Skip to content ↓
Book Reviews Collection cover image

It was the late, great Francis Shaeffer who spoke of a group of people “who have both feet firmly planted in mid-air.” This phrase brilliantly describes people in our society who adhere, as much as anyone can adhere to such a system, to moral relativism. For one can only be planted so firmly on a system that has no foundation. Relativism, written by Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith, critiques moral relativism and explores the myriad inconsistencies inherent in this position.

The authors launch a five-pronged attack on relativism. In the first part they help the reader understand relativism and see the three different types: “society says,” “society does” and “I say” relativism. In the second part they critique relativism, exposing seven of its most fatal flaws before turning in the third part to an exposure of the impact of relativism on education. In the fourth part they examine relativism in public policy, and specifically its application to homosexual marriage, abortion and euthenasia – three of the pressing issues of our time. The final part provides some tools to refute relativism.

The final part was the one I found most helpful. Having explained the background and dangers of relativism, the authors suggest some tactics that are helpful in arguing against relativism. First, they suggest showing the contradictions inherent in relativism, for in practice, this position is self-refuting. One effective tactic, then, is to show people that many of their positions depend on some type of absolute stance. They suggest the best way of dealing with the charge of “don’t force your morality on me,” is to simply ask “why not?” What gives him the right to impose his morality on you when you are not able to do the same to him? Second, they suggest pressing the person’s hot button. Find that person’s pet issue and relativize it to undermine his position. Third, force the tolerance issue. Force the person to examine why he cannot tolerate what he perceives as your intolerance. And fourth, have a ready defense. Know the issues and know the best ways to defend your position while casting doubts on the relativist’s position.

While a book on this topic could easily become deeply philosophical and difficult to understand, Beckwith and Koukl do a good job of making it accessible. There are a few parts I had to read a few times to thoroughly understand them, but on the whole they write in such a way that they make their points clear without requiring extensive background in philosophy. Several points could have received more attention, but I understand the need to keep the book short enough to be attractive to a wide array of readers. In fact, my only real complaint with the book would be their use of the tiresome cliche of Adolf Hitler representing all that is evil in humans and Mother Teresa representing all that is good. The authors might plead that they use Mother Teresa only because people immediately understand what she represents, but I think it is time we stop using such a poor example of all that is virtuous. Koukl and Beckwith know better.

Relativism is a solid introduction to a topic with which we are all far too familiar simply because it pervades our society. Yet few positions do more to undermine the truth, the “true truth,” of Scripture. It is critical that we have a ready defense of the absolutes that underly the truth of Christianity. This is not the type of book that is likely to change the minds of those who are already firmly-entrenched in their position, but neither is that the book’s primary purpose. This book is a helpful tool to equip Christians in that which we know to be true.

Solid and biblical throughout.
As good as we could hope for with such a tough topic.
A modern take in the tradition of C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer.
We need to be equipped to deal with this issue.
A commonsense approach to understanding and dealing with relativism.
More About Ratings & Reviews

  • The Least of My Childrens Accomplishments

    The Least of My Children’s Accomplishments

    I know what it is to be a father and to take pride in the achievements of my children. I had not been a father for long when I learned that the least of my children’s accomplishments by far outshines the greatest of my own. Their smallest victory generates more delight than my largest and…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 5)

    A La Carte: 3 waves that have shaped evangelical churches (and a 4th on the way) / When is a couple considered married? / A Christian’s practical guide to reproductive technology / Don’t be half a Berean / Wisdom is work / This body is only the seed / Book and Kindle deals / and…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 4)

    A La Carte: The blame game / Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be / A kind invitation and lifelong friendship / Steered into error by those closest to you / Satan as “prince of the air” / Under the eaves / General market books / and more.

  • Bring Your Skills to the Missions World

    This week the blog is sponsored by TWR, also known as Trans World Radio, and is called to reach the world for Christ by mass media so that lasting fruit is produced. Pete and Debbie Lee were living the American dream. The parents of two children, the Lees lived in Greensboro, North Carolina, and were…

  • How can you mumble

    How Can You Mumble?

    Some of my most meaningful moments of public worship have been in settings where I did not speak the language. I have stood with a congregation in rural Zambia as they’ve clapped and moved and praised the Lord in Bemba, a language that is utterly unknown to me. I’ve sat with a congregation in the…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 3)

    A La Carte: Life doesn’t always turn out like we thought it would / Hope for fallen Christians / AI as theological babel fish / Teenagers and parental hypocrisy / Is there a preferred Bible translation Christians should use? / Logos and Kindle deals / and more.