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Absolute Truth

March 14, 2007

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Some time ago I had an email discussion with some of my former students and one of the other instructors that taught with me. The discussion was about who is right and wrong in the religious world. It eventually boiled down to a discussion as to whether a person could know “the” truth. The mentality that our tribe has had for so many years is that we have arrived at truth, and if you don’t agree with us you are mistaken and in danger of losing you soul.

Fred Peatross recently posted an excellent brief article that I want to share with you. It really helps to clarify this whole debate.

When Christians say they have absolute (objective) truth they need to clarify. Are we talking about absolute (objective) truth or absolute knowledge?  Absolute knowledge means incorrigible knowledge (incapable of being wrong or corrected). From a Christian perspective this would be a God-attribute. Since we are finite creatures and “know only in part” and possess an amazing capacity for self-deception and error it would be ridiculous for us to claim absolute knowledge. But that’s what our culture hears when a Christian says they have absolute (objective) truth. So, for the sake of truth, please clarify!   John Allen Turner comments about this post…I prefer Art Lindsley’s approach. He says that there is such a thing as absolute truth, but since I am not absolute I’ll never be able to grasp it absolutely. Still, partial truth can be taken as real truth as long as we don’t assume it is the whole truth. 

This doesn’t mean that a person become wishy washy and stands for nothing. I still have strong convictions and beliefs…I just don’t see them as exclusive truth.  

So what do you think?

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9 comments

  1. I don’t believe in absolute truth. To quote Pilate, “What is truth?” I think you are on to something when you start discussing knowledge.

    I have been reading N.T. Wright for years now. He offers some amazing insights into knowledge and truth. But it was his students, Walsh and Keesmaat in their book -Colossians Remixed, that really helped the thing gel for me.

    We Christian types tend to think that objective truth is an all or nothing game. But knowing God is not about being objective; it is about love. And when you love the truth, you cannot be objective with it. And this kind of talk makes people nervous because then they think the only alternative is an anything goes game. But I am not saying that at all.

    Objective truth is pursued with a hermaneutic of suspicion. Wright teaches that we come to truth with a hermeneutic of love. Check out his book, New Testament and the People of God for a full and rich discussion of it. I will only fumble the thought, he will give it better clarity.

    Many blessings…


  2. Will put that one on my list Mike, Thanks


  3. God’s wisdom is absolute truth. I do the best I can with what the word of God provides for me in my everyday life. If we put as much effort into doing the basic things that God and Jesus have shown to us through example, I really believe we wouldn’t have so much time to quibble over these matters of the mind.

    Men waste so much time on trying to figure out the end times, prophesy and truth… I spend as much time as I can trying to get men and women ready to be on God’s side. Getting right with God means that you don’t have to worry about the other stuff. If I am doing God’s will, I am going home with him. Where home is, I don’t know or care! I leave that up to him.

    Absolute truth… am I in first century Athens all of a sudden? If I am, then let me deal with what is of utmost importance, just the way that Paul did in Acts 17:16-34. He spoke to them in a way that got to the heart of the matter. Let me do the same and leave the hard stuff to God. He is way better at it than I am.

    It is Christ who has set me free… that is all the truth I need, thank you very much! Without him and his sacrifice, the truth is no better than the law. Sure, keeping the law made you right with God, but nobody could keep it. Knowing the absolute truth might do the same in theory, but it is foolish to think I can know what God knows. If I knew what God knows, why would I need him?

    Jesus Christ set me free…
    Jimbo


  4. Interesting! I am amazed about the uneasiness about claiming to have absolute truth. I am not timid at all on this subject. I will give two examples.

    First. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father but by me” If that is not absolute truth we might just as well live like dogs and follow our fleshly instincts. That statement must be absolute truth or we have no faith. Paul used the illustration of the resurrection. His teaching was the if there was no ressurection (Christ’s) our faith is vain, void, usless.

    Absolute truth? Absolutely.

    Secondly, the reverse. The Bible says sing and not play so we are not to use instruments in our worship serices. Some would claim that as absolute truth and make it a point of fellowship, or even in the most extreme cases, brotherhood. That is hog wash, not absolute truth.

    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle


  5. Jimbo And Royce, thanks for your thoughts. They are always appreciated.


  6. On behalf of the younger half…although I am not sure I am in it anymore… a couple of problems.

    One, is that when you are trying to reach those that don’t know Jesus, and the younger half of the population is far more likely to be reached, claiming to possess absolute truth (no matter how YOU define it) will turn the off like a light. They perceive that as close mindedness, ignorance and being plain deceived.

    The second problem that comes to mind is in my religious heritage, when people ask or talk about truth they mean “our set of doctrine is right and any other is wrong.” I rings arrogant in my ears.


  7. Lee,
    Do you remember when Blair Smith was talking to a guy (it was on one of those campaigns we were on – I think Delaware) who was arguing for truth with a little “t” because we could never know truth with a big “T”? His arugument was like the guy who says, “I absolutly do not believe in absolute truth!”
    If Jesus would have just accepted the teachigs of the Sadducees he would have been much more popular. The Herodians weren’t even too bad. I guess the Pharisees were kind of hopeless. If Jesus would have accepted the deeds of the Nicolaitans there would have been less division in the church at Ephesus.
    Somthingto think about. Love, Dennis


  8. I don’t think I would use Pilate as an example for absolute truth. He didn’t understand the possibility of it. His whole political life was built on lies and the washing of his hands could not was away his responsibility to absolute truth.

    Jesus, on the other hand, claims to be TRUTH. Unfortunately, I can look into my own heart and yet I still do not know me very well. How then can I know Jesus very well? And since He is absolute truth and I know Him poorly, I can only say that I know absolute truth poorly.

    Some things are clear, even though accepted by faith. Jesus is Lord; Savior; The propitiation; The way; The truth; The life. One MUST be born again in order to be in the family of God. The new birth is finalized in baptism, for it is there that we are raised from our dead lives into new. These are fundamental and very clear, whether we accept them or not. Questions about instrumental music, frequency of the Lord’s supper and other doctrines built on silence or example are not so clear. We may differ and thus fail in our quest for absolute truth. But grace is greater than our failures…

    Josiah


  9. I absolutly believe in absolute truth! But not everything I believe will fall into that catagory, regardless of how I might believe that it is. Josiah sums it up well, “But grace is greater than our failures…”



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