While most American adults believe in absolute truth — a reality that is fixed and a concept supported by the Bible — a new poll sponsored by Summit Ministries shows a majority of adults under 30 don't, and researchers are concerned the finding could have negative consequences on mental health and community.
The poll, produced in partnership with polling firm McLaughlin and Associates, was conducted from Oct. 12–17 among 1,000 likely general election voters nationwide.
Researchers found that 60% of 956 respondents who gave a definitive answer to the question expressed a belief in absolute truth, while 40% said each person determines their own version of the truth. Four percent of the 1,000 survey respondents said they "don't know."
A breakdown of the poll results by age group shows that the younger an adult is, the less likely they are to believe in absolute truth. And for adults younger than 30, 55% say they believe each person determines their own version of truth, while 42% say they believe in absolute truth.
More than half of all respondents ages 30 and up say they believe in absolute truth, including more than six out of 10 respondents over the age of 56.
"The number of Americans who say there is no absolute truth is alarmingly high. But among young adults, we have now officially passed the tipping point. The majority of youth now say that each person determines their own version of truth," Summit Ministries President Jeff Myers, the author of Truth Changes Everything: How People of Faith Can Transform the World in Times of Crisis, said in a statement to The Christian Post.
"The loss of truth has grave consequences for community, justice, a sense of purpose and mental health. I'm not aware of any civilization that has abandoned reality to this extent and survived," he added. "The good news is that Americans still hold out hope that each person can make a difference. If there ever was a time to stand for truth, it is now."
The polling also shows that conservative respondents (67%) were more likely than their moderate (55%) and liberal (48%) counterparts to say they believe in absolute truth. Meanwhile, liberal respondents (48%) were more likely than moderate (40%) and conservative (30%) respondents to say they think an individual determines their own version of the truth.
Married respondents (61%) were more likely than single respondents (50%) to believe in absolute truth.
When broken down racially, white respondents (61%) were more likely than African American (49%) and Hispanic (49%) respondents to say they believe in absolute truth. White respondents (35%) were also less likely to say they believe an individual determines their own version of truth compared to Hispanic (49%) and African American (46%) respondents.
Embracing the concept of absolute truth is essential to embracing the teachings of the Bible, according to Mark Kreitzer of Grand Canyon University's College of Theology.
He noted in 2019 that: "Jesus meant that truth is not merely some abstract thing floating out in space that we have to mystically experience or something we have to force our will to follow, but it was a person, himself. 'In Christ,' Paul adds, 'all the riches of the Godhead dwells bodily' and in Him also 'all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' are hidden."
Mark R. Teasdale, the E. Stanley Jones associate professor of evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, noted in an earlier interview with CP that a search for meaning in a postmodern culture also appears to be leading some Christians to abandon deeply held beliefs about God and moving them away from traditional congregations.
"Before the time when evangelicalism arose, the focus was in making certain that we had absolutes. So the belief of modernity was the belief that there are absolutes. Everyone could have access to those absolutes if they simply use their reason appropriately and that those absolutes would hold no matter what situation you're in," Teasdale said.
"What happens in postmodernity is that the idea of absolutes become far less important. Instead, we're looking at a time when narrative story becomes much more important. And so people are looking for something meaningful, a meaningful story to make sense of their lives."
"And it doesn't really matter much whether it's 'true' in the sense that it fits with an absolute truth that's out there somewhere," he continued. "What matters is that it's meaningful for you, and that's really what's important."