Religious folk, especially those exposed to intellectually proud colleagues or friends, are often dismissed as having religion as a crutch. A Christian writer (Greg Koukl) for whom I have the profoundest intellectual regard e-mailed me some of his short thoughts on a wide array of subjects and he touched on this crutch criticism.
He says he registers no embarrassment when anyone tells him that Jesus or Christianity is his crutch. Ponder a part of his thought.
When people ask me, “Isn’t Christ just a crutch?” I have a simple reply. I tell them, “You’re right. Christ is a crutch, but you’ve asked the wrong question.” No one faults a lame person for using a crutch. Lame people need crutches. The real question is, “Am I lame?”
The fact is, everybody leans on something. As a Christian I lean on Jesus, because He’s a crutch that can hold me. What about you? The real issue is not whether you’re leaning on a crutch. Everybody does. The real question is, “Can your crutch hold you?”
Yea, like really hold you in a crisis, amidst tragedy, through death, re life’s perplexing and enduring questions and challenges? Mr. Skeptic, Ms. Agnostic, Atheist, Free-thinker?
No one can live without resting on some philosophical, intellectual or practical support/belief system. That is your crutch! Can you live on it consistently without contemplating intellectual suicide? Can you live with it being outworked by others without contemplating homicide?
The most popular intellectual/practical crutch is relativism – the belief that since there is no such thing as “always right or always wrong” then rightness/wrongness depends on situation or circumstance.
The said Koukl whose thoughts I quoted earlier wrote a mischievously titled book along with another very insightful Christian thinker Francis Beckwith. The book is Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-air, 1998. On pages 61-69 they share 7 fatal flaws of relativism to which I’ll add some tidbits.
- Relativists can’t accuse others of wrongdoing.
If there is no objective wrong or right then moral outrage at whatever (Hitler, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein or 9/11) is no more than a personal opinion.
- Relativists can’t complain about the problem of evil re the existence of God.
Without objective evil the argument fails. Concede objective evil and objective good, as a standard, is pulled in.
As CS Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust ? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” (p.31)
- Relativists can’t defensibly place blame or accept praise.
Without absolutes, nothing is ultimately praiseworthy or blameworthy. Relativists studiously avoid blame but swallow praise without comment, but on what logical basis?
Lewis in the same book just quoted says “The truth is, we believe in decency so much…that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility…It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.” (pages 6-7)
- Relativists can’t make charges of unfairness or injustice.
Both concepts make sense only on the existence of objective standards of fairness and justice.
- Relativists can’t improve their morality.
If there is no better way, there can be no improvement or even the moral impulse to improve. Morals may change but not improve.
- Relativists can’t hold meaningful moral discussions.
Silence on moral issues would be the most consistent option for relativists. Even the minimalist statement ‘you can’t push your morality on me’ is not allowed because it qualifies as a moral rule.
- Relativists can’t even promote the obligation of tolerance.
Tolerance, properly understood, is putting up with what you disagree. But on what basis is there genuine disagreement if there are no objective standards of the right and the true?
So again, what really is your crutch because you do have one though it is not Jesus or Christianity?