One of the hardest things that my generation of pastors will be facing is the double-mindedness of our culture. With the rampant relativism, people tend to look at truth as mere putty in our hands that we can shape and mold as we see fit with no real permanent form of its own. I don't mean this to be antagonistic, but in today's society, critical thinking is becoming a lost art. There has been a lot of discussion over the years on George Orwell's book, 1984, and how much it seems to be a prophetic book that is coming more true with every day. One concept in there I see running rampant in today's relativism is the idea of "doublethink."
If you've never read 1984 before, doublethink is defined as the acceptance of two mutually contradicting beliefs as correct. An amusing example of this would be the Dufflepuds in C.S. Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader. When their leader says something they are quick to agree with him and say how smart he is, but when Lucy disagrees with him they are quick to also agree with her and say how wise she is. Truth is nothing but what is "right" at the moment. In our culture, we can even further to say truth is whatever "feels right" at the moment.
If you do not know anything about relativism, it is the current standard of today by which banners of "toleration" and "coexistence" are flown. Their motto is, "What you believe is right for you and what I believe is right for me." That is, unless you believe in an absolute truth. Then you're just wrong. The problem with flying the banner of relativism is by stating, "There is no absolute truth," you are stating an absolute truth. A bit contradictory, don't you think?
So why is relativism so appealing? Relativism frees us from the obligations and social responsibilities of our beliefs. It allows us to say, "I would never do it, but it's okay for them," or "I don't need to defend my beliefs because what I believe is right for me and what you believe is right for you." What fascinates me is the fact that relativism itself parallels in a society with the obsession of evidence and proof. How often have you heard the phrase, "I don't believe in God because there is no evidence for Him." Yet, with relativism there is no debate and no argument. No evidence is necessary and I don't need to reevaluate my beliefs and opinions based off of external evidence or arguments because they are mine and so they are right for me.
Furthermore, champions of relativism would have no way of condemning hate groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, or the KKK, or Skinheads, or Nazis. After all, "What they believe is right for them." To condemn them is to say there is some moral ground on which we stand, some standard outside of ourselves by which we judge, and some absolute truth to which humanity is held accountable. Yet argument and reason is not going to get through to the relative generation. What will get through to them, and what our challenge is as pastors of the relative generation, is to share with them personal experience. After all, that's what relativism is all about.
We need to some way share with this generation the personal, loving God. We need to expose them to the Father in heaven, who knows the number of hairs on their head, who loves them despite everything they have done, and who welcomes them with opened arms. However, our job does not just end there. Jesus's parables about lost sheep, lost coins, and a prodigal son does not end with the account of finding the lost, but with bringing the lost back into the fold. The church has a great, long history that is rich and plentiful, full of fellowship and liturgy. It is our connection to the Church through space and time that makes us part of the church. Personal experience is the lead to bring back the lost, but it isn't until we connect them to the communion of saints that the task is complete. This is how we win back the relative generation, and this is our task as pastors of this age.