Absolute relativist… relative absolutist?

Thanks to Bob Hyatt for bringing this up. Len Sweet in Relevant Magazine… raises an important issue.

“I am both an absolutist and a relativist,” he [Len Sweet] says. “You can’t escape absolutism. To say there are no absolutes is in itself absolute. The Pharisees were the absolutists. Pilate [was] the relativist, asking ‘What is truth?’ I find both of them within me. But both the Pharisees and Pilate stared truth in the face and didn’t see or hear it.”

The tricky part with truth, he says, is how it resonates with people.

“I believe in absolute truth, but the New Testament presents a new understanding of absolute,” Sweet answers. “Fundamentally, truth is relational. Absolute truth is Jesus, God’s perfect pitch—His tuning fork to the eternal. Every tuning fork needs to be struck to be heard. The striking of the eternal, unchanging tuning fork took place on Good Friday with the pounding of six-inch nails.

“This is the real reason I fear that Emergent may be losing its way,” Sweet continues. “It isn’t striking that tuning fork nearly enough. Jesus said, ‘If I be lifted up, I will draw all people to God.’ We sit at drawing boards, trying to design all sorts of blueprints and experiences to draw people to church and to God, while Jesus Himself is the draw. It’s all about truth, which means it’s all about Jesus.”

Here’s my thought. The best thing that Sweet says is that “truth is relational.” It is embodied. Going back to my previous post… we can ask questions upon question… giving critiques upon critiques. But the final question, the living question, is “What am I going to do with this?” If truth is embodied, if its relational, is not living in the way of Jesus and affirming that, indeed proclaiming Jesus? I’m not about to say one theology is better than the other, one view on the atonement is better than the other. What I do hope for is a living consistency.

It seems too easy to say one group has got it and another is missing it. I know many Emergents, though, who would affirm this living consistently in the way of Jesus. Jesus is not all of God is he? Or maybe he IS all of God… but yet there is more… It seems to me that in the active life of the Spirit in us and through us, we become Jesus physical ministry on this earth. I raise my eyebrows at the ideas, the theologies, the questions… that are not embodied. If Jesus is the truth, is speaking about him enough? Is he only “lifted up” by name or used as a draw by mouth? Or is he embodied… relationally? This, I see Emergents doing. Too often, our words turn people away… not always because of what we have done as individuals, but often because of those who have come before us. So maybe we don’t speak as much. Maybe we just live it… radically… transformationally.

One thought on “Absolute relativist… relative absolutist?

  1. Good call. It does seem to be a balance between relational and propositional. And then there’s the a-hole factor which pretty much leaves the rest as a waste…actions and all.



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