What is objective truth?


objective truth
Question: "What is objective truth?"

Answer:
If something is objective, it has correspondence with reality. Objective truth is something that is true for everyone, whether they agree with it or not. At one time this was simply called “truth.”

Objective is the opposite of subjective. If a person says, “The 1966 Ford Mustang is the coolest car ever made,” he is making a subjective statement. It is simply the opinion of one person. There is no way to measure that statement against reality; it cannot be evaluated apart from the opinions of other people. Others will either support or oppose the statement depending solely on their own, equally subjective opinions. It’s really impossible to say that a subjective statement is true in any meaningful sense; however, in modern parlance, someone might say, “It is MY truth,” which introduces a brand-new spin on subjectivism. At one time “my truth” would have been more accurately labeled “my opinion.”

An objective statement is factual; it has a definite correspondence to reality, independent of anyone’s feelings or biases. If a person says, “I own a 1966 Ford Mustang,” he is making an objective statement. If that person owns such a car, then the statement is true. If a person does not own such a car, then the statement is false. The truth or falsehood of the claim does not depend upon subjective opinion.

In recent years there has been an attack upon the very concept of objective truth. Things that were once deemed to be objective have been labeled subjective. For instance, the simple statement “God exists” was, in the past, recognized as an objective statement. People might agree or disagree, but everyone considered it an objective statement regarding external reality. Most people agreed with the statement, but even atheists who disagreed treated it objectively—the statement was either true or false.

Within the past thirty years or so, a new response has become popular. Instead of treating the statement “God exists” as an objective statement, many began to treat it as subjective. Instead of agreeing or disagreeing, the response might be something like “That is your truth. God may exist for you, but He doesn’t exist for me.” The focus has changed from objectivity (which seeks correspondence to objects in the real world) to subjectivity (which depends upon the subject who is making the statement). Today it is popular to view all statements regarding religion or theology as simply subjective statements of opinion—and, of course, everyone is entitled to his own opinion.

In more recent years, we have seen subjective opinion elevated to the level of objective truth. If a person embraces “his truth” or “her truth,” then everyone else is supposed to embrace that as “truth” as well—at least in certain “politically correct” matters. We see this in recent developments in transgender issues. For millennia, gender was considered an objective issue—a person was male or female based on a set of external, objective, and verifiable criteria. Now, certain cultural forces are attempting to make gender subjective. A male who decides to be female is simply embracing “his truth” or as the cultural forces would have us say, “her truth.” And even though the transgender person’s gender is “subjective,” his or her subjective truth must be treated as objective, as if it fully conformed to reality. If a person hints that the chosen gender of a transgender person is merely “their truth,” then he has committed an almost unforgiveable sin. The subjective has been elevated to the level of the objective, and the objective has been denigrated to the level of the subjective. The world has been flipped upside down.

But reality has a way of encroaching on people’s opinions. Try as they might, it is impossible for people to get away from the concept of objective truth. A person who says that a person can choose his own gender is, in fact, making an objective statement. That statement is either true or false. The person who makes the statement will not be satisfied if you agree that this is only “their truth.” They will insist that this is an objective statement that is true for everyone. Even the statement “objective truth does not exist” is an objective statement. Those who make it will often try to argue that it corresponds to reality and is therefore objectively true, thus defeating their own argument.

Postmodernism is a philosophical movement that does not deny the existence of objective truth, but it denies that we can ever know it for sure, because we are all swayed by various cultural forces that cloud our judgment. In postmodern thinking, it is only ignorance and pride that allows one to say, “I know this is true.” However, when postmodernists say, “It is impossible to know anything for sure,” they are making an objective statement. If it is impossible to know anything for sure, then it is impossible for them to know that it is impossible.

In short, facts and opinions are different. Objective truth is the opposite of (subjective) opinion. People may argue over whether a particular statement is objective or subjective. If it is objective, they may argue over whether or not it is true. But no matter what, it is impossible to escape the fact that objective truth does exist. At one time, the job of the Christian was to demonstrate the truthfulness of the biblical claims. Now, his job has been made more difficult because, before talking about the truth of the Bible, the Christian must often convince the listener that truth actually exists, especially touching religious claims.

Recommended Resource: True Truth: Defending Absolute Truth in a Relativistic World by Art Lindsley

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What is truth?

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What does it mean that ‘the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32)?

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