Back to Basics: What is Truth? Is it Absolute or Relative?


by Rob Lundberg

One of the basic building blocks for defending the faith is starting off with the fact that truth exists. With all that is going on in our culture, we need to understand that even though people believe that morals, truth claims and religions are all relative, we are now finding ourselves on the front lines of showing and living out the fact that truth is absolute and the better proportion than living a life that is duplicitous and self defeating. 

Let me start off with a claim and then in the next moments see if I can defend it for us:  Truth exists, and it is absolute. Many people live their lives in subjectivities. While I might like a certain flavor of ice cream, we can argue and never get to the fact of which flavor of ice cream is absolutely the best. This is the difference between objective truth and subjective truth. 

Before doing a deeper dive into this subject, let me set up the presentation: Truth can be understood both from what it is and what it is not. This is the difference between objective truth (absolute) and subjective truth (relative).
 
TRUTH IS: “TELLING IT LIKE IT IS”


When we speak the truth, we are telling it like it really is. In other words, truth is that which corresponds to reality. Truth also takes facts and tests them. If one fact is true in a series of truth claims, and yet one of them is false, the whole argument self-destructs.

So truth is absolute and not relative. If you don’t believe me, go to your local bank and ask them for more money than you have in your bank account.  See if they will give you more money than what you have.  Or tell your math teacher that 2 + 3 = 23 and see what your math teacher will tell you. 

One of the most popular phrases I hear when I am in a conversation with someone and the conversation moves into absolute claims about religion or history, I hear this statement: 
“Everybody has a right to their own opinions.”  That is a true statement.  Everyone does have a right to their opinion. But let me also say that not all opinions are right.

Some will say that all truth is relative. If that is the case then that statement is relative as well.  Another statement is that someone will say, “there is no such thing as absolute truth.” And they will mean that statement with their whole being. This is where you can learn to turn claims like this on themselves and listen to them self implode. Please check out my PDF of my powerpoint on “Is Truth Absolute or Relative?

Here are some facts about truth that you can remember: 

Truth is objective and NOT relative.
Truth can be described as “that which corresponds to reality.
Contrary beliefs are possible, contrary truths are not possible.
We can believe that everything is true, but we cannot make everything true.
Truth is discovered and not invented.
The Bible is true because it tells it like it is and it corresponds to reality.


WHAT TRUTH IS NOT

There are two things that truth is not.  First, truth is not what works.  Things are not simply true because they work.  There are two views that some will take when it comes to the “what works” approach to making a truth claim. One is what is what is known as pragmatism and the other is known as utilitarianism. Neither of these “isms” are bad in a proper context. Pragmatism has to do with what works at a particular moment. Utilitarianism has to do what is useful for a particular situation or a scenario. But when it comes to truth claims, neither of this “isms” are good tests for truth.

The second thing truth is not is truth is not what feels good. A bad report card might cause you to feel bad, but it represents the truth that you did not do well in your coursework. What other feelings can you think of that might deceive you into thinking something is true?

Before I get to wrapping this essay up, let me encourage you to appreciate people in your life who will tell you the truth. Why?  Because truth is that which corresponds to reality not just on what is, but also on how God sees us. Relativism is destructive sociologically, economically, personally and soteriologically.

WHAT IS RELATIVISM?

The opposite of true is false, and one cannot have a statement that is both true and false at the same time. When one operates on the subjective, they are basing their truth claim around an ideology called relativism. 

The mantra of relativism goes something like this: “All truth is relative!”  “What is true for you may not be true for me!” “All truth, morals and religions are relative!” 

What is relative is that which is subjective.  Relative truth then is that truth is true for SOME people, not for ALL people or in SOME places, not ALL places or at SOME times, not ALL times.

Some people believe that there is no truth at all. You can turn this statement on itself and see that it is what is called a self-defeating position.  Someone may say that “there is no truth.”  The problem with that statement is that the one making the statement believes that statement to be TRUE.

CONCLUSION.

I don’t know whether you realize it or not but truth is being challenged in our culture. You and I are called to “put stones in the shoes” of those who embrace relativism with the goal to point them to the One who is the source of all truth. . . .the risen Jesus Christ.  He is the One who said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). 

We are definitely living in the days, in the church where the Apostle Paul wrote about in 2 Timothy 4:3-4,

For the time will come when men will not put up with  sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers  to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work  of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

We are to stand firm no matter what confronts us. Yes, truth is absolute, but it is also divisive. It is divisive because it is that which corresponds to reality. Those who live a relativistic lifestyle are not living in reality. 

If you would like to know more about how to defend the truth and defend the historical Christian faith, please go to roblundberg.org, and click the Contact link.  I would like to correspond with you and point you to some resources that will get you rolling in the wonderful journey of building your faith and your case to share the truth with others.

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