What is truth? Is there no absolute truth? Objective or Subjective Truth

People today speak of truth in a manner which distorts what truth is, Biblical speaking. It shouldn't surprise us that the world would have competing definitions, as it so often opposes Biblical thinking. What should surprise us is how widespread the world's distorted concepts have become and how they have replaced a Biblical mindset in our post-Christianized country.End Note 1

Throughout history there have always been two types of truth, one known in scholarly circles as objective truth and the other as subjective truth. To understand which truth is in view throughout the Bible, indeed what the Word is, it is necessary to define each term. Rather than first considering a dictionary definition, everyday examples will provide a more visual point of reference.

Proposition #1

Ice Cream is good.

A majority would agree with this statement. A few would disagree. (About 1.6 billion gallons are made each year in the US. About 21.5 quarts per person each year! [2004 USDA stats]. #1 is chocolate, tied for 2nd are vanilla, cookies and cream, and cookie dough, 3rd butter pecan and Swiss almond, then rocky road and then strawberry. Only 3 percent of Americans don't eat ice cream [2009 Harris Poll]). Would each accuse the other of falsehood, perhaps sin, or condemn those holding the opposing view to hell? Generally not (though you can probably find a nut-case, more properly an extremist, on virtually any subject).

This is subjective truth. It is a true statement resting and rooted in the mind of the one holding to the claim. Is it true for the one who loves ice cream that ice cream is good? Most certainly. Is it likewise true for the one who hates it, that ice cream is bad? Again, most definitely.

Proposition #2

Ice Cream is a cure for salmonella (a bacterial infection). In other words ice cream is an antibiotic drug.

A majority would disagree with this statement. Even if some agreed with the statement it does not make it true. The unchangeable truth is that ice cream is not an antibiotic and has no antibiotic properties. Regardless of what one thinks of it, the truth of the matter is unchanging because it is intrinsic to the object itself.

Ice cream is not an anti-biotic, it has no anti-biotic properties no matter how good you think it tastes or what flavor you might like. This is objective truth.


sub·jec·tive [suh b-jek-tiv]


  1. existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought (as opposed to objective).

  2. pertaining to or characteristic of an individual; personal; individual: a subjective evaluation.

  3. placing excessive emphasis on one's own moods, attitudes, opinions, etc.; unduly egocentric.

  4. Philosophy. relating to or of the nature of an object as it is known in the mind as distinct from a thing in itself.


ob·jec·tive [uh b-jek-tiv]


  1. not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.

  2. intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings, as a person or a book.

  3. being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject (as opposed to subjective).

  4. of or pertaining to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality.

Source of Truth

The emphasis of all things subjective is personal. My own reality, experience, or thought is all that really matters in regards to the subject. The greatest problem with all things subjective is that we live in a fallen world which has tainted our minds, our experiences, and our personal reality. In a worldview shaped by godless evolution, truth itself is considered to be merely a product of an evolutionary process. What once didn't exist came to exist or is believed to exist (i.e. perception itself had to evolve). Here the focus shifts again to the one doing this observation.

In contrast, the emphasis of all things objective is that which is. This implies an absolute, a perfect and unchangeable truth intrinsic to the object itself. Unquestionably this points to an absolute giver or originator of truth. The Bible reveals who this is:

John 14:6a Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. (NIV)

1 John 5:20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true - even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (NIV)

1 John 5:6 This is the one who came by water and blood - Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (NIV)

Psalms 31:5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth. (NIV)

Isaiah 65:16a Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. (NIV) End Note 6

Did you follow what these verses are saying? Jesus is truth, the Spirit is truth, the Father is truth - and these three who are one are God. In case you missed it; the triune God is truth. The entire idea of absolute and unchanging truth rests in the eternal being of God.End Note 2 From the writings of Moses to the end of the book, God is revealed as perfect in all His ways, incapable of doing wrong or of any falsehood.

Deuteronomy 32:4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (NIV)

There is truth

Even the Godless, solely because they live in God's creation, end up tacitly acknowledging that there must be truth. For the one who opposes absolute truth, their very claim that is no truth is an assertion that their claim is true. Their argument falls on the basis that it contradicts their entire premise (as such, their argument commits suicide).

