EmJoão 18:38, Jesus stands before Pilate and Pilate asks him the eternal question: “What is truth?” What is surprising about Pilate's question is that before him was the personification of truth, and Pilate seems to have missed that. Like Pilate, every human being is a search for truth, and most ask the same question: what is truth? The challenge we face is not that people are asking the question, but whether they really want the answer. As our society becomes more "enlightened", we seem to be moving further and further away from how we define and understand truth, which could make this issue more important than ever.
what is truth
Here's how Dictionary.com defines truth: “the true or factual state of affairs; conformity with fact or reality; a verified or indisputable fact, statement, principle or the like”.
When you look at this definition, you begin to see that truth has an ultimate nature. The words used here to describe truth are very crucial. The truth is factual and undeniable. This is very important because the truth remains true. It doesn't depend on what you think or feel about it.
However, with a word that has such a concrete definition, many have found different ways of understanding how we arrive at the truth and how we define what it is. Not to get too philosophical, let's approach this question from the perspective of the average person. In today's society, a safe assumption is that the average person would probably classify truth into two categories, absolute truth and relative truth.
What is the difference between absolute truth and relative truth?
1. Absolute Truth.Absolute truth is true regardless of how a person thinks or feels about it. Here is a biblical example of absolute truth.Jesus is lord. Regardless of how you feel about this statement, it's true. Many will argue over this statement and try to debate its veracity, but that does not change the truth that Jesus is Lord. Here is a verse that defines what absolute truth looks like.
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).
In this verse every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. On that day, opinions or feelings do not matter because everyone will recognize Jesus as Lord. Whether you agree or not, what makes this truth absolute is that it doesn't change based on your opinion.
2. Relative truth.Relative truth is the truth of belief that changes based on an individual's understanding. With relative truth there are no absolutes and what may be true for you is simply not true for me.
A general statement that reflects relative truth might sound like this: “You have your truth and I have mine.” The problem of relative truth is a contradiction in terms. If the truth is factual and undeniable, then you cannot have different truths for different people. Relative truth is a rejection of absolute truth.
One of the reasons people embrace the idea of relative truth is that it allows them to create their own reality, which leaves them free to do whatever they want. I know we often like to think of this as a social problem, but this problem exists in the Church as well. Paul warned us against this.
“Preach the Word; prepare yourselves in and out of time; corrects, censures and encourages - with much patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will no longer accept solid teachings. They will assemble large numbers of professors to say what their eager ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn to myth. (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
This is the era we live in. People surround themselves with those who tell them the "truth" they want to hear. While this gives them the freedom to justify their lives, they base their lives on a truth that is not true.
What are the characteristics of truth?
When I speak of truth in this passage, I speak of absolute truth. While there can be a variety of opinions, there can only be one absolute truth. What are the characteristics that define this kind of truth?
1. Truth is constant (does not change).For something to be true, it cannot change and must remain constant. Circumstances may change, but the truth surrounding those circumstances must remain constant or you are not dealing with the truth.
2. The truth is objective (she has no favorites).The truth must also be objective. This means that the same truth applies to everyone. When the standard of truth changes from person to person, then it is no longer true. For example,Romans 3:23tells us that all have sinned. For this to be absolutely true, it must apply to everyone that this statement makes.
3. The truth will prevail (will stand in the end).While I believe that as Christians we have a responsibility to defend the truth, ultimately the truth will defend itself. Time is the greatest ally of truth. Eventually, the lies will fall by the wayside and all that's left is the truth.
The relative truth error
Pulling back the curtain, relative truth is on shaky ground. One point where the idea of relative truth fails is when it comes to the path to salvation. Some will try to convince you that it doesn't matter which path you choose to find salvation, all paths lead to the same place. Many would add, just find one and go. This is the great fallacy of relative truth, for it simply cannot be true.
This is not true in a physical sense and cannot be true in a spiritual sense. If someone asked me how to get to NYC and I said that it doesn't matter which way you take, just get there, you would immediately see the error in that statement. The same is true when it comes to salvation. Not all roads lead to the same place. For starters, not everyone teaches the same thing, so how can they all lead to the same goal?
Jesus established a truth that sets him apart from all others. “Jesus replied, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'" (João 14:6).
