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This is Love: Winter Retreat

This is Love: Winter Retreat

“This is Love not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10. The ultimate expression of love is revealed in Christ coming to earth. God also gives us illustrations of love through our relationships with each other. The winter retreat was themed “This is love” and held at Camp Au Sable in Grayling. The unusually cold weekend was warmed by the fellowship of friends and the study of God’s Word. The time was spent reflecting on our relationships with others, and most importantly our relationship with God.

Pastor Ron Kelly, Berrien Springs Village senior pastor, spoke for the main session and shared from his college experience courting his wife, but more importantly how God led him to accept Christ’s invitation to love Him first and most. Pastor Leeroy Hernandez, from Grand Rapids, led the attendees in united prayer each morning. It was encouraging to see the students brave the early morning frigid air for prayer together. Pastor Israel Ramos led a Sabbath School centering around 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. The attendees were split into groups of four.  One side of the auditorium studied chapter twelve while the other studied thirteen. At the end of their discussion, they had to draw the meaning of the passage. On Sunday, Pastor Jermaine Gayle called attendees to make a decision to be baptized in the final charge.

We encouraged Adventist students to bring their friends for the weekend. We treat these weekends as evangelistic gatherings. Over twenty percent of the attendees were from friends of our Adventist students. The messages at the retreat are unashamedly Seventh-day Adventist. We believe in cross-platform evangelism. In other words, the messages encapsulate the theme from the distinctive Adventist perspective. As a result, those who attend will in many cases make decisions to join our church or seek to know more about the Bible and our faith.

One student summarized his experience this way, “I put the weekend into three words: Rest, Reflect and Restore,” Daniel Patrick, Grand Rapids. He continued to describe how he looked forward to this weekend because of how he was able to grow closer to God. Daniel was invited for the second year through the ministry of Pastor Hernandez and his wife Cori (MSU graduate). The couple has been asked by InterVarsity to train and lead Bible studies for some of its leaders.

Over twenty years have passed since the first CAMPUS Winter Retreat was held at Camp Au Sable. The needs of the students continue to change as much as the young people themselves.  Yet, God continues to use this venue to impact the lives of our young adults for eternity. We appreciate your support of this generation to be able to come apart and rest awhile at the Winter Retreat each year.

CAMPUS PROGRAM DIRECTOR AS CHAPLAIN

CAMPUS PROGRAM DIRECTOR AS CHAPLAIN

It has been a few months now, since the time I was pulled over by the officer, and each time I sit in a police car I am thankful for the opportunity to serve. Having done a few ride alongs I am learning a new culture, my eyes are being open to new needs in my community. My prayers are being answered by a God who cares for and extends grace to me as a Pastor and to those in uniform who work to keep us safe.

CLICK HERE to read the full article published in the Lake Union Herald.

RESEARCHING THE UNIVERSITY

RESEARCHING THE UNIVERSITY

INTRODUCTION: The following questions are a guide to researching your university. In reference to
campus ministry, Ellen White mentions, “Each one should study to see what is the best way to get the truth into the school” (2SM p. 234). By researching your university, you will have an informed understanding
of how to better minister to the needs of the people, inviting them to be citizens of Heaven. Remember, at the core of every human being God has placed a desire to know Him. Since these questions are generalizations, you will find many students who may not fit into your research. These questions will give you broad strokes of the cultural norms and philosophical influences that shape the minds those who work at or attend your university/college.

THE GOAL: To prayerfully discover how you can present the truth to those God has placed on your
campus.

USING THE SCHOOL NEWSPAPER
The campus publishes news about what is important to the student body and to the campus as a whole.
These publications come in the form of articles on website, emailed newsletters, printed papers, social media posts, etc. Therefore, reading these publications will give you an idea of students’ opinions and
what they think is important. Especially look at the editorial pages or comments to understand the pulse of student opinion. Also, the newspaper and websites will help you to know how and where you can advertise on campus.

 

KEY QUESTIONS (COLLEGE LIFE)

How many publications (check social media) are on campus?
How often are these communications sent
out?
Is there a Christian publication?
How many student publications are there?
How are they used? Satire? Social Justice?
How many publications does the University
use? How are they used?
What stories are covered in the
publication?

