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“That May Be True for You, But Not For Me”

February 3, 2011

Have you ever heard someone say something like that before?  Perhaps you even think that way.  I seem to run into this belief system or world view all the time.  It can be expressed in many different forms.  It shows up in statements like the following:

  • You can’t know anything for sure
  • What is true for you is not true for me
  • That may be great for you but I don’t need it
  • I am just searching for my truth
  • There are no “cookie-cutter” truths
  • You shouldn’t judge

I recently encountered this worldview when someone posted Facebook responding to a comment had I made.  This individual made the following remark:

“There are two kinds of people, those seeking their truth, and those running from it. There is no “cookie cutter” Truth….for everybody. My duty to self and others is to “Live” my truth through actions. Live and let live…”

The idea that is being set forward in the remark above is the concept of “relativism”.

Relativism: All points of view (no matter how ridiculous they may be) are equally valid and that all truth is left up to the individual to define.  This means that all moral systems, all religious views, are ‘truths’ that are relative to each individual.  It means there are no right or wrong answers. . . to anything.

On the surface this sounds very appealing.  It sounds so tolerant and so “live and let live”, as the person says.  The trouble comes in when we realize that the concrete, physical reality that we live in just doesn’t allow for this kind of reasoning.  This becomes very clear when you look at observable reality and the way things actually function.  It becomes clear just how shallow, superficial, and hypocritical this viewpoint really is.

Relativistic statements sound intellectual at first, but on second glance, they make no sense.   In fact, they are self refuting.  Let me illustrate. . .

Person A: “You can’t say that.  You can’t know anything for sure.”

Person B: “Really? Are you sure of that?”

Person A: “Ummm. . . “

How about this one. . .

Person A: “Well, you shouldn’t judge.”

Person B: “Oh, Okay.  Is that your judgment? If you shouldn’t judge then why are you judging my choice to judge?”

One more . . .

Person A: “What is true for you is not true for me.”

Person B: “Interesting.  What is true for me is that you are wrong.  So, is it what is true for me that is right, or is it what is true for you that is right?”

Person A: “Um, well I guess my truth is right.”

Person B: “Hmm, so you do believe there is concrete truth.”

Person A: “Well, uh no…I mean, um. . . “

The examples above show how illogical this way of thinking is.  To make an emphatic, concrete, firm statement of ‘truth’ that their are no concrete, firm truths is fundamentally flawed logic, not to mention totally hypocritical.  To make matters even worse for the relativistic worldview, it is just completely contradicted by observable reality.  Here is a simple example. Suppose I got on a city bus . . .

Me: What are you doing heading to the Seattle? I’m supposed to be in North Everett.

Driver: Well, you should have caught the 133 then, shouldn’t you?

Me: But I believed that the 137 goes to North Everett.

Driver: Well you’re an idiot, because it doesn’t.

Me: But I believed with all sincerity that this bus would get me there.

Driver: I couldn’t care less what you believed, the truth is another matter.

2+2 = 4 no matter what I feel, believe or think.  It doesn’t equal 5 for some people, 3 for others, and 4 for me.   For some reason, when people start talking and thinking about God and the spiritual realm they put their brains aside and forget everything they know about logic and reality.  They come at it as if they can make up their own reality. They think that their believing or not believing something somehow changes the reality.  They think this way even though they know that in the real world NOTHING works like that.

Reality (truth) doesn’t care what we believe…it just is what it is.  Either there is a God or there isn’t.  Either the bible is true or it isn’t.  Either Islam is true or it isn’t. All of these things cannot be true at the same time because they are in clear contradiction.  God cannot both exist and not exist.  Only one is true.  Faith and trust in Jesus Christ cannot be both the ONLY way to God (as the Bible claims) and the teachings of Muhammad be another way to God (as Islam claims).  Reality is concrete.  It is just simple logic.  In fact, it is called “The Law of Non-Contradiction“: that something can not be both true and not true at the same time (e.g. Jesus can’t be the only way to God, and not the only way to God at the same time and in the same context).

So why do people tend to think so subjectively and abstractly when it comes to God?  There are many reasons. Here are a few that I borrowed from “The Urban Pastor.”

  • We’ve swallowed the lie of relativism. We think that there’s no such thing as ‘true truth’ just ‘my truth’.  (I already addressed this one above)
  • We’re fundamentally lazy and we just don’t want to think. Thinking is hard and it challenges our ideas and makes us change. Change sucks.
  • We’ve unthinkingly adopted fervently held convictions. But Socrates said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living!
  • We’ve inherited a way of life that works. And so we think ‘if it ain’t broke why fix it?’
  • We’ve confused style for substance. We value the style or manner of belief over the substance of belief. We think that sincerity and tolerance is enough. The content of what we believe is irrelevant. In other words it’s more important that we’re accepting of others’ views than that they’re views are wrong!

