Author Ann Tatlock

Whatever Happened to Absolute Truth


Everyone has the right to believe what he or she wants to believe. But that doesn’t mean everyone is going to be right.

In the postmodern mindset, that last statement is regarded as the height of arrogance. For the postmodern thinker, everyone has the right to believe what he or she wants to believe AND whatever anyone believes is right. You’ve heard the catch-phrase: “What’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me.”

Postmodernism is a backlash to modernism, when people thought they could know everything there is to know through the discipline of science. In the postmodern world, people don’t think they can know anything for certain. We’ve lost the idea of absolute, objective truth. We’ve given in to the idea of relativism. Without a standard, we have no way to measure what’s right and what isn’t.

In an age of both uncertainty and tolerance, we can no longer question the beliefs of others. We have to simply accept them. Even if varying belief systems contradict each other, they must all be accepted as right.

Do you remember the philosophical principle of non-contradiction? It was first codified by Aristotle and since then, the majority of philosophers and theologians have agreed with it. The law simply states:

Nothing can both be and not be
at the same time in the same respect.

Either I’m sitting here writing on a Dell computer, or I’m not. Either a coffee cup is on the desk beside me, or it isn’t. Either heaven as spoken of in the Bible exists, or it doesn’t. Either Jesus is the only way to heaven as He claims, or He isn’t. It can’t be both ways. Contradicting realities cannot exist.

And yet, in a postmodern culture, contradiction is the rule. To the postmodern thinker, all paths lead to God.

Another principle concerning the nature of truth is the principle of correspondence.

Any statement is true if and only if
it corresponds to or agrees with factual reality.

If I say there is a coffee cup on the desk beside me, there has to be a real coffee cup on the desk beside me. Simply saying something is true doesn’t make it true if my statement doesn’t correspond with reality.

The postmodern thinker might then ask, “But, what is reality? Who can say for certain what’s real and what isn’t?”

With such thinking, a person can become overwhelmed with what Peter calls “bombastic nonsense” (2 Peter 2:18, NRSV; translated “great swelling words of vanity,” in the King James Version).

While people arrogantly and vainly debate the reality of reality, they overlook what Jesus taught two thousand years ago. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NRSV). The Greek word for truth here is aletheia, which can also be translated reality. Jesus is reality. Truth is a person.

Remember, something’s happening. A story is unfolding in our world, and ultimately it explains the big questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?

As Christians, we believe that the story being played out in the universe is the story revealed in the Bible. We believe that the truths of the Bible correspond with the reality in which we find ourselves living. We believe that our idea of heaven corresponds to an actual place. And we believe that the one path to heaven is Jesus Christ.

For that reason, we don’t tell people about Christ in order to win theological arguments. It’s not about our being right and everyone else being wrong. We tell people about Christ because we want to introduce them to Reality, to Truth.  

For more information, I recommend:

The Truth Project

“The Death of Truth,” Dennis McCallum (ed.)

“Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism,” by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.

“Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Postmodern Times and Culture,” by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.

“The Truth War,” by John MacArthur

“How Now Shall We Live?” by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey

“Total Truth,” by Nancy Pearcey

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