 

What do these stories tell you about the
opinion, thoughts and perspectives of the
people who are writing/reading these
stories?
What is the main form of distributing the
news? Is it printed, on websites, through
social media? (This will also let you know
how students get information/news on
campus.)
What articles are posted on their Facebook
Page? Twitter? Intagram, etc

STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS ON CAMPUS

Knowing the student organizations at your campus will give you a pulse of the students’ interests. Once you are acquainted with the student organizations on campus, you will be able to network and potentially be able to participate together in events. It is a good way to outreach and give your group a presence on campus. You can begin by going to the university/college website to see the groups that are registered. This may be helpful in deciding the kinds of events you would like to advertise/plan. For example, one group planned a ‘sober BBQ’ and invited all the sororities and fraternities surrounding their home.

KEY QUESTIONS (STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS)

How many student groups are there?
Are there Christian groups? Is there a group
where all Christian student leaders come
together?
What are the Religious groups?
What are the International groups?
What are the Health groups?
Are there Outdoor groups?
How active are the fraternities and
sororities?
How many fraternities and sororities are
there?

 

What is their influence like on the campus
community?
Which student organization fliers capture
the majority’s attention, and why?
When you walk on campus, which
organizational posters or fliers do you see
the most?
Based on the fliers, what kind of activities
are the Christian groups hosting?
This may be helpful in deciding the kinds of
events you would like to advertise/plan

STUDENT GOVERNMENT

To research the activity of student organizations on campus, look into the student government budget allocations, which is public information. The allocation will usually be found on the student government website. Researching the student government will also help you to know how to get funding from the
university.

KEY QUESTIONS (STUDENT GOVERNMENT)

What is the budget for the student
government?
How many organizations asked for funding?
How much did they ask for? How much did
they receive?
When are the budget hearings?
What is the focus of the student
government? Are they looking to see more
student organizations work together on
events and programs?

 

What is the process of asking for money for
your student organization?
What kind of leaders are involved in the
student government?

How involved are these student-
government leaders in the student body?

What kind of events does the student
government want to see on campus? (e.g.
Weekend alternatives to parties) 

UNIVERSITY 

Each university is unique and attracts a certain type(s) of students. Additionally, each university ascribes to a certain philosophy in which they educate every student. For example, if the University seeks to expose the “evils of globalizations,” the decentralization of power, and so forth, then you will hear buzz words in your classes like globalization, decentralization, and the like in your classes. One way for Adventist to connect with this philosophy is to look at the life of Christ as He always reminded the Jews that His kingdom was not of this world. Christ recognizes the “evils” that surround the centralization of power on earth was often gave a voice to those who did not have a voice; for example, consider the under-privileged woman at the well. Below are some questions you can use to help discover the underlying philosophies of the university. A lot of this information can be found on the university website, and especially on the registrar’s web page.

KEY QUESTIONS (UNIVERSITY)

What is the university’s mission statement?
What are some buzz words that you often
hear in your classes? What do other
students notice?
What are the subjects of the core classes
that students are required take? What are
the topics of these classes?
What do these topics and buzz words tell
you about the university’s philosophy?
What are the largest departments on
campus for student enrollment? (Education,
social work, engineering, medicine, etc.)
What are some of the philosophies of these
departments (can often be found on their
website)?

 

What are some of the departments
featured at the university? How do these
departments rank in the US?
What are some of the majors for
undergrad? Grad?
How strong is the universities research? In
what areas to they receive funding, i.e.
NIH?
What is the cost for enrollment? How does
it rank with other campuses in your state?
What does this research tell you about the
students that are attracted to the
university?
What are some of the focuses in your
department?

STUDENT DEMOGRAPHIC

The demographic of the university will give you a better idea of the specific needs of certain student
populations on your campus and how to cater your events to meet their interests. Think especially of
the international population on your campus.

KEY QUESTIONS (UNIVERSITY)

What is the total enrollment?
What is the undergrad enrollment? Number
of each class?
What is the graduate enrollment?
What is the international enrollment? What
are the top countries?
What is the percentage to instate and out
of state enrollment?
What is the male to female ratio?
What are the students’ study habits?
What are the students’ recreation habits?
How do students respond to different types
of information on campus? News? Fliers?
Poster Board? Chalking? Email? Surveying?

