A story is told about the time a college teacher asked her class, “Are there right and wrong beliefs about God, or can they change from person to person?” The students had typical responses: “Who am I to judge what other people think about God?” “Every person has the right to decide what is true for himself.” “If what a person thinks is true about God works for them, that’s what really matters.” “I think that everybody needs to decide what is true for them.”
The teacher then asked the class, “If two people believe opposite things about God, can they both be true?” After some discussion, the general consensus held by the class was that opposite convictions could both be true because truth depends on the individual.
This story rings true because of how truth is now perceived in our society. “In two national surveys conducted by Barna Research, one among adults and one among teenagers, people were asked if they believe that there are moral absolutes [given by God] that are unchanging or that moral truth is relative to the circumstances. By a 3-to-1 margin (64% vs. 22%) adults said truth is always relative to the person and their situation. The perspective was even more lopsided among teenagers, 83% of whom said moral truth depends on the circumstances, and only 6% of whom said moral truth is absolute.” [See https://is.gd/LBrro4]
Here is the rest of the story about that college classroom. The teacher followed up on the discussion by setting a large jar on the desk filled with jelly beans. She asked the students how many jelly beans they thought were in the jar. Their guesses ranged from 250 to 989. When they were done guessing, the teacher announced there were exactly 256 beans in the jar. She asked them, “Were all the answers you gave right?” They easily agreed that 256 was the only right answer, and the other answers were wrong.
Why did the students reject absolute truth when it came to religious beliefs and accept absolute truth when it came to a physical number? It’s because truth is often thought of as being divided into two different categories: Truth can be absolute when applied to physical things, but it cannot be absolute when it is about spiritual things.
That view strikes me as ironic because physical data and conclusions are constantly changing. We often hear about modern discoveries that debunk long-held scientific views, and no one seems to blink an eye. For example, it was reported a few years ago that there were bacteria on the New York City subway that could cause bubonic plague and anthrax? After much research, experts finally had to conclude that all the bacteria found were harmless.
At the same time, Christians who proclaim that God’s truth is eternal and unchanging are condemned as being narrow-minded.
Does it matter what we believe about God? It matters a lot when it comes to our souls. That’s because we don’t determine what is true, God does. “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).
Ultimately, God’s standard of right and wrong is the only one that matters because He is “… the God of truth…” (Isaiah 65:16).
The Bible makes it clear that eternity is not secure, even when beliefs are completely sincere. At the final judgment, some people are going to come before Jesus completely convinced of their own view of what will satisfy God. They will sincerely believe that their own personal goodness is all that’s needed. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew [i.e. had a personal relationship with] you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22–23).
What are we to do? First, remember that “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Proverbs 12:15). Our personal opinion about truth doesn’t change what is true. God’s opinion is the only one that matters.
Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder what is true. God has already revealed what is true through the Person of Jesus Christ. “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus Himself proclaimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
We can confidently believe that Jesus’ words are true because He proved it by raising Himself from the dead (a physical truth!) and He is still changing lives in our world today. The historical evidence for His resurrection includes the empty tomb, the appearance of the risen Christ for 40 days to more than 500 followers, and their willingness to suffer and even die for that truth. If you know Jesus, you also learn that He is alive and working in your life even today.
If you haven’t already, I hope you will put your faith in Christ because “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).