I like Sean McDowell’s experiement that he did once with some young people in a Christian high school to help the students look at the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection being an objective fact and one that should be looked at objectively – examining the evidence.
“I placed a jar of marbles in front of them and asked, “How many marbles are in the jar?” They responded with different guesses, 221, 168, 149, and so on. Then after giving them the correct number of 188, I asked, “Which of you is closest to being right?” They all agreed that 168 was the closest guess. And they all agreed that the number of marbles was a matter of fact, not personal preference.
Then I passed out Starburst candies to each one of my students and asked, “Which flavor is right?” As you might expect, they all felt this was an unfair question because each person had a preference that was right for him or her. “That is correct,” I concluded, “the right flavor has to do with a person’s preferences. It is a matter of subjective opinion, not objective fact.”
Then I asked, “Is the resurrection of Jesus like the number of marbles in a jar, or is it a matter of personal opinion, like candy preference?” Most of my students concluded that the question of the resurrection belonged in the category of candy preference. I concluded the experiment by talking about the nature of Jesus’ physial resurrection – that if we were present at the cross we could have felt the warm blood of Jesus trickling down the wooden planks or even watched him take his last breath. And if we were at the tomb on that morning, we would have seen the stone rolled away and the loincloth of Jesus sitting inside. I reminded them that while many people may reject the historical resurrection of Jesus, it is not the type of claim that can be “true for you, but not true for me.” The tomb was either empty on the third day, or it was occupied – there is no middle ground.”
Here is the problem. People today are applying to all questions a mode of thinking that is legitimate only for certain types of questions. While tastes in candy are certainly a matter of personal preference, that does not mean that questions about truth can be determined the same way. Truth is either objectively true and conforms to reality, or it is simply not truth. Personal preference does not affect the question at all. The attempt to determine spiritual and moral truth by personal preference will lead to certain disaster as it did in ancient Israel in the time when “everyone did whatever he considered right (Judges 17:6 GWT). The resulting anarchy led to unprecedented depravity and the near annihilation of one tribe.
Treating universal truth as personal preference is disasterous because God never intended us to see scriptural truth as optional or to position ourselves as the sole arbiters of what is right or wrong. But that is precisely what people today are doing, and consequently, they are making wrong choices … while thinking they are right.
It is called lawlessness and it is certainly not new. But it is what we are facing in our churches and in the world today. Recognizing this as a current reality and fact will help us to adjust our approach and methods so that we can effectively communicate our message which never changes. Be wise – stay alert to how your culture and society is changing and adjust your methods accordingly.