 

Will students take a flier and read it?
Do they read table tents?
What is the religious climate of the
campus? Antagonistic? Pluralistic?
Accepting? Indifferent?
How are religious groups received on
campus?
How many students live on campus? Is it a
commuter school? Are there many dorms?
(This may influence when you have Bible
studies and social activities.)

BIBLE BOOTCAMP 2020

BIBLE BOOTCAMP 2020

Our next Bible Bootcamp will be taking place on August 16 – 21, 2020 at Camp Au Sable. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Bible Bootcamp is a free event that involves practical training sessions designed for student leaders who are dedicated to doing ministry on public university campuses. These training sessions emphasize what it means to experience the Word of God, and what it means to utilize the Word of God in leading others closer to Christ.

2020 Bible Bootcamp Registration

HOW DO I STAY FAITHFUL ON A SECULAR CAMPUS?

HOW DO I STAY FAITHFUL ON A SECULAR CAMPUS?

For a young person, college is such a huge transition time in life. They pack up their bags and move to a college campus, making new friends and becoming independent from their family. For a lot of Christian students, they are leaving their churches, their youth groups, and the influences of their parents. College campuses are a whole new world to many, and it is easy to get swept away into the culture that surrounds every student. The pressures of classmates are high and are at times hard to resist, causing many students to add their faith to the list of farewells as they leave their hometowns. For a young person, college is such a huge transition time in life. They pack up their bags and move to a college campus, making new friends and becoming independent from their family. For a lot of Christian students, they are leaving their churches, their youth groups, and the influences of their parents. College campuses are a whole new world to many, and it is easy to get swept away into the culture that surrounds every student. The pressures of classmates are high and are at times hard to resist, causing many students to add their faith to the list of farewells as they leave their hometowns.

It can be quite daunting as a young person to have to defend your faith against so many different beliefs, and it feels overwhelming to think that there are no fellow believers in the sea of diversity. It is hard to hold strong beliefs that differ from peers, and even harder to be mocked or ridiculed for them. Jesus knew how we feel, and so do His disciples. They were mocked, beaten, imprisoned for their faith. However, they brought so many people to God because they were willing to serve Him no matter the cost. If the disciples were able to stay Christian during all the suffering they went through, is it possible to remain faithful on a college campus?

1. Daily Prayer and Devotions

Being mindful of the challenges that present themselves, there are things we can do as young people to stay active in our faith. The first and foremost of these is daily prayer and devotion time. The way we communicate with God is by praying to Him and reading His Word. As we build an authentic relationship with our Creator, He helps us with everything we are going through. Psalm 46 says God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. The reality is that there will be difficult times, but God promises to be our refuge. We can take shelter in Him and His word. He has so much help for us in the Bible, and we can face the world when we have God’s word written on our hearts. No matter what we are going through, God is there for us, and wants to help us!

2. Guarding The Avenues, 

Another way to stay Christian in college is to guard ourselves. Amidst all the temptations, distractions, and influences, it is easy to slip into habits that aren’t holy, but we need to be careful about what we let into our minds and our hearts. As a principle, by beholding we become changed. If we examine the Bible every day and learn more about our Creator, God will change our hearts, and we will grow closer and closer to Him. However, if we watch, listen, or even partake in things that aren’t pure or holy, those things will change us and cause us to drift away from God. Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” God tells us to spend our time beholding pure, good, and true things, not the opposite, and the best way to stay faithful is by being committed in the small day to day decisions on how to spend our time. So when you catch yourself doing things that take you away from God, turn away and pray, ask God to help you change those habits.

3. Surround Yourself With Godly Christian Friends,

Along the same lines as the last way, surrounding yourself with people who will bring you closer to God and not away from Him is very important. As humans, we need community and friends to strive, and as Christians, we need fellow believers to help us along on our walk. By joining a Christian student group and becoming part of a church family, we can form bonds with people that will help us withstand the forces of the evil one. There is something extraordinary about being able to worship and praise God with your closest friends, and when you become friends with fellow Christians, you can uplift each other, pray for each other, and understand each other better than you will be able to with your other friends. By joining a church family, you will find amazing mentors and people who will become like family. They will be there to help you and encourage you as you are navigating your college years, give you advice, and care for you when you need it. Having friends and church members by our side lets us know that we aren’t alone with what we are going through as a college student, and gives us hope for our futures in Christ.

