Relative Truth

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

  • John 8:31-32

Have you ever been to an American football game and from your side of the field, it seemed that the offensive person, the receiver, made a reception?  What if the people on the other side of the field saw the receiver drop the ball and the defender catch it for an interception?  They might stop the game and look at instant replay.  A camera from yet another angle shows that the ball was indeed dropped by the first person, but it hit the ground before the second person caught it on the bounce.  The referee calls the forward pass to be incomplete.  Neither player caught the pass before it hit the ground, but no one in the stands could see what actually happened.

But how many people on both sides still boo the officials for not making the call that they “saw?”  And from both sides of the field for opposite reasons.  In this case, the replay was clear.  We know what the truth is, but the relative truth of each of the fans at the game is what they saw.  Some instant replay video, that they did not see, does not change their perception of ‘truth.’

Now let’s look at a Biblical reference.  In Matthew 20, Jesus has left Jericho, on His way to Jerusalem.  The beginning of the next chapter is the story of the triumphal entry.  Two blind beggars call out to Jesus for mercy.  The crowd tries to quiet them, but they yell louder.  Jesus heals them and gives them their sight.

In Luke 18, we have the same story, but there is only one blind beggar.

You might think, “Ah!  A mistake in the Bible!”  But not really.  Both Biblical accounts are technically correct.  Each beggar in the Matthew story got the same personal, individual treatment from Jesus as the one beggar in the Luke story.  Was each beggar, as a person unto himself, given sight?  Yes.  In Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Christ, he talks about how he came to a saving knowledge of Jesus, but he covers two objections leading up to him, Lee Strobel, accepting Jesus.  First, what is the evidence.  There had to be ‘believable’ evidence.  After all, Strobel was an investigative reporter in Chicago.  When he read the Matthew 20 account and the Luke 18 account, he knew that when Luke said that he had interviewed people who were eyewitnesses, it must be true.  To Strobel, this difference in one or two blind beggars is not a showstopper, but it is evidence that the Biblical account is what really happened, as seen by eyewitnesses.  The person Luke interviewed saw one person.  Matthew was with Jesus.  He was, himself, an eyewitness.  He saw two people.  Could the real truth be that there was a third blind man outside Jericho that day that was healed at the same time?  Yes, that is possible.  The eyewitnesses just didn’t see the other person.  Strobel’s point is that eyewitnesses, due to a variety of factors, rarely tell the story the same way.

Both Biblical accounts are accurate based on eyewitness accounts.  The two authors simply asked different eyewitnesses.  Why did God inspire two different people to write two different accounts?  Some people claim that these were two separate events along the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, but why so similar in the details, if that were the case?  But if that were true, there is no confusion, but then Lee Strobel, nearly 2000 years later, might think that the Gospel writers colluded to get their “facts straight.”  Usually when you do that to get your facts straight, you are creating a ‘truth’ that might not be the truth.  Maybe others over the past 2000 years have had the same insight as Lee Strobel.

Now let’s enter the modern world.  People are being taught that truth is the truth that you experience.  They are being taught that everyone has their own truth.  They are being taught to be confident in your own truth but be cognizant that the truth of others may disagree, as if this knowledge will resolve all disagreements.  With rational thinking people, they will know that what really happened is somewhere other than the viewpoint of any one eyewitness, especially if that witness expects to gain from the ‘truth’ that he / she ‘saw.’

And some people have disabilities that lead to not seeing everything clearly.  A person that is colorblind might see brown instead of green.  I had a friend with this variant of colorblindness.  His reality is that a green light at the intersection looks brown.  Is that his ‘truth?’  Or should he simply be taught to go when the light at the bottom or to the right of the traffic signal is illuminated?  Just because he sees brown, the light has not changed color.  It is still green.

We see ‘relative truth’ in the News.  I mentioned in an old post that I got into a sparring match on my niece’s social media page with a journalist.  The topic was “fake news.”  I contended that the media outlet has an agenda.  They present the snippets of truth that match their agenda, and they leave out the truck load of evidence that proves that they are wrong.  Lawyers do that in the courtroom as well.  The journalist, who was highly angry at me, said that the truck load was called “alternate facts” that did not matter relevant to the story being told.  Oddly, in trying to discredit my claim, she confirmed that it happens all the time.  I just did not use the correct terminology, “alternate facts.”  The story being told by the media was a lie, based on contaminated facts.  Yes, Ms. Journalist, you were telling a pack of lies by only presenting one side of the story, and you were proud of the “fact” that you could lie and mislead the people without any pang of a guilty conscience.

