Morality, Media, and Philosophical Pluralism

Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism [15th Anniversary Edition] One dominate trait of our American culture is what Don Carson calls “philosophical pluralism.”  This is the belief or philosophy that no person, claim, or ideology is superior to another one.  “The only absolute creed is the creed of pluralism.  No religion has the right to pronounce itself right or true, and the others false, or even (in the majority view) relatively inferior” (Carson, p. 19).  Since, they say, there is no absolute truth, no one can claim any high ground anywhere.  The effects of this philosophy or belief are numerous and tragic.  One that Carson points out is in the area of morality:

“In the moral realm, there is very little consensus left in Western countries over the proper basis of moral behavior.  And because of the power of the media, for millions of men and women the only venue where moral questions are discussed and weighed in is the talk show, where more often than not the primary aim is to entertain, even shock, not to think.  When Geraldo and Oprah become the arbiters of public morality, when the opinion of the latest media personality is sought on everything from abortion to transvestites, when banality is mistaken for profundity because uttered by a movie star or basketball player, it is not surprising that there is less thought than hype.”

“Oprah shapes more of the nation’s grasp of right and wrong than most of the pulpits in the land.  Personal and social ethics have been removed from the realms of truth and of structures of thought; they have not only been relativized, but they have been democratized and trivialized.  As a guest on a talk show dealing with pornography put it, ‘The great thing about our society is that you can have your opinion and I can have mine” (p. 24).

Carson is right: this kind of pluralism touches every part of society, right down to the moral framework of people’s thoughts and lives.  Thankfully, the gospel rescues us from such depressing pluralism and also gives us a reason and motive to share the good news with those in such a framework.  For more on this, see Carson’s The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism.  It’s a great book!

shane lems

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