Subjective truth vs. objective truth

Objective truth, or that which is true no matter what anyone else says, always trumps subjective truth, or that which is true because I feel that it’s true. Of course, it is entirely possible that the truth that I so firmly believe and feel is also that same truth which is also objective. But I could also be entirely wrong if my standard for truth goes no further than myself.

Now add into this mix the debates about absolute truth. Some say their truth is the objective truth, others, with a totally different set of beliefs, say their truth is the objective truth. Even those who claim there is no objective truth assert that there is at least one objective truth (that there is no objective truth), but their position is absurd. Everyone, on some level, believes in some sort of objective truth.

This emphasis on objective truth is what motivated the Apostles of Jesus Christ to go out into all the world, preaching the gospel and making disciples. Jesus Christ was the truth, not a truth.

One of the weaknesses in the modern day church is that we have left off the preaching of objective truth and substituted something that won’t necessarily do the job, subjective truth. It may be true that Jesus has done something for me, but unless I understand the objective truth of Jesus Christ, I am not really going to understand what it is that He did. Sermons filled with endless stories about the preacher betray a very subjective view of the truth. You might get to know the preacher well, but you won’t really learn the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Jesus is not the best way for me, He is the only way for everyone. Jesus calls Himself the truth. Paul states that if anyone contradicts his preaching of Jesus Christ, then they’re wrong. Christians are not called to pick and choose truth based on “what works” – we are called to internalize the objective truth of the Scripture, which is our only infallible source for that truth.

I really believe that this breakdown in the teaching and preaching of objective truth is what causes so many of our teenagers to forsake the faith when they get older. It’s also why so many older people have no clue why they’re really going to church or living as they do. Many are doing and believing what seems right to them, only to be shaken in their beliefs later when something happens that doesn’t fit into their system of subjective truth. And once their foundation begins to shake, the structure of their lives is sure to fall. And when this shaking begins, it won’t matter how many Christian concerts you’ve been to, or how many buildings you’ve built in third world countries, or how many times you’ve walked an aisle and said the sinner’s prayer. You might hold subjective truth, but it won’t hold you.

However, the believer in God’s objective truth found in Jesus Christ will never fall. He may stumble, yes, but he will not fall. Why? Because if Christ is for us, who can be against us? The fact of Jesus Christ, the objective truth of Jesus Christ, is what will hold us when nothing else will. There is a difference between me gripping what I think is the truth, and the true truth gripping me.

This is the difference between subjective truth and objective truth.

35 thoughts on “Subjective truth vs. objective truth

  1. would you say that if a person has belief in absolute truth on just one issue, he has to give up subjective truth in the other areas?

    for example, can I say that murder is WRONG for everyone but then say that abortion is a matter of personal subjective morality.

    I guess what I’m trying to ask is, if there is ANY objective truth, can there be ANY subjective truth?

  2. People who talk about ‘my truth’ vs ‘your truth’ give ‘their truth’ more weight than just an opinion.

  3. Actually, a subjective truth is something that can be proven pragmatically or coherently. Pragmatically means that it generates desirable results. From this stance, it can be concluded that cheating is good because it gets good grades. This is not an effective measurement of truth. Coherently means that it is consistent with the facts present in its own paradigm, but that does not necessarily make it true either. A dragon is coherent with a fairy tale, but it isn’t true unless the fairy tale is true. On objective truth is truth by correspondence. That is to say that it is consistent with the facts that have already been proven methodically to be true. Saying Jesus is the truth is subjective, because it is coherent only within the context of religion. If you take Jesus out of that context, he is no longer coherent with any outside facts.

  4. Shelby, I think you might have misunderstood what I was talking about. Believing something to be true (because I believe it) is not a basis for actual proof, or even a basis for commending my belief to someone else. The proof resides in the thing itself, not my opinion of it.

    Besides, when you start talking about something being true only in the context of religion, it’s like patting a child on the head who believes in Santa Claus. Stating that Jesus is the truth is only subjective if he isn’t really the truth, and there’s no way to find out the truth. But since there is such a thing as absolute truth, then proving whether Jesus is true or false is just a matter of history (it really did happen) or time (it really will happen).

