I consider myself to be a believer in absolute truth, but my take on it is a little different than that offered by some, particulary those I might consider as more fundamentalist Christians. For me, absolute truth begins with God. For that reason, my starting point is faith rather than fact, and besides that, we don’t have all the facts.
In understanding absolute truth, as opposed to relativism, I note the following concerns.
1. The idea that every question can be resolved as an absolute truth is very questionable. Some things in life have to do with judgment and discernment more than truth: What is the proper age for emancipation? For voting? Should liquor stores be required to be closed on Sunday? Is it always improper for a Christian to see an R-rated movie? Should infants be baptized? The high school in one town where I pastored had a danceless prom because the churches had lobbied for the view that all dancing is immoral. (My own belief is that Jesus danced.) My church tried to take up the slack by sponsoring a dance ourselves at another time. Needless to say, many were displeased with us. I am unable as an absolute to prove or disprove the morality of dancing, however.
2. The Bible doesn’t say, in my opinion, that God will never tell us anything beyond what is in the Bible. God is the source of all truth and may reveal new truths as we are prepared to understand and address them. The ultimate Word of God is Jesus, not the Bible. The Bible does, however, represent the highest written authority. Christ’s examples of love and compassion cannot be overridden by what I might consider narrow culturally-bound understandings. The Bible is living only to the extent that Christ is doing and the Spirit is moving.
3. Absolute truths must sometimes be limited to ideals, such as justice, fairness, love and humility. How to carry out those ideals may often be subject to legitimate differences of opinion. The United Methodist Church supports some government intervention to promote social justice; others prefer an entirely private approach within the market system. Some people tried to present the invasion of Iraq as absolute truth, for instance. While I see opposition to terrorism as an absolute truth, how to defeat it is subject to debate. Fianlly, I don’t think the search for truth will necessarily ever answer, as a matter of good versus evil, whether capital punishment is moral.
4. Although finding truth is the ultimate goal, the search for it should be honored, even when a strong concensus emerges against the position of the truth seeker. To say that the search for truth has no value in itself dishonors God. Now I’m not talking about the extremes of adults having sex with children. I might be considering the question of homosexuality, however. For example, even if the Christian concensus remains that homosexuality is wrong, those of us pushing for acceptance of committed gay relationships might have taught the other side something about compassion and inclusion.
5. Certain truths, particularly those relating to the mystery of God, will never be fully known simply because God will preserve his sovereignty and our humility. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t vigorously study theological matters. It just means we will all be relativists in so far as we fully understand God’s nature. While most truths may be knowable given access to all the facts (and we frequently don’t have all the facts), “all truth” is represented by God, whom we don’t see face to face.
6. Rigid views on absolute truth may set us up for the trap that we become so wedded to a false idea we believe to be true that we aren’t easily able to back away from it even in the face of massive evidence to the contrary. Examples of such rigidity might be slavery and segregation.
7. Practices, as opposed to ideals, that are true for one culture may not be true for another. Arranged marriages might be one example of that.