Is Truth Relative?
To the Seeker with Intellectual Questions
Is Truth Relative or Objective?
A Christian Response to Postmodern Skepticism, which Embraces "Relative" Truth and Denies "Objective" Truth
by M. Tyner, M.A., Christian Apologetics
One of the basic claims advanced by Postmodernism (a philosophical movement which presents a new form of skepticism) is that there is no such thing as “objective” truth. This movement holds that man cannot get outside of his own sphere of experiences, perceptions, and language to know anything beyond. It embraces relativism, claiming that truth is “relative” from one cultural group (“community group”) to another. So people in these groups actually form their own reality by their perceptions and by the construction of their language. Accordingly, even “God” becomes a construct (a creation) of human perception and language. And the concept of “biblical revelation” is reduced to merely the religious claim of a man-based religion. However, if the Bible is the very Word of God, then a Christian response is crucial because people are forfeiting God's free gift of eternal life when they are swept into the rushing current of this philosophical movement that undermines faith in the true and living God.
I. Challenges of Skepticism Come in "Modern" and "Postmodern" Forms.
Over the centuries, philosophers have grappled with questions such as: What constitutes knowledge (truth)? What kind of proof is required for religious beliefs to become legitimate? Philosophical Skepticism comes in various forms with varying complexities. It also evolves and shifts (stemming from such brilliant thinkers as Socrates in the 5th century B.C. to Descartes, Hume, and Kant in the 17th and 18th centuries A.D.). The division of philosophy that studies theories of knowledge (“epistemology”) continues to change and take on various forms. “Modernism” roughly coincided with the 18th century Enlightenment, claiming that knowledge was verifiable by empirical evidence, sensory data, or scientific facts. However, Modernism's trust in science and progress did not lead to the bright future it promised. Hence, a major philosophical shift occurred, giving way to “Postmodernism.”
II. A Logical Fallacy Exists in the Postmodern Philosophy.
The philosophers (proponents) of this current movement have redefined reality. They claim that the structure of the mind is what shapes our view of the world. So there is no knowledge, only perspectives! People are trapped inside language and cannot know any reality beyond it. These thinkers reject all truth claims (“metanarratives”) which explain the world. However, they fall into the very same trap which they charge others of doing. And today's evangelical Christian scholars, such as Dr. Scott Smith, have debunked the major myth of Postmodernism. As Dr. Smith points out: By the Postmodernists' asserting that all truth claims should be mistrusted, they are themselves making a universal claim concerning truth! Philosophical speculation cannot negate the possibility that objective truth and knowledge are attainable. Nor can a subjective worldview invalidate “objective” truth simply by constructing a language which defines it out of existence.
III. The God of the Bible Has a Far Keener Vantage Point Concerning Truth.
Hypothetically, even if man were unable to gain any knowledge outside his own experiences and perspectives, it would not preclude an omniscient God from communicating “objective” truth directly to mankind. The reality of divine “special” revelation is provable by evidence both external and internal. According to the Bible itself, transcendent God broke through the human communication barrier and revealed “objective” truth to us about Himself and His redemptive plan for us. He did so by sending: (a) His Son, Jesus Christ, in human form (the Incarnate Word); and (b) the inspired holy scriptures, the Bible (the written Word). The Bible reveals that God, as sovereign Creator, has a total perspective of reality. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). According to Chapter 1 of Genesis, God is above human language, for He actually spoke the universe into existence! God is referred to as the Potter and we are but the clay (Isaiah 45:9, Romans 9:20-21). Accordingly, if the Bible is truly the Word of God, we need to consider: Who are we as finite man to limit the nature and abilities of infinite God?
IV. Fulfilled Bible Prophecy Establishes that God is Transcendent (and the Bible Is the Word of God).
Fulfilled Bible prophecy is a conclusive proof that the Bible is the Word of God. One-fourth of scripture was prophetic when written. It announced things that were to take place in the future. People, places, and events were predicted long before their historic fulfillment. According to the comprehensive book, The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, by Dr. John Walvoord, the Bible contains 1,000 prophecies and thus far 500 have been fulfilled literally. Regarding these “500 individual proofs,” Dr. Walvoord concludes that when God says something is going to happen, it happens! For example, there were over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Messiah. And hundreds of years later, Jesus Christ fulfilled every one of them literally, e.g., He was born in Bethlehem, and His hands and feet were pierced. In Isaiah 48:3-5, we read that the eternal God proclaimed things “before they came to pass” in order to demonstrate that He is omniscient and worthy to be worshiped above any idol!
V. Gods of Postmodernists are Untrustworthy and Incompetent.
Any man-based god, constructed by language and based on perceptions within a community group, is certainly inferior to the God revealed in the Bible. First of all, gods of the Postmodernists are untrustworthy, for they are contingent upon the changeable perceptions and language of a particular community group. Hence, such gods are unstable and impermanent. In addition, the nature and abilities of their gods could vary greatly from one community group to another. And since the possible number of Postmodern gods is unlimited, some of them no doubt would be contradictory to others. Most importantly, gods of the Postmodernists could not offer us eternal life, so they are incompetent. Nor could they offer us the accompanying peace that eternal security brings. Unfortunately, even if one or more of the Postmodern gods claimed to offer us these things, such notion would be based on “relative” man-based truth, so those gods could not extend beyond the finite perceptions of the worshiper or his group.
VI. Jesus' Resurrection Demonstrates that God Broke through the Language Barrier.
The Bible claims to be God's revelation to mankind -- “objective” truth. It's grand theme is God's plan of salvation for mankind. Because of the Fall of mankind (when Adam and Eve disobeyed God), every person is born separated from God and is in need a Savior. The Gospel message is that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to redeem us (rescue and reclaim us) by dying on the cross for our sins. Three days after Jesus was crucified, He bodily rose from the dead. In His resurrected body, Jesus walked the earth forty more days performing many miracles and then ascended to heaven to be with God the Father. The miraculous and historical event of Jesus' resurrection demonstrates the validity of the Christian faith. As Jesus predicted to His disciples, He returned to life and thus conquered death. In other words, God “broke through the human language barrier” by taking on human form, by stepping into time and space, and by communicating to us in our own language. And by the sacrificial death of His Son for us, God revealed the greatest love known to mankind!
According to the God of the Bible, He created each of us and loves us with an everlasting love. He is relational. Because He wants us to live with Him eternally and to be spared from eternal destruction, He demonstrated His love toward us by sending His Son to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). He promises that anyone who comes to Him, He will not cast out. We can become reconciled to God if we trust in Jesus and receive Him as our Lord and Savior!
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16
Sample Prayer to Receive Jesus:
“Father God, thank You for Your revelation to us by sending us Your Son and Your Word. Thank You that it teaches us of Your sacrificial love, sending Jesus to provide the way for us to get to heaven. Lord Jesus, thank You for redeeming us by taking our punishment on the cross. Please be my personal Lord and Savior. I trust You and want to follow You! In Jesus' name, Amen."