Summary: “That’s true for you, but not for me… Truth means different things to different people… there’s no one absolute truth for everybody…” Ever had your Christian perspective rebutted by statements like these? You may not walk around thinking about the nature
“That’s true for you, but not for me… Truth means different things to different people… there’s no one absolute truth for everybody…” Ever had your Christian perspective rebutted by statements like these? You may not walk around thinking about the nature of truth or routinely use words like “epistemology.” But Christians today- especially those raising teens or who work with youth and college students- have the important job of presenting and explaining truth within a chronically skeptical culture.
The nature or essence of truth is often described using terms like “absolute truth” or “ultimate truth,” or (the term preferred by America’s founding fathers),“self-evident truth.” The Biblical view of reality is one in which truth exists, can be known, and is relevant for all people. Or, as Josh McDowell (in his book Right From Wrong) puts it, “That which is true at all times in all places for all people.” Since truth is related to the character of God (which is eternal and unchanging – See Malachi 3:6; Psalm 90:2; Hebrews 13:8), the nature of truth is fixed. Truth does not have an expiration date, and is not up for revision and re-invention.
Many today judge the heights of arrogance to be not only that some one would claim to know truth, but that some one might claim there is truth. The relativistic spirit of our times presents a challenge for both the missions-minded Christian and the values-minded parent. This relativist bent comes through loudly (and on an hourly basis) in culture and media. For example, Mark Burnett, producer of Survivor and The Apprentice said: “I don’t believe in any religion. It’s all made up. Religion is an organized thing by human beings to convince other people to follow a way of speaking to God. I think God’s in everybody, and you have to be in touch with yourself and your god within you.”1
How can people be convinced to turn from their sin, if no objective moral standard exists that has been violated? How can our children live according to Biblical morals, when a commitment to relativism seems to a prerequisite in social, academic, and professional arenas?
Romans 1:18-22 describes the destructive end of all who willfully “suppress the truth” (v. 18). But problems with a relativistic view of truth are identifiable even without using the Bible. Our own rational faculties (what your grandmother called “common sense”) can lead us back from the hazy realms of relativism. The next time you hear some one’s explanation on why truth is relative, listen for what the skeptic is asserting. You’d be amazed at what has to be assumed as true in order to deny that there is truth! If, “Truth doesn’t exist,” then by definition, that statement is also false. How can relativists be certain about their position if, “truth can’t be known?” Why should I believe the relativist who gives no one the right to be dogmatic but himself: “No one can have a monopoly on truth!” (Notice the self-contradictory implication: “My analysis of reality is true, that no one can really grasp what is true”). Many, many more examples could be given, but the point is this: In order to reject truth, skeptics have to imply the very thing that they are denying. This is what scholars call a “self-defeating” statement.
God hard-wired our brains to for rational thought. With a little practice, you can become very adept at spotting the false and defending what is true. Our culture’s glib and common denials of truth are all- to one degree or another- based on rational fallacies that become easy to spot. In light of his own times, C.S. Lewis observed the following: “The moment you say one set of moral ideas is better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms more nearly to that standard than the other. But the standard that measures the two things is something entirely different. If your moral ideas can be truer, and those of the Nazis less true, there must be something- some real Morality- for them to be true about” (Mere Christianity, page 25). Our culture has become quite comfortable in pontificating about the nature of reality and the absence of truth. The Christian is chided into silence, because “all beliefs are equally valid,” and people are “sure that no one can be sure.”
Besides relativism’s inherent logical mistakes, the fact is, such platitudes just aren’t livable. It is doubtful that some one would remain tolerant with a bank teller who said, “You and your bank statement both say your account contains $5,000.00. That may be true for you, but it’s not for me.” We can talk as if the world is relative, but we live as if it is absolute.
I believe that the need to instill a love of truth in the hearts of students (and adults) is more critical than ever. Through nearly two decades of youth ministry, I have for years prayed that God would raise up a passionate multitude of teens and college students who love truth, think rationally, and whose lives are based on a Biblical world view.