Does Inclusivity smack of Moral Relativism?

fire-2007A comment to a recent post suggested that Inclusivity equates to moral relativism. The accusation of moral relativism sits alongside that no-win question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” – say Yes and you say you have beaten in the past, say No and you imply you are still beating… But I want to ask (in my usual, poor standard of theology) whether moral relativism and inclusivity are opposites. I suppose it hinges on whether moral absolutism is used as a euphemism for “swallow the bible whole”. We must recognise Scripture as a variety of writings, divinely inspired, but the work of humans. They are written by humans with agenda, purpose and for different reasons. The Church has embraced some of these ancient writings as canonical, but no-one set out to write anything for the canon itself. This means not that the Bible is not the word of God, but that it contains some of the words of God and some other words as well (Psalm 137:9 – dashing the brains of your enemies babies against a rock as the word of God – hmmm, maybe not). God has continued to say a lot of other words, through the Church, through the Saints, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

I have been thinking about this and I consider that there are absolute truths, and there are cultural layers placed on top of those truths. The key is to separate them out and identify which is which (and that is not the same as saying which ones I like/which ones matter and choosing a set).

Christ’s completion of the law, borne on the cross transcends the cultural norms of that, this or any age and places greater emphasis on our relationship with the divine Godhead which reaches out to us. It all boils down to this: Love God, Love Others.

I don’t see that as relative, rather as absolute.

Tattoos (Lev 19:27), shellfish (Lev 11:10), temple prostitution (Lev 18:22), making your wife sleep in a red tent in the garden for four days a month (Lev 15 19-30), are all cultural things, designed for a nomadic people feeling their way towards God. Jesus completed that, thank God and frees us to encounter God openly.

My reading of Scripture calls me to ask what the text is saying as the word of God and as the word of its time. I pray that the Holy Spirit gives a sense of discernment between what is truly of God, and what is clouded by mankind and his culture.

My proof text is John 10:10 “I came that you may have life, life in all its fulness”. That is an absolute. If any man-made or biblical commandment hinders that, then it fails the Jesus test. If it damages or hurts others, take advantage of the vulnerable or limits our own approach to God, then it cannot be from God. This inclusive approach is actually more challenging because it rejects the implic dishonesty of closeting our true selves (and I think this means far more than just sexuality, for far more of our natures are masked than we care to admit). The non-inclusive approach says “as long as you stay in the closet, denying yourself, you’ll be fine” and all those post-gay movements just seek to perpetuate the dishonesty, where as the inclusive approach says “be as God intended you to be, and live your life right by God”.

That means, I suspect, that I too am a Moral Absolutist, but not like that.