Relativity & Relativism

Why do wheels on cars spin backward on television?  Have you ever felt like you’re moving in reverse when a semi-truck passes you on the freeway?  Or have you ever felt justified doing wrong because it’s not quite as wrong as everyone else?  These are examples in which relative timing, position, or performance make a difference.  Relativity is the study of motion between objects that are moving relative to each other.  Relative morality rejects God’s standard, judging behavior as good or bad only in comparison to someone else’s moral compass.

Car wheels spinning backward is an illusory effect, resulting from the way video is captured.  The continuous video you think you’re watching is actually a series of images.  Continuous motion is chopped up, or sampled, 24 times per second.  Your brain perceives fluid motion from the succession of stills because of something called persistence of vision and without it a laser light show would just be a fast-moving laser dot in the sky.  Since the wheel spokes are spinning faster than 24 times per second it’s impossible to keep track of where the spoke is supposed to be and your brain gets fooled.  Suppose a spoke started at the twelve o’ clock position.  In the next frame, it could rotate all the way around and pass the starting position so it’s slightly advanced from twelve o’ clock.  It could also rotate multiple times and land a little behind the twelve o’ clock position.  You don’t know which one is correct.  With more spokes, the effect becomes more pronounced.  You see, each spoke is the same and you can’t tell the difference between them so 24 frames per second isn’t nearly fast enough to observe the true rotation.  My calculations show that a car with average sized wheels with five spokes would need to travel below 10 mph before you are able to correctly see the wheel spinning forward.  Your brain is deceived.  The sampling frequency of the camera (frame rate) is too low relative to the angular frequency of the spinning wheel.  Sampling is the cause of deception here.  It’s similar to being deceived by image crafting on Instagram and Facebook.  You only sample a few instants in people’s lives and they can fool you.  You need a lot more samples to get the true and accurate picture.  Image crafting is when people manage their online personas through carefully curated photos on social media in order to deceive you into thinking their lives are perfect.  Of course, yours is worse by comparison.  Relatively speaking, you are a loser.  The suicide rate among young teen-aged girls increased dramatically in the last decade and perhaps intense feelings of inferiority resulting from image crafting is a big contributor.  Bizzle has a great song on Spotify about this called ‘From the Outside’.

When you’re a passenger being driven at a constant speed, stare at the side of a semi-truck’s trailer going past you on the interstate and your brain might be tricked into believing you are actually moving backward.  There’s no way to tell the difference if you are unable to see landscape or other cars around you.  You see, if you’re not accelerating, you cannot perceive your motion.  Travelling at a constant speed feels like you’re stationary.  This is a key fact for physicists – physics conducted in a moving body with no acceleration is always valid.  That means when that truck passed you on the interstate and you thought you were travelling in reverse, you were not incorrect.  Any scientific observations about a two-vehicle system, one car moving at constant velocity and a truck travelling at a constant and higher relative speed of 10mph would be identical to observations made if that car were traveling in reverse at 10 mph passing a stationary truck.  There is no difference in the physics of this two-vehicle system.  The same could be said of a car and truck approaching each other at 60 mph – it’s the same as a stationary car and the truck travelling at 120 mph.  That is until you get close to the speed of light.  Nothing can exceed the speed of light and nobody can perceive anything surpassing the speed of light.  Einstein developed his Special Theory of Relativity to treat it, and time actually slows down (time dilation) to make the math work out so no one sees anything exceed the speed of light.  The speed of light is absolute and not measured relative to anything else.  God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  God will not bend His rules or fretfully compare Himself to you in a fit of insecurity.  He will not allow Himself to be interchangeably swapped in a relativity experiment like the car and truck.  The speed of light is constant, absolute, and everything is measured against it.  The entire universe bows to the speed of light.

Have you heard the story about two billionaires?  One guy had one billion dollars and doubled his money.  He threw a big party and celebrated.  The other guy had four billion dollars but lost half in a bad investment so he killed himself in despair.  In the end, both had two billion dollars but felt very differently about it.  A psychological effect call relative deprivation explains why we’re so bothered by loss.  We compare ourselves to others who are prospering and we feel deprived.  Relative to third world standards we may be rich but we only focus on the relative wealth/luxury/comfort of those in our social sphere.  God’s word says life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions.  We are to beware of covetousness.

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Our society’s moral standards change over time.  Relative to forty years ago, our society has become less racist but increasingly immoral in other ways.  California aspires to become a sanctuary state for abortion, in which the government will not only fund abortions but pay travel expenses for women from more restrictive states.  Homosexuality is mainstream now.  The definition of ‘woman’ is being scrapped to allow biological males to use women’s restrooms and crush women’s sport records.  But with God, things don’t change.  There is no moral slippery slope, no evolution of thought, no progressivism, and no deception.  There is one moral standard – God’s.  When Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, Jesus was stating that He is the exact representation of the Father.  He represents the Father with perfect fidelity and without error.  We evaluate so many things relative to some other standard – long ago, people got dressed up for air travel, now many wear pajamas.  Children used to call adults mister or mrs., but now it’s “Hey Bob, hey Judy”.  It used to be ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, now the military is woke.  If you throw God’s commandments aside, everything is permissible.  It’s whatever you want it to be, relative to the culture’s morality.

God’s standard is the ultimate and final measuring rod against which we will all be judged.  Jesus fulfilled the law and satisfied God’s wrath toward sinners by atoning for our sins with His death on the cross.  Jesus took the punishment that you and I deserve.  Our holiness compared to God’s is poor to say the least.  We are wrong to think that our morality is measured only against other people.  It is measured against God’s unchanging standard.  Relative superiority will avail you nothing.  We will never satisfy God with better behavior – we need a savior!  While relative speeds can dupe us into thinking we’re moving or spinning backward, God is never deceived.  Repent of your works-based salvation and, like time itself, bow to the God of the universe.  He is absolute.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Joshua says:

    It’s a powerful truth and reminder that we should look at the correct standard instead of finding ones that we can supersede easily. In the end all will stand before the unchanged standard of God, either covered by the gracious offering of Jesus or fully accountable to God’s holy standard and wanting.