In today’s world, truth is said to be relative. Whatever you feel is best, whatever you prefer, whatever you would rather believe, is what you’re entitled to hold as valid. Absolute truth has been labelled a misnomer, since, with truth being completely relative, no one could possibly know the truth.
Yet, we are told that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6). So, which is it? Is truth relative? Or is truth defined? In either case, what difference does it make to us Christians? I will attempt to answer these questions below – though not in the order listed.
It matters to God
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Clearly, it is not a matter up for discussion – God has clearly stated through His Son, that we are to worship in Spirit and in Truth. But, if truth is relative, how do we know which “truth” God is seeking?
The answer can be found in the written Word:
1 John 5:6
This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
The Spirit Is Truth
Clearly the Spirit of God is the truth, and the Spirit is a person, and if a person, then He cannot be “decided upon”, as truth would be if it were truly relative.
What then, should be our response to the recognition of this unchangeable truth? Let us take our example from the Spirit of Truth Himself:
However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming.
If we pattern ourselves after His example, then a relativistic understanding of truth is no longer tolerable. Yet, at the same time, recognizing and embracing this seemingly rigid standpoint brings us into the fullness of true freedom and individuality.
Though Truth is not relative, its application to our individual lives may appear to be. That said, there are foundational factors which cannot change, and should not be viewed as changeable simply because we don’t like the way they sound.
Let’s Paint A Picture:
Let’s say someone buys a car.
This car is designed to operate with in a well defined set of specifications, in a set of appropriate conditions, and with a recommended level and method of care. However, these parameters can only be found in the car’s manual. It is a big, seemingly complicated book, and not everything in it is applicable to every owner at every moment of ownership, but every owner is meant to follow the instructions contained within.
The owner in this story owns a manual, and daily reads it. However, he doesn’t like the part about not driving above the speed limit in his country, because his car can go at over 50mph over the speed limit. He also doesn’t like the section of the manual that details how the car was made, because he prefers the story his neighbor gave him. His neighbor is a professional racer who owns another car and doesn’t like his model, but claims to know everything there is to know about it. Besides, he is a professional, so he knows what he’s talking about, of course.
Due to his ignoring these parts of the manual, he has to change his tires more often than he expects, because constantly driving his car above the speed limit on a road not designed for high speed vehicles wears them down faster than usual. He also has problems finding parts for his car, because he ignored the boring part of the manual that said how his car was made and where to order replacement parts. Even so, he still believes that this part of the manual doesn’t really matter, and all of his friends, except for one crazy friend, who believes everything the manual says (such a fool!), say they don’t see why you need to follow the manual so closely.
Because of this, our owner sometimes thinks that the manufacturer is a cruel company, run by a cruel CEO, with cruel staff who send him on a wild goose chase to find parts, lay down rules that just make life boring, and generally has a very confused view of the whole deal.
Many of us are just like this owner. We read the Bible, in many cases daily, but when we come to certain parts of it, parts we don’t particularly like, we say “it’s not a salvation issue” and move on. Others among us read the Bible, come to parts we like, but which were superseded by something else (for example, the Old and New Covenants), and hold on to those things anyway, because “it’s not a salvation issue. I still believe in Jesus…”.
But this kind of thinking is dangerous. (James 1:8)
It is the reason why Christianity (to outsiders and insiders alike) seems to be a bunch of confused campers trying to lay claim to a million camps on the same campsite. We have allowed our traditions, opinions, interpretations, and relativistic view of the truth, to divide us, and our pride keeps us from coming back to the centrality of Jesus and finding our footing again.
But Paul gave us a very clear picture in Ephesians 4:13. I recommend reading the entire passage when you have the opportunity.
So how can we know we have the truth?
By keeping our eyes on Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God, and this Word is truth (John 17:17). But wait, didn’t we establish that the Spirit of God is Truth? Well, the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Jesus, and Jesus is the Spirit, and the Spirit is Jesus, and Jesus is God.
Can you see how this foundational truth is essential? By the same token, anything held to be true by God’s Word is equally essential. Whether it be the origin of man, the fulfillment of the requirements of the Law being in the death of Jesus, or the fact that the morning stars sang together – God’s Word is truth – and truth remains true whether we want it to or not.
This absolute Truth is found only in the person of Jesus. It is only by remaining in and growing in Him, that we can worship God in Spirit, AND in truth.