Is Truth Relative?
Larry Ray Halfey
Some are teaching that truth is subjective, relative and unobtainable. Men, it is said, cannot understand the Scriptures. Scripture is not our pattern, our guide, neither indeed can be. It is not in man that walketh to discern truth, nor is it necessary to do so, or so it is being argued.
What Shall We Say To This?
First, it is certainly true that these ideas are being advanced, It is ironic, however, that we can understand these ideas and thoughts. Scripture claims to teach with words (Eph. 3:3,4; 1 Cor. 2:13). Yet, we are told that we are not able to understand those words. Therefore, the words of the Bible cannot constitute a pattern or model for our lives. How is it, though, that we cannot reason from the words of the Bible and understand God's will, but we can reason from the words of men and understand when they say the Bible cannot be understood? Get it, please: I can hear, reason and understand men when they say we cannot hear, reason and understand truth from the Bible, but if I can understand words which man's wisdom teacheth, why can I not also understand words which the Holy Spirit teacheth?
Second, may I understand that Scripture says that it can be read and understood (Eph. 3:3,4; 5:17; Rev. 1: 11, 19; 2:1,7)? Ezra "read" from "the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded . . . and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law . . .So they read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading" (Neh. 8:1-8).
Can this be done today (1 Tim. 1:3; 2:7; 3:14,15; 4:1,6,11,13-16; 6:3,14,20,21)? Can men hold fast the faithful word, the word made known through preaching (Tit. 1:3,9)? Can they hear, reason and understand the truth (Tit. 1:9-14; 2:1; 3:10,11)? If we can understand what Paul wrote, his answer is "yes" (2 Tim. 1:13; 2:2,15-19; 3:14-4:4).
If we cannot know the truth, the will of God, why were men reproved and rebuked for leaving it (Gal. 1:6-12; 2 Tim. 2:16-18), for forgetting it (2 Thess. 2:5; 3:10) and urged to hold to it (2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 3:14)? If it cannot be understood, how is it profitable for teaching, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16, 17)? Why encourage men to "handle aright" and "rightly divide" the word of truth, if it cannot be known (2 Tim. 2:15)? These questions need answers - assuming, of course, that the questions and their answers can be understood!
Third, is it possible to know for sure that I am a sinner, that I face the judgment and hell, that I need a Savior, that Jesus is that Redeemer, that he died for me, that I can believe on him and be saved? Is it possible for me to know and understand these facts? If so, how do I learn them? Is it possible that I may read, reason and understand these items from the Bible?
Fourth, Jesus expected people to read Moses' writings and recognize (believe) him (Jn. 1:45; 5:39,46,47) and not another (Jn. 8:24). So, why can we not read the New Testament and understand certain truth? Or did Jesus expect too much?
The book of 2 Peter argues our case. Those to whom Peter wrote had obtained "like precious faith" and were "established in the present truth" (1:1, 12). This "truth" was in "words" which they were expected to "have . . . always in remembrance" (1:12-15; 3:1,2). These "words" were "written" "by the holy prophets" of the Old Testament and were "the commandment of . . . the apostles of the Lord and Savior" and were described as "prophecy" and "scriptures" "spoken" "by the Holy Spirit" (1:19-21; 3:1,2,15,16).
Further, these "words" (3:2) constituted "the way of truth" (2:2), "the right way" (2:15), "the way of righteousness" and "the holy commandment" (2:21; cf. 3:2). They were to be "mindful of" these "words" and to have them always in "remembrance." Note the contrasts:
(1) "pernicious ways" vs. "way of truth" (2:2); (2) "right way" vs. "way of Balaam" (2:15); (3) "great swelling words of vanity" vs. "holy commandment" (2:18,21); (4) "words" of "holy prophets . . . and . . . apostles," "scriptures" vs. "error of the wicked" (3:2,15-17).
True, "some things" of Scripture were "hard to be understood" (3:16). It was not impossible to understand some of what Paul had "written," but difficult. Those in error were not there because the truth was unobtainable (1:12), but because the "unlearned and unstable" had twisted and perverted what was "written" in "scriptures" (3:16). What was hard to be understood was, nevertheless, seen, understood and known (1:12,16; 3:11,14,17). It was "known" even by some who wrested it "unto their own destruction" (2:21; 3:16,17).
There are "false teachers among" us (2 Pet. 2:1; 1 Jn. 4:1) who speak "great swelling words of vanity" and who "wrest" the "scriptures unto their own destruction." They say that we cannot grasp the truth and hold it as an absolute standard or pattern. This is done in order to allure us to accept every wind of doctrine, from Mormonism to Methodism, from Pentecostalism to Presbyterianism. Every issue, every subject is variable, flexible, and acceptable in the sight of God. Views on any topic, from music to marriage, from bishops to baptism, are to be received - not merely tolerated, but welcomed and embraced. This is their aim, their goal. Forget and forsake "the old paths," the "traditional concepts" of a "well meaning" but "exclusionary mind-set. " This is their plea; this is their cry.
As it was in the days of the apostles, so must it be now that saints must "earnestly contend for the faith once delivered," "if so be that ye have heard him and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus" (Eph. 4:20). The "faithful word," the "form of sound words," must be held as "taught" and those who have "crept in privily" must be opposed.
Do not be deceived about such matters. They are even now among the people of God. Relative, fluctuating, divisive doctrines are encouraged as "free, fresh thinking" and as "loving acceptance of one another." Meanwhile, "rigid traditionalists" are derided as Pharisaical legalists. Listen and beware. You can hear the subtle, siren song of modernism, relativism and denominationalism.
However, you can "know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn. 8:32). "It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me" (Jn. 6:45). "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness" (2 Pet. 3:17).
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 17, pp. 525-526