4. Share The Word With Others,

Although taking classes and studying will already keep us very busy, getting involved in service is another way that will help us stay faithful. Jesus’ mission here on earth was to seek and save the lost, and on public universities, there are many lost people. When we get involved in serving God, not only do we bring ourselves true joy, but we can show other people about the love of God that what we have found in Christ. When you serve God, it creates a love for God and His people in your heart, and there is nothing more rewarding than when someone you have been witnessing to gives their lives to Christ. Serving God makes us want to know Him more, especially when we witness the amazing things He does for people. It grows our faith in Him when we are working for Him because it isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it. So get involved with a Christian student group, with your church’s community outreaches, and personally reach out to the people around you.

5. Make God a Priority,

Lastly, but most importantly, we must keep God as the priority in our lives. We do need to focus on school and our degrees, but God has us in His hands. We can bring glory to Him with our studies and by doing well in school, but we need to put Him first. Before our exams, before our friends, before even our family. Because we have God, we don’t need to worry about these things, and when we put God first in our lives, He will honor and bless us. Mathew 6:33 tells us to “ seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all things will be given to you as well.” When we decide to choose God over all other things, He provides for us, and in college, there will be times when you have to trust God to help you in trying situations. When your professor wants you to do something against your beliefs, or when your study group wants to meet during the time you go to church. When you are overwhelmed by papers and assignments, and you want to skip church and personal time in the Bible to finish everything you need to do. These situations are tough, but when you seek God first and stand up for Him, He provides everything you need. Put Him first in your life, keep Him at the center of all that you do, and your faith will grow as you see all He does for you!

In conclusion, it is a challenge to stay faithful to God on a public university, but through God it is possible. So as you face the challenges set before you, claim God’s promises He has for us in His word, talk to Him about everything going on in your life. Fill every second of your day with things that bring you closer to God, and make your circle of friends people who will encourage your faith and not deter it. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people,” (Colossians 3:23) and fill your life with loving other people and God. You may feel alone on your campus at times, but know that many other people have felt the same way, and God will provide for you as you serve Him during your college years.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1,2

Here the Scriptures inspires us as Christ followers to run the race and endure the trials, looking to Jesus. He endured all for us so we could be with our Father, and He will help us face the trials and challenges presented before us at college. So please don’t lose hope and stay faithful on your campus, because it is all so worth it!

 

 Written by: Miranda Lentz

CAMPUS Missionary 2017-2018

 

RELATIVISM: A SOLUTION TO GLOBAL INJUSTICE?

RELATIVISM: A SOLUTION TO GLOBAL INJUSTICE?

It is hard to think that the Cambodian genocide happened in the last half-century. It is even harder to think that the Rwandan genocide happened less than two decades ago. It is hard to fathom this because, despite all the technological and intellectual advances made, mass acts of injustice against humans are still occurring.

This is why discussions about morality and justice are relevant now more than ever. With the European Renaissance period began a surge of human interconnectivity, moving from improvements in marine technology to machines that can now traverse the globe in less than three days. Couple that with the desire to explore and the vastly less virtuous desire to conquer and exploit others and we have a global network that falls far from a pleasant intercultural get-together.

So not only have human beings not reached some enlightened moral plane through centuries of intellectual pursuits, but they have also become more interconnected giving rise to more opportunities for cultural and ideological clashes. If there were ever a time for a discussion on morality and culture, that time would be now. And it is.

In the wake of numerous wars, the world is left with the conundrum ‘What is ethical?’ Situations vary and the ethics of people in those situations vary as well. This has caused the development of two sides; one maintaining that there is no absolute truth or right and each person’s morals and beliefs must be respected, the other that there is a moral truth, one that should be respected and upheld. The first view emerged from a desire to treat other cultural and moral views respectfully as a counterweight to the often racist and Eurocentric views of the 20thcentury. Unfortunately, this has morphed into an ‘anything goes’ ideology, which is at odds to serving justice.

This paper maintains that moral relativity is an enemy of justice and cannot serve as a template with which to build a moral structure to govern inter-human relations, regardless of the scale on which justice is sought.