  5. Mister Richardson, you have just illustrated Shelby’s point very well: “Besides…Claus”. A child would be so devastated in learning there is no Santa Claus that they will often refuse to accept the facts, continuing to believe in JC, i mean SC.

  6. Is it an objective truth that the aforementioned “trumps” a subjective one?

    I believe thus far is that an objective truth is objective based on who is holding it.

    Then it is known as consensus.

  7. Well Jerry, the big difference between SC and JC is that JC actually existed! Whether you believe in him or not, your thinking does not determine the fact of his historical existence.

  8. Pingback: Less Objectivity, More Truth: An Introduction to the Autoethnography « TalkTank – News and Facts (and sometimes opinions)

  9. Whether or not the Church preaches its dogma in the commonality of objectivity or subjectivity is largely irrelevant, seeing as how there is no plausible way for the Church to truthfully do so objectively.

    There is no evidence whatsoever for a God. Not just the God of the Bible, but of any God, of any religion. Nor is there evidence for Jesus having conducted miracles (although I won’t outright deny his existence, for several histories circa 100 BC have written of his existence), or rising from the dead, or being born of a virgin. Even any of those miracles alone would not be evidence of a God, just of a miracle happening, of whose origin no one knows.

    Therefore, it would be outright blasphemy to preach the “Word of God” as if it were the undying, undeniable, and undoubted truth of the world; there is nothing showing that this is so. Clearly you can see the farcical logic behind claiming the ideology of Christianity to be objectively true.

  10. Jimbo, if there is no God, then there is no final authority for right and wrong, truth or falsehood. These all require some sort of universal standard. Therefore, your comments are equally farcical.

  11. Well, the big difference between SC and JC is that SC actually existed! Whether you believe in him or not, your thinking does not determine the fact of his historical existence.

    This is what i like to call a subjective claim. There is no more validity in the subjective claim that JC exists than in the subjective that SC exists. Objectively there is a little more evidence for JC then SC, but still it is not enough to outright prove his existence. But just because an objective truth cannot objectively be reached does not mean it does not objectively exist. That is the point of faith.

  12. Caleb, if you mean that Saint Nicholas was an actual person, then, yes, he existed. But the fictional Santa Claus is made up – that’s why he’s fictional. There is quite a bit of uncontradicted, eye-witness testimony for the existence of Jesus Christ. Even if you reject the New Testament, there’s still plenty of references to Jesus Christ in other sources, unless you want to reject all of them as well.

    Faith is not a irrational blind leap, but a reasonable response to the facts that are presented. To believe that Jesus Christ existed as a man doesn’t require faith – it requires an ability to sift historical evidence.

    That Jesus Christ was actually God incarnate – a claim that might be more difficult to assess since we don’t meet that many people who claim to be God – requires faith because we haven’t ever actually met God. But Jesus seems to present evidence that He is, in fact, God and He encourages us to believe just that. As the Bible says, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

  13. I was not actually trying to argue for Santa, just trying to prove the point that you can reverse the previous subjective statement about the existence of Jesus over Santa to a subjective statement about the existence of Santa over Jesus without changing the objective validity of the statement. There is no objective truth in a purely subjective claim.

    But to say faith is not an irrational blind leap is to change the definition of faith. A reasonable response to the facts that are presented is called a logical conclusion, or possibly an educated guess. Not faith. To assume that an object is present without actually seeing the object but still seeing its shadow is a logical conclusion. To assume that the same object is there without seeing it or its shadow is faith. To say that faith requires some evidence takes away from what faith is. Faith is an irrational blind leap, but that does not mean its wrong.

  14. You seem to be saying that Kierkagaard’s “leap of faith” is the standard definition of what faith is, but what of the entire 11th Chapter of Hebrews and the biblical assertion that faith is based on evidence? This isn’t the Christian understanding, whatever anyone else may or may not believe.

    Besides, if there is no objective truth, or ultimate authority, it doesn’t really matter anyway – it’s irrelevant – believe what you like and hope you’re not wrong. Isn’t that what you’re saying?

