“Truth is Relative: It Doesn’t Matter What You
Believe, but only that You Believe “
Can we know absolute truth? Many today would say, “Who cares?” not realizing that our answer to this question and how it works itself out in our lives is critical- a mistake here will doom a person to a continued life of meandering in the fog. Plato and other Greek philosophers discounted that we could really know anything about truth. Many today also say truth is relative. In the Bible, Luke noted about the Greeks in Athens in the first century A.D., “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.” (Acts 17:21) One philosophy major wrote me his views on absolute truth which seem to sum up bits and pieces of what many people think today: “What is this seemingly mythological truth qualified by the equally ambiguous term absolute? Does it dwell in a realm where good battles evil, in a yen and yang relationship between good and bad or is it a question of God? Before our journey has even begun we seem to be lost in a sea of metaphors and unsatisfactory concepts which allow only to hint at what it is we mean by the term absolute truth… by the time modern philosophy was finished Kant had awoken from his dogmatic slumber and Descartes had rendered empirical evidence unreliable by means of his own slumber via the dream argument. How can you be completely sure you’re not dreaming right now? Is it not possible that your brain is in a vat somewhere being probed by mad scientists (The Matrix)? Perhaps you popped into existence 30 seconds ago with nothing but the implanted memory of your entire past. The questions are endless and unanswerable. And so, in the tradition of the Socratic method, when it comes time to claim the “truth” we are hardly on terra firma.”
I have a hunch my philosophy friend was regurgitating some of what he had read and heard in class. Sounds great- but is this kind of truth something you can sink your teeth into? Is it the kind of stuff that will put your life back on track? Does it appeal to that inner voice, our conscience, or to our own fleshly desires that would rather not get too close to absolutes for fear that we may be in gross violation of them?
Talk and philosophy are cheap, but Absolute Truth is costly. To the modernist, post-Christian scholar, truth is relative. “Whatever works for you- hey, that’s great.” “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die.” I used to be an atheist; I used to live my life according to those philosophies of man. It was a dead end path with no answers, no hope and no vision- only the fog that kept creeping in, combined with an uneasiness- a thirst that couldn’t get quenched.
I. The Bible Proclaims Absolute Truth in a Person: Jesus Christ
What is absolute truth? Let’s see what Jesus had to say on this issue. That’s a good place to start, isn’t it? Was there ever a man who had more impact on history than Jesus Christ? Look at your watch- what is the date? July 3rd, 2003? 2003 what? 2003 A.D. (Anno Domini- in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ). All of Western Civilization is based on the absolute truth of Jesus Christ- even our U.S. constitution is based on the absolute truth of the laws in the Bible.
When Jesus was on trial, Pontus Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) Truth was standing before his eyes, and Pilate failed to recognize it. Truth is before our eyes today. We can choose to ignore Him or embrace Him, follow Him and live by His truth- and He will radically change our lives.
Jesus Christ made many very blatant statements about Himself and absolute truth: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) Jesus challenged His critics regarding His entire life, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46) No other sage, wise man or prophet has been able to accurately make that statement. Boldly, Jesus proclaimed that He was perfection in the flesh- God become man, the living Word of God, the infinite humbled and born into the finite through a virgin birth for all the world to see, to come and save the world.
He made sure we knew that absolute truth was essential for each of us: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:31-32) Until we come to embrace and receive the Absolute Truth, we are in bondage to sin, said Jesus (John 8:34).
Jesus wouldn’t allow us to just call Him a wise man, a prophet, a sage or a miracle worker. When one proclaims Himself as Jehovah God from eternity past, one either is God, or a liar or a lunatic. Jesus proclaimed: “Before Abraham was born, I AM.” (John 8:58) He also proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25) Jesus challenged all those who heard Him make this statement: “Do you believe in this?” (John 11:26) He challenges us today as well. It’s your choice. Before you reject these claims of the sole divinity of Jesus Christ, have you done your homework, or have you relied on what others have said about Jesus and the Bible?
