This is my 3rd installation of my internal discussion of absolute truth and relativism. See part 1 here.

I was listening to NPR the other day. There was a story that they were discussing about the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and how the attack affected the structure and function of the Pentagon. They commentators were discussing the various safety features that have been added to the Pentagon in preparation for other such incidents.

One of these safety features was to install the FIRE EXIT signs near the floor. The reason is obvious. When there is a fire both heat and smoke rise. The problem is that the FIRE EXIT signs were obscured. No one could see them because of the fire and smoke! No one knew where the exits were!

Now how does this relate to truth, absolutes and relativism you ask?  In part 1, I ended with many questions of how absolute truth and relativism are balanced?  These are some questions that pop into my head.   How does the tension between absolute truth and relativism be held in a manner of Love?  Has relativism (the believing of whatever is right to you is your truth) surpassed any absolute truth in this postmodern, do as you want age?  I know I need to learn to listen and dialogue and discuss, yet aren’t there things and ways that are just wrong?

This is what I have thought of so far in light of the Pentagon fire story…

1.  Life is not clear.  I live more in midst of fire and smoke than in peace and clarity.  This makes me realize one thing.  I need to approach the living of life much akin to a desperate man struggling to find an exit in a smoke filled room.  This makes me fall on my knees, struggling for my next breath, grappling with the questions and circumstances the best way I know how. Struggling not for answers, but for LIFE.

2. I relate any ‘answers’ or ‘exits’ as only they relate to life.  In my state of constant desperation and unsurety I am in desperate need for life.  Answers or exits only exist to propel me to life.

3. My exit or answer, does not preclude that there are not other exits or answers out there.  It just means that this exit is the one I have found and hope to alert all others too.  Using our present analogy, imagine if in the midst of a burning building I would proclaim that all the people in the building must exit through the exit I had found.  That would be audacious to the say the least and likely disastrous to those that would heed my direction.  The reality of many exits does not mean that I would not be yelling ‘FIRE’ and urging all I know to leave.  The method of escape is relative to each’s position, but the reality of the fire is absolute.

4. There are paths which I go down that are not exits, but dead ends.  Dead ends that led to death, isolation and away from life.  It would be irresponsible of me not to declare those paths of death as being death.  For example, war is not better than peace, hate is not better than love.  There are better ways.  How I communicate these things is as important or maybe more important than what I am communicating.

5. True love is not abandoning people when they chose dead end exits.  Knowing that whatever path you choose I will always be calling your name.  I will wait for you, even though it may cost me my very life.  This may even require me to come after you.  Requiring me to walk into dark, dead end spaces myself to bring LIFE.

6.  I can never, ever, ever forget that I exist in this smoke filled room.  It is hard to breath, never mind live.  Every moment is a struggle for survival.  This means I will falter and fail and I will stumble down dead end corridors.  When this happens, the last thing I need is for my friends to be yelling down the hall “I told you so”.  Life is critical enough, let’s not add to it’s chorus.

7. Much of theology is based on the non-reality that we can see clearly.  Theology says that the exits and answers are clearly seen, marked and locatable.  Problem is that just like the fire exit signs in the Pentagon, theology speaks too high, over people’s heads and not into the reality of where people are.  Which is on their knees, struggling to find breath in this confusing and difficult world. This is where I feel we have a need for a Prophetic Theology. (this post is way too long already and I will tackle this some later time)

I apologize if I have taken this analogy to it’s utter limits.  Pictures speak loudly for me.  Please add any other thoughts or pictures that you have seen that help describe the tension between absolutism and relativism.  This is a continuing journey and I believe a very important discussion in our current age.

Struggling for breath, on my knees, together…

“I simply argue that the cross be raised again, a the center of the market place as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles: but on a cross between two thieves; on a town garbage heap; at a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek, and at this kind of place where cynics talk smart, and thieves curse and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died, and that is what He died about and that is where Christ’s men out to be and what church people ought to be about.”

George McLeod