“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
The Absolute Standard, by Randall D. Kittle

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The watchwords of American society in this day are relativism and pluralism. They are not only accepted in our western culture, they have become twin towers looked up to as great virtues of our highly-developed society. They are now taught to our children in their schools with charismatic zeal, and esteemed as qualities greatly desired in the work place. The philosophy of the masses is that mankind has risen out of the quagmire of Victorian absolutes, passed through the permissive culture of the last century, and only now has entered into the great dawning glory of a truly civilized society where relativism and pluralism assure us of both freedom and happiness.

America has increasingly become a pluralistic society — a society where various and diverse viewpoints are not only tolerated but accepted and encouraged. The catchphrases for our day are: “that’s how you believe,” “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” “that’s your perspective,” and the ever popular “we can agree to disagree.” Even many Bible studies have rules that “no answer is wrong.” (Well, the plain truth is that many answers are wrong!) Relativism says that there are no moral absolutes — what is right depends upon the situation. Moral decisions are made by how you feel in a situation, by whatever brings the most benefit, makes the most people happy, or pleases your friends. Stealing may be wrong in one scenario, but is OK under different circumstances. Even the old permissivism of the 60's was better than relativism. Permissivism said that though something was wrong, do it anyway if you feel like it might bring you happiness or pleasure. Even though it encouraged breaking the rules, at least it acknowledged that there were rules to break!

Are these philosophies really that prevalent, or is this just another social issue used by church leadership to stir up the saints and keep them busy? Well, the Barna Research Group confirms the fact that relativism is alive and well and taking control of the mindset of most Americans. In a 2001 national survey among teenagers, they found that only 6 percent of the teens surveyed believe moral truth is absolute, whereas 83 percent believe moral truth depended on the circumstances.

In other words, what is right depends upon the situation. For example, in the minds of most teenage Americans, if you love someone and think you might marry that person, sex is OK. It doesn’t matter what your parents think or what the Bible says, in your situation it would be the right thing to do. Unfortunately, this philosophy is not limited to those less than twenty. The research also found that 75 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 35 embrace moral relativism!

Relativism Comes To Church
While this might be acceptable for a nation of people, it certainly isn’t the way the Church is designed to be. Unfortunately the research data for teens who claim to be born-again believers is that only 9 percent believe that there are moral absolutes! This means that 91 percent of the Christian teens they surveyed live their lives by making up the rules of what is right or wrong according to their own circumstances. Only a small group of teens (7 percent) reported making moral decisions based on biblical principles.

Shades Of Gray
The reason this is so prevalent among Christian teens is twofold. First, they have seen it operating in the lives of their Christian parents. Every time we say it is all right to break the law by speeding or rolling through a stop sign we are saying “That law doesn’t apply to me in this situation.” Whenever we justify ourselves by saying the circumstances made our actions appropriate when we should have simply repented and asked forgiveness, we are embracing pluralism and relativism. It is always more comfortable to change how something is viewed than it is to accept the blame and admit we blew it — comfortable to our flesh that is! But what we need to see is that as we have comforted ourselves by blurring the clear black-and-white lines between right and wrong into a more gentle gray. We have given those who follow us the idea that they, too, can change the dividing lines. Soon black looks “whiter” and white seems “blacker” until we find that everything seems gray … so you might as well do as you please.

The second reason that relativism and pluralism are spreading so rapidly, even in the Church, is that we have failed to honor the Word of God in both the Church and in our homes, and have neglected the Scriptural mandate to teach the Word of God to our children. God instructs us in Deuteronomy 11:19-20 to be constantly tutoring our children with the Scriptures.
“Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” How can you have biblical values if you have no clear understanding what the Bible says about various things? It is not that we want the Bible to be a rule-book we try to follow (for that would be legalism), but we want the wisdom and ways of God to be the ways we choose.

Absolute Or Obsolete
If we will take the time to study (and study is not a “four-letter” word) the Bible, we will find that many issues that society is wrestling with have already been settled in God’s Word. While our government tries to determine how to handle homosexuality, abortion, and other controversial issues, God has already shown us in His Word the path that leads to life and the way that leads to destruction. It is settled and sure — no matter what the government might decide!

In a day when opinions and laws are constantly changing, it is nice to know that the values of the Bible are unchanging and absolute. We are quickly coming to the time when all people will be in one of two camps — they will either believe that the Word of God is absolute, or believe that it is obsolete. We will see over the next few years that how society functions and how the Church is to operate will become ever more divergent.

For many in our society, the Bible is a collection of old writings that give hope to the weak, and comfort those who have suffered loss or met disappointment. If this were all there was to it, they could tolerate it well enough. But the Bible also clearly declares that man is a sinner in desperate need of a Savior. It says that we must confess we are sinners in order to gain a new life. Your old life cannot be improved. It must be destroyed and a new supernatural life must take its place. This stands in bold opposition to the evolutionary “things are getting better” philosophy of our day. And it is here that the natural man must choose to part company. To him it is an obsolete legend, little more than Greek mythology or Aesop’s Fables.

The Word Lives
But the Word of God is absolute and unchanging. Jesus said that
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). God’s Word will never expire nor cease to be relevant because it is more than mere words or thought … it is alive!

When God created man, He formed him out of the dust, and then He
“… breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). This one breath of God into the man He had formed imparted the life-force that brought life to all mankind. That one breath gave a divine impartation that is still bringing life, sustaining life, thousands of years later.

What does God tell us about His holy Word?
“All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Scriptures have been breathed by the very breath of God! And the life He has imparted into them makes them alive and enduring. The life-breath of God has not worn out of them. They are not getting old and obsolete.

The Absolute Standard
On the contrary, they reveal the unchanging absolutes of the Kingdom of God. Though many now choose to judge the Bible, at the end of the age the Bible will judge them! The principles and patterns of the Scripture are God's design for how we are to live — a kind of “owner’s manual” written by the One who made us. Through the Bible we come into relationship with Jesus who faithfully leads us into all truth. The commands of the Bible are not open for negotiation. They have already been settled in Heaven. We must learn to stop trying to conform the Bible to fit our lives, and begin to change our lives to conform to the Bible, for it is God’s absolute standard — the standard whereby everything else is measured.

Many in our society say that the day of absolutes is over. “In a modern society nothing is absolute; everything is relative.” While this might sound quite sophisticated, simple observation tells us it isn’t true. If you were to go to a large grade school and gather all of the one foot rulers together and examine them, you would probably find that there would be quite a bit of discrepancy between the longest and the shortest one. You might rightly conclude that it is unacceptable to have all sorts of different lengths claiming to be one foot. “After all it’s 12 inches, and they should all be the same.” We should keep the ones that are correct and discard the others. But who could determine for certain which rulers are right and which ones are too long or too short? You could solve the problem with absolute certainty if we took them to Washington, D.C. There, in a place called the National Bureau of Weights and Measures, stored in a protected environment is the reference bar that by law is exactly one U.S. foot. It is the absolute standard, and every other ruler is calibrated by it.

God has graciously done the same in His Kingdom. He has preserved for us an Absolute Measure that is alive, enduring, and unchanging — the Word of God. In it we will find the directions to keep us safe on our journey with God. It will both comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. From it we will glean love and hope and peace. It will not only reveal to us what is right and wrong, but show us how to be forgiven when we are wrong and how to be empowered to do what is right. Having been given such a gift, let us make great use of it. Not merely putting it in our heads, but having the Spirit write it upon our hearts.


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