Father Andrew Trapp Notes: Adult Education
Objective Truth vs. Subjective Truth
Matthew 19:16-21 : The young man comes to Jesus and asks,
“Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?”
Religious and moral truths are not relative, but objective.
Summary: There exists truth which applies to all mankind, of all places and all centuries. The teachings of our Church concerning religious doctrine and morality are part of this truth. We must fight the tendency in our culture to see such truth as relative or subjective, and instead strive to help others to understand and appreciate the beauty of these fundamental truths.
OBJECTIVE TRUTH: To say that a statement is “objectively true” means that it is true for people of all cultures, times, etc., even if they do not know it or recognize it to be true.
- “People need water and air to live.”
- “Water freezes once it is chilled to a certain temperature.”
SUBJECTIVE TRUTH: To say that something is “subjectively true” means that it is true for the person(s) making the judgement, even though it may not be true for others.
- “It is freezing cold in here!” (Others might be sweating!)
- “I am so happy!”
Christianity has always recognized that religious and moral truth belongs to the first category: it is objective and not subjective. In other words, it is the same for all human beings living in every century, culture, and circumstances.
- “Jesus Christ is God.”
- “Human life begins at conception.”
- “Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.”
Christianity also recognizes that there are some acts that are intrinsically evil—meaning that “by their very nature” they are always and everywhere wrong, regardless of the circumstances. These sins are usually connected to human life and to human sexuality, such as murder, abortion, euthanasia, fornication, masturbation, contraception, adultery, etc. No matter what the circumstances or motives, such acts are always wrong and will always damage a person, just as putting your hand on a burning stove will always do damage to your hand.
Putting the Principle into Practice
In our own spiritual lives, we need to integrate both the objective and subjective elements of our faith in order to be the best Christians we can be:
Doctrine Personal Relationship
Understanding the Faith Living the Faith
On the one hand, you can know a lot about the faith and yet not be living it. And on the other hand, we need to know our faith in order to fully live it.
Likewise, in our teaching and presentation of the faith to our children, friends, family, co-workers, and everyone else we meet, we will be most effective if we present the objective truth of our faith in a way that appeals to their subjective experiences.
- We don’t want to simply give them doctrine and make Christianity seem like nothing more than a bunch of rules and formulas disconnected from their everyday life. (overemphasis on the objective)
- Neither do we want to make light of the content of our faith and focus exclusively on their feelings, experiences, etc. (overemphasis on the subjective)