Absolute Truth

truthI recently shared some thoughts on Facebook and enjoyed various comments made by my friends. I thought I would carry the discussion on absolute truth over to my blog. Here’s some additional thoughts in response to some of the discussion.

 

Homophobia is not my problem. Sinophobia is. I am afraid of what sin can do in me, in you, in our culture, and in our world. I’ve seen it at work in my life for 52 years, and I see it unleashed in our culture. It is destroying us. One problem is our tendency to ignore sin in our lives. I’ve done it with the best of them. One way we try to ignore it is to justify our actions, ignore our actions or redefine our actions. We justify our actions often times by comparing ourselves to other people. I can always find someone worse than me; therefore, my sin doesn’t look so bad. The problem is that other people are not the standard – God is. Our culture is working to justify actions through talk or predispositions. Some scientists and media personnel are determined to justify an action that is contrary to the Bible by trying to show that a predisposition to a sinful lifestyle is pre-determined by an inborn quality. To say someone has a female brain in a male body justifies homosexual behavior. To say someone is naturally oversexed justifies a promiscuous lifestyle or an addiction to pornography. First of all, there has been no real evidence that someone is born with a predisposition toward homosexuality. The fact is; however, we are all born with a predisposition to sin. Homosexuality is not the only issue. Sin is the issue. The problem is that we do not want to call it sin. If we call our actions sinful, there must be a standard of righteousness. If sin exists, God must exist. If God exists, then we are accountable for our sins. It is easier for me to justify my behavior, whatever kind of sinful behavior that might be, than to be accountable for it.

 

I will hasten to say that Christians feel much better talking about someone else’s’ sinful behavior than their own. It feels more comfortable being critical of homosexuality while ignoring lust. The fact is that sin is sin. Jesus had to die for all of sin. I am grateful that God loves the sinner and meets us where we are, but if we are going to deal with our sin, we must first acknowledge that we are sinners. To acknowledge sin means that we must recognize a standard of moral truth. Is truth relative or absolute? Can something be wrong for me but not wrong for you?

 

There is a such thing as cultural truth. Cultural or geographical truth can be relative. For example, if you live in Great Britain, it is against the law for you to drive down the right side of the street. You are required to drive on the left. In the U.S., we are required to drive on the right. Obviously location is going to determine right and wrong in regard to that particular traffic law. I do believe there are some cultural issues addressed in the Bible, and for that matter, there are some cultural issues not addressed in the Bible. For example, God did not address the morality of slavery in the Bible. Though the practice of slavery was different in the N.T. times than it was in the 19th century, God doesn’t really address the moral issue of right and wrong regarding owning slaves. I have wondered if polygamy in the Old Testament fell into this category. Was it a cultural truth that was descriptive for that time but not prescriptive for all of time? There were more women in that culture than men. Is it possible that God allowed it as a means of taking care of women, but it was not His ideal? We do know that there were some cultural truths related to certain laws. The N.T. helps us to understand that there were some cultural laws that related to just the Jewish people in the O.T. that did not apply to N.T. believers. Peter had been taught not to eat unclean animals, but he then had a dream saying that all things were clean. Circumcision was required for Jewish males, but the N.T. makes it clear that it is not a law for every culture.

 

When I speak of absolute truth, I’m not talking about cultural issues but rather moral issues. Mistreating people is wrong for all people for all of time. Mistreating others is never justified. This is a moral absolute. In a recent Facebook note, I shared a statement about a transgender youth. Sadly, some people responded to her YouTube post with venom and hatred – even to the point where someone said they wanted to kill this youth. That is ridiculous and inexcusable. It is an absolute truth that mistreating people is always wrong. The Bible speaks to many moral truths, and the Bible sets a standard for absolute truth. Does this mean that Christians always have the right attitude about people and sin? No. Do Christians always act in a Christ-honoring way? Absolutely not! Just because a Christian acts ungodly does not mean that it is okay to ignore absolute truth. For that matter, just because a Christian acts wrongly toward you does not justify putting all Christians in the same category or dropping out of church or ignoring the teaching of the Bible. It’s funny that church is one of the few things in society we apply those standards to. For example, I’ve been treated badly at Walmart before by employees and customers. I still go to Walmart. When that happened, I acknowledged that a Walmart employee had a problem or a customer I confronted had issues (or maybe even I had issues), but I didn’t stop going to Walmart. Just because a Christian acts ungodly, I cannot write off the truth of God’s Word. The fact is a Christian’s misbehavior does not cause Romans 6:23 to be any less true for me or you: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 

The real issue here has to do with whether or not moral truth is absolute. Regardless of what our culture says, I say that it is. I’ll share some more on this later, but in the meantime, what are your thoughts?

2 thoughts on “Absolute Truth

  1. I pretty much agree with you. A couple of thoughts

    1) Slavery – Why did Saul loose God’s favor ? There are several references to slavery. It has been argued both ways and I think the perfect example of using scripture to justify our actions rather than looking into scripture for the proper actions to take.

    2) The wages of sin is death – Why ? Do we die because our sin displeases God and he deprives us of the gift of life that he has given us ? Or do we displease God because in his creation our sin causes us to reject the gift of life he gives us ? I do not see clear indication in scripture for either but I believe the latter. I think the answer to this question is the key to the question about the nature of moral truth. If an action is sinful because it displeases God and he punishes us as a result his constant nature means that the same action will always and in all conditions be sinful. On the other hand if God is displeased when we harm ourselves through actions he deems sinful because they harm us the same action might be sin in one case and not in another time and place yet God remains constant and displeased by that which harms us. Some things would always be sinful. Some things would not.

    3) Polygamy and other customs now deemed horrid might very well have been for the benefit of women. If you could give your daughter in marriage to a man she loved that she would be happy with, who could not protect her from bandits who would kill her or sell her into captivity, who could not ensure that she did not starve, would that really be more compassionate than giving her in marriage to a wealthy man who already had a wife or two but could protect her and ensure her a comfortable life ? When you reflect upon the depraved nature of man unconstrained by law, culture or society it is at least conceptually possible to conclude that many of the ancient practices we view as terribly hurtful to women as helpful to our female ancestors. What is clearly immoral now might have been in another time the only moral choice.

    • Thanks Fred for your comment. I do agree that we try to use Scripture to support certain positions, which is usually no more than proof texting instead of rightly dividing the truth. 1 Samuel 15 indicates that Saul lost favor with God because he did not obey God’s Word. Samuel told Saul in verse 23 says, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” Nevertheless, I think you’re right about people trying to justify slavery by pulling verses out of context to support their positions. Regarding #2, sin is both a nature and an act, and whether nature or act, it stands in contrast to God’s nature. I think the main reason the wages of sin is death is because God is holy and just. If sin were not punished, God would not be just. Because God is also gracious and merciful, He offers us forgiveness through the cross. The cross became the means by which He communicated justice and grace. If our sin were not punished, God would not be the God of the Bible. Regarding polygamy, I think you’re right about us not being able to fully comprehend certain actions of the past because of our perspective. I was thinking this morning about the kinsman redeemer law where a man was commanded to take his brother’s wife if the brother died. We see that as polygamy, but that was the only means of survival for that single widow. It was how God did welfare in the O.T. (I don’t believe God ever intended welfare to be a government responsibility, though I suppose that’s another blog.) I believe we have a difficult time seeing things from the O.T. perspective because we are so far removed from it culturally. Again, I think it is a cultural relevance and not a moral absolute. I appreciate you input.

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