Where does the Lack of Absolute Truth Leave Us?
I went into the store to make an exchange yesterday. As I stood at the counter, the manager picked up the phone. “This is Store XXX; two people just came in and ran out with about $500 of perfumes.” She described the male and female, who she said were only in the store about a minute. They knew exactly what they wanted, grabbed it and ran.
They didn’t live by absolute truth.
Teen friends Elizabeth and Jennifer took a shortcut home after a party. It was 11:30 pm on a humid June night in Houston, Texas. They called their parents to tell them they were on their way. But the seventeen and fourteen-year-old girls never got home.
In a wooded area, they stumbled onto a gang initiation night. The gang had just started to break up when they saw the girls.
“Let’s get ’em!”
Elizabeth and Jennifer’s naked bodies were found four days later. After repeated rapes and strangulation, which didn’t kill the girls quickly enough, each neck was stepped on to complete the murders.
Six gang members, all participants, were arrested. They ranged in age from fourteen to eighteen.
The day before the killings, one of the gang members had appeared on a local TV show, where he hoisted a beer and boasted “Human…life…means…nothing.”
Relative, rather than Absolute, Truth
These cases are not isolated. University administrators misuse funds or engage in inappropriate intimate relationships with students. Our news shouts sordid stories about politicians, professional athletes, business leaders, and clergy who are involved in adultery, theft, drugs, or domestic violence. We read in “Nextdoor” about catalytic converters, packages, and cars being stolen…sometimes in midday! School and mall shootings have become more frequent, leaving us to wonder what has happened to our country.
What is Truth?
When I grew up, there seemed to be a common understanding of right and wrong. Courtesy, kindness, helpfulness, honesty and loyalty were right. Lying, cheating, stealing, and unfaithfulness were wrong. Of course, since the beginning of time, there have always been those outside the norm who chose evil rather than good.
Don and I are reading CULTURE SHOCK, by Chip Ingram. He explains that absolute truth used to be something outside ourselves, guiding our actions. We didn’t always live up to the standard, but the idea of absolute truth impacted our lives and behaviors, and we knew whether they were good or bad.
However, over the years many seem to have absorbed the mantra that “whatever works for me” is truth.
Ingram traces the changes in our belief systems throughout history, from the Middle, or Dark Ages to the Renaissance, where many intellectual thinkers returned to both classic Greek literature and historic Christianity. That was followed by the Reformation, where Martin Luther studied the scriptures for himself and learned that many of the Church’s teachings were in conflict with the Bible.
The Enlightenment, or Age of Reason, followed. It brought another intellectual shift toward reason, eventually setting Biblical truth against man’s reason.
In the late 1700s, the Industrial Revolution produced some of the greatest inventions in the history of the world. Now man felt he had things under control and didn’t need God.
Then Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein introduced the ideas of pragmatism and relativity, although Einstein never claimed or taught a relative moral system.
Do you recall conversations about Situational Ethics, as I do?
I recall when the eight-year-old daughter of good friends came home with an assignment. “There are seven of you in a lifeboat. You know the boat cannot sustain all seven. Who would you choose to push out of the boat? The 85-year old who’s lived a full life? The 30-year old who was known to have stolen from other passengers? The single woman who has never married and thus has no offspring to worry about?” Questions like these helped move us toward a system based on relative moral rules, rather than moral truth.
Jim and Linda fought back, telling the teacher this was an inappropriate question and their daughter would not complete the assignment. How I respected them for standing up to this moral relativity.
Existentialism heralded the call to “do your own thing,” a blatant rejection of absolute truth. “If it feels good, do it!” became the mantra of many.
Today it seems many are pushing the envelope with multiple sexual partners, unfaithulness, multiple marriages, excessive alcohol and drug use, and white-collar and other theft. And then parents get upset when their children push the envelope just a bit further.
So where do we find truth today?
- In the “It’s all good” mentality? (It’s NOT all good.)
- “If that works for you, that’s great, but I’m not into it.”
- “The Bible–that’s an antiquated book that has no relevance for me.”
Many, including myself, find the Bible to be very relevant. The issues with which we deal today aren’t very different from what the Israelites and early Christians faced. Immorality, jealousy, factions, class divisions, persecution, lying, and property seizures.
From the guidance of the Ten Commandments to a relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, we learn absolute truth.
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”
So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.I Corinthians 1:14-25, NLT
We are created in God’s image, and He is all wise. He has bestowed reason and great wisdom on some, varying amounts on the rest of us.
He says “Follow me.” When we do, our life may be filled with wisdom that is used for the good of others. Or it may be a difficult, winding path that He promises to walk alongside us.
If we follow the North Star, we will not lose our way. In similar fashion, if we follow Jesus Christ, we have a truth North compass, both through good times and difficult. Instead of saying “this is my truth”, we will say “This is truth.”
What is your view of absolute versus relative truth? I’d love to hear from you, whether or not you agree with me.