  15. The evidence given in Hebrews 11 is deeds that certain people who had faith did. This is how they proved that they had faith. It is not evidence from which their faith was based.

  16. Read the verse again – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Noah was divinely warned, Abraham was called – not exactly a blind leap.

    The reason for this is that God has revealed things to us in His word and in nature. Otherwise, why would Paul say in Romans 1, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…” One of the charges brought against sinful men is that God has revealed information to them and they have rejected it.

    So, faith is a persuasion and an assurance that what has been revealed is true, so you embrace it, even though you haven’t possessed the fullness of it yet.

  17. Hello there Richardson,

    It seems to me that several of your commenters are treating subjective and objective statements as comparable. Indeed, you do so yourself in the first line of your article:

    “Objective truth, or that which is true no matter what anyone else says, always trumps subjective truth…”

    Surely, the two types of statement are not comparable, because they are talking about different things. Objective statements say something about the universe, Subjective statements are about our minds, or the projection of our minds onto the universe. For example, my subjective truth is that blue is the best colour. It is personal to me and my mind and it cannot be ‘trumped’ by any objective truth. Equally, the objective truth that… trees exist, cannot be affected by any subjective opinion about trees.

    Hume had something to say in this regard, and attempted to split the universe of statements in two, with Positivist (objective) statements on one side, and Nominative (subjective) statements on the other. His point was also that the two are not comparable. His famous Is-Ought problem is an application of this idea.

    If an objective statement is proven to be incorrect, it relegates it not to subjective truth, but to objective falsehood. Some commenters here seem to think otherwise.

    As for faith, the best definition I have is:
    “A grossly incorrect apportionment of belief in a statement about the objective nature of reality, according to that implied by logic and the available evidence”

    I really can’t get my head around you definition. It’s a little inconcise. What do you mean?

  18. Some interesting comments, Asha28. I agree with your statement that if an objective truth is incorrect, then it must be false. But when it comes to dealing with people, many might still believe a falsehood, and therein lies our problem. In fact, the Bible indicates that one of the sins of humanity is that we would rather believe a lie than the truth when it comes to God.

    My definition of faith comes from the book of Hebrews in the Bible. I believe that God has communicated his truth to prophets and apostles and that his truth is THE truth by which all others are to be judged. But because we don’t actually SEE God and can’t detect him, we are left to BELIEVE that he is there and that his word is true. So, in this case faith isn’t blind, because there is evidence to back up the belief.

  19. Greetings Richardson,

    I hope im not detouring away from the context but at the end of the day we all have our own minds, and we are going to believe in whatever we naturally end up believing in, regardless if its an objective truth or not. We will all have to deal with the consequences of our decisions whatever they might be, if there is such a thing as absolute truth… we cant force ourselves to understand it right away, instead we take our own unique steps towards realising it. What are your thoughts? Thanks

  20. I have faith in myself, faith in my own reasoning, why? simply because theres plenty of evidence which ive experianced within myself, im not perfect i make mistakes… thats life. Buddha taught to believe nothing, even not to believe him… only if it agrees with your logical understanding. Everyone has their own way of understanding the world around them, you can try your best to convince someone to see the same truth as you, but dont let it affect your ego if they simply cant see it… its not meant to be.

  21. The Bible (in Romans 1) says that our own understanding of the universe ultimately leads to idolatry – worshiping the true God in the wrong way. It would be nice if it were purely a matter of logic, but the human heart is deceitful and can be misled easily. The revelation of God in Scripture, not nature, is our ultimate arbiter of truth here on earth, whether I like it or not.

  22. I find it somewhat ironic to find an article on objective truth written by someone who believes in the subjective “truth” called God. In your replies you mention the Bible and other religious books and since the origin, language and writers of these documents remain unknown I discredit them as viable sources. Are you familiar with the concept of circular logic? Stating that the bible is true because god says it is true and subsequently god is true because the bible says it is so. If you are interested in truth I think logic, science and mathematics are as close to objective truth that you can get. Humans will always be biased because of the emotional aspect of our psyche. It is only in knowing this that you can see through self-made illusions.

