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Objective Truth Is One Thing, But Objective Moral Truth Is Another

Objective Truth Is One Thing, But Objective Moral Truth Is Another
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I get the opportunity to train church groups all the time and I relish the chance to talk about the nature of truth. Brett Kunkle and I have been taking a similar approach in this training, offering a “Truth Test” to Christian groups across the country. We begin by describing the difference between “objective” truth (which is rooted in the nature of the object under consideration and transcends the opinions of any subject considering this object), and “subjective” truth (which is rooted in the opinions and beliefs of the subjects who hold them and vary from person to person). We provide several examples of truth claims and ask groups to tell us whether the statements are subjective or objective.

Objective vs. Subjective Truth Claims
As an example, we offer the proposition, “Jim’s car is a Hyundai”. Is this an objective claim or a subjective claim? It is clearly objective. My car is either a Hyundai or it is not, and my personal opinion will not change this fact. The truth is rooted in the nature of the object, the Hyundai automobile, and it is not dependent upon my subjective opinion. Now let’s examine another claim: “Hyundai’s are the coolest (hippest) cars”. This second claim is highly personal depending on what each of us considers “hip” or “cool”. Our opinion about this is rooted in each of us as subjects who hold varying opinions about “hipness” or “coolness”. See the difference? “1+1=2” is an objective truth statement; “Math is fun” is a subjective claim.

Objective Spiritual Claims
But it seems to get trickier for people when they begin to move away from physical realities or math facts. Consider the following claim: “God exists”. Surprisingly, many Christian groups I work with struggle to define this statement as objective. But the existence of God is either a true reality or it is not, and our personal opinion is not going to change this reality. It is something we can either acknowledge or reject, but doing so does not change the reality of God’s existence. Does that make sense? Spiritual truth claims about the existence of God are objective, they are rooted in the object under consideration: God. He either exists or He does not; my opinion won’t change that fact.

Objective Moral Claims
At some point toward the end of our “Truth Test,” Brett and I will begin to post moral claims such as, “Premarital sex is morally wrong.” Now things usually get interesting as the Christians in our groups struggle to decide if there are such things as objective moral claims. Some are very uncomfortable identifying this statement as an objective truth claim. It’s one thing to say that we, as Christians, might believe this statement to be true, but some Christians hesitate to say this is a truth claim that transcends those who don’t accept our Christian values. The culture has effectively eroded our confidence in objective moral truth claims. The new cultural definition of “tolerance” obliges us to embrace all truth claims as equally valid or true. This is an important re-definition, because classic “tolerance” acknowledges disagreement and allows each person to hold an opposing view without having to embrace the other view as equally true. Classic tolerance requires us to endure and respect the people who hold opposing views, even as we resist these views themselves.

As a result, those of us who fail to respect and retain the classic definition of tolerance are far more likely to deny the existence of objective moral truth claims. That’s why it’s so important for us to be able to provide evidence of such claims. If there are examples of moral claims that transcend time, individuals and culture, we’ve got evidence of transcendent objective moral truth. Let me offer such evidence.

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There are many examples of moral behaviors that must be interpreted within a situational context in order to determine their “rightness” or “wrongness”. Consider these important moral questions: Is stealing wrong? (What if you are stealing the detonation code to a terrorist’s nuclear bomb that would otherwise kill millions of innocent people?) Is it wrong to lie? (What if I have to lie to accomplish the theft of the very same code?) See the problem? There are many classically “immoral” behaviors that could be rendered moral if the circumstances were different! But once we add a simple expression to the end of our moral questions, everything changes. Is it every right to steal for the fun of it? Is it ever right to lie for the fun of it? The mere goal of experiencing joy (or fun) is NEVER proper justification for doing what would otherwise be considered immoral or wrong. As a police officer, there are times when I may be justified in using deadly force, but I am NEVER justified in taking a life for the mere fun of it. When we add these few words to the end of our moral questions we discover a plethora of objective moral truth claims that transcend time and culture. It is NEVER right, regardless of location or time in history) to lie, steal, cheat, kill (etc., etc., etc.) for the mere fun of it. If we can provide evidence that objective truth claims such as these are a reality in our universe, we must eventually account for such objective, transcendent moral laws. Share on X

And if we can provide evidence that objective truth claims such as these are a reality in our universe, we must eventually account for such objective, transcendent moral laws. Precisely what kind of transcendent moral lawgiver is required if these kinds of moral laws exist? When Christians are unable to think clearly about the nature of objective moral truth, they lose an important piece of evidence related to the existence of God. That’s why it’s so important for us to continue to train Christians to think clearly about the issue of objective moral truth.

For more information about the scientific and philosophical evidence pointing to a Divine Creator, please read God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe. This book employs a simple crime scene strategy to investigate eight pieces of evidence in the universe to determine the most reasonable explanation. The book is accompanied by an eight-session God’s Crime Scene DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

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Written By

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author. He continues to consult on cold-case investigations while serving as a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is also an Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and a faculty member at Summit Ministries. He holds a BA in Design (from CSULB), an MA in Architecture (from UCLA), and an MA in Theological Studies (from Gateway Seminary).



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  11. Debra Knight

    May 29, 2021 at 7:34 am

    By the flawed logic given here, the statement “the flying spaghetti monster exists” is a objective truth claim.

    • J. Warner Wallace

      May 30, 2021 at 10:18 am

      Yes the statement: “the flying spaghetti monster exists” IS an objective truth claim. It’s just a FALSE objective truth claim. Objective claims can be true or false, in a way that is foreign to subjective opinions… More here:

  12. M

    August 22, 2023 at 2:39 pm

    friend, Jesus is not the 2nd person of a triune god, but He is Almighty God Himself. For that which is begotten of the SPIRIT (father) is that same SPIRIT (son) and not a separate entity John 3.6

    father/son is a SPIRITUAL constellation of ONE ALMIGHTY GOD being in heaven and on earth at the same time reconciling the world back to Himself. 2 Sam 7 14…

    It is vital that you believe in the LOVE of God His SELF sacrifice, not a selfish sacrifice of a literal father sending his literal son to be sacrificed.

    May the Everlasting Father Jesus bless you
    Ps you can reach me on YT under “faithful servant serving”

  13. James

    September 6, 2023 at 2:59 pm

    Paul urges us to avoid words which man’s wisdom teaches and use those words which the Holy Spirit teaches. See 1 Corinthians 2.

    If you were to pose the claim “Premarital sex is a sin” or “Premarital sex transgresses God’s revealed will” then you would be speaking as the Holy Spirit teaches.

    Give me a passage from the Bible that uses the phrase “morally wrong”.
    I can give you plenty of passages that use the word “sin” and forms of the verb “transgress”.

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