True for You, But Not For Me: What is “Truth”?


The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowell

If you are like most Christian parents, grandparents, or gatekeepers of young people (perhaps you’re a pastor, youth pastor, or Christian educator), you are no doubt perplexed by a younger generation of teens and twenty somethings who seem comfortable with a value system and set of beliefs that are often contrary to biblical standards.

Does universal truth still matter?

What we are experiencing today is far beyond a typical generation gap. Today’s youth believe that “truth” is a subjective term, not a universal moral standard set by a loving God who desires a best life for each of us. These differing views are creating a cultural chasm that is threatening to divide Christian families.

Today’s young people largely derive their views from a culture that declares that moral truth is found within the individual. We can express this as the “cultural narrative” about truth. This “truth” is subjective and situational; every person has the right to create his or her own personal version of the truth. Youth accepting this viewpoint want their thoughts, beliefs, and actions to be accepted as both valid and correct, even if they run counter to God’s moral truth.

God’s Universal Truth is Unchanging

Although certainly enticing, personal truth evolves and changes, based on societal influence and life experiences. But God’s moral truth, which we can express as the “biblical narrative,” is grounded in the character of God; it is objective, universal, and unchanging. God knows that our sinful behavior leads us to an unsatisfying, joy-sapped life. The reason he wants us to follow his commands and live consistently with what is moral and right is because doing so will result in our happiness and give our life meaning (John 10:10).

Many Christian parents face the very real struggle of offering a loving response that also does not condone the behavior they’re being asked to accept. The response of many Christian adults adhering to the biblical narrative is, “I’ll be glad to accept you and give you the freedom to live your own life, but don’t ask me to approve of your behavior or consider it to be right.”

This response isn’t sitting well with youth conditioned by society to offer full tolerance and acceptance, even for lifestyle choices they don’t adopt as their personal truth. To their way of thinking, the biblical narrative feels not only outdated but close-minded and judgmental. They simply don’t realize that they have been conditioned to believe that society norms trump God’s moral truth.

Society Can’t Function With a Flowing Moral Compass

The reality, of course, is that society can’t function with a flowing moral compass. If all values are equal, then all lifestyles are equal. If all truth is equal, then the mature Christian who wants to offer a loving response that doesn’t condone sinful behavior finds him or herself labeled “judgmental,” “intolerant,” and a “bigot.”

What we as parents want is to help our young people see why certain things are wrong and for them to make right choices in life. Yet in sharing the truth with our young people, it’s easy to focus on the dos and don’ts and fail to consider the feelings involved. More often than not, emphasizing the rules tends to deemphasize the relationship. Whenever we share the truth with our young people, it is more effective when expressed in the context of a loving relationship that has the other’s best interest at heart. That is what love is about—it looks out for the best interest of the other person.

During this blog series we will explore, with scripture as our guide and Christ as our example, how we can genuinely accept others in Christlike love while not necessarily approving of their behavior. And we will look at how we can have meaningful dialogue with today’s young people, perhaps helping them to see the wisdom in choosing God’s universal truth as they live their lives.

Thought to Ponder
This week, examine your own heart, thoughts, and actions to determine if your view of “truth” adheres more to a biblical narrative or cultural narrative. How do you view premarital sex, for example? Is sex outside of marriage acceptable for Christians, as long as the couple is in love?


This blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell. To purchase a copy of this helpful parental resource, please visit our Store page.

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