  23. There’s a few problems with your comments. First, if everything is subjective, then your opinions are just as biased as mine. Science and math are tools which anyone can use to prove their point, not necessarily objective realities. Second, God’s existence is not proven by the Bible, but assumed by the Bible. Third, if God really does exist, then you’re wrong.

    I would urge you, a limited, finite human-being who is obviously biased because of the emotional aspect of our psyche, to seriously consider and search out whether God exists or not.

  24. I was researching this thought on goggle and could not find many answers as to ; “Why did Jesus speak of himself in the third person so much” I did find some answers to Humility as been the answer but, that answer did not sasitify me. whay say you Mr. richardson?

  25. “Caleb, if you mean that Saint Nicholas was an actual person, then, yes, he existed. But the fictional Santa Claus is made up – that’s why he’s fictional. There is quite a bit of uncontradicted, eye-witness testimony for the existence of Jesus Christ. Even if you reject the New Testament, there’s still plenty of references to Jesus Christ in other sources, unless you want to reject all of them as well.”

    I just have to say that here in your response you perfectly explain that Jesus and Santa Clause can be described the same way. Yes, Jesus most likely was a historical person like Saint Nicholas, but Jesus son of god is fictional as is Santa Clause.

    You say there are plenty of references to Jesus Christ outside the bible. Can you please site your references? Scholars and historians do not agree with you. Josephus was born about 30 years after christ and was only familiar with jewish folklore. Also, most scholars believe his references to Jesus were changed and edited by christians hundreds of years later. There is no known historical data for Jesus being the son of god. And, what about “eye witness accounts” found in other religions? Also, keep in mind the language of ancient eastern culture. It was filled with poetry and imagination. It was not written with a western greek thinking mind that thought in chronological order, It is not at all literal. Im sure you agree, unless you think the earth is 8,000 years old, there were no dinosaurs and that animals used to be able to talk.

    The strongest evidence for Christ is actually found in the understanding that there were literally hundreds of messianic figures in the day of Jesus, he was only one of them. However, like most revolutionaries fighting the Roman empire they were killed off and the followers were scattered. In the case of Christ his followers not only stood up for what they believed, they were willing to die for what they saw( his resurrection) Though very compelling, this is still no evidence for Jesus being the son of god. Though his followers believed he was risen from the dead, remember they also believed there were ghosts alive in the sea, that the blind were cursed of god, half of them believed there was no afterlife. Also, they thought he was establishing a physical Kingdom of God on earth to overthrow Rome. This of course did not happen which is why the first gospel Mark was written. Eventually the events of 70 AD destroyed this hope for good. Eventually german theology changed the idea that salvation is an experience for dead people, meaning the idea of salvation is “you go to heaven when you die”. This is not a biblical idea at all. Salvation was never an individual experience, but rather the idea that God would save Israel and establish them to reign again on earth as his chosen people. But none of this has happened. So at best you can say Jesus you believe for no provable reason is the son of god, and his promise to his followers completely failed. Now according to the idea of the Kingdom of God being a pure spiritual one
    and that the jews expectations were wrong for expecting a physical one, again, where is any evidence of this Kingdom? If it is a purely spiritual kingdom then this by definition would be called subjective, that being an internal experience of what you want to believe. Just my thoughts

  26. Josephus was born just a few years after the death of Jesus, not 30. He was born in Jerusalem and lived in Judea for most of his life. He was an eye-witness to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. He is a reliable witness of the events of the First Century. Perhaps you could read him for yourself and see.

    In the Bible you have the witnesses of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, and Jude. Paul says there were other witnesses still alive in the 50’s.

    Outside the Bible you have references from Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Clement of Rome, Hermas, Ignatius, Polycarp, and the author of the Didache bearing witness to the existence of Jesus Christ in the first century.

    Most of what you have posted are the usual liberal excuses for not believing in Jesus Christ. I believe C. S. Lewis’s essay on fern seeds and elephants is a fairly good critique of these supposed scholars – http://orthodox-web.tripod.com/papers/fern_seed.html.