II. Absolute Truth is Not Merely a Concept; It is a Relationship
This is one of many fundamental doctrines where Christianity/the Bible departs from all other religions and philosophies. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) Obtaining absolute truth is not a matter of intellect; it’s a relationship. Eternal life is in essence a relationship with God through Jesus: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) The Greek word “know” in this passage indicates a close relationship. Other religions vastly depart from this concept of eternity- New Age, Hinduism and Buddhism teach a universe that is impersonal that we can somehow tap into through prayer, meditation, and/or channeling. One day we can hope to become one with this impersonal universe and so be at peace, while in the process losing all identity of self. Islam teaches of a God who is distant, not personal and relational. The Muslim concept of heaven is of pleasure- pictured as seventy virgins waiting on a man. Heaven is not where man and Allah relate intimately with each other.
However, Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing…These things I have spoken to you that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John15:4-5) Eternal life is a relationship, not about works or obtaining knowledge or mysticism.
How do we enter into this relationship with God? Jesus said, “You must be born again to enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)- a theme repeated throughout the Bible. A spiritual birth takes place the moment we repent of all sin and ask God for forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ’s death in our place (John 3:16, Titus 3:5, Romans 6:23, 1 John 5:1)- the innocent sacrificed for the guilty. Upon such true faith, the Bible promises that the Holy Spirit of God will take up residence in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17), and we will abide in absolute truth- for Jesus Christ will live within us.
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:23, 26)
The Bible makes a clear distinction of the radical difference between a person who is born again of the Spirit of God and the person who isn’t:
“If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has past, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, cf. Ephesians 2:1-8)
III. Absolute Truth: The Bible’s “Audacious” Claims
There’s never been a book that has made such audacious claims about its writing- and been able to back up the claims. Consider prophecy. The Bible has over 9400 verses that contain prophecy- every single prophecy has come true, or will come true in this last generation of history. There are fully 300+ prophecies in the Old Testament about the first coming of Jesus Christ- many with specific details about His birth, ministry, trial, death, resurrection and ascension, His divinity, His lineage, and even an exact day, Palm Sunday, AD 32, that He would reveal Himself to the public as the Messiah- prophesied as happening 483 years to the day after a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25).
Some have tried to persuade me that the Bible is just another writing of man- and like all that man writes, it has its flaws. “Call it a great book, but don’t call it the Absolute Truth.” Is it logical that a God who has the power to create and sustain the universe would be able to use men to accurately and perfectly convey His truth through their writing styles, culture and personality? Peter wrote, “We have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place…no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19-20)
Paul made these audacious claims about the Old Testament and what had already been written in some of the earlier letters that would form the New Testament upon completion: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) John made sure we understood that their eyewitness testimony was no dream: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1-3)
Indeed, the writers of the New Testament affirmed each other that the other’s writings were the Word of God (2 Peter 3:15-16), and Jesus Himself prophesied that His disciples would remember, through the Holy Spirit of God, all the things that He had said (John 14:26, 16:12-14), enabling them to write for us accurate accounts of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord made these bold claims regarding prophecy and absolute truth:
“I am God, and there is none like Me…’I have declared the former things from the beginning; they went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you…Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled. Who among them can declare this, and show us former things? Let them bring out their witnesses, that they may be justified; or let them hear and say, ‘It is truth.’ You are My witnesses,’ says the Lord, ‘And My servant [the servant is a prophetic reference to Jesus Christ- See Isaiah 52:13-53:12] whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He [the Servant is One with God!]. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me.” (Isaiah 46:9-10, 48:3, 43:9-10)
In Deuteronomy the standard for a prophecy being absolute truth is laid out:
“And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’- When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken presumptuously.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
Boldly the Lord declared,
“Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) God proclaimed His standard of Absolute Truth:
“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)
Jesus proclaimed that the Old Testament was Absolute Truth, and that He was the only person ever who lived according to its’ laws perfectly:
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)
The Bible lays out in the book of Daniel the overall flow of history prophesied ahead of time: from the fall of the Persian Empire to the rise of Alexander the Great, the splintering of his kingdoms, the rise and fall of Rome, the nations that would later be born out of the fall of Rome, and in the end times, the regathering of these nations that were born from the ruins of the Roman Empire into a ten nation conglomerate from whom the Anti-Christ will come. We are seeing the European resurgence before our eyes in this generation.
