As of the posting of this piece, the Merriam-Webster dictionary states that relativism is a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them. Please note the distinction made by including the word ‘ethical’ to delineate the type of truth.
Audio version of the full-length blog/podcast (27 min).
Definitions have changed based on cultural acceptance of a stated meaning of a word. Consider this example. The word ‘awful’ once described something worthy of intense reverence or respect (whether the object was good or bad). Today, this adjective has the negative connotation of being terrible or unpleasant. In contrast, the word ‘awesome’ retained the optimistic inference of awe-inspiring. It is now frequently used to describe something of negligible magnitude such as a sandwich.
- So if the meaning or use of a word changes, is there an impact on values and behaviour?
- When something becomes acceptable to a group of people, does it make it correct?
- Is there such a thing as right and wrong?
- If something is true, can it become untrue?
Certainly, as knowledge increases, we may learn that what was considered true was not, or perhaps a view was limited. For example, the understanding of the earth’s shape has changed over millennia. Interestingly, Scripture dating back over 3700 years states the planet is circular. (Refer to Job 22:14, Proverbs 8:27, and Isaiah 40:22. These verses use the Hebrew word “chûwg” which means a circle, circuit, or compass.) Through the shifting opinions, God’s Word remained true.
When I was considering the definition of truth, I observed multiple definitions such as: (1) that which is real or actual (things, events, and facts); (2) a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true; and, (3) that which is in a state of being constant or unchanging. The latter was stated to be archaic. If archaic means ancient when referring to unchanging truth, I would agree; if you think it means immutable truth is obsolete, I would disagree.
I find it perplexing that many groups have decided that there are categories of “truth” that include variability based on a set of factors (for example experience, perception, ethics, knowledge, hypothesis, etcetera). While I agree that there are many factors involved in an individual’s understanding of truth, I believe the truth is absolute and eternal (and I am confident many will disagree with me).
If there is no absolute truth, then there can only be relative truths (no untruths); if there is no absolute truth, then there are only partial truths. Who gets to decide, and is their knowledge and wisdom supreme? If there is no absolute truth that cannot change, what are we accusing God about who He claims to be?
We simply cannot comprehend all truth (1st Corinthians 13:12) because we are limited in time, space, and capability.
We are living in an age where people are trying to classify information. I have heard the following categories (maybe you know others): (1) accurate or factual information, (2) current information, (3) evolving information, (4) misinformation, (5) disinformation, (6) subjective information, (7) objective information, (8) conceptual, and (9) scientific information. All of these classifications can apply to scientific information because science is based on observations and systematic experimentation in the pursuit of knowledge of general truths or fundamental laws. Remember, there is the knowledge of good and evil, both real.
So back to my question: can truth change? I believe what we ‘know’ can change, so it is essential to understand the basis for truth. As thinking individuals, we should determine whether that basis has validity because ‘groupthink’ and ‘influencers’ can be wrong. Sharing information usually has a goal and a motive. Unfortunately, for some, the end justifies manipulation of the conveyed information.
If you have experience with data or statistics, you know you can share or omit many perspectives and insights using the metrics. In my career, we tested the metric collection system and the actual data source to (1) ensure the quality of our information and (2) understand its degree of variation. Having a tested gauge for information is important.
There are some things that one can afford to be wrong with, and there are some things that the cost of being wrong is too high.
Given it is human to err, my basis for truth is Scripture because:
- All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2nd Timothy 3:16)
Now, you might say that you prefer a different basis or a combination of many tools. My response is that it is your prerogative to have your opinion.
Any person that does not permit uncoerced choice, disrespects the person. God, to His pain, permits human beings to choose to live away from Him. If God permits this, then who is above God to disallow choice? Perhaps one who elevates themselves above God.
There will be times when people groups, governments, or individuals will try to force their way on others; this is against God’s nature. We have to be able to disagree with each other, even despise actions, AND acknowledge God has sovereignly given the person life. Respect is so very important.
Scripture goes further than that by saying:
- “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:35 to 37)
Unfortunately, some desire believers to abandon their strict adherence to Scripture. Some can be comfortable with a form of Christianity that compromises Scripture to fit into the shifting values of society. Scripture states:
- But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2nd Timothy 3:1 to 5)
- In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of because you know those from whom you learned it. (2nd Timothy 3:12 to 14 New International Version)
It’s amazing how much information one can acquire without being able to discern the truth. I think about some supporters of Jesus Christ who had placed their hopes in Him as the Messiah who would establish His Kingdom of righteousness. Many had witnessed miracles, heard the Word of Life, and known the Scripture containing the prophecies. Yet, after Jesus was crucified, they did not understand and therefore did not believe He would be resurrected.
In Luke 23:25 we read Christ’s response to a couple of them on the road to Emmaus:
- Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:25 to 27)
This teaches me that although I might not understand how, when, or even why, I can be certain that God’s Word will be fulfilled (and I have a role in how it is fulfilled for me).
