What Is Relative Truth?

May 20, 2024

It was Passover in Jerusalem in 33 A.D. and the governor, Pontius Pilate, and the rest of the Romans know it is going to be a bad week. The Jews are the most obstinate conquered people in the empire. Their fervor for independence was even more intense during this religious holiday that celebrated their ancestors’ liberation from Egyptian slavery over 1000 years before. And to make matters worse, this year Jesus is in town. Nothing else needs to be said.

Jesus ends up in front of Pilate who asks a series of questions. “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” “So, you are a king?” Jesus’ answers totally perplex and confound Pilate who wants to wash his hands of the whole affair. They are astounding answers for a man who might face the death penalty. You can look them up in John 18:33-37. Then Pilate asks the question that rings out through the ages, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).

What is truth? This is one of the most important questions any of us will ask ourselves during the course of our lives. It becomes complicated because we are bombarded by many little truths in the complex information age we live in. So much so, that many people, including theologians, question whether there are any absolute truths in our world. Their argument is that each of us, as individuals, determines our own truth because each of us has a different point of view. With all these different reference points from which to make judgements, no absolute truths can be put forth without denying someone’s right to determine what truth is from their unique vantage point.

This is why there is such an intense debate about sexuality and whether there is such a thing as a Biblical sexual ethic, or if sexual standards are set by the culture. Sociologists study different cultures where the standards on nudity, promiscuity, fidelity and sexual expression are different. Next, they usually conclude that sexual standards are set by the culture, and they have no effect on how strong or weak the culture is. Therefore, a truly enlightened culture should drop its sexual standards and let each person determine what is true about their sexual ethics. Thus, we have another proof that truth is relative.

I completely disagree with such conclusions, but such philosophies are embraced by many because of the common agreement that truth is relative. Most of those that make such claims don’t believe their own claim. The claim that humans are destroying the planet is believed to be an absolute truth. The theory of evolution is believed to be an absolute truth. Even the claim that there are no absolute truths is declared to be an absolute truth.

I think what those that claim there are no absolute truths are really declaring is that the absolute truths of the Bible are not absolute truths. They are rebelliously declaring that they can live any way they want, because all moral and ethical restrictions are social constructs, and go against their desired truth. Just because a person is absolutely true that something is true for them does not mean that it actually is true. They can be absolutely wrong.

One Biblical truth that is not relative is that human beings are sinful. This is always true, has always been true and will always be true. This is why our current cultural struggle with truth being relative has allowed so many people to adopt self-destructive lifestyles, and their truths are little more than a house of cards. People see no reason to place limits on themselves. If something like one of the Ten Commandments is not a truth that they want to live by, then they believe they can disregard it.

Because we are always sinful, there is one more truth that is the greatest truth of all, and it is not a belief statement, it is a person. Jesus Christ is that truth. When Pilate asked, “What is truth?” he did not realize truth was staring him right in the face. At his feet was salvation, hope, and forgiveness for all of his sins, and ours as well. Jesus is the greatest truth of all, and the decision is ours whether to believe in Him or not. In John 14:6 we read, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Your decision about whether Jesus is the Truth of your life is even more important than your answer to the question, “What is truth?”