Adventures in Conversation – Good & Evil #2: The Cultural Relativist


Cultural Relativist:  Do we really need an objective standard for good and evil?  Why can’t we just define it for ourselves?

Me:  Has that ever worked?

Cultural Relativist:  What do you mean?  What’s so hard about it?

Me:  Let’s take one issue as an example.  Have you heard of Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?

Cultural Relativist:  Sure.

Me:  One of the good discussions that book encouraged was this:  Can white parents tell Asian parents that they are too controlling, and to be less demanding?  Can Asian parents tell white parents that they are too lazy as parents, and to be more directive?

Cultural Relativist:  On one level, sure:  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  So people should be able to say that.  But I see what you mean.  I’ve seen both extremes in my friends’ families.  Is there a real right and wrong?  Good and evil?  How do we know where to draw the line?

Me:  And why do we draw the line there in your camp?  Why not in my camp?  Or closer to my camp?  We don’t even agree about whether we should spank our kids.

Cultural Relativist:  And to make things more complicated, we’re taught to respect other peoples’ cultures, and that we shouldn’t judge other peoples’ cultures.

Me:  And if it’s all relative, then anyone can hide behind ‘culture.’  Men can treat women horribly and say, ‘It’s my culture.’

Cultural Relativist:  How would we know that the Christian definition of good and evil is the right one, then?  Isn’t that just one opinion against other opinions?

Me:  The big question is:  What if God had a way of revealing Himself to us personally?  Like in a human life?  As in the Jesus of history.  And especially in his resurrection?  If Jesus alone healed human nature in himself, then his vision of being human pretty much wins.

Cultural Relativist:  Don’t we have to use science here?  A resurrection is impossible.

Me:  We can use science, but not in the sense of lab science.  Have you ever served in jury duty?

Cultural Relativist:  No, why?

Me:  Because when someone is on trial, you can’t repeat the crime in a lab.  It’s unrepeatable, so you can’t use lab science.  Instead, you have an unrepeatable event.  So you have to use evidence, witnesses, forensic science, and other tools like logic, what we understand about human motivation, and so on.

Cultural Relativist:  So what does that wind up telling us?

Me:  Well, when Dr. Simon Greenleaf, one of the founders of Harvard Law School, and an expert in the use of evidence in court, looked at the New Testament, he first set out to disprove it.  But he found that the more he examined the evidence, the more it held up.  So he became a Christian.

Cultural Relativist:  No way.  One of the founders of Harvard Law School became a Christian because he looked at the evidence?

Me:  Yup.  Do you want to look at the evidence for Jesus?


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