Relativism and Plausibility

From a longer recent article on relativism and plausibility structures. Click here for the whole thing

I come across more and more university and college students who, though they have a Christian confession, are unable to say why they believe what they believe. And who are therefore most reluctant to challenge opposing, false worldviews.

How do we set about reclaiming a position for truth in the public square when even bright Christians can't say why they believe what they believe? One route that we must take is to cast doubt on the seemingly liberating claims of relativism whenever the opportunity arises. Especially the claim that meaning and truth have been replaced by individual knowledge, and the authority of the author by the textual appropriation of the reader.

We have to contend that far from being liberating, far from combating oppression or enfranchising the individual, in reality this understanding does exactly the opposite. When the meaning of the text rests with the reader or the interpretive community and the author is dismissed then the text is captured within the gravitational pull of what the reader already thinks and believes. It is appropriated in support of existing agenda. This doesn't get rid of power plays, it introduces a whole new one – that the reader is now so powerful that they do not have to listen to, respond to or relate to anyone else. A text whose meaning is only reader-determined allows no voice, no face, no debate from the Other.

When an author is allowed no say then we never allow them to reveal themselves to us. They may not challenge us, debate with us or say for our good that our decisions are wrong. We do not admit to their help or their persuasion. We do not admit to the need to really hear another person, maybe disagree even fundamentally, but still be committed to working out life together.

Essentially the dismissal of authorship leads us not to the empowerment of the individual but to extreme individualism. Deciding that truth, value and revelation may not be discussed (and then by due process are should be removed as topics that is even possible to discuss by media bias, political will and possibly legislation) leads not to justice, listening and community, but to isolation.

In pulling down foundations of knowledge to establish the age of uncertainty we have, in the process, surrounded ourselves with defensive demilitarised zones of non-communication. The point at which we refuse to listen and do not allow the Other to reveal themselves to us is the point at which we put our hands over our ears and merely tell ourselves what we already wish to hear. Everything else becomes subservient to what I wish to hear. Eventually voices that I do not wish to hear are removed and silenced