For a real-life example, Rev. David Robertson mentioned in a podcast recently that a news article said that over 100 people were at a rally.  I think it was a pro-life rally, but I am not sure.  The newspaper’s agenda was for the opposing view.  The actual number was close to or over a thousand.  While the newspaper was accurate, including a carefully cropped and blocked photograph, it told a lie.  It made it sound like the rally was poorly attended and the viewpoint of the people supporting the rally had virtually no support.  If you hate “fake news,” find a different term for how the media manipulates the public with propaganda, unless you disagree with MEeeeeee.  Then we have a fight on our hands.

For more on David Robertson’s latest thoughts about the BBC teaching the British youth that there are more than one hundred gender identities, click here.

Before I get to us, and our truth and Truth, let me relate an old joke.  I think it was a joke.  It might have happened, and the result was not newsworthy, but rather joke worthy.  There was once a practice track and field meet before the Olympics, a tune-up before the official medals would be won or lost.  The two contesting countries were the USA and the USSR.  The USA destroyed the USSR in “medal count” and won almost every event.  Pravda, the state-run news agency in the USSR, reported a huge headline.  “In an international track and field meet, the USSR came in second place and the USA came in next to last.”  Two different countries were involved.  Yes – International.  The USSR came in second.  Yes.  And due to only two countries participating, the first place USA came in next to last.  Again, Yes.  Accuracy!  “Fake News” has been with us for a long time, probably since they’ve been making newspapers.

But how are we to handle this new consciousness that each person’s reality is okay, because it is their reality?  Are the puppet masters of this world trying to keep the truth from us, leaving us in a fog?  We know that the puppet masters are trying to keep the Truth from us, but will we one day have to check a variety of sources to believe a reporter when he/she announces the score of a ballgame?

I talked with a couple of street evangelists this past week.  They ask people how they are doing.  When they get “fine” as the answer.  They say, in friendly terms, “No, how are you really do?”  If they’ve read the person correctly beforehand, the other person will open up.  We are all broken.  We must let the other person know that we care, and they will then respond.  The next thing that the evangelists did was to actively listen, so that if they were given a chance to pray with the other person, they would pray specifically for the issues that the other person had, real or imagined.  For in their reality, it was real.  Hopefully that leads to serious talking about Jesus and how Jesus is the answer, regardless of the question.

(Okay, smart guy, two plus two is equal to Jesus.  In some way, it probably is.  God created everything; Thus, He created math.)

If the crazy people on the relative truth train were to brainwash everyone at the football game that was the initial illustration of this post (and that play made the difference in winning and losing the game – a very important game), both sides of the stadium would be in full riot by the time the referee got the word about the instant replay.  After sending half the fans to the ER, the referee would then make the true call, and because none of the fans saw it that way, the referee would have to run for his life from the fans of both sides.  All the fans would be ready to literally “Kill the Ref” for not agreeing with their truth.

Let’s look back on the C. S. Lewis quote from two days ago.  An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or Practical Reason is idiocy. If a man’s mind is open on these things, let his mouth at least be shut.”

  • C. S. Lewis, Abolition of Man

It sounds like a riot due to a football game is ridiculous, but riots based on such silliness have happened and might happen again.  It seems like the slightest of disagreements these days leads to polarization.  In some parts of the USA, winning or losing a football game is “foundational.”  The “truth” was that no one in the stadium, except for one camera operator, saw the truth.  Relative truth would be ignoring the facts in preference to what was personally seen – a not-so-accurate eyewitness account.  “Truth” as we know it would cease to exist.

Yet, even then, a football game is not foundational, as long as we can maintain perspective of “game” versus “purpose in life.”  What is that purpose?  To love God, worship God, and enjoy Him forever.  To do that, we must realize that when God is involved, that is real truth.  Jesus said, “I am the Truth (John 14:6).”  That’s truth with a capital “T”.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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