    Your understanding of scripture, eschatology, and salvation is totally wrong. A reading of any Reformed systematic theology, or maybe just a reading of the Bible, should set you straight on this. How can you disbelieve the Bible, yet use it to try to prove your points? Try reading some scholars who believe traditional Christian theology – B. B. Warfield, R. C. Sproul, John Calvin, etc.

    The following should illustrate:

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5

    “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” – Colossians 1:3-5

    “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” – 2 Timothy 4:18

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21

    “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

  27. We have two sources for our knowledge of reality and truth – general revelation and special revelation. General revelation tells us about the things we can see and detect in nature, such as you might find in astronomy, biology, chemistry, mathematics, etc. Special revelation deals with those things that are not seen or detected, such as morals, miracles, spiritual realities, ultimate origins, and ultimate destinies.

    The Bible is very consistent in what it teaches and seems to give us a picture of God and His creation that I find has an authority and truth that is lacking in other belief systems.

  28. I believe you may have simplified your point of view. From a philosophical reference, your feelings and facts are in line, but the reality is re-interpretation of bible passage’s doesn’t clarify Objectivity of the Truth vs Subjectivity of the truth.

    This intellectual debate is larger than claiming faith is fact; your taking the idea of objectivity and making sound like someone having an “objective” or goal. When referencing objectivity or subjectivity of the truth you must recognize the greater depth of how both factor the complete comprehension of what makes up our existence.

    As from what I read, you took a viable reference from something you hold passionate and attempted to convince yourself in keystrokes, as you said, “There is a difference between me gripping what I think is the truth, and the true truth gripping me.”

    That is where we agree, everything else is a figment of your own re-interpretation, unfortunately.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy5yWdVHv3o
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_S%C3%B8ren_Kierkegaard

  29. After reading through your comment pool and carefully reading your replies it is obvious your so narrowly stuck in twisting every opinion into some manipulation to the brainwashing that has overcome you.

    I honestly apologize for even commenting. Holding such tight, firm ideology would not be Christianity talking; that’s your gigantic superego. I can’t imagine you’ll ever recognize how uneducated and lack of intellectual reasoning must feel to someone who prances around spouting bible passages to explain his daily life. I hope it makes you at least get through your day; oddly ignorance has that effect on some people.

  30. James, it does no good to call someone ignorant just because they disagree with you. My beliefs are what you will historically find in the Protestant part of the Western Church. Just read the Westminster Confession. Or the Scots Confession of Faith. Or the Belgic Confession. Or the Heidelberg Catechism. Or even read about any of the early creeds or councils – Nicaea, Constantinople, or Chalcedon. It’s historic Christian belief.

    Why does it seems strange to you that a person might have firm beliefs? You seem to strong beliefs, why can’t I? And if I’m wrong, then there must be some sort of standard that makes me wrong, correct? The fact that you think that I’m wrong means that you believe in some sort of objective truth.

    Plus, please don’t criticize someone as being ignorant and uneducated when you obviously don’t know how to use your or you’re, or when to use (or not use) an apostrophe.

  31. Subjective truth is limited, whereas objective truth is more collective. What I find egregious is that many believe truth holds no value until its discovered. Truth always hold value, man however, may not see the value of it. Its like finding an antique worth a lot of money. Is the antique worthless because I don’t know the value of it? No. It still holds value I just haven’t discovered it and never will if I never proactively search for it. Humans are finite beings with limited capabilities and yet we place so much trust and emphasis on science as somehow having all the answers and holding all knowledge. Granted somethings revealed by science is amazing but I never forget who controls the steering wheel and that’s man. As as long as man is steering the wheel there will always be vulnerabilities.

  32. I believe the time has come to disable comments on this topic. What started out as a prod to Christians to be more objective, rather than subjective, in their approach to evangelism became a discussion of whether Jesus Christ exists as God or as a standard for truth. Whatever the case may be, one thing remains clear – if you disagree with my assessment, you must do so on the basis of some sort of objective or absolute truth. The question then remains how that truth will be finally ascertained. Christians believe Jesus Christ Himself will be the final arbiter of that question.

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