I would like to zero in on the last one for a minute.  We’ve failed to realise the distinction between matters of truth and matters of taste.  Let me illustrate.  Here are two sets of three statements.

Set one

  1. Red Mill is the best burger joint in Seattle
  2. La Fin Du Monde is the best bottled beer in the world
  3. You should never wear crocs in public. . . ever

Set two

  1. I was born on September 7th
  2. I have two sisters
  3. My first name is Jacob

Which set are matters of taste and which set are matters of truth? Though there may be universal agreement that no one should ever crocs in public, it’s still a matter of opinion.  It’s not objectively true.  That I was born on the 7th of September is.  Whatever your opinion of that fact is, it remains a fact.  You can’t change the truth by believing that I was born on the 19th.  When we say “your truth is not true for me”, we fail to distinguish opinion and truth.

It is really a mistake to confuse “truth” with a matter of taste (like whether you prefer chicken or beef, paper or plastic, Packers or Stealers).  Obviously there certainly are “cookie-cutter” truths (i.e. truths that are true for everyone). Clear-cut examples include the law of gravity, that brick walls hurt when you hit them, that our bodies need oxygen, and that there are 24 hours in a day.   A person can certainly choose to not believe in these truths, but reality doesn’t change based on their belief or disbelief.

Of course, everyone must decide for themselves what they believe is the truth. That is the freedom of everyone.  This however doesn’t change that truth is a real thing and it doesn’t change based on what you believe. You are either right or wrong, so what you believe is VERY important.  In fact it is critical. What you believe is much more important than that you just believe something sincerely.  I am confident that all of us (myself included) are sincerely wrong about a great many things.   One thing that none of us can afford to get wrong is what will happen to us when we die.  We owe it to ourselves to really look into it.  Too much rides on it.

What we believe is important.  Someone once said, “our ideas have legs”.  In the example that I brought up near the beginning of this post, there was a consequence for me believing incorrectly that the 137 bus goes to Everett.  I got on the wrong bus and went in the wrong direction.  The destination I arrived at was totally not where I wanted to be.  That fact that I believed it was taking me where I wanted to go didn’t matter at all.  It’s a whole lot more important to be sure that what we believe is really true than that what we believe is “working for us”. We need to know that the bus we are on is actually taking us where we think it is (not just that the seats are really comfortable and that the view out the window is nice).  Just because it is “working for us” doesn’t make it true.

What we believe does have consequences.  It has moral consequences in this life.  It has eternal consequences in the next.  Jesus said that He is the way the truth and the life and that no one can come to the Father except through Him.  He was making a truth claim.  It’s either right or it’s wrong.  If He’s telling the truth it has consequences.  It means that only He is the way to God for people who have lost their way, only He is the truth about God for people who are confused and only He is the life from God for people facing death.

So, the real important question isn’t if you believe Him or not, the real question is was He telling the truth or not.  So once we get past the red herring that the truth is subjective, we can move into the REAL discussion about what is really true.  There are many reasons we can show empirically that the Bible is true.  If you are really interested in that, I’ve posted a lot of information on that here on this blog (select category “Apologetics” on the right).  For a start, you can read this The Bible – Letter Explaining Why I Believe.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Chambers permalink
    May 24, 2012 3:16 pm

    Love it! Especially the part about crocs.

    I can’t disagree with any of this. Well thought out, well argued and well written. Great job. Maybe, how I am distinguishing or nuancing “tolerance” is more relational than intellectual. I have found that folks that are intolerant theologically (in matters of essentials I agree) are often intolerant relationally. I think this sets us up for the accusation of pharisaism. Getting our the law right and getting the point wrong.

    One time I kept trying to witness to a guy when I was in college. I out argued him. I had the truth on my side and I had the force of my logical arguments on my side. I one the day. I responded to every objection he had to the faith. He couldn’t refute anything I had said. It was like a cage-fight and i knocked him out. I said to him, “So, Mike if you agree that i won the argument about God and Jesus will you invite Jesus into your heart?” He said, “No.” I asked why and he said, “Because I don’t like you. And you are a Christian.”

    I won the battle and lost the war.

    I agree with every part of your blog. Every jot and and title. Good work.

    Peace….

  2. philippians1v21 permalink*
    May 24, 2012 6:22 pm

    Totally agree, brother. Our goal is always to win the soul, not the argument.

  3. January 29, 2014 9:11 pm

    Solid post. Your writing style has motion and the content is right on target. Keep it up
    Ryan

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