Ninety-Nine Shades of Grey

A clear description of the culture we now live in would go something like this: a hatred of absolutes, a dismissal of universals, an abhorrence of truth, and a disdain of certainty. Instead, we find an all-encompassing embrace of relativism, subjectivism, and scepticism. Modern culture has eschewed black and white in favour of 99 shades of grey.

This explains why there is so much hostility and animus directed to those who have not bought into this postmodern delusion, and believe truth and absolutes do in fact exist, and can be boldly proclaimed and championed. A relativistic culture just can’t stand that sort of boldness, certainty, and confidence.

So even though so many will champion relativism in all its forms, they nonetheless act as if their own relativism is an absolute. They are absolutely sure there are no absolutes, and will argue their case till they are blue in the face. They brashly insist that they are right about insisting that we can never be right about anything.

Peter Kreeft has written about this mixed-up mindset: ?“The simplest refutation of the tolerance argument is its very premise. It assumes that tolerance is really, objectively, universally, absolutely good. If the relativist replied that he is not presupposing the objective value of tolerance, then all he is doing is demanding the imposition of his subjective personal preference for tolerance. That is surely more intolerant than the appeal to an objective, universal, impersonal, moral law. If no moral values are absolute, neither is tolerance. The absolutist can take tolerance far more seriously than the relativist. It is absolutism, not relativism, that fosters tolerance.”

Indeed, as I keep on documenting here, the people I find to be the most intolerant are the ones who go on and on about how vital it is that we all be tolerant. They despise any idea that there might be universal rights and wrongs, and absolute truth. They hate our strong stance on any issue.

I often get critics saying I need to lighten up and stop seeing everything in terms of black and white. They make it clear they are just so upset with me for spurning their world of greys. They insist I must make room for “nuance”.  They want me to be just like them, and float around in a fetid pool of mental and moral relativism.

And I am not just speaking of the usual candidates here: the secular humanists and their fellow travellers. I am referring to all the limp-wristed Christians who long ago have abandoned truth, certainty and absolutes for the latest trendy PoMo pap.

They inform me that if I would just be more nuanced and tolerant I would not be getting all the flak that I do. They want me to just be nice and not offend anyone. They want me to never rock the boat. But I have news for these religious wimps: it ain’t gonna happen. If they don’t like what I am doing, they can just go elsewhere and throw their little hissy fits.

And they had better stop pretending they are in any way biblical Christians. They seem to be clueless as to the fact that the Bible is chock block full of strong absolutes, withering universals, and stark black and whites. It knows nothing of this namby-pamby, ‘I don’t want to offend anybody’ baloney.

Try a few of these out for size, all from someone who should know something about truth and its importance – Jesus:

“He who is not with me is against me.” Luke 11:23

“You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matt 6:24

“You belong to your father, the devil.” John 8:44

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matt 10:34

“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Mark 7:8

“For judgment I have come into this world so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” John 9:39

“You will indeed die in your sins.” John 8:24

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matt 22:14

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Matt 23:33

“You hypocrites.” Luke 13:15

“He rebuked Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’” Mark 8:33

Gee, those statements sure do not sound very nuanced. They seem all very black and white to me. No middle ground there. No nuance. No 99 shades of grey. No beating around the bush. No wimpy platitudes and jellyfish sentiments there. Just very strong, powerful and forceful absolutes. But our weak-kneed moral and epistemological relativists just can’t handle this. It is all too much for them.

Well, tough beans – how’s that for another black and whiter, without “nuance”. I really don’t give a rip what the wimps for Jesus care about. They will more than likely sell out Jesus and the gospel when any opposition or persecution comes up. Indeed, such wimps will probably never face any opposition or persecution – not as long as they bend over backwards to please men and seek to be liked by everyone.

No wonder that they get so angry at people who do take a stand, who do insist on truth, who do believe in absolutes. That just drives these guys into a tizzy. They have so bought into the tolerance baloney that they in fact become the most intolerant folks around.

We don’t need “nuance” when it comes to crystal clear issues like the sanctity of the unborn or the institution of marriage. Here we stand on the rock and shout, “I cannot be moved. I can do no other.” We stand on the solid ground of the Word of God, not the shifting sands of the relativists, postmodernists and secular lefties.

I am not ashamed of truth, and I am not ashamed of proclaiming black and white in an age of 99 shades of grey. John Piper had it right when he said, “It’s unpopular to take a strong stand on anything (these days) except tolerance.” As always, Tozer nailed it when he wrote, “The most fervent devotees of tolerance are invariably intolerant of everyone who speaks about God with certainty.”

At the end of the day these wimps channelling the tolerance mantra are really just cowards. Dorothy Sayers described all this perfectly: “In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”

BTW, for anyone thinking there is nothing all that wrong with being a bit wimpy or cowardly, let me refer you to just one passage – Rev. 21:8. Who is it that leads the list of those cast out and judged? Yep, the cowardly. In a time of war there is no place for cowards, wimps, and men-pleasers. We need soldiers who will go to battle and risk all for Christ and his Kingdom.

And it will be costly. As Leonard Ravenhill said, “It’s going to demand a lot of courage before too long – to really live and maintain the true Christian life according to the Word of the Living God.” Or as Tozer remarks, “Yes, if evangelical Christianity is to stay alive she must have men again, the right kind of men. She must repudiate the weaklings who dare not speak out, and she must seek in prayer and much humility the coming again of men of the stuff prophets and martyrs are made of.”

[1285 words]

28 Replies to “Ninety-Nine Shades of Grey”

  1. Thanks Annette. Yes it is good stuff, and can also be found in ch. 6 of A Refutation of Moral Relativism (Ignatius, 1999).

