Truth Is Relative

Satan has been running an ongoing campaign of lies ever since Adam’s fall in the garden. Jesus said that “whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Satan’s activities have always been counterfeit and antithetical to the God of all truth.

The devil knows that sinners love to “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18), so he continually feeds unbelievers with a barrage of seductive and persuasive lies. Even more disturbing is the fact that some of his lies have made significant inroads into the visible church.

In the days ahead we’re going to examine ten of the most pervasive lies that are now widely accepted by society—and even infiltrating the church. We need to be wise to Satan’s schemes and constantly armed with the truth (Ephesians 6:14). To that end, we trust this series will open your eyes to these sinister lies, and equip you to earnestly contend for God’s unchanging truth.     

Lying About the Truth

At the heart of all devilish seductions is the assault on the very nature of truth itself—it was Satan’s primary strategy from the start (Genesis 3:1). Today, that scheme lives on in the lie that all truth is relative. Forty years ago Francis Schaeffer observed, “We should note this curious mark of our age: The only absolute allowed is the absolute insistence that there is no absolute.” [1]

Schaeffer’s summary of relativism was a response to Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson who, twenty years earlier, had argued that “nothing is more certain in modern society than the principle that there are no absolutes. . . . All concepts are relative.” [2]

Tragically, Vinson failed to see the logical fallacy of his statement—he was absolutely sure that “there are no absolutes.” What Vinson should have recognized as a self-evident lie has been embraced as the central mantra of postmodern culture. The only fixed truth it believes in, to paraphrase Schaeffer, is that all truth is relative.

No God, No Truth

In addition to being an assault on the nature of truth, relativism is an idolatrous lie. It sets man up as the sovereign arbiter of what will be true for him. It removes every external objective standard—especially the enduring truths God has revealed in His Word. And as John MacArthur points out, that approach is always doomed to fail.

Truth cannot be adequately explained, recognized, understood, or defined without God as the source. Since He alone is eternal and self-existent and He alone is the Creator of all else, He is the fountain of all truth.

If you don’t believe that, try defining truth without reference to God, and see how quickly all such definitions fail. The moment you begin to ponder the essence of truth, you are brought face-to-face with the requirement of a universal absolute—the eternal reality of God. Conversely, the whole concept of truth instantly becomes nonsense (and every imagination of the human heart therefore turns to sheer foolishness) as soon as people attempt to remove the thought of God from their minds. [3]

John’s warning is an apt description of the relativism running rampant today. That worldview is now fully entrenched in our day-to-day lives. How often do we hear someone say, “That’s your truth,” “What’s true for you might not be true for me,” or other expressions of similar sentiment?

The relativism of our day is almost impossible to avoid. We’re regularly exposed to mainstream media that promotes an ideological narrative rather than report the facts. Society is increasingly uncomfortable with moral absolutes like good and evil. And public discourse is driven by subjective “facts” instead of objective truth. By and large, people can no longer reason; they can only emote.

Even the clear biological distinctions of gender are under attack. The determining criteria today is no more than the whim of personal preference. And gender confusion is just the tip of the iceberg—today people choose to identify as infants, animals, and even objects.

Of course, there are still some limits to the madness—just try telling an airline steward that you identify as a first class passenger. But the practical limitations happen in real life experience because even the most hardcore of relativists inherently know that their belief system is a lie. Their theories simply cannot function once reality bites. That’s why they don’t extend that subjective approach to traffic signals, bank statements, or gravity. Their tacit acknowledgment of certain absolute truths ultimately verifies God’s diagnosis of their rebellion. Those who believe in relativism are not ignorant or uneducated; they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).    

Infiltrating the Church

The obvious sanctuary from postmodern relativism should be among God’s people. As “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15, KJV), the church should be immune from the world’s lie that all truth is relative. But that’s simply not the case.

Relativism rears its ugly head every time someone asks the question, “What does this verse mean to you?” It’s evident whenever a pastor argues from subjective experience rather than Scripture. It happens every time believers redefine an established doctrine according to their own preferences.

Nowhere is the church’s fight for the truth more vital than in its own backyard. Believers cannot turn a blind eye to doctrinal relativism and spiritual compromise. They are threats that don’t allow for neutrality or conscientious objection. As God’s people, we should be repulsed by any attack on absolute truth. John MacArthur reminds us of our call to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

We cannot afford to be apathetic about the truth God has put in our trust. It is our duty to guard, proclaim, and pass that truth on to the next generation (1 Timothy 6:20–21). We who love Christ and believe the truth embodied in His teaching must awaken to the reality of the battle that is raging all around us. We must do our part in the ages-old Truth War. We are under a sacred obligation to join the battle and contend for the faith. [4]

Whether inside or outside of the church, our call is to bold proclamation, not passive persuasion. We can speak directly to the consciences of sinners who suppress the truth.

Truth Is Absolute

Truth is not relative. It is an unshakable reality completely immunized from all subjectivity. All truth comes from God and is the immovable tower standing above the shifting sands of human reason.

Moreover, absolute truths are the bedrock of every essential Christian doctrine. The creation of the world and man’s fall into sin are literal historical events. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection all actually happened. Our eternal fate hinges on the exclusive and nonnegotiable truth of what Christ preached. He said He is “the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). In one fell swoop, the Lord Himself ruled out every possibility of finding eternal life outside of Himself.

God’s Word describes all true Christians as those who “know the truth, and the truth shall make [them] free” (John 8:32). The truth is not some vague destination at the end of a mystical quest. God expects His people to know His truth with certainty. He also expects us to proclaim that truth with settled conviction. God’s truth is our ultimate weapon against the lies of relativism.

Used with permission from John MacArthur.

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