Truth is Not Relative (Part 4 of Church Conflicts Often Overlook Some Basic Truths About Truth)

Continuing my series on Church Conflicts Often Overlook Some Basic Truths About Truth (click here for part 1part 2 and part 3), today I consider how the third exchange between Pilate and Jesus recorded in the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of John reveals another truth about the nature of truth. In fact, in verse 37, Jesus’s statement to Pilate is one of Scripture’s strongest assertions about the nature of truth. Jesus answers Pilate’s statement “You are a king, then!” with:

“You are right in saying I am a King. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:37

That statement, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” creates a very big problem for those who hold a view that truth is relative to the situation and shifts depending upon circumstances.  Relativism and situational ethics, I believe, have no place in a Christian worldview in light of Jesus’s statement to Pilate. What is true does not depend on the situation or an individual’s opinion. It may be difficult to determine what is true and then, on the basis of that finding, to do the right thing in light of circumstances, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a standard of truth that can be known and applied to the situations we face in life and in the church. Often in church conflicts, however, we see something else happening, something that opposes the nature of truth and serves only to drive conflicts in a direction away from biblical truth.

By faith (the instrumentality by which we know what we believe), we should find great encouragement in the fact that truth is knowable. Jesus has given us his assurance that today we have “the Spirit of truth” on which we can rely:

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you foreverthe Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17

With this assurance of the Holy Spirit’s presence with us we have no excuse to merely give in to the loudest voices or the apparent easiest way out of a church conflict. That happens all too frequently. Rather, church conflicts should be embraced as those opportunities where we come together to search for the truth principles given to us in God’s Word so that the decisions we reach are ones that show we are following the commands of Jesus and walking in the spirit of truth. Church conflicts can become one of the greatest chances we have to listen to Jesus!

I recall a case where the elders said to me at the end of an intervention process,

“Dave, if you hadn’t called us to look at how we were overlooking a fundamental aspect of what it meant to be a member of the church we never would have even considered that what Jesus was calling us to was to recapture his practice of redemptive church discipline.”

This church had people wantonly violating their membership vows as they pursued a goal that satisfied their narrow desires but caused others to leave the church. The elders and pastors had overlooked that the king of the church had given to them his process to confront sinful words and actions through meaningful accountability. When they realized what they had in Scripture they saw with renewed hope a way out of their conflicts. The truth of Jesus does that … it provides a way to redemption.

Do you have doubts about the nature of truth because relativism driven by cultural postmodernism has taken you captive? There is only one way out: repent and believe wholly, passionately, and consistently in the promises of Jesus, the king of the church. Even though the world seeks to label Christians as “intolerant” and “narrow” because we believe by faith that ultimate truth is knowable and can be applied to our lives we can’t allow such a fear of others to drive our decisions. We are ones who follow the true king and the world did not know him, and it does not know us (1 John 3:1). We do not allow the world to overcome the promises of Jesus, however, for he has given us his “spirit of truth.”

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:26-27

In the Peace of The Lamb and for His glory,
– Dave Edling


About David V. Edling

Dave Edling is an experienced Christian conciliator who has worked with many conflicted churches. During his decade of service on the senior staff of Peacemaker Ministries, he participated in over 200 mediation and arbitration cases and worked with nearly twenty thousand Christians engaged in conflicts affecting churches of almost every denomination. Dave holds several graduate degrees in addition to his Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University. They are: Master of Arts in Human Behavior, United States International University (now Alliant International University); Juris Doctor, California Western School of Law; Master of Arts in Religion, Westminster Seminary California; and Master of Arts in Biblical Conflict Resolution, Birmingham Theological Seminary. Dave has served as a trustee on the Board of Directors for Covenant College and Westminster Seminary California and has taught in the Doctor of Ministry programs for Reformed Theological Seminary, Mid-Western Baptist Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. In addition, Dave has been a lecturer in practical theology for several other Christian colleges and seminaries.
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