Q. The two kinds of people I encounter a lot in university (besides atheists) are agnostics and a lot of Eastern-influenced beliefs like New Age. How do I respond to someone who believes like them that, 1. Truth is relative, and, 2. God is ‘everything’?
Truth as relative
The statement, “Truth is relative”, cannot be true if truth is relative. At best truth could be relatively relative! But then even that statement would have limited meaning. When people profess that truth is relative, they are really espousing the belief that everyone should be entitled to their own opinion. But they take it one step further by claiming that each such opinion deserves to be true. It is a corrupt form of tolerance, where instead of allowing everyone a voice, you allow everyone a truth.
Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But it is simply not possible for every opinion to be simultaneously true. That is not how the universe works. It is easy to demonstrate this. If I say Berlin is the capital of France, I can believe it all I want, I can even point to the fact that during WWII the Nazis took Paris, but none of that makes Berlin the capital of France today.
Some would argue that moral truth should be treated differently. But this makes no sense. Morality is only morality because everyone agrees. If it is only your personal morality, it is no longer an issue of right and wrong and simply becomes preference.
Truth in our experience is not relative. But it can be complicated. And this is where we need compassion. For example, a woman who has experienced great abuse at the hands of men, may regard all men as evil. While this is not true, it is true to her. And if you just correct her “error”, expecting her to thank you, she will not respond well. So we see, that although there is still an absolute standard for truth, our experience of truth varies. This is why the Bible teaches us to speak the truth, in love (Ephesians 4:15).
God as everything
The ideas of Pantheism (everything is god) and Panentheism (everything contains god), are ancient beliefs, but no more correct for being old.
If God is everything, then He is everything bad as well as everything good. This is why people who follow this philosophy will often embrace the idea of truth being relative. To justify God being everything bad, we have to believe that bad isn’t so bad, from a certain point of view. They aim to find balance, the ying and yang. Good and evil being equal and opposite. But if we consider this, we realise that we are approaching good and evil like we approach vegetables and dessert. If you have enough of one you can justify a little of the other.
But dessert is not evil in the way that murder is evil. A custard slice might be called a “guilty pleasure”, but what law have you broken by eating it?
We must understand that the universal moral law, engraved on each of our hearts, that code which prevents every well-balanced soul from committing murder or robbing his neighbour, is real. If good and evil exist, and evil is truly evil. Then, if God is good, He cannot be everything. But He can be greater than everything.
The gospel of Jesus tell us, God is not just in everything, He made everything. He was before all things and is not subject to the laws of nature, but is rather Lord over all creation. Evil in the world is evidence of corruption brought about through sin. God has allowed this in His patience, to afford us a narrow window in which to repent of our evil and choose to serve Him. But one day soon this opportunity will end.
The good news of Jesus is we don’t have to find balance. We can be set totally free from sin and it’s power, through Jesus. But time is running out. Choose today to serve Jesus, don’t wait for tomorrow.
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