The definition of relativism can be hard to pin down, and in philosophy can have varying meanings. For the purpose of this paper, the most relevant definition is the metaethical one. Metaethical Moral Relativism purports that morality is not absolute or universal, but rather is relative to the culture within which it is being practiced. While modern moral relativism is due largely to ideologies arising in the 20thcentury, relativism goes back to ancient Greek thought. In ancient Greek philosophy, it was acknowledged that there were a diversity of moralities, but instead of thinking that there were many truths, they believed that none of the diverse moral positions were true in and of themselves. This is considered a position of moral skepticism. This rolled over into Western philosophy and continued until the 20thcentury when intellectuals moved from simply skepticism to taking positions on moral relativity.  

The concept of cultural relativism came from Anthropology in the early 1900s. A professor at Colombia University, Franz Boaz, challenged the then prevalent concept that Western society was superior to the cultures it studied. Boaz argued that the criteria used by the Western world to determine ‘civilization’ might not be the only ones there are and that Western ideas of civilization are affected by Western society’s own emotional, subjective bias. Two of his students, Ruth Benedict and Melville Herskovitz, continued these ideas, and the modern description of metaethical moral relativity that we know is a formulation of Herskovitz’s. In the context of observing, evaluating and documenting cultures that are different from one’s own, he maintains that judgments made are relative to the culture from which the judgment is made. Considering that at the time, ‘civilization’ was measured by very Eurocentric

standards, Herskovitz’s ideology assigned value to cultures that were vastly different from Western cultures. Thus it encouraged viewing members of other cultures and ethnicities (non-Western ones) as equal.

Thus, initially in the world of Anthropology, morality was inextricably tied to tolerance. Considered as a prescriptive instead of descriptive theory, the knowledge that there were different moralities in different cultures motivated relativists to espouse tolerance for the different moral constructs. Because of this, moral relativists are often rebuffed with the idea that critiquing someone’s lack of tolerance is an intolerant act in and of itself. Renteln maintains that contrary to popular belief, tolerance is not a foundation of moral relativism and that the relativist can indeed offer moral critique. Holding a relativist view means that one recognizes that different cultural and moral systems exist. To believe in relativism, one need not be tolerant, nor objective (i.e. be unbiased about which moral system is best).

Objectivity rather comes from an Anthropological desire to be scientific when conducting ethnographies. The more objective a report, the more scientific it is, thus in expressing their research, anthropologists desire to be as objective as possible. Because of relativism’s close ties to Anthropology, objectivism has been touted as a feature of relativism. Renteln’s position is that while objectivism is a useful partner to relativism for the anthropologist, it is not an indispensable feature of relativism. Not only that but when relativists claim that tolerance and objectivity are foundational to subscribing to relativism, they change relativism from a descriptive theory to a prescriptive theory.

Relativism as an ideology, however, is based on enculturation. Enculturation refers to unconsciously learning the standards of one’s culture. Enculturation leads to firm moral judgments, because one’s moral standards are not seen a merely cultural, but rather as objective principles. Because one has unconsciously acquired certain moral principles, such principles are seen as unspoken truths, rather than culturally relative. Once the impact of enculturation on moral judgments is recognized however, that knowledge becomes a motivating factor for persons to view moralities from other cultures as just as valid as their own. This is different from simply encouraging tolerance, as considering enculturation necessitates critical engagement with one’s own morals and the morals of the society they are considering.

This equal validity does not mean that relativists cannot decry certain actions. Moral challenges can be made in three ways, according to Renteln: (i) when the act is contrary to the moral standards of that country or group, (ii)when the act is contrary to not only an internal societal standard, but also a universal standard and (iii)when the act is in accordance with the local societal standard, but different from the standards of the moral critic. This is based on the relativistic concept that morality is local, and can at times be universal (i.e. where similar principles are held across global societies). While this may seem like self-contradiction (‘relativists don’t believe in absolutes’), universality is distinguishable from absolutism.

