Are the various religious claims of the world subjective claims, or objective claims? What an interesting question.
When people talk about something being true, they can mean the word “true” in a couple of different ways.
Subjective truth claims
First, one could say that the following statement is true: Blue Bell ice cream tastes better than Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Obviously this claim is neither true nor false in any meaningful sense. This is because the claim about which ice cream brand is better depends on the person making the claim. For example, someone from Texas will probably like Blue Bell better than Baskin-Robbins (Blue Bell is a Texas product, if you didn’t know). So in essence, the claim really isn’t about the ice cream itself, it’s really about the person’s private, internal, tastes, preferences, feelings, etc. It’s about the subject, not the object. This type of truth claim is a subjective one.
Objective truth claims
Second, one could say the following statement is true: The Christian God exists. It’s quite obvious that this claim is either true or false. The law of non-contradiction dictates that the Christian God is either real or imaginary. The law of excluded middle dictates that there is no middle ground. The Christian God cannot be half real and half imaginary (that would be like saying a woman is half pregnant…it doesn’t make sense). So, when a person makes the claim the Christian God exists, they are not saying anything about their private, internal, tastes, preferences, or feelings. They are making a claim about the object: The Christian God and His existence. This type of truth claim is a objective one.
No, this is not true. Most world religions are making objective claims about how the world really is. Since I’m a follower of Jesus, I’m going to speak only for the Christian worldview. Look at what Saint Paul says to the church in Corinth in the first century:
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
Do you see what Saint Paul is saying? If Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, then the Christian faith is “worthless,” “vain” and he is a “false witness.” Not to mention that Christians are to “be pitied” above all men.
Do you see it? Saint Paul is not saying that he “prefers,” “likes,” or “feels” that Jesus rose from the dead—he is saying that it objectively happened.
“Ok, but that is only Saint Paul’s opinion,” replies the antagonist. “How can we really know if that is objectively true or not? You’re just saying what you ‘think’ really happened. It works for you and you ‘prefer’ to believe it’s true.”
Wrong again. As a Christian, I have good reasons to believe that the claims of Christianity really happened. But in principle, it is possible I’m wrong. The claim I’m making can be true or false—at least in principle. If it can be true or false—not depending on my personal preferences or feelings—that proves that Christianity is an objective truth claim. I could be wrong, but that is what makes up an objective statement—it’s either true or false. If it were a subjective statement (an ice cream type of truth claim) then my views could not be true or false, objectively.
Moreover, it’s not only religious people who think religious claims are objective. Why are the new atheists, like Richard Dawkins, trying to persuade people to be atheists? They are claiming that the events of Christianity (and other religions) are not really true. Dawkins isn’t going around debating people on Blue Bell vs. Baskin-Robbins.
If religion was the type of thing that could not be proven true or false, and it was only based on subjective feelings and preferences, then why would anyone oppose it?
“Well, it happened so long ago, therefore it’s hard to ‘know’ with any certainty that the claims of religion are really ‘true.’ Since it’s difficult for me to figure out, I think religious claims are subjective not objective.”
Strike three. Now the antagonist has moved into another area of philosophy called epistemology. Epistemology is the study of how we come to know things. Here’s the rub: objective truth claims are on a higher level than epistemological questions. First something must be an objective statement to even determine if one can know if it is (objectively) true. Subjective truth claims are grounded with the individual who believes it, therefore there is no amount of epistemology that one can do to figure out if the claim is really true or not. Therefore, by bringing up the objection that “it’s hard to know” is an admission that the claim in question is in fact, objective!
There is great confusion in our culture today regarding this topic. This distinction Matters.
It’s worth our time to investigate the claims of Jesus (and other worldviews) to see if they are true or not. Quite frankly, when it comes to religion, morality and values you really shouldn’t care what I ‘like.’ You should care what is real. You should care about what is objectively true.
Christianity makes claims that are objective. Christianity is “figure-out-able.” Go check it out!