Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6
Truth is that which corresponds to reality for everyone, everywhere, at all times. We use various scientific methods including use of our five natural senses, to test whether a statement is true or “corresponds to our metaphysical reality”. It is easier to determine truth if we can observe an event or object in real time rather than have to rely upon eyewitness accounts or other evidence from the past. Nevertheless, scientific methods do exist that enable analysis of historical evidence such as bones or manuscripts to test whether a statement is true or false. For example, textual criticism can be used to determine how accurately a copy of a manuscript represents the original.
Have you ever had someone say, “That may be true to you, but it isn’t true to me?” This is an example of subjective or relative truth. Subjectivism occurs when truth or reality is determined internally by the individual consciousness without the use of scientific methods or the five natural senses. There is no attempt by the individual to determine if what he/she believes corresponds to reality (i.e. perception is reality).
Truth is NOT necessarily what we believe. What we believe is false if it doesn’t correspond to reality. A fact is an objective and verifiable observation of the metaphysical reality around us such as “uranium is radioactive.” Beliefs refer to facts, and by reference to facts, are either true or false. The belief, “uranium is NOT radioactive”, is false. Human minds create beliefs about facts. Facts do not require beliefs for their existence or truthfulness.
We have now drawn a distinction between truths and beliefs. Truth exists independent of human minds. Belief requires a human mind to create it. Truth is discovered, not created.
Now lets explore another aspect of truth. Is truth absolute or relative? Truth is absolute within the context of space and time. For example: “Wow, it’s raining”. This statement is only true if you know the location and time that it refers to. Therefore, within the context of space and time, this is a true statement. “The fork is to the left of the spoon.” This statement is only true within the context of space. One would have to know where the person making the statement is standing or is referencing in order for this statement to be true.
Additionally, truth is not relative to persons. As we learned earlier, truth exists independent of human minds.
In spite of the logic presented above, some people will assert that truth is relative to persons and circumstances and this is known as relativism. The relativist typically assets that truth is dependent upon ones language, culture or experience. Additionally, they will assert there is no objective standard that truth can be measured against. Consider the implications of these assertions. The concept of a false statement would be impossible, as there is no requirement for truth to correspond to reality but only to ones owns language, culture or experience.
For example: A police officer pulls over a person speeding at 90 mph in a 55 mph zone. The police officer asserts that the person was going 90 mph (as measured by a scientific instrument – the radar detector). The person asserts that he was only going 45 mph with conviction and believes what he said. Does this make what the person said true? No. Truth must correspond to reality, not what one believes.
If truth were relative, the world would be full of contradictions and no one would ever be wrong. I could say “that shoe is made entirely of plastic” and you could say “that shoe is made entirely of leather” and we would both be right. However, the shoe cannot be made both entirely of plastic and entirely of leather at the same time, demonstrating that relative truth is impossible.
Relativism can be easily shown as self-defeating by “infinite regress.” To start with, the relativist must claim that relativism is “absolutely” true for everyone. Otherwise, he is faced with determining to whom it is true for. Exploring this logic further leads to an infinite regress and the theory of relativism implodes.
In future posts we will build upon this concept that truth is absolute in some of the following areas:
- Is truth knowable?
- How do we determine what is true?
- Moral Truth – Is it absolute or relative?
- Modernism and Post Modernism
- Do current copies of the Holy Bible represent, without error, what was written in the original manuscripts?
- How do we know what Jesus said is true?