The Apostle Peter warned us that there would be ‘teachers’ or ‘influencers’ who would distort Scripture because they are unstable in the Word. Peter wanted believers to remember (1) what the Old Testament prophets wrote; and, (2) what the LORD commanded through the Apostles. In 2nd Peter chapter 3 verses 2 to 9, he wrote that in the last days there would be scoffers who would ridicule and make fun of the truth written in Scripture saying, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?” It is actually the LORD’s grace and patience with humanity; He is waiting for all who will accept Him to repent. In this chapter, the Holy Spirit (through Peter) encourages us to conscientiously undertake to understand the Scripture and adhere to it.
- Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation, as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (2nd Peter 3:14 to 18)
You see, it is possible to be religious, enjoy Scripture, and be a saintly “do-gooder” but be robbed of an abundant life or even led into error. Jesus taught on this.
In Christ’s parable of the sower in Mark 4, we understand the Word of God is simple enough to hear and understand, but it is not always received, nor obeyed.
Christians can only be fruitful if we abide in Him and receive correction. Christ interprets the parable of the sower for us as follows:
- “The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. BUT since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; BUT the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop, some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” (Mark 4:14 to 20 New International Version)
We are to (1) hear the word with ears to hear, (2) receive it in our hearts, and then, (3) obey or yield to it to produce an abundance of godliness with the fruit of the Spirit. Christ’s parable shows me 3 possible ways for people to have a form of godliness yet be unproductive and even deny the power of God.
Let’s briefly review these 3 points of failure that bring about unfruitfulness. You may want to write these Scriptures down and research them for yourself.
- The first point is Satanic conflicts in the mind. You see, the enemy is unable to take a believer out of this life without the LORD’s permission. As such, Satan and his minions try to cause the hearer of the Word to self-destruct.
- His tactics are discouragement, distraction, temptation, accusation, perversion of something good; theft of God’s blessings, and lies. (References: Job 2:7; Zechariah 3:1; Matthew 4:3 to 8; Luke 13:16; Luke 22:31; John 8:44; 2nd Corinthians 4:4; 2nd Corinthians 11:14; 1st Thessalonians 2:18; 1st Thessalonians 3:5; 1st Peter 5:8; Jude 1:6; and Revelation 12:9).
- The second point is trouble or persecution for the Word’s sake or because of faith. We see this played out with public animosity over belief systems; antagonism in employment and education when refusing to surrender biblical views; legislative pressure to adopt non-biblical practices or values; and sometimes physically. (References: Matthew 24:10; Acts 8:1; Acts 13:50; 1st Corinthians 10:13; 1st Thessalonians 3:3 and 4; 2nd Timothy 4:16 and Revelation 2:10 and 13).
- The third point is worldly desires that distract us. This can also include valid efforts to sustain a lifestyle but the efforts have become unbalanced; or the chasing after worldly pleasures, fame, or wealth. (References: the cares in Luke 10:41; Luke 12:17 to 21, and 29 to 30; Luke 14:18 to 20; Luke 21:34; Philippians 4:1; 2nd Timothy 4:10; the deceitfulness of riches in Proverbs 23:5; Ecclesiastes 4:8 and 5:10 to 16; 1st Timothy 6:9 to 10, and 17; and the lusts in 1st Peter 4:2 and 3; and 1st John 2:15 to 17).
Until the LORD removes us from the presence of sin, people will grant us ‘permission’ to live contrary to the Word of God.
- Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men (Isaiah 29:13).
- “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. “(Matthew 23:28).
- “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23 and 24).
Both Old and New Testaments do not give license to live contrary to God’s Word; both testaments teach believers to surrender their hearts to God and His will. His will is outlined in His Word. His Spirit within the believer resonates with the Word.
- “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:27).
- For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. (Romans 7:22) .
- this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (1st John 5:3).
- … “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words, and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:23 to 27).
- “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” … “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.“ (John 15:4 to 10 and 26).
- “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31 and 32).
This does not mean we will be perfect before we die, but we will be free from slavery to sin when we abide, free to be who God created us to be.
- This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1st John 1:5 to 9).
My efforts to be upright and to know the truth will be fruitless without the Holy Spirit’s revelation of God’s Word. In my earlier years in the faith, I thought some subjects were not covered by Scripture. With time in the Word, I have learned that all things that pertain to life and godliness are through the knowledge of Him who called me (2nd Peter 1:3).
- As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. (Psalm 18:30).
- For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. (Psalm 33:4).
- Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. … Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. … Your word is very pure; therefore Your servant loves it. … The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. (Psalm 119:89, 105, 140, 160).
There are no contradictions in Scripture; there are opportunities to dig deep to understand original words and context; and, there are opportunities for the Holy Spirit to reveal the Godhead more deeply. As I study His Word, His Holy Spirit brings into remembrance the relevant Scriptures I need for every situation. Through prayer, His Spirit ministers to me on how to apply His Word.
As it is written:
- not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5 to 7).