Modern Society

An overwhelming percentage of people today now choose their religion and ethics subjectively rather than objectively. Even when those within God's church present it to the public, most of their listeners hear the claims of exclusivity End Note 3 as being merely ice cream claims. If you like it that's fine, if you don't that's fine too. If someone wants a different flavor, they're glad it works for you. In effect, it's only good if you believe it to be good; it's only true if you believe it to be true. Postmodernism is the extension of this; everything in life is ice cream. Furthermore, they would claim that anyone who would hold to an absolute objective truth is dangerous.End Note 4


We are called to trust in the One who is absolutely trustworthy. All through Scriptures God demonstrated that He is worthy of our trust.End Note 5 How else could Peter and the apostles confidently proclaim the resurrected Lord to a people that were actually in Jerusalem? God had provided sufficient evidence. It was a historical fact!

Acts 2:36-37 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (NIV)

Jesus didn't allow a crowd that had gathered the option of subjective truth, having publicly forgiven the sins of a man brought to him. I mean, who can really see or prove that sins have been forgiven? It would have been easy for those in the crowd to turn this into subject truth, for themselves or the one forgiven. If they believed it happened perhaps that was all that mattered, or if they held that the recipient believed it happen, again that was truth for him. Jesus lays all doubt to rest by confirming that He spoke objective truth, providing a clear and visible test.

Mark 2:1-13 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, 11 "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!" (NIV)

Likewise it should not surprise us that God provided extraordinary authentication for all of His special messengers, especially the prophets and apostles He used to record His written word.End Note 7 God's word is a wholly sufficient witness that He has revealed His perfect truth to us.

John 20:30-31 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (NIV)

God's Objective Truth

Only God's objective truth can set you free. The Bible nowhere espouses the view that your own personal truth can set you free or save you. It is God's teaching, with all of its absolutes, that is the focus. This truth changes lives.

John 8:31-32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (NIV)

John 4:23-24 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (NIV)

Don't let the world trivialize your trust in Jesus. It is not some leap of faith detached from truth, or rooted in some truth only personal to you. Our faith is anchored in perfect unchangeable truth, equally available to all - it is unquestionably a rational faith.

Psalms 26:2-3 Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; 3 for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth. (NIV)

End Notes

1. I will not, here, enter into the debate over whether or not this country was once a "Christian" country. What may be said, without dispute, is that this country was once steeped in Christian thought, highly influenced by Biblical thinking, and - in the least - had the appearance of being predominately Christian based on the visibility and prominence of churches and Christian organizations.

2. God cannot change; therefore all truth that is rooted and founded in Him cannot change either.

Malachi 3:6a "I the Lord do not change. (NIV)

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (NIV)

1 Samuel 15:29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind." (NIV)

Hebrews 6:18a God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie... (NIV)

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (NIV)

James 1:17-18a Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth... (NIV)

3. Make no mistake; God makes exclusive claims throughout the Bible, hundreds of them. Jesus makes exclusive claims concerning himself:

John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (NIV)

John 10:9a I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. (NIV)

These are very exclusive claims, the same claims that are believed and spread by Jesus' followers:

Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (NIV)

4. Neo-atheists (another significant public group today) are different from postmodernists. They claim to hold to objective truth, namely that there is no God. While this is misplaced, as their fundamental "truth" is a lie, they share one major sentiment with postmodernists; all who hold to an absolute truth stemming from beyond this physical world are viewed as being dangerous.

5. A sampling of God's call to trust in Him...

Psalms 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (NASU)

Isaiah 26:4 "Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock. (NASU)

Jeremiah 17:7 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord And whose trust is the Lord. (NASU)

John 14:1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (NIV)

6. The book of Revelation features the Lamb who was slain, risen with power, not only as true but named True.

Revelation 3:7a "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. (NIV)

Revelation 19:11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. (NIV)

7. Not only was Moses specially authenticated before God's people (e.g. Exodus 20:18-22), God made sure that even the godless Pharaoh had sufficient evidence to know that Moses spoke the truth on behalf of God. The entirety of the miracles of the Exodus applies. Take this excerpt for example:

Exodus 8:8-11 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord." 9 Moses said to Pharaoh, "I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile." 10 "Tomorrow," Pharaoh said. Moses replied, "It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the Lord our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile." (NIV, bold ours for emphasis)

Written by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. (c) 2010
Duplication permitted as long as the source is cited.