Universality refers to principles across cultures that are the same or similar. Universal values are not objective, but relative to societies in a particular period. She contrasts this with absolutes, for instance, the concept of natural law, which contains objective principles that stem from nature. Absolutes are timeless, so morality does not change with time. She argues that universality offers a better model because it is better able to serve the members of whichever societies it applies to at that time. This goes against the concept that values should remain unchanged. This is also a rebuttal to absolutist arguments about morality derived from universality. Some absolutists argue that morality derived from a consensus of societies, or from universalism might contribute moral principles that are inhumane. Renteln argues that since universalism is not mutually exclusive with change, if cross-culture universals are discovered that are inhumane, then there is always the opportunity to change these moral concepts. Absolutes, on the other hand, cannot accommodate newly emergent societal needs.

While she does not hold those universal ideals exist for a fact, she acknowledges that they are a possibility, and highly probable ones at that. Her argument for universality is also helped by the concept that morality across different cultures is more similar than people tend to think. Morality may have different expressions, but the principles behind the judgments are very similar.

Surprisingly, that is a view that is common to both absolutists and relativists. C.S. Lewis in the appendix of The Abolition of Man compiled ways in which various cultures have similar ethical beliefs. While many of the cultures are European, there are non-European cultures that display similarity with the non-European ones. While it may be nearly impossible to compare all cultures, both relativists and absolutists agree that certain values are cross-cultural, such as an abhorrence of murder and stealing, and valuing justice and respect. But that may be as similar as their ideas get.

In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis challenges the reader with the dilemma of morality. We all have the desire for a moral standard, he proposes, and live by both spoken and unspoken rules of morality. At the same time, however, none of us is able to live up to the standards we all seek to live by. He uses this as an argument to support man’s need of morality. Relativism does involve morality but in a different way. Relativity dismisses the idea that there is one correct morality, hence removing the authority of a God-figure and the need for an authoritative God-figure to regulate morality. On the other hand, Lewis uses the argument about our inherent desire for morality as an argument for God.

Often in discussions of morality, this question of deity comes up. This is because many, if not all, religious systems purport values to guide the lives of its adherents. A supreme being is seen as having a role in the creation of amorality. Thus one could say that in the discussion of morality, absolute, divine and timeless principles are often pitted against universal, time-bound, human-determined principles. Renteln’s argues that time-bound morality is better able to meet the needs of the society which it governs. While this may be true, it then means that no meaningful moral assessments can be made of societies that are not in the same time-periods as the one attempting to make the moral judgment. That is, events that occurred in non-contemporary time periods must be judged on a completely different moral basis. Not only that, but it negates the heart of morality as espoused by Lewis.

He argues that our desire and basis for morality come from a source outside of ourselves. Humanity does not settle for laws that can be easily satisfied, instead, it chooses laws that are hard to keep, and that is often broken. An argument can also be made along these lines about our desire for justice. If we simply wanted to experience justice, and morality could truly belong to time, then we could adjust our concepts and ideas of justice to something far more attainable, but we do not. In that sense, Renteln’s argument about the relationship between enculturation and morality begins to break down. While some beliefs that are a part of certain societal moral constructs are due to enculturation (such as the use of one’s right hand for eating and one’s left hand for use after urination and defecation in some African cultures at one point in time), there are others that relativists would consider universal, such as the injustice of rape.

Certain moral ideals are more negotiable than others, which points to a possible demarcation between what can be considered as moral and amoral. There are certain actions that are looked upon more disdainfully than others. Whether this is conceptualized on a scale or as a binary, there is a difference between the severity of what are considered crimes in different cultures. I would like to argue that this points to a difference between moral principles and their practical manifestation. Principles are timeless, whereas the manifestation of these principles is specific to the time and place in which they are being practiced. Often rules of morality exist that are mere off-shoots of rules made to ensure compliance with certain moral principles.

That still leaves the question of who gets to decide what is moral and what is immoral. Renteln’s relativistic argument maintains that morality should be left to respective cultures, and can still be subject to critique from members of other cultures and/or societies. In the typical relativistic model, tolerance is an important part of the construction of morality, which is a pitfall for relativists who cling to the importance of tolerance. Espousing a sweeping concept of tolerance makes it hard to critique what relativists see as wrong, and is inherently contradictory when they reprove others for intolerance. While they can accuse others of wrongdoing, there is no objective basis against which to lean for validation of their accusations.

