The Real Objection – Truth is Relative

First, I apologize for the delay in blogging. I came down with some type of bug that my kids passed along to me, and it was enough hassle just to get through the day.

Last time, I wrote about the conversations I have been having in chat-rooms about the truth of Christianity and the objection that other people have been throwing at me: "Other people have different religions." As I pointed out, taken at face value, this is hardly a meaningful objection since the Christian claim is that Christianity is the only true religion, and the existence of other religions does not make them true.

But the claim that there are other religions is simply a symptom for a deeper problem: the belief that there is no truth. What this objection is really saying is this: "you, Christian, have your truth; other religions have their truths, too. If Christianity works for you, that’s fine, but don’t deny the truth of other religions." This objection denies that there is any objective truth.

I know that this is the true underlying objection because I have pushed people to this point. Once I point out that their objection that other people have religions does not really challenge the Christian claim to having the only true religion, they have always (so far) fallen back to this position that truth is relative.

There are three ways to counter this approach, and the most effective depends upon exactly how they couch the objection. If they say, "there is no truth," then the obvious response is "is that true?" You see, the claim that there is no truth is inherently contradictory because the statement that "there is no truth" is a truth claim. The question fleshes out this problem. If, in response to the question "is taht true?" they say that it is true that there is no truth, then they have admitted that there is no truth. If they say that it isn’t true that there is no truth, then they have undermined their claim by admitting that they are wrong by contradicting their earlier claim.

If they say, "you cannot know anything is true," then they are making a claim about the limits of knowledge. In that case, I fall back on St. Augustine’s statement in response to skepticism "sin fallor sum" which means "If I am wrong, I still am." In other words, the mere fact that we can doubt something shows that there is someone doing the doubting, and I can know that it is true that I exist. So, there is at least one thing that I can know absolutely as truth and this counters the claim that all truth is relative.

Third, if they say "all truth is relative," then I ask them "then you are saying that your truth is relative to you, and my truth is relative to me, right?" Since this is what they mean, they have always (to this point) responded in the affirmative. Then I ask the following question: "Well, my truth says that truth is objective, and because it is objective, it is true that truth is objective for both me and for you. Am I wrong?" If they answer that truth is not objective in any way, then they are saying that I am wrong which means that truth is not relative because they are saying that my truth is wrong. If they say that I am right because my truth is true for me but continue to deny that my view that truth is objective applies to them, they are saying in substance that my truth is wrong which disproves their thesis.

I would be interested in other ways people have gotten past this “truth is relative” objection.


Word by Word said…
I've found that the people I talk to have not really taken the time to think out their position to it's logical conclusion. It's easy to go around in circles with people like this in the abstract. I try to make them think about something concrete. Ask them if they think it was ok for Hitler to kill 6 million people. Hopefully they will agree that it was not. But this was Hitler's truth - it was ok to kill Jews. Then you can push them on the point that if truth is really relative then why do they think Hitler should not have killed the Jews. Why is their truth that killing 6 million people is not ok better than Hitler's truth that it was ok. Use their own argument against them. You may not get them to agree with you but at least you'll get them to start thinking - maybe for the first time in their lives. Good luck!
BK said…

Excellent suggestion. I think that part of the problem that many people make mistakes on religious issues is that it isn't concrete enough for them to see their errors. Good idea to try to bring it home with reference to a real situation.

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