Post Author: Bill Pratt
Darrell and I were talking today about people who claim that one interpretation of Scripture can be no better than another. Or, put another way, we can’t know what the correct interpretation of Scripture is, so we shouldn’t debate it. To each his own interpretation.
My sense is that people who say this in the midst of a discussion of a Bible passage feel trapped in an argument they can’t win, and this is their escape hatch. If they relativize the Scriptures, making the meaning completely subjective, they get to keep their interpretation of Scripture and deflect anyone who disagrees with them.
This is the same tactic some people use when they are in a debate about a particular immoral behavior. When they feel trapped, they say something like, “There is no objective morality any way. Everyone decides for themselves what’s right and wrong.” Again, if they relativize morality, then they no longer have to defend their position and they get out of an argument that they aren’t winning.
The real irony here is that the very people who relativize the interpretation of Scripture actually do believe that their view is objectively correct. If they didn’t, then they wouldn’t have been debating in the first place. They would have just agreed with everything their opponent said, because, after all, everyone can have their own subjective interpretation of Scripture.
It seems to me that the best thing to do when someone plays the “relativism card” is to help them see that they really don’t believe what they are saying. Remind them of some of the core beliefs that they have derived from Scripture and ask them if those beliefs are objectively true.
If they are honest, they will stand by their beliefs. If they refuse to claim that their cherished beliefs about the Bible are objectively true, it’s probably time to move on, because they are more interested in saving face than having a conversation of substance. Come back to them when they aren’t so defensive.