Why Should Anyone Believe in Objective, Absolute Truth?

we should all care about the existence of objective, absolute truth because it fits logically with reality. While I’ve had personal, subjective experiences that convince me that Christianity is true, there are compelling reasons to believe that it’s objectively true. When I first began to investigate the claims of Christianity, I compared it to some of the most common views of truth in our culture like postmodernism, relativism, and scientism. What I discovered is that many who hold these views do so because they think that they’re good, but they often don’t follow them to their logical conclusions. Let’s briefly explore these views.

Postmodernism

Postmodernism, simply put, posits that we cannot know the truth, that we are unable to access it because of our inability to bypass our biases and take off the lenses through which we interpret life. In other words, we are unable to access true reality and actually know the truth. Instead, we live in communities and cultures where we construct our own truth and we collectively agree on what our truth is. Much of it is wrapped up in the language that we use. This is a view that many espouse, even in our churches, because maybe we have become suspicious that no one really knows the truth. Or, maybe we have been hurt by someone in authority in the church, so that we distrust their motives and their claims about truth. Or, maybe we think it’s wrong to make the exclusive claim that Christians know the truth!

However, there is an obvious contradiction with this worldview. If we make the statement “we cannot know the truth,” we are actually claiming to know the truth that the truth cannot be known! Did you catch that? How do we somehow know the truth that the truth cannot be known? Postmodernism contradicts itself—it fails its own test! Further, postmodernism isn’t livable because we go about our daily lives acting as if we do know things to be true.

Relativism

Professor Dr. Scott Smith, explains ethical relativism in his book, Truth and the New Kind of Christian:

“[Ethical relativism] is the belief that there are no universal moral values or principles that are true for all people in all times and places. …[It] depends on the belief that ethical values and principles are just humanly made; that is, they are constructed. …Unlike postmodern views, relativism does not presuppose that we cannot know if there are objective truths. Instead, it…denies that any such truths exist, which is a stronger, more definite claim than the postmodern one.”[1]

We’ve all heard the following relativistic statements—and maybe you’ve even used them:

“Everyone has their own truth.”
“You do your truth and I’ll do mine.”
“That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”
“No one can know any truth about religion.”

But there is an obvious contradiction in the statement, “Everyone has their own truth” because it’s making an objective, universal truth claim that applies to everyone. To put it in the form of a question, “Is it absolutely true that everyone has their own truth?” Do you see the problem? Under relativism, what happens when someone’s preferences or truth conflicts with another person’s preferences or truth? Who decides which of the conflicting views wins? If we follow this view to its logical conclusion, we end up with intolerance. Professor Dr. J.P. Moreland explains the problem with modern tolerance when he says this:

“Traditionally, tolerance of other viewpoints meant that even though I think those viewpoints are dead wrong and will argue against them fervently, nevertheless, I will defend your right to argue your own case. Just as importantly, I will treat you with respect as an image bearer of God. …Tolerance has come to mean that no one is right and no one is wrong and, indeed, the very act of stating that someone else’s views are immoral or incorrect is now taken to be intolerant… Once the existence of knowable truth in religion and ethics is denied, authority (the right to be believed and obeyed) gives way to power (the ability to force compliance), …and spirited but civil debate in the culture wars is replaced by politically correct special-interest groups who have nothing left but political coercion to enforce their views on others.”[2]

If truth is relative, if it’s based on my subjective preference, then the person with the most power wins. Further, the traditional definition of tolerance, where we respect each other in spite of our conflicting views, fulfills the directive Christians are given in 1 Peter 3:15 to make a defense for our belief and hope in Christ but to do it with “gentleness and respect.”

Scientism

Scientism is the belief that the only truth that can be known is that which can be discovered and proven through the natural sciences—which includes physics, biology, chemistry, and geology. This is a prevalent idea in our world. But again, there is an obvious contradiction with this view because the statement “the only truth that can be known is that which can be discovered and proven through the natural sciences” cannot be proven through the natural sciences! It’s a philosophical claim which cannot be proven in a test tube. Just like postmodernism and relativism, it fails its own test, it refutes itself at its core. 

Further, scientism doesn’t match up with the whole of reality because it doesn’t have sufficient explanatory power. It cannot answer the major questions of life and give us meaning, or tell us why we ought to do this or ought not to do that. It can tell us what is and how things may work in the physical realm, but not why. It cannot tell us why we should care about justice, the poor, or the oppressed. Science itself is useful and good but it cannot tell us what is right and what is wrong.

Christianity and Objective Truth

Christians should care about objective truth because they make the incredible claim that Christianity is the truth and Christ is the only way to God and eternal life in heaven. Those are exclusive claims! Many Christians throughout the past 2,000 years and around the world have staked their lives on the truth of Christianity. In John 14:6 Jesus declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.” But on what grounds do Christians make this exclusive claim to truth? It all hinges on what Christ said and what he did on the cross. In John 2:18-22, Jesus is asked to prove his ultimate authority:

“The Jews then responded to him, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ They replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.”

Jesus said he would prove his authority that he is the truth by dying for our sins on the cross and rising from the dead. So, if Jesus was not resurrected, then he wouldn’t be the truth. He would only be a good teacher with wise words, which many people believe. But Christians have a mountain of evidence to demonstrate with reasonable certainty that he did rise from the dead, proving that he has the authority to make the claim that he is the truth. Further, the Apostle Paul made a bold statement when he said this in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19:

“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Paul is saying that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then Christianity would not be true and Christians are believing a lie. It’s been said that Paul hung the whole of Christianity by a thread when he did this because he was inviting us to try and cut that thread, to try and disprove Christianity. But Paul knew the powerful evidence for Jesus’s resurrection and that it is objectively true. Paul, who died for his belief in Christ, valued truth above everything else and he invites us to put Christianity’s claims to the test. 

Subjective Preferences vs. Objective Claims

Some people think that when Christians make the claim that “Christianity is true” that it is somehow a subjective claim—just a matter of blind preference. But, the truth doesn’t depend on us or our preferences. It certainly shouldn’t be based on how it feels because, let’s be real, sometimes being a Christian is really hard. It’s not like we’re out here winning a popularity contest! The truth of Christianity is based on the objective, public ministry of Christ and the eyewitness testimony of those who followed Him. 

If I were to say, “I like Jesus’s teachings,” that doesn’t mean they’re true. I’m making a subjective claim because I’m the subject. But if I were to say “Jesus rose from the dead,” that would be an objective statement that could be proven true or false. It doesn’t depend on me but on the evidence. Likewise, when a naturalist or atheist makes the claim that science has proven that God does not exist, they’re making an objective claim. The problem is, these statements can’t all be true. These claims are either true or false, regardless of personal preference. 

Closing Thoughts

Either Christ has been raised or he hasn’t. This is an important, objective truth claim to investigate, for it bears immense implications about our life, purpose, and destiny. The nature of truth is this—it causes us to seriously consider what we believe and why we believe it. If we truly care about the truth, we need to take the time to consider in what ways we usurp the truth in exchange for our feelings or preferences. Do we truly value truth and want to know it, even if it means we have to change? While the truth isn’t always easy to swallow, if we value the truth, we should pursue it. 

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