Is truth absolute or relative?
Conclusions (for those who don't want to read the whole
|Mathematics: Some math statements are absolutely true
because we define them as true. e.g. "1 + 1 = 2" is absolutely true in
normal (base-10) arithmetic.|
|Geology: Many statements are absolutely true because they
conform to reality, or false because they conflict with reality. "The earth
existed 20,000 years ago in more or less its present shape" is one example.
Fewer than 1% of geologists
(those who believe in creation science) reject
the statement; the overwhelming majority (those who believe in theistic or
naturalistic evolution) regard it to be true. But there is an underlying
reality; the statement is either true or false. If we had
access to a time machine, we could go back 20,000 years and take a
look. However, we don't have access to such a device. Thus, it is impossible to get
everyone to agree on a consensus.|
|Theology and philosophy: Here, there are many statements
which are either true or false. Muslims, Jews and Sikhs will accept as true, the statement:
"There is only one deity, and that God is an indivisible unity." Just about everyone
else, from Atheists, most Buddhists, and Christians to Wiccans and Zoroastrians would say that
the statement is false. But as in the previous case, there is an underlying reality; the
statement is either true or false. If we
knew everything that there is to know about the universe, then we would know whether the
sentence is true or false, absolutely. A correct answer exists.
Muslims and Jews believe the statement to be true; most followers of other
religions say it is false. Again, a consensus is impossible, with our
current level of knowledge. We simply have no way to prove the correct
answer to everyone's satisfaction. If we could reach a consensus,
everyone would share the same basic belief about God.|
|Ethics and morality: Here, there are many controversial
questions. Three examples are:
Individuals work out their answers to these questions on the basis of their own
core, foundational theological beliefs, which are linked to their
worldview. (A worldview encompasses
their basic beliefs concerning deity, humanity and the rest of the
Since there are many conflicting sets
of theological beliefs and worldviews in existence, there will be different sets of moral
"truths" that are passionately held in a religiously diverse society.
Consider arguments between conservative and liberal Christians on the morality
abortion, homosexuality, physician assisted suicide. Even
with one wing of Christianity -- the conservative denominations --
teachings differ greatly on topics such as divorce,
1 hell, the millennium,
the Book of Revelation, and creation/evolution.
2 If one includes the beliefs of other nations, and
from other eras, the disagreements become even more pronounced.
If one set of theological beliefs is absolutely,
objectively, universally true, then its corresponding set of moral truths
would also be absolute. But there is no way in which we can currently
know which set, if any, is true. Various faith groups teach many different sets of theological beliefs; they differ from
religion to religion. They even disagree within each religion. Until we can all reach a
consensus on a common set of theological beliefs, we will never achieve agreement on moral
questions. There has never been worldwide unanimity about religious beliefs.
There never has been a consensus on major moral questions. We seem
destined to always have active ethical disagreements in the world.
Even if absolute truth exists in the religious sphere, we may never be
able to determine what it is.
- H.W. House, Ed., "Divorce
and remarriage: Four Christian views," InterVarsity Press,
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online bookstore.
- Zondervan has published
a series of books on fundamental Christian
beliefs. In each book, leading Evangelical Christians argue
opposing viewpoints, each derived from the Bible.
Copyright © 1999 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2007-JUL-29
Written by: B.A. Robinson