Even more fascinating is how the entire history of Israel and her surrounding nations are prophesied throughout the Old Testament times, the time of Jesus, and the end times as well. The message came from virtually every prophet in the Old Testament, and is confirmed by Jesus and Paul as well: Israel was prophesied to be split in two, scattered among the nations all over the earth for her disobedience and her rejection of God’s laws and rejection of the Messiah, and in the end times, will come back from the ends of the earth to first establish a political power, then within a generation she will go through a great tribulation, with the world set against her. Many Jews during this time will come to believe in their Messiah, Jesus Christ, and God will establish Jerusalem as the center of a kingdom that will reign over the entire earth with Jesus Christ as her King. 1948 has seen the beginning of these prophecies fulfilled when Israel became a nation- for those who study the Bible, all the prophecies are demonstrating how everything is falling into place like rooks and pawns in a chess game- and checkmate is near. Jesus made clear that the generation that saw Israel become a nation would not pass away until the rest of the end times scenario was brought to a conclusion. We are living in that generation.
IV. Absolute Truth Verified by History
The reborn Christian makes his/her stand on the Bible. We know it is absolute truth. Indeed, of the eleven disciples of Jesus who proclaimed they were eyewitnesses to his death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven, all were willing to die cruel martyr’s deaths for their testimony. Of the eleven, ten did die martyr’s deaths, unwilling to deny what they were eyewitnesses to: the resurrection and deity of Jesus Christ. Only the disciple John died a natural death, after many years of persecution and exile to the prison island of Patmos for his testimony to the truth. Do you hold a belief that you are willing to die for? Are you that sure of your beliefs? Do you know of anyone who was willing to die for something that they made up and knew was as a lie, however “noble” that lie was? We all know of martyrs who have died for many causes, but will one willingly die for what one knows is a lie? Such a person would not be considered sane, and indeed one must be lacking common sense to suggest that a group of eleven disciples along with another seventy followers, all were insane, and that five hundred people who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection were all hallucinating the fourteen post resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ- their hopes and desires led them to “see” Christ, eat with Christ, touch Christ.
Then there are those who would say that Jesus Christ really didn’t die, but was taken off the cross and put in a tomb where He resuscitated. One doesn’t have to wrestle too long with that one to see how absurd such a theory is- and why archaeologists today are convinced that Jesus died on the cross. One world religion of over one billion followers states that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, but that someone who looked just like Him died on the cross. Instead, He ascended into heaven before that. What is at the root of these fanciful tales? The denial of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Religions, cults and philosophies of man will go to great lengths to deny the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ- for it is in His death that our sins are forgiven, and it is in His resurrection that His divinity is established. To accept His death and resurrection is to come to an acknowledgment of absolute truth, and to come to a crisis point of either having to reject the truth and bear the consequences, or accept the truth and embrace the Lord and His desires for our lives.
The Christian makes his/her stand on Jesus Christ, who died for our sin and rose again. We stand by these as history, not fiction, verifiable in the same way that we might verify, for example, that William Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, was born on such and such date, lived in this city, married so and so, died of this disease on that date. We approach the
Bible as history and I challenge you that it is a historically and archaeologically accurate book that never contradicts itself. Of the forty authors who wrote it in three different languages over a period of 1400 years it presents a unified, consistent message that all points to Jesus Christ and tells us all we need to know, to live and to grow in our relationship with Him- both now and into the next life, for eternity.
Jeffrey Sheler has been the religion editor at the magazine U.S. News and World Report for the past 13 years, writing during that time more than 25 cover stories for the magazine. A special collector’s edition was put out last year called “Mysteries of Faith.” As an expert in Biblical Archaeology, Jeffrey Sheler noted, “Now the sands of the Middle East are yielding secrets hidden for thousands of years that shed surprising new light on the historical veracity of those sacred writings. In recent years, archaeologists in Israel have unearthed amazing artifacts pertaining to two important figures from the Bible: a ninth-century BC stone inscription bearing the name of David, the ancient Israelite warrior-king who killed the giant Goliath, and a first-century A.D. tomb believed to be that of Caiaphas, the Jerusalem high priest who presided over the trial of Jesus. In both cases, it was the first archaeological evidence ever discovered suggesting that the two existed beyond the pages of the Bible…the ruins of a number of sites that figure in the patriarch stories (2000 BC in Genesis)- including Ur, Shechem, Ai and Hebron- have been located. One ancient city, Haran in upper Mesopotamia, appears to have been a major commercial hub in the period when Abraham and his father would have arrived there after leaving Ur. The site, excavated by archaeologists from the University of Chicago, was abandoned shortly after the patriarchal period in about 1800 BC and remained unoccupied until about the seventh century B.C., experts say.” The article goes through each period of time in Biblical history from 2000 BC to 100 AD, pointing out all the archaeological finds and how they matched up well with the Biblical accounts.
