Saturday, October 3, 2009

Absolute Truth

The other night I was discussing with my father the idea of absolute truth versus relative truth and how one knows something is absolute truth. What is the measure by which we judge if something we believe is true or false? Our sincerity of belief cannot be the measure. It has to be something objective, something outside our own perception.

Many will argue that if God says it, that’s it, period. I do understand, but they are speaking within the worldview of Christian faith and belief that the Bible is the Word of God. So to a Christian the Bible may contain absolute truth, but it is because we have chosen to see truth through that worldview.

Premise for Argument:

Absolute truth must be recognized as logical and conclusive ubiquitously among all cultures and times regardless of personal beliefs. Generally, there would be a sense of guilt or disorder among anyone who would break them unless one was mentally dysfunctional. In a sense, absolute truth must be self-evident. (Just like gravity, a teacher explains why an object falls but no one needs to be taught that objects does indeed fall.)

Yet my father insisted\ that the Ten Commandments are absolute truth.

I have been pondering that statement. Are the Ten undeniably self-evident outside the context of scripture?

We can immediately see the problem with the Ten Commandments among non-theists. God was presenting Himself to Israel, so saying that it is natural state to worship Him above all other gods would be to make the command meaningless. No, God was introducing Himself and placing Himself above the other gods they were worshipping. Worshipping other gods, making images and bowing to them in worship, taking His name in vain was NOT a logical, natural or assumed state. It had to be taught. There was no guilt involved in NOT keeping these up until this point because they did not know who He was.

There was no natural state of guilt when one did not rest on the seventh day. So that again, could not be an absolute truth in the sense that it is not arguable and obvious to humans.

Though in most communities throughout history there have been general morality and taboos that would create a sense of guilt if one disrespected parents or would steal or tell lies, there is nothing in coveting that would cause guilt unless one were told it was wrong. There have been cultures that allowed for adultery and would even consider it an insult if you did not offer your wife to a male visitor. Randomly murdering innocent people is generally recognized as wrong, but in war when defending your home and country, killing anyone labeled “enemy” no matter how innocent they are, makes one a hero instead of a murderer. The Vikings were especially proud of killing innocent people. So even murder is not ubiquitously seen as a wrong. Therefore to submit the Ten Commandments as proof of absolute truth is still open to debate and interpretation taking it into the realm of relativism.

God was teaching Israel commandments that were not self evident.

Now having taken you through those steps I want to actually disagree with what I just wrote. The above premise that absolute truth is self-evident is incorrect.

I actually believe that ALL truths according to human perception are relative, in that, all can be argued with and none are self evident (even though they seem oh so self-evident to each of us individually). What I actually believe is that absolute truth (as opposed to something that can be found to be correct or true--such as gravity) must be taught and not found within human perception. Absolute truth is absolute ONLY because God said it. That is what makes it absolute.

Why take the time to argue the opposite at first?

Because it is extremely important that we analyze our own cultural assumptions first. We live in a rational, scientific and empirical culture that always premises truth upon what we can perceive. We rationally evaluate truth based on the assumption we can identify truth. I no longer believe that. Though absolute truth is recognizable by God’s grace, it must first be taught by God. The human mind was never designed with innate absolute (or complete, perfect, incontrovertible, infallible) truth. It may have the capacity to perceive facts, but because man’s mind has been clouded by sin, absolute truth must be revealed.

Though we see in part, as behind a veil, truth is clouded to the natural man. God alone reveals absolute truth.

So, in the end, though I still disagree that the sabbatarianism described in the Ten Commandments is required by Christians today, my father’s premise was indeed correct. Absolute truth is only that which proceeds from the mouth of God and revealed to man.


Strawberry Fields said...

Sounds like you've gone from being fanatically Adventist to being fanatically non-Adventist.

Teresa Beem said...

What about my blog would give you the impression that I was at one time fanatically Adventist? I wasn't. And what about my post would give you the impression that I am now fanatically non-Adventist? I am not.

I am, however, passionate about truth. I am also very deeply committed to Christ. If anyone could accuse me of fantacism, that would probably be it.....

God bless,

The Lady Dragon said...


According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, God gave the 10 Commandments to Israel at Sinai as a convenience. Any thinking human being could figure out the 10 Commandments for himself by just thinking about it because they are based in natural moral law.

So yes, "the Ten are undeniably self-evident outside the context of scripture." This is born out by the fact that many cultures prior to the time of Mosems had the 10 commandments in some form. I would offer you the Code of Hammurabi as an example of this.

Teresa Beem said...

The Bible says that we were all given a measure of faith and I assume we were all given a measure of both reason and grace. So, if we DO come to the conclusion of the Ten Commandments without being taught it in some fashion, then it still would be a grace of God rather than innate.

Do you believe that mankind would naturally experience a need to worship once a week? Or not covet? These things need to be taught. Our consciences are not always that reliable.