When talking with visitors to our ministry, we often hear this claim. It rings out through the whole of the western world too. To explore this claim, let us first understand what is meant by “relative”.
To be relative, or relational, simply means that it relates to you. It is something that is personal to you. For example, your parent or your child is your relative within your nuclear family. My parent is not your parent and my child is not your child. Likewise, you have had unique experiences in life. These make up much of your story as a person. I haven’t had those experiences. I was not there when you broke your leg at the age of 13, or when you graduated high school. Those experiences are yours, they are relative to you.
When it comes to truth, I think we can agree that some truth is relative. For example, if I declared to you that tacos are the greatest food creation of all time, you might disagree. You might be of the opinion that fried rice is the best. In this simple example, we are actually both right. Yes, we both have the truth on the matter! Tacos ARE the greatest food for me, and fried rice IS the greatest food for you. This is the beauty of relative truth. It’s true for you. I might even change my mind in the future and vote for pizza as the greatest. With relative truth, I can do that.
However, when it comes to moral issues, there is a greater truth. It is called absolute truth. Basically, it means that when something is true about morality, then it is always true, and for all persons. For example, it is wrong to murder. It goes without saying that taking the life of an innocent person is wrong, for all persons and for all time. You would be hard pressed to find anyone in your circle or your daily life to disagree with you. They would all agree that murder is wrong. Absolute truth doesn’t care about your feelings. It is true, extant of you and me, and someday when we are gone, it will still be true for future generations.
Problems arise when we apply relative truth to an absolute situation. Murder can’t be right for one person and wrong for another. Therefore, not all truth is relative. The greatest ills of our society cannot be explained away by preference. We cannot stand before a judge and say “I felt like doing it.” That won’t pass.
So the next time that you think of declaring that “All truth is relative!”, step back and consider. The hearer might ask if you believe that statement absolutely, and then you are in a quandary, because if you answer affirmatively, then you have defeated your claim that it’s all relative.
Words have meaning. Hmmm, that’s a good title for a future post!