult odyssey was aired by A.B.C. TV as a “Mini-series.” Millions were exposed to her spirituality and occultic practices. Observing the trend, Brooks Alexander of the Berkeley based Spiritual Counterfeits Projects comments, “The twilight is ending. Night is descending. And angels of light come dancing in the dark.”1

What really is the New Age Movement? Why are Westerners dabbling in it? What are its basic views of life and reality? Is the New Age Movement really new or an ancient religion cleverly dressed up in a modern suit? Are the New Age beliefs adequate? Do they make sense in the light of what thinkers through the centuries have upheld, namely rationality and commonsense?

The human heart cannot remain in a state of emptiness. People are made for something deeper than the physical. Disappointed by materialism and disillusioned by formal liberal Christianity, many are desperately searching for something more personal, intimate and fulfilling. To these empty hearts and uncertain minds the New Age prophets are promising peace, power and prosperity.

UNDERSTANDING THE NEW AGE

The New Age Movement is unlike any other movement the West has ever had. It has no single leader, no definite doctrine and it has no headquarters. The term “New Age Movement” covers a loosely-structured network of organisations and people who are united by common convictions and values. It is also known as New World Consciousness, New Orientalism, Cosmic Consciousness, Cosmic Humanism, The Aquarian Conspiracy, Mystical Humanism, Human Potential Movement and Holistic Health Movement. Although the label may differ, yet the basic convictions are the same. Westmont Sociologist, Dr. Ronald Enroth, suggests that the Movement is a very loose network of organizations, individuals, and philosophies that share a common world view, a common vision of humanity, and a common basis for hope and change.2 It is a new perception of reality, a move away from traditional western rational realism to the mystical oriental idealism.

Dr. F. LaGard Smith, Professor of Law at Pepperdine University and author of many books including Out on a Broken Limb, notes, “To understand the New Age Movement, you have to understand that we are talking about a world-view with completely new definitions of who man is, who God is, where we come from, and where we’re going. Understanding the New Age Movement requires a major thought shift whereby we’re looking at everything from a new perspective. The New Age Movement is a custom-made religion for each person. It doesn’t follow any of the traditional notions of churches, but it draws from Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Secularism and Selfism. Each person then mixes all that stuff together and arrives at a custom-made religion for him or herself.3

Russell Chandler, the best selling author of Understanding the New Age, points out, “People buy in at various levels. There are a of people who are New Age and don’t know it. There are a lot of people who borrow the world view and assumptions of the New Age. They wouldn’t label it New Age but that’s what it is.”4 The New Age specialist Douglas Groothuis rightly observes, “The New Age Movement is not simply another new cult; it has no one leader or unified organizational structure. It’s more of a creeping Influence that advocates a change in people’s thinking by returning to an ancient but appealing message.”5

Essentially the New Age Movement is a strange combination of Mysticism and Humanism. Borrowing a few ideas from Christianity, a technique from Hinduism and a dose of Buddhist Witchcraft, you can create your own personal religion. The New Age offers you a large cafeteria of religious goodies to choose from. As one writer puts it, “There’s something for everyone. Feel good about making lots of money. Feel good about having none at all, but most of all, feel good. Do it right and you can do anything you want. And there are a lot of people out there who want to show you how–for a price of course.”6 You can choose anything from astrology, biofeedback, clairvoyance. crystals, channelling, E.S.P., meditation, hypnosis, rebirthing, self-healing, visualization, witchcraft, yoga and others. According to Chandler, “It is a religion which appeals to those who want to be rich without working, smart without studying, and holy without giving up any vices.”7

Surprisingly the approach of the New Age appeals to many people living in the post-Christian West. A new convert to the Movement declares, “I once was a failure, struggling with bitterness and hurt, but now I am free. I can create my reality; I can do whatever I want; I have found the resources within to climb the mountain. No longer do I fear death, for I have discovered that it does not exist.”8 This type of testimony is frequently proclaimed by the New Agers. A New Zealand singer states, “It’s fantastic. Life in the New Age is really exciting, a wonderful thing to be involved in.”9

THE MESSAGE OF THE NEW AGE

At the heart of the New Age thinking is the belief that mankind is entering into a new millennium which will bring not global disaster but a new Spiritual awareness. As N.Z. Listener puts it, “Humankind has passed through the agricultural age, the industrial age and the communications age. Now we’re entering the consciousness-raising age.”10

The West has been dominated by science, rationality and technology, these they insist need to be brought together by spiritual and psychological progress. In order to achieve our highest potential we must move from our traditional dependence on the left brain, which they regard as our logical faculty and the “masculine” nature, and shift to the right brain, our “feminine”‘ nature which is the intuitive. By focusing deeply on our inner essences we will recover the ancient wisdom of our true self.