Renteln maintains that the basis for justice would come from the morality of a culture or society, an international body, or member or group from another culture or society. Absolutists often argue that there is no basis for the enforcement of such morality since it does not pack the weight of being universally agreed upon, but as Renteln argues, there are ways of ensuring one’s moral codes are respected and followed. In the case of international justice, we see that happen with embargoes on countries that refuse to comply with the moral standards of more powerful countries.

This is only an example of how influential power is in all of this. On a very basic level, cultural norms are highly affected by power (Sikka 2012). Often times, many aspects of culture are determined by those who are most powerful within that culture or society. It then follows that the morality of that culture or society would be heavily influenced by those in power if morality was solely left to human devising. In that sense, justice would not be served because it would lean on the side of those in power. On a larger scale, in the global dispensation on justice, the only people to have a say in morality, and to actually achieve some outcome from justice processes would be the ones that actually had the power to ensure that their moral views were respected and upheld.

In some cases, this works, but because humans are imperfect, this often goes horribly awry. On a local scale, it means curtailed justice for those, not in power, who are often the poor, marginalized and oppressed, the ones that need justice the most. On a global scale, it means the withholding of justice from weaker countries and societies, often oppressing them more than they are already being oppressed. The concept behind learning about enculturation as a combative ideology to the maltreatment of other societies and cultures is that knowledge will make a difference. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.

As was mentioned in the introduction, in the last decade there have been crimes stemming from cherished ethnocentric ideals. One such horror was the Rwandan genocide. It was only possible through the separation of the people into Hutus and Tutsis; an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. Once that was done, ethnocentric ideals were promoted, in that one group was better than the other, so much so that the Tutsis were branded as ‘cockroaches’ fit and worthy to be destroyed. It is clear that intellectual advancements do not necessarily map onto moral improvement.

At the same time, a form of tolerance is still very relevant and necessary in our interactions within the global community. In a world with a myriad of cultures, the ability to appreciate amoral cultural beliefs that are not your own is indispensable to peaceable inter-cultural relationships. But without absolute morality, there is nothing of which to be tolerant.

From a Biblical absolutist worldview, morality hinges upon the reality that there is a God that prescribes amorality. In both relativistic and absolutist concepts of morality, some power has to be depended upon as the arbiter of justice and morality. With moral relativity, it either depends on who is the most ‘tolerant’ or whoever wields the most power or influence. With Biblical absolutism, it is dependent on a God that makes timeless moral prescriptions. The very nature of the concept of God as all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present gives the concept of divine morality credence. Unfortunately, relativistic morality is presided over by imperfect human beings. And while divine morality is often dispensed by human means, which often materializes in less than perfect ways, that does not preclude the validity of divine morality.

Relativism offers a solution to a myriad of moralities. Historically, the analysis of other cultures and societies has been rife with Ethnocentrism and biased value judgments, and in an effort to alleviate this, the theory of cultural relativism was formulated. As it evolved, anthropologists drafted ideals of tolerance and objectivity to make less prejudiced assessments, but those began to be touted as foundational to the theory of relativity. More foundational to relativity, however, is considering enculturation. Enculturation is immensely helpful to the relativist by helping them critically engage with their own morality and the morality of others. On the downside, relativism does not grapple with the issue of who ultimately determines what morality looks like. Even when left to a local formulation of morality, power plays a huge role in the concept of morality that emerges as triumphant. In a theistic absolutist construct of morality, a divine being prescribes morality. This concept goes hand in hand with C.S. Lewis’ observation that human beings believe in and live by moral principles that they cannot live up to, yet doggedly believe in. In both constructs, power plays a role, the difference is that one power is local and familiar, and the other is strange and supernatural.

 

Bibliography

Beckwith, Francis J., and Gregory Koukl. Relativism. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.

Dundes Renteln, Alison. “Relativism and the Search for Human Rights.” American Anthropologist 90 (1988): 56-72

Lewis, Clive S. Mere Christianity. San Fransisco: Harper Collins, 2001.

Lewis, Clive S. The Abolition of Man. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001

Sikka, Sonia. “Moral Relativism and the Concept of Culture.” Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 59 (2012): 50-69

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “Moral Relativism.” Last substantive revision April 20, 2015. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-relativism/