OceanSide church of Christ
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POSTMODERN THINKING (3)
Truth Is Relative
Victor M. Eskew
Postmodern thinking has invaded the United States of America. In conversations with individuals, it is easy to see how many elements of this thinking have been accepted by the public. We are saddened when we talk to those who profess to be Christians who have embraced some of the tenets of this ungodly thinking. Dear readers, we must be warned. If postmodern thinking fills our minds, it will direct our behavior (Prov. 4:23; 23:7). It is for this reason that we have written this series of articles.
In our previous article, we looked at one of the foundational elements of postmodern thought, pluralism. In this article, we will be examining a second pillar of this system of thought. Postmodernism seeks to convince us that truth is relative. Truth is defined as: “inflexible reality: invariable facts.” Absolute truth is true at all times, in all places, and for all people. It remains the same. Truth does not contradict. Absolute truth is established by law.
Relativism states that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, but only relative, subjective values based upon an individual’s perception or consideration. In essence, truth is based upon a person’s feelings, opinions, and perceptions. Thus, what is truth for one person may not be the truth for another person. Relative truth can change. Relative truth involves contradictions. Here are some of the statements affirmed by those who accept relative truth:
1. Truth is relative.
2. There are no absolutes.
3. No one knows what truth is.
4. There is no hierarchy of truth or values.
5. There is no right or wrong.
6. Everyone can believe whatever he/she wants to believe.
7. It is wrong for you to impose your values on me.
When we hear statements like this, we are reminded of the question that Pilate asked of our Lord Jesus Christ: “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
Most of the time, those who believe in relative truth do so in order to release themselves from the constraints of religion. They do not want to believe in God. They do not want to believe the Bible is the Word of God. They do not want to be bound by any form of moral law. They do not want to be judged by others. They want to do their own things. They do not want to deal with any negative emotions produced by their conscience.
Let’s point out three things about relative truth. First, relative truth contradicts itself. Relative truth affirms: “Truth is relative.” The question that must be asked is: “Is this statement absolute truth?” If the person says: “Yes,” then he contradicts his beliefs. Remember, in a relative world no absolute truth exists. Relative truth also affirms that is it “wrong” for one person to impose his values on another person. The question is: “Why is it wrong?” If no right and wrong really exist, what makes something wrong? The one who holds to relative truth is wrong for telling another person he is wrong.
Second, there is not one person alive who lives in a world of complete relative truth. The law of gravity is absolute. Denying the law of gravity will not change it. If a person who believes in relative truth denies gravity, he will still plummet to the ground if he steps off the roof of a building. 2+2=4 is absolute truth. A child in a class will be graded down is he answers 2+2=5. He can claim that truth is relative all class long, but it will not change the truth that 2+2=4.
The fact is that all of us need and want absolute truth in our lives. If I spend fifty cents, I want fifty cents back from my dollar. If a store clerk only returns a quarter to me, I will confront him and tell him he did not give me enough money back. What if he said: “I believe truth is relative. I believe that seventy-five cents is equal to a dollar”? We would be upset. Too, we would not allow him to get by with his false statement. A dollar is one hundred cents regardless of what the clerk believes. If someone enters into my home and steals my possessions, I want that person prosecuted for theft. I do not want someone trying to explain to me that right and wrong do not exist and that this man’s theft was acceptable in his eyes. The same would be true if a forty year old man tried to have a sexual relationship with a fourteen year old girl. Just to say that the pedophile’s truth says such a relationship is justified does not make it right. My friends, if all truth were relative our society would collapse due to moral bankruptcy.
Third, absolute truth exists because there is a God in heaven who is truth and who does not change (See Mal. 3:6; John 14:6; Ps. 19:9-11; Matt. 7:24-25). This God created this world and filled it with physical laws that do not change. He also gave a spiritual law to mankind that is truth (John 17:17). It reveals what is right and wrong. Those who deny that absolute truth exists in the Word of God will never change the fact that it exists.
While we are at this point, it is essential to confront the relativism that exists in the denominational world. Many people believe that the Bible is open to many interpretations. These interpretations can contradict one another and religious people seem to be okay with this result. They will claim that two conflicting statements are truth. This is relativism in another garment. Remember, absolute truth never contradicts itself. The reality is that there is only one true interpretation of the Word of God. This is made clear in a discussion Jesus had with a Jewish lawyer. The lawyer asked the question: “Master, what shall I do to have eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Jesus immediately pointed him the standard, the absolute truth. “He said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou?” (Luke 10:26). The lawyer responded with this answer: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27). Now, listen to Jesus’ response: “Thou hast answered right…” (Luke 10:28). The lawyer’s interpretation of the law was right. Had he been wrong, Jesus would have corrected him. Jesus would never acknowledge a wrong interpretation to be the truth. Jesus did not accept relativism. My friends, there may be many wrong interpretations of the Word of God, but there is only one correct interpretation of God’s Word.
Truth, dear readers, is not relative. It is absolute. We all understand this deep down inside. Was truth relative to Adam and Eve? Absolutely not! And, their failure to abide by the truth brought death and destruction to mankind. The same will happen to our society and to the church if we embrace the postmodern idea that truth is relative. In the long ago, Solomon exhorted God’s people correctly, saying: “Buy the truth, and sell it not…” (Prov. 23:23).