“In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
These are the same questions you and I face today: What is truth? What have we done with Jesus, the “King of the Jews?”
What will we do with Jesus, the Son of God?
Objective truth is necessary for life
Objective truth is the idea that there are self-evident truths that are not dependent upon our knowledge, opinion or agreement with them. Without us, they continue to exist.
Subjective truth, by comparison, is that which relies solely on an individual person, and relates individually to that person's perspective or opinion of the objective reality which he or she experiences.
The scientific laws of nature give us many concrete examples of objective truth: according to the second law of thermodynamics, all things tend to decay and disorder. Whether we like it or not, our vehicles will break down, our homes have already begun the rotting process, and our bodies begin to feel the advance of breakdown from the moment we are conceived. All of these processes take place without our consent, and even without our knowledge. The laws of nature are completely unconcerned with our agreement or belief in them. Whether we are aware of the truth of these objective statements has no bearing on its objective validity. The only necessity we have left is to find these truths and prepare for them properly so as to mitigate damages or reap benefits from them.
We even find objective laws at work within societal structures. For instance, without his agreement on the validity of a rule, my son will still lose access to the new airsoft gun he may have purchased if he should choose to load it and test it out in our vehicle while I am driving, since I am the author of the ethics in my vehicle and in my home. He doesn't own the car, therefore, he doesn't get to make the rules about the car.
On the other hand, in such an instance as this my son's belief or perspective about the new reality in which he finds himself (gunless) is very much a subjective truth, that which is purely opinion and perspective. He feels that the result is unfortunate. To the rest of the world, however, our general agreement in opinion about the result is very much a fortunate one.
Reality is not a human construction, though our perception of reality may, in fact, be.
Without objective truth, each person’s personal “reality” becomes unanchored to any other grounded object. Our “realities” begin to float in space, with no focal point and no real reference point. As a result, each person feels that they may then reign in their own heart as absolute creator, judge and king, each a mini-god in their own constructed "reality."
Wherever these ideas, self-proposed truths and morality clash with another’s ideas, truths, and moralities, it is only left to either person to try to make others submit to one's own constructed reality or individualized meaning. Failing this, we find that we must maintain our distance from one another in communication, relationship and even distance in order to maintain peace in our spheres. Without an arbiter outside of our individual realities, there is no way to maintain intimate relationships without a constant conflict of personal interests.
Finally, when practiced in the extreme as we have seen in history, ethics and morality denigrate to become subject to the idea of the “survival of the fittest,” or the mob rule. Either democracy, the idea of the majority vote, or despotism, that of the most powerful forcefully ruling, becomes the judge of ethical morality, and that morality can subsequently change with the feelings or personal interests of a changing and relativistic people.
Consequently, those in the minority at any given time simply no longer have a voice, a right, or a cause. Instead, whoever is weaker, whether physically, intellectually, or culturally, then become the victims of whoever has more power at the moment.
Our human need for objective truth, therefore, is intrinsic to our survival and well-being both personally and societally, and it is left then to find how we may make a determination as to who really does have an objective and transcendent standard for life.
Humans have no inherent ability to set their own standard
Can we be our own judges? Can everyone just follow their own conscience? Is there any person or group of people fit to make objective moral determinations or truth?
Years ago, I engaged in a series of small debates with one of my youngest. This sweet young lady emphatically declared to me that she was “the boss.” I calmly explained to her that no, she wasn’t: Mommy was. Whatever it was that she was protesting at that moment, whether it was her chores, her salad, or her consequence for picking on her little brother, she desperately wanted autonomy from an outside source of truth, justice and accountability. To her, true freedom meant the ability to do anything she wanted without repercussions.
After a series of these conversations, she decided on a new tactic: Mommy would be “big boss,” but she would be “little boss”--over her other siblings. At least that way she could have control and power over them. Knowing her agenda for this, it was not likely that I would be placing her in charge of anyone anytime soon. Now, since that time she has matured and there have been times when I have sensed an unselfish desire to serve others and have been able to delegate responsibilities to her in order for her to be “in charge” of others for their benefit, with a careful eye to make sure that she used that power correctly.
In each of us, we have that that temptation. Perhaps you are familiar with the proverb, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” Without outside accountability of some kind, this is certainly true (Luke 12:45).
Because we are born with an intrinsic, inherited selfishness and propensity to sin, we need outside accountability to make sure that our behavior is truly loving.
The Bible teaches us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure,” and that no one can truly understand their inner hidden motivations and intents, except the Lord who searches and examines our hearts and gives to each of us according to our conduct (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
In Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 3, Paul argues that it is only God who may ultimately judge*, because it is only God who has the capacity to be true and righteous at all times and in all ways: "Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge” (Rom. 3:4).
While Paul is arguing here about the deplorable inefficacy of the Jewish Law to produce the righteous living that God requires from us in order to have a right or justified relationship with Him, he takes the opportunity to share the good news of the gospel to those then under the conviction of their inadequacy; the good news of a righteousness that comes as a free gift, independent of our striving to please a holy God:
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:22-26
Only God can set an objective standard for His creation
Because only He is holy,
only He is qualified to judge our wrongdoing.
Unlike us, there are no impure or ulterior motives (1 John 1:5) that God has ever or will ever have for giving us guidelines to live by. As Creator of all, He has no need to manipulate or coerce to gain or maintain power. Rather, God is holy in His entirety (1 Peter 1:16-17) from His actions to His inner motivations and therefore has the ability to call us to His standard: But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear" (1 Peter 1:16-17).
Because only He knows all things,
only He is able to judge all things.
While humans so characteristically misunderstand one another, fail to see the inner motivations or even fail to witness all that happens and so find themselves consistently making poor judgments on one another's guilt or innocence, the Word of God teaches us that God, the Creator, is eternal (John 5:24), and as such he knows both the “end from the beginning,” (Isaiah 46:10) and the secrets of each person’s heart (Psalm 44:21, Acts 15:8, Psalm 69:5, Proverbs 15:11). In Psalm 139 we see not only the vastness of the knowledge of our Creator, but also the depth of His profound love for His creation and people, His image-bearers.
The Psalmist declares that not only does God intimately know us, but that he knows our every thought, our physical location at all moments, and every word we will speak before we have even let it out of our mouths.
Even in the womb, the writer asserts, God created us and watched over us carefully as each one of our parts was put together and, even more incredibly, knows every day of our lives from before we were formed.
Because only He is all goodness and love,
only He has all of humanity's good purposed in His objective standard.
For these attributes I am incredibly grateful! Imagine an all-powerful, all-knowing God who wasn’t good or loving, and our desire to hastily maneuver Him into a brightly-polished genie’s lamp becomes paramount. Instead of an evil or arbitrary power though, we see evidences of His love and goodness in creation’s warm spring breezes, beautiful flowers, lovely scents and fantastically indulgent foods from around the world. We see natural processes built into creation that allow it to recover, regenerate, and reproduce. We find miracles in our everyday lives, rescuing us from what could and often should be our fate if left to chance. It is no wonder to me that the Psalmists announces, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)"
At other times, the crime, sin, poverty and suffering that exist in our fallen world seem to contradict the nature of goodness and love that God reveals about Himself in creation. And that is where we look to the cross and the unfathomable sacrifice of the deepest love that no man can ever fully comprehend:
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
Halley Faville lives with her husband and children in their mountain home in Oregon.