V. My Personal Testimony of Absolute Truth
A Psalmist wrote, “The entirety of Your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160) Such convictions do not come through mere studying, debating or philosophy, but from the life of a man who has dived deeply into God’s Word and applied it to every area of life, relying on God for his every need. Here is a man who has tested God’s Word in all the fires of life and come to a conclusion that it is completely trustworthy. Such has been my approach to life, and I have found His Word to be absolutely true whenever I have applied to it my life- He has led me to deeper and deeper tests to step out in faith and prove His Word true. Even when I’ve failed the tests through my unbelief, God’s Word has proven true, and my lack of faith has demonstrated me to be the liar, not God’s Word! Paul recognized this when he wrote, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
Praise God for His great faithfulness, patience and love toward us, continually guiding and growing us in His truth as we embrace Him. Jesus continually prays for the growth (sanctification) of His followers through their obedience to God’s Word, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Daily I read the Word of God, meditate on it and seek to live it in its’ entirety. When I’ve stepped out in faith, testing it against what seems from my natural senses not to make sense, God’s Word, empowered by His Spirit, combined with my humility and desperate need has always demonstrated itself trustworthy.
Some have boasted they have read the Bible and don’t find it to be true, or they find it meaningless, outdated or boring. These are men and women who have read, but have failed to submit themselves to God’s Word with no reservations. The Bible describes the deception of such people, “They did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12) These people “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18) because they want to continue to live their lives in their own selfish pleasures and lusts, desires that will never lead to fulfillment. They chase after the philosophies of the world and deny the absolute truth of God. Some even spurn and mock those who point to the truth of Jesus Christ, and applaud those who like themselves embrace falsehood. They chase New Age doctrines, evolution, secular psychology, and other philosophies based not on the Word of God, but on the false teachings of man that contradict the Bible. The Bible warns us about these philosophies of man, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) What truth have you built your life on?
Those who don’t glorify Jesus Christ end up inventing their own god: they glorify themselves, nature or some terrible image of God robbed of His glory. Paul accurately predicted their end result: “Although they knew [were aware of] God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of God into an image made like corruptible man…therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature [themselves or “Mother Earth”] rather than the Creator…God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness… who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:21-32) That sounds more and more like America today, doesn’t it? In contrast, Paul rejoiced over his disciples, “We also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) God’s word only contains life to those who believe. We can’t say we believe if we don’t pursue living according to it- are you allowing God’s word to transform you today?
The truth of God’s Word is mysterious in that it can’t be appropriated like other books can by just becoming knowledgeable about it. If I’m smart enough, I can read a textbook on Physics, grasp the equations, understand it and apply it towards solving a problem in science or engineering. Yet the Bible requires more than intellectual knowledge to grasp. It requires the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14)
We receive the Holy Spirit through a rebirth. After that rebirth, we grow in our relationship with God as we humbly submit ourselves to God and His leading through His Word and the Holy Spirit who is in us, relying on Him in the midst of our fleshly inadequacies. We cry out in our continuous need, seeking His guidance, and He supplies our every need for grace and truth.
Today, do you know Absolute Truth? Is He living in you? Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!” (John 8:32-33) Have you received? “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12) If you’ve never come to a point in life of receiving Jesus Christ into your heart for the forgiveness of sins, why not sincerely ask Him to forgive you and come into your heart today. His invitation is throughout the Bible, “Let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)
John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” (3 John 4) I wish that joy for you, for God’s truth never disappoints- it continually builds us up until that day when we shall behold Him in all His glory, full of grace and truth.
In Christ’s Love,