Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Lie of Absolute Truth

I am taking a little break from writing about my calling to write about something that has been bothering me. I want to start by saying that I may not be right about everything I write. I am writing about whatever I have been thinking about.

I read an article a few weeks ago on the SBC's website that was blasting postmoderns for, among other things, not believing in absolute truth. As someone who has recently come to realize that I think like a postmodern, I admit that I have serious problems with the concept of absolute truth.

Do I believe there is an absolute truth in the universe? Yes, I do. However, what I do not believe in is absolute knowledge of that absolute truth. In the last post on my calling, I quoted 1 Corinthians 13:9: "“For we know in part and we prophesy in part." So, according to the Bible, our knowledge is incomplete and flawed, which means our view of absolute truth could be described as looking at a jigsaw puzzle with a bunch of pieces missing. We can't see the complete picture, and we can't see how each piece relates to the whole.

The other problem I have with absolute truth is the fact that what can be defined as "absolute truth" appears to be relative to the time in which you are living. For example, the Catholic church persecuted Galileo because he was teaching that the Earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around. This was contrary to the "absolute truth" the Church was teaching at the time, and it took them more than 300 years to apologize for their treatment of Galileo. Since it is impossible for something to be both absolute and relative at the same time, I believe this invalidates the concept of absolute truth.

To summarize, my problem with absolute truth is not its existence, but our incomplete knowledge of it. I believe that theology should constantly be in a state of evolution; we should constantly be trying to learn more about the character of God and his will for our lives. The word "absolute" does not allow for this kind of change.

John 14:6 is a verse I have heard quoted a couple of times by absolute truth proponents. It reads, "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Absolute truth proponents use this verse to say that the only way to salvation is to accept Jesus as your savior. However, neither this verse, nor any other verse in the Bible addresses the issue of what happens to a child who dies when he is too young to accept Jesus, or someone who is born with another issue that leaves them incapable of making this decision. We have theories such as the "age of accountability", and those theories are based on the character of God we see throughout the rest of the Bible. However, since it is never mentioned, we certainly can not say with absolute certainty what happens or why it happens.

I would like to propose an alternative to absolute truth, and that would be the absolute authority of God. There are simply things we don't know the answer to, and I think it is enough for us to realize that God is in control of those things and everything else for that matter. In the example I gave above, I know that God is going to do the right thing, so I don't have to worry about it. I also know that I can't save anyone, God is the only one who can do that; the best I can do is help the process along.

It is not God or God's truth that is flawed. It is our knowledge that is imperfect and flawed.

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