THE WISDOM OF THE NEW AGE

The fundamental assumption of the New Age is that all reality is fundamentally one. This assumption, technically called Monism, has its roots in Eastern and Greek philosophy. Ramakrishna used to say, “Reality is One, sages call it by various names.” Plotinus, the Greek mystic, proposed that the purpose of life is to be “One with the one, alone with the all.” All diversities are illusory and only exist in the finite realm. The mistake of the West is the rational division and separation which we maintain in our analysis. This division they believe is the root cause of our environmental exploitation, nuclear escalation and the reason for out alienation between humanity and creation. The wisdom that will lead us to paradise is that all is one. “You are God. Honest,” says Jack Underhill. “I know your driver’s license says differently, but what does the D.M.V. know?”11 Edgar D. Mitchell, a leading light of the Movement, states, “God sleeps in the minerals, awakens in plants, walks in animals, and thinks in man.”12 This novel idea appears profound on the surface to many Westerners, but some hard thinking on the subject will disclose many of its shortcomings.

First, the Monistic teaching has a destructive effect in the East. Can the West expect anything better? Second, by assuming that all is one, are we not arrogantly elevating ourselves to the level of the Creator? It’s a hopeless assumption to maintain that man is the master of the world when in reality he can’t even create a blade of grass. If man is equal to God, what type of God is he? Man hates, kills, rapes, envies and destroys. Also, a God who needs reminding of his divinity and wisdom has neither of these. Third, there is no rational basis for Monism. The reality of human life demonstrates conclusively the obvious diversity of existence. Both man’s conscious experience and rational thinking provide sufficient evidence to reject the Monistic viewpoint.

COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS

One of the most striking features of the New Age Movement is its way of getting in touch with reality. The emphasis is not only that reality is one but that people achieve cosmic consciousness by means of meditation, visualisation, yoga, drugs, chanting, hypnosis, martial arts, sensory deprivation and others. The New Ager believes that it is through cosmic consciousness that we attain cosmic oneness. On the conscious level, man is separated from God, but in his essential essence he is one with God. His conscious sense deceives his real self as a separate being, but he must transform his conscious thinking by spiritual technology. Shirley MacLaine in her book, Dancing in the Light, says, “You are unlimited. You just don’t realise it.”13

New Age advocate Fritjof Capra describes his cosmic experience which altered his life view: “I saw the atoms of the elements and !hose of my body participating in the cosmic dance of energy; I felt its rhythm and I heard its sound, and at that moment I knew that this vas the Dance of Shiva, the Lord of Dancers worshipped by the Hindus.”14

The experience of cosmic consciousness is expressed by various terms including self-realisation, enlightenment, God-realisation, atonement, satori and Nirvana. This mystical experience produces the feeling of cosmic oneness where all distinctions of good/evil, male/female, reality/fantasy, light/dark and man/God disappears.

NEW AGE THINKING IS NOTHING NEW

These ideas only appear new to those who do not know their origin. The thinking of the New Age was first expressed by the serpent to our first parents in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). It is the lie of the serpent that man’s destiny and his salvation is within himself. Modern man finds the old lie gratifying. When a man does not stand for the truth he will fall for any lie. Modern man is no exception to the rule; he finds the message of the serpent appears to offer hope and power. It exalts man to the place of God, gives him a false sense of security and makes him believe the key is in his hands. This is a delusion.

The tragic experience of the New Age is graphically illustrated in the life of a young woman, Cindy Williams, who moved into the New Age to find hope after experiencing the trauma of divorce. Even though admitting that she was “cautious” during the first encounter she says her life has changed, the problems have vanished, and now she is seeking to get in touch with her true self. She is looking forward with great expectation to the promise of the New Age and says, “I’ve got my feet firmly planted on this illusion.”15

To think man is the master of his destiny is not only arrogant but madness. The facts of human experience and history provide more than sufficient evidence to dispel any possible notion of the divinity of man.

How many wars have we fought, how many crimes have we done, how many injustices have we committed? How could the New Age man not see the truth? Is it any wonder that the Scripture says, “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie,” (2 Thes. 2:10,11).

End Notes

1. “Brooks Alexander: New Age Movement” by Ronald Enroth. Fundamentalist Journal, Feb. 1968, p. 49.
2. Ronald Enroth, ibid.
3. F. LaGard Smith, The Door, p. 18.
4. Russell Chandler, The Door, p. 7.
5. Douglas Grouthuis, The New Age Wave, Moody Monthly, 1985.
6. N.Z. Listener, September 23, 1989.
7. Russell Chandler, ibid., p.7.
8. Erwin Lutzer & John DeVries, Satan’s “Evangelistic” Strategy for this New Age, 1988.
9. N.Z. Listener, ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Jack Underhill, “New Age Quiz,” Life Times Magazine, 6.
12. Edgar Mitchell, Bridging Science and Metaphysics in the 20th Century, 1983.
13. Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light, 1985, p.133.
14. Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, 1975, p.11.
15. Erwin Lutzer & John DeVries, ibid, p.49.