- No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. … Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. … Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2nd Timothy 2:4 to 5, 15 and 19 New International Version).
When civilizations and individuals do not recognize truth or believe that truth is relative, they tend to be swayed by popular, political, or economic influences. We find in Scripture a situation where a person publicly professed his conviction and then surrendered it to an angry mob.
- Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all. (John 18:37 and 38).
You see, Pilate held two opinions: (1) that truth could not be defined and held to; and (2), that Christ was innocent, without fault. When pressured by popular demand, Pilate surrendered Christ due to fear over his political survival (John 19:4 to 16). If Pilate had known what was ultimately true, he would have trusted in the authority of Christ and stood against the crowd. Pilate could have refused to abandon what he knew was right, but he was afraid of the consequences.
While it was necessary for our LORD to be numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:1 and Mark 15:28), Pilate had a choice in where he would stand.
Instead, Pilate washed his hands of his role in Christ’s crucifixion and tried to lay the guilt at the hands of others (Matthew 27:24). Scripture states that each person will give an account of their actions.
- Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do (living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and detestable idolatry). They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (1st Peter 4:1 to 6 New International Version).
- For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2nd Corinthians 5:10).
- For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
The debate over morals, truth, relativism, and justice is not new. Humanity’s laws shift based on those who have gained power and through the agents or tools under their usage. With so much deception, godless strategies, and competition for the mindshare, it is vital for God’s children to hear from the lover of our souls. He alone is perfectly good; He alone is righteous and imputes His righteousness to any accepting Him.
- Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5 to 8).
- Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life) is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1st John 2:15 and 17).
My original question was, can the truth change? I don’t believe for one second that the truth changes.
I believe that what we perceive and understand changes; and as such, we need to have a basis for evaluating our judgments.
- Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6).
- Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily. Also, I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place. (Isaiah 28:16 and 17).
- Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1st Peter 2:7 to 10).
This last passage in 1st Peter goes on to instruct believers to live following the laws of the land. This is important for every Christian. Also know that above all human laws, God’s laws reign supreme. Here again, we need to obey the full counsel of God’s Word and rightly divide it.
- If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:18 to 21).
- Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
Pursuing peace with all people while being holy does not mean there will be no conflict. It means that when the opposition arises due to holiness, followers of Christ remain peaceful while standing firm. If a believer considers compromising Scripture to make peace with someone, know that Satan (the father of lies) is trying to seduce them. For it is written:
- …Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4).
Believers’ morals and actions are to be based on the truth of God’s Word and therefore impact every arena of our lives. This means strength in humility in all situations:
- it is being in the world but not of it;
- it is living consistently aligned with Scripture at work, school, home, church, and play;
- it is speaking the truth in love even when unpopular because of Christ’s love for all human beings;
- it is being peaceful with those who oppose you while not compromising God’s Word and love.
If you have time, please review the following Scriptures that address having boldness to speak about the gospel: Proverbs 28:1; John 7:26; Acts 4:13, 31; 2nd Corinthians 3:12; Ephesians 6:20; Philippians 1:20; Hebrews 13:6; and 1st John 4:17. These verses will demonstrate that standing for and speaking the truth have nothing to do with personality and everything to do with right standing and the power of the Holy Spirit.
A plumbline is a cord that has a weight on one end and is used to determine verticality or uprightness. The plumbline (or the plummet) for holiness and righteousness is the Word of God. This means we do what the Word says to do; and, we do not do what the Word commands us not to do regardless of what anyone else says.
When humanity shifts its views back and forth, and influencers, teachers, leaders, and loved ones try to dictate morality, believers must maintain peace and love without compromising the Word of Truth. Why?Because the Word of God is the Word of Life; it is what we can understand of the very Mind of God that gets written in our hearts upon receiving the Gospel of Jesus Christ for reconciliation to God. As it is written:
- LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart. (Psalm 15:1 to 2).
- He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1st John 2:6).
- … Jesus said …, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11).
- For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10).
Instead of focusing on being pleasing horizontally, when we wholeheartedly follow the LORD’s Word, we will become upright through our Helper; the outcome will benefit those lateral to us even when we disagree.
Let me ask the following question to those who think I am wrong for believing Jesus is the way to Father God; that the truth is God’s Word documented for us in Scripture; and that having surrendered to the Godhead, I have eternal life now and forever. I preface my question with this statement. If I am wrong, I have lived a great life with enduring joy and have lost nothing.
- For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. … (Job 19:25 to 27).
If you are wrong, what does that mean for you?
The LORD’s Holy Scripture is my plumbline for the truth from which I hope to never deviate. I pray that you know the True One who is Unchanging and Faithful; the One who paid with His life so that you can reconcile to God.
If you have not placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Redeemer and you sense a tugging at your heart, it’s probably the Holy Spirit beckoning you to meet Him. You can use your own words to tell the LORD you believe and ask Him to fill your heart with the knowledge of Him and the power to choose freedom over sin.
All Scripture used in this blog is from the New King James Version, unless otherwise specified.