This is not just a truth, but unquestionably an absolute truth, leaving no room for any other interpretation or relativism. That statement closes the door on all other paths to the Father and on all other hopes of salvation. If you believe this, you will experience the benefit of this truth, but your belief is not necessary for this to be true. This will be true whether you believe it or not. Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father and that will never change.
A quick side note. Having and holding an absolute truth like this is not meant to make you judge or feel superior. The aim should be to realize that you have the truth and God'sgraciousnessand the help of the Holy Spirit helps others to discover it.
Why do we need absolute truth?
It is not enough to understand what truth is; we must also understand why we need absolute truth. Without absolute truth, there are no more standards. I think it's safe to say that many of our standards, which were once considered absolute truths, are now being questioned in our society.
Not just here in America, but all over the world. When standards are removed, people can do whatever they want and we become a society that thrives on relative truth. While some may see this as liberating, I see it as catastrophic. We would become like Israel at the end of the Book of Judges.
“In those days Israel had no king; all people did what seemed right in their own eyes" (Richter 21:25, NLT).
As Christians, we must uphold the standard of truth despite all the challenges that come with it, for without the standard there is no truth.
The truth of our belief
The good news is that our faith is based on absolute truth. If you consider some of the things used to describe our beliefs, you'll see that our beliefs have a solid foundation built to withstand the changes of time. Incidentally, this truth is based not just on faith, but on reason and evidence that has stood the test of time. Here are some Scriptures that speak to the strength of the foundation of our faith.
"For no other foundation can anyone lay than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11).
"For it is written: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever trusts in him will never be put to shame'" (1 Petrus 2:6).(Video) Is Truth Relative or Absolute?
"Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the rock eternal" (Isaiah 26:4).
You should feel confident knowing that your faith is based on eternal truth. When faced with the question of what is truth, know that Jesus is the truth. Furthermore, He is eternal, unchanging, and the rock on which our salvation rests. For he will not change his confidence in him, for the truth need not be shaken.
Regardless of how others feel, at the end of the day they will be alone, the one who is our rock and the one who is the truth. This is our hope and certainty.
In closing, I would like to leave you with the words of this powerful hymn that reminds you of this great truth. 'On Christ the Firm Rock I stand, all other land is quicksand.'
Live today knowing that you have the answer to the question, "What is truth?" The answer is in Jesus Christ.
Image rights: ©GettyImages/Thomas Söllner
Clarence L. Haynes Jr.is a public speaker, Bible teacher and co-founder ofThe Bible Study Club. He is the author ofthe pursuit of purpose to help you understand how God guides you in His will. He has also just published his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How to Meet Your Greatest Challenges and Win in Your Christian Life. Do you want to deepen your walk with the Lord but can't get past the things that stand in your way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can lead a victorious Christian life and eventually become the man or woman of God you truly want to be. To learn more about his ministry, visitclarencehaynes.com.
What is the difference between absolute truth and relative truth? ›
Relative truth is conditional, subjective, varying and contradictory, so it's capable of changing over time. In contrast, absolute truth is consistent and eternal; its meaning is universal and never changing.What is the difference between relative and absolute truth Buddhism? ›
The relative or conventional explanation of reality is what we know and experience, while the ultimate or absolute truth is inexpressible, empty (sunya), and lies outside of conventional experience and language. The conventional truth about something is its dependence on conditions. The ultimate truth is its emptiness.What is the difference between absolute and relative in philosophy? ›
Absolute and Relative are philosophical terms concerning the mutual interdependence of things, processes and knowledge. 'Absolute' means independent, permanent and not subject to qualification. 'Relative' means partial or transient, dependent on circumstances or point-of-view.What is the absolute truth? ›
Absolute truth is something that is true at all times and in all places. It is something that is always true no matter what the circumstances. It is a fact that cannot be changed. For example, there are no round squares. There are also no square circles.What is truth absolute or relative? ›
To say that something is absolutely true means that it is independently true for all people, even if they do not know it or recognize it to be true. The opposite of absolute truth is relative truth. To say that something is relatively true means that it can be true for one person and not for another.What does relativity of truth mean? ›
Relativism asserts that the truth-value of a statement is always relative to some particular standpoint. This implies that the same statement can be both true and false.