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  2. Many thanks for that Chris. Yes it is a real winner, and worth citing here:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
    -Theodore Roosevelt

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. Our court system is increasingly grey, interested not at all in justice (Biblical or other) but in endless conversations and investigations into the nuances of law. I was watching the evening news last night, and the story was on an upcoming murder trial. The reporter stated that the trial could be a long one, in that there were 840 witnesses to be called! 840! Biblical law requires but two–Take your pick!
    Steve Swartz

  4. I think this 15th Century Gaelic Blessing evokes love and warmth that eschews all moral relativism:
    God be in my head and in my understanding:
    God be in my eyes and in my looking:
    God be in my mouth and in my speaking:
    God be in my heart and in my thinking:
    God be at mine end and at my departing.
    Rachel Smith

  5. Dear Bill,

    Thank you for continually standing up for the TRUTH. You are an inspiration for many people around the world.

    May God bless you may He keep you and your family safe.

    Paul Copeland

  6. Hey Bill,
    Here is another shade of grey for you:
    http://moonbattery.com/?p=8026

    The gist is basically that disabled people are no different than dead people and should thus be harvested for organs.

    As a holocaust survivor once said, it starts with abortion, but it never ends with abortion. Surely there is “some” law on the books that makes these genocidal academics illegal.

    Neil Waldron

  7. Well put. You shouldn’t have to be made to feel like an unwashed alien in a country founded and built by Christians. Free political speech should be treated as a highway for all.
    Ben-Peter Terpstra

  8. Perhaps you could refer to them as the grey brigade Bill? As always, keep fighting the good fight and standing up for God’s absolute truth. You are a man of God who I admire and respect and I pray that God continues to empower you and guide you as you continue to challenge the thinking of our times. Great John Piper quote too! God bless you Bill,

    Joel Hawting

  9. Very true, Bill, especially the part about Christians. Since being on FB I’ve come across so many people who were once believers in churches I’ve attended and since becoming politically shifted towards the spirit of the age, they’ve become the most strident critics of believers who make a stand. How tragic to see people drift so far and it doesn’t come all at once, it comes in a series of little compromises and choices. To be the light on the hill, we need to keep oil in our lamps!
    Dee Graf

  10. I have had The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview sitting on my bookshelf for some time, but have just started reading the first few pages of volume 1. I get the impression that Schaeffer will be excellent to read on all this. True?

    Annette Nestor

  11. Yes absolutely Annette. Begin with his foundational trilogy:

    Escape from Reason (1968)
    The God Who is There (1968)
    He is There and He is Not Silent (1972).

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  12. Thanks for your very ‘true’ article Bill which I am reading at 4:30am due to one of my 6 children being unwell late at night!.

    Truth really does set humanity free. These politically correct?, SOG (Shades of Grey) systems of belief infiltrating our society are such a trap to people, like a quagmire slowly sucking the strength, vitality, decisiveness and humanity out of the unwary. What from the outside looks like a system that makes everybody equal in an ideological nirvana is really robbing people of the very freedoms they are supposedly meant to protect. God help us all to rise up and speak the truth. Thanks for your article.

    Kelly Farrell

  13. Bill, We don’t always fully agree, but often we do, and you always challenge me to think more deeply on a range of topics. I think that the weak Christians will be taken care of. Persecution is coming, and the real church will be a remnant of Jesus followers, after the religious people and club members have fallen away under the weight of public pressure to speak up or fall in behind into irrelevance. I think ‘luke warm’ and ‘spewing’ fit in there somewhere. Be encouraged, blessings,
    Mike Baimbridge

  14. To continue with the symbolism of black white and grey, considering that white contains all colours, to make things grey, to make white less pure, you also obliterate the trueness of colour, life’s true diversity within the framework of right and wrong. Every true artist would object to that. The unseen moral life also works best with fixed laws that give everything its distinct shape and rings out the beauty of its distinct function.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  15. A few verses from Revelation also add to the language of Jesus:

    “So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” Rev 2:22-23
    “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Rev 3:16

    It’s actually not the Old Testament God (as if He was different anyway) who is involved with great amounts of bloodshed, but the God of Revelation who dwarfs all other parts of the Bible in terms of great turmoil, pain and death. When Jesus returns, a lot of people are going to be very sad that they missed the year of the Lord’s favour Jesus quoted from Isaiah (Luke 4), and now have to face the day of vengeance which is the very next line from chapter 61:2.

    When Jesus answered the high priest in Matt 26:64, he promised that their roles of judge and subject would be reversed in the future. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

    I also find it fascinating that these ‘nuanced’ Christians often quote from Matt 25 (“ie. the least of these”) to (incorrectly) endorse government welfare, but miss the fact that in order to employ the Sheep and the Goats story, one would hope they would realise that they have to concede Christ as a terrifying judge and the reality of hell. Oops.

    Yes Jesus came for us sinners, but he came for us so we may repent and leave our former ways of life behind, not endorse them. When Jesus spoke about a couple of events with multiple fatalities at the beginning of Luke 13, He made sure that people forgot about what happened to those who died, but focused on repenting themselves. “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

    Mark Rabich

  16. “Some forms of homosexuality today are of a similar nature, in that they are not just homosexuality but a philosophic expression. One must have understanding for the real homophile’s problem. But much modern homosexuality is an expression of the current denial of antithesis. It has led in this case to an obliteration of the distinction between man and woman. So the male and the female as complementary partners are finished. This is a form of homosexuality which is a part of the movement below the line of despair. In much of modern thinking, all antithesis and all the order of God’s creation is to be fought against–including the male-female distinctions. The pressure toward unisex is largely rooted here. But this is not an isolated problem; it is a part of the world-spirit of the generation which surrounds us. It is imperative that Christians realize the conclusions which are being drawn as a result of the death of absolutes.”
    -Francis Schaeffer

    Annette Nestor

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