The statement in the title above has been completely misrepresented, misinterpreted, over-used and used to attack a lot in the past four years. My philosophy professor at Tyndale, my favourite professor at Tyndale, simply dismissed the whole concept of relative truth by looking at the statement “what is true to you isn’t true to me” by responding “well is that true?” and then all of sudden in my frosh-eager-to-stump-my-atheist-friend-mindset I was amazed at the brilliance and bought into it. I guess I didn’t realize how in depth philosophers must have searched out the idea of relative truth and to simple throw four words at it wouldn’t really do it justice.
When I got into a discussion with a few of my close friends the other day, I was asked if I believe in absolute truth. I don’t. I think the terminology of absolute truth is redundant and used to do nothing but manipulate. If something is true, it doesn’t need to be absolutely true, it simply is just true. So if you asked me if I believe in truth, I do. I believe in truth. I believe that there is truth in the idea that there are some things that are real, genuine and authentic. I believe that there is truth in that truth means actuality or existence. I believe that there are indisputable facts and propositions. But to simply tack on the word absolute before it is to say a lot more than do I believe in truth that is perfect, because truth in itself, by definition is perfect.
Though I believe in truth I do not believe that anyone has absolute truth, meaning that I don’t believe that anyone can full possess or grasp perfect and pure truth completely. I think that we all have bits and pieces and we are all trying to understand them better and we are growing into a better relationship with truth. For anyone to say I have the absolute truth on a matter is naïve and uneducated. To have the absolute truth is to be God.
The idea of “what is true to me isn’t true to you” comes from our inability to admit that we are wrong. It has validity if you mean that what “I believe to be truth isn’t what you believe to be truth” (which I think is what most people mean). What people believe though is how people live, truth or not, that is why the argument is so prevalent and that’s why when we try to wrap our minds around it, its difficult. Usually when the argument is brought up and the question is asked “do you believe in absolute truth” it means that they are trying to prove that they are right about something. We need to keep in mind that most “relativists” (using the term loosely) don’t believe that there is no truth that is true for everyone; they simply are very sympathetic to what people believe to be true.
Truth separated from relationship or circumstance is not very valuable. I guarantee that those that have had abortions would not simply hold the absolute truth that abortion is wrong, for some reason abortion is so much deeper than simply it’s right or wrong. I can hold up a sign that says homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle, but when my kid comes out of the closet I’m going to have a lot harder time holding onto that belief.
What people believe to be true is relative. It is what people believe to be true that governs people’s lives and their actions, not what is real truth. Real truth is very scarce and anyone that starts sitting back, pointing out what is an absolute truth and what isn’t needs to be careful because absolute truth only exists in a person, not in a set of propositions.