Os Guinness’ Time for Truth

There’s really no such thing as a “little” Os Guinness book. Most of them are fairly short, but none of them are “little.” Guinness has achieved what most social commentators lack: the ability to communicate deep truths with brevity. Time for Truth (like Dining With the Devil and Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do About It) is no exception.

To be candid, when I realized that I was holding yet another book by yet another Christian about the issue of moral relativism I was apprehensive. I have personally reached yawn status with this theme because much Christian writing and sermonizing is beginning to sound like a stuck record and most of the old standard arguments are simply being repackaged and rehashed in new but safe formats (probably more for the benefit of Christian publishers than for the average Christian in the pew.) I approached this book with a “Here we go again!” mind set. I am glad to be proved wrong.

Guinness does indeed make many of the arguments on which writers such as Chuck Colson and the late Francis Schaeffer have spoken eloquently (yet repetitively). The notion of objective truth has been rejected by the culture at large. The arrogance of Postmodernism now reigns supreme. Yet man cannot live consistently within his own parameters, so he must live in hypocrisy. Guinness then goes on to exhort those who hold to the Biblical world view (a word he perhaps mercifully avoids) to defend an objective view of truth, founded upon a recognition of God’s presence.

What makes this book a departure from the standard conservative line, however, is Guinness’s powerful narrative examples of modern man’s despair and inconsistencies, and his challenge to Christians to get the whole argument out of its rut and to re-articulate our case with a new vigor and force.

Most striking, Guinness warns those holding to the idea of the objectivity of truth against merely repeating the old arguments against relativism. For instance, the argument that moral relativism cannot stand up to its own criteria is not sufficient in and of itself to make the case for objective truth. “Relativizing the relativizers” is only one argument and (as Guinness rightly points out) it is a necessarily negative argument.

We most go beyond this to stress the positive argument against “radical relativism.” Namely, we must argue against relativism by “pointing out the signals of transcendence.” (p.101) He explains: “Whereas ‘relativizing the relativizers’ is negative because it highlights the negative consequences of false assumption, ‘pointing out the signals of transcendence’ is positive because it point toward the positive conclusions of true aspirations, unnoticed before.” (p.101)

This is a much-needed admonition. Moral relativism, when closely examined, does reveal many such “signals of transcendence.” Time and again, the relativist must be shown that his very arguments have within them evidence of that which is outside our perceived reality. If this can be realized and utilized, the Christian hoping to communicate truth to those who doubt its existence will go much further than merely calling the relativist inconsistent.

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