So Many Kinds of Voices: Pluralism

Few of the current “isms” which control the world-view of so many in our day are so representative of the destructiveness and subtlety as what we are about to consider.

Its destructiveness is far reaching and critical. It is intent on undermining all values which take root from the Judeo-Christian concept of morality. Its subtlety is at the same time both cruel and calculated.

Follow the steps in the argument and notice how imperceptibl y you move from the obvious to that which becomes fatal to values.

Its Benign Appearance

The first step in the argument usually begins with what is popularly called, “Multiculturalism.” Simply stated, this means that all cultures have value and should be respected. Every culture has something unique to offer to the great family of nations. Eastern and Western cultures, primitive or technologically advanced ones, wealthy or “third world” – every culture has something from which other cultures can learn. At the very least, we need to appreciate and understand the differences. Paul’s preaching in Athens in Acts 17 would lend support to the concept that God, as the sovereign over nations, has appointed the times and boundaries of nations and cultures. If this were the extent of the argument, we would find little to challenge. But it does not stop here.

Its Bad Associate

Linked with “Multiculturalism” as an inevitable step, is pluralism. This takes the concept of all-cultures-have-value, to the next higher (lower?) level: since all cultures have value, all ideas and values among all cultures are of importance and should be tolerated. What moral right have we as westerners to look at a primitive culture and to treat with disdain its mores and its manner of living?

Toleration has become the shibboleth of our day. The only thing of which modern man is intolerant is someone else’s lack of tolerance.

We do not have to look far in the Scriptures to see the value of tolerance. No one was as tolerant of the infirmities of men as the Lord Jesus. But as we shall see, tolerance to infirmities is Scriptural; tolerance to iniquity is another issue.

Its Blunt Affirmation

Follow the argument to its next level. Since we need to appreciate the values of all cultures, then all cultures are equal. We have no right to condemn anything in another culture. Since the 21st century has found the vast majority of us living in “multicultural” societies in the West, we are instructed that we have to recognize that the values and ways of others are just as “right” as ours. Whether we are talking about religious practices, family values, life styles, or preferences, the playing field has been leveled. No one is “wrong.” Everyone is “right.”

Its Bitter Accusation

But there is another piece to the puzzle. Not content to level the playing field and reduce every cultural behavior to the same level, an attack is now made on Western culture. It is claimed that Western Culture is really inferior, having built its technology and wealth on the backs of other cultures. Its aggression, imperialism, oppression, and avarice have repressed others and advanced the West.

Of course, the inherent contradiction in this is passed over quickly. If all cultures are equal, then why does it matter that one is more advanced than another? Our aggression, imperialism, and avarice are simply expressions of our “culture” and need to be valued!

Its Bold Aim

The underlying motive quickly becomes apparent when you reflect on what has happened in the West. If the culture and values of the West can be “neutralized,” then the basis for the values, laws, morals of the West has been effectively reduced to being equal with every other moral foundation. What is the basis for Western law, morals, culture? While some may differ and feel that the gulf is now too wide to allow any association, it is still apparent that the foundation of our culture and values is the Judeo-Christian heritage which springs directly from the Word of God and its morality.

The inherent, ceaseless, raging hatred of men toward God and His standards has found a “logical” and apparently tolerant avenue to focus itself against its object. Its goal is nothing less than to nullify the Word of God and show that it must step aside and allow the Koran, the Humanist Manifesto, Pantheism, and Buddha equal place. The mystic, guru, witch doctor, visionary, or local talk-show host (high priest of modern America) all have arrived at “wisdom” and need to be heard. Whether you chant your karma or find God in nature, what difference does it make?

The Biblical Answer

Culture is the result of values and a belief system. If that system of belief has been based upon a divine revelation showing the dignity of man and the value of human life, would it not follow that it is closer to the truth than a system based upon man’s own thinking? This does not mean that Western thought is superior to any other culture. It does mean that to the degree in which Western thought is based upon divine revelation, then it is linked with “Truth” and not opinion.

In the Old Testament, Israel was instructed about dealing with other cultures. Many of them had to be destroyed because of behavior based upon wrong beliefs. Cultures sacrificing their children to idols, immersed in immorality, occupied with “pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness” (Ezek 16:49), were destroyed. Cultures which did not show kindness to the poor, compassion on the needy, love for others became objects of God’s judgment.

Care, however, needs to be exercised. We need to differentiate opinions from convictions. We can have preferences which relate to cultural habits and behaviors. If they are not based upon the Word of God, they are only preferences and not convictions. We need to be flexible in our customs but faithful in our convictions. Whether you sit on the floor eastern style to eat your meal, or seated at a table, is not a Scriptural, moral issue.

When pluralism is unmasked, it is seen to be another form of moral relativism, undermining all values and standards. While we insist on an equality of men, we also preach that there is not an equality of ideas. Some beliefs and behaviors are unscriptural and therefore wrong.

Remember, however, that we are not building a kingdom on earth. Ours is not a political agenda but a spiritual one.

The Believer’s Attitude

Perhaps the most crucial issue involved is our attitude toward those who have different values than we. Tolerance of persons without acceptance of philosophies and values is critical. To many, truth is a “subjective” issue. Any attempt to claim that we have “the truth” smacks of pride and arrogance. It is important to wed our claims to humility and patience in our dealings with others. It is not our intellect or personal attainment which has brought us into the light of God’s truth, but divine grace.