Is Religious Truth Universal or Personal?


Very broadly speaking, there are two types of truth in the world:

1/ subjective (or relative) truth

2/ objective (or absolute) truth.

Let me illustrate the difference.

Consider the statement: “Liverpool is the best football team in the world”. Now, as much as I may personally hold to this statement (and would like everyone to agree with it!), it’s pretty obvious that this is a matter of preference – a subjective “truth” that would differ from person to person. What may be true for me here may not be true for others.

But now consider this statement: “one molecule of water has two hydrogen atoms and a single oxygen atom”.  This statement is a matter of objective truth which we can check out and verify to see if it corresponds to reality. Like the statements “2+2=4” or “2+2=5”, it is not a case of taste or preference; rather, it is an objective statement which is open to verification or falsification. In other words, it is either right or wrong.

So, on the one hand, we have universal, absolute truth claims which are binding on all and independent of our personal beliefs; and on the other hand, we have personal, relative truth claims which are particular to individuals or to a certain group.

This begs the question: what kind of category do statements such as “God exists”, “Jesus is the only way to God” or “there is life beyond death” belong to? Are these merely matters of subjective opinion – in which case whether you believe them or not doesn’t ultimately matter? Or are they matters of objective truth, in which case the stakes can’t get any higher?

by Dominic De Souza

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