Truth and Ice Cream

October 30, 2013 | 8 comments

Even when you give someone a well-constructed apologetic argument, it's always possible they will simply reply, "Being Catholic is your truth, not mine. It's true for you, but not for me." How should we respond to an assertion like this?

What is truth?

When we say a statement is true, we mean that it accurately describes the way the world is. Telling the truth means a person “tells it like it is,” or what they say “corresponds to reality.”[i] Saying “Catholicism is true” means that what the Church teaches is an accurate representation of the way things really are.

For example, God exists and created human beings with immortal souls. God sent his Son to die and atone for man’s sins. Christ founded one Church, with Peter holding special apostolic authority that was passed on to successors. To say that Catholicism is true is to say these things really did happen. When people say that the Catholic Faith is not “true for them” even though it may be “true for you,” they have confused two different kinds of truth claims: subjective truth and objective truth.

True for you

Subjective truth refers to feelings about the world, and the truth of those statements depends on who is speaking. So, when I say, “Ice cream tastes great,” that is true for me. Ice cream really does taste great to me. But it might taste terrible to you. If that were the case, then it would be true for you (but not for me) that “Ice cream tastes terrible.”

We can both be right, even if our beliefs about ice cream contradict each other. That is because we are actually not making statements about the nature of ice cream. We are instead making subjective statements about the feelings we have about ice cream. There’s no contradiction in different people having different feelings towards the same thing.

True for everyone

Unlike subjective truth, which relates to feelings about the world, objective truth relates to the world itself. Objective truths describe the world as it really is, and the truth of those statements does not depend on who is speaking.

For example, the statement “The earth is round” is true no matter who says it, because that is just the way the world is. Or, to return to our ice cream example, the statement “The ice cream is in the freezer” is either objectively true or it is objectively false. This fact does not change depending on how someone feels about the ice cream. For example, a yogurt fan can admit the ice cream is in the freezer even if he hates how ice cream tastes.

Universal (or Catholic) truth

Statements about the existence of God or the authority of the Catholic Church are objective truths. They describe facts about the world, and so they are true or false regardless of how we feel about those facts. When someone says Catholicism “is true for you, but not for me,” what he really means is that you think the faith is true and he does not.

You can say to him in response, “I respect your right to have beliefs that differ from my own, but shouldn’t we make sure our beliefs about the world are accurate? I think Catholicism accurately describes the world, and so that’s why I think it’s true. But if I’m mistaken, I’m willing to change my views. I’m even willing to believe what you believe, if you can give me a good reason to think that it is true. Would you be willing to change your views about the world if it turned out you were mistaken?”




[i] St. Thomas Aquinas used the expression, “Truth consists in the equation of mind and thing” Summa Theologica 1:21:2. Among modern philosophers this is also called the correspondence theory of truth, though it differs from the Scholastic view of just how the mind's ideas correspond to reality.


Ever since he converted to Catholicism at the age of seventeen, Trent Horn has had a passion for explaining and defending the Faith. After earning a degree in history from Arizona State University, Trent traveled the country training pro-life advocates on college campuses to engage opponents in...

Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  Brian Dempski - Gurnee, Illinois

My question is in reference to the following statement, "'The earth is round' is true no matter who says it, because that is just the way the world is."

It is an objective truth to believe the world is round because scientists scientifically discovered the world to be round. If there was a mass explosion, that objective truth would change. This was part of a discussion with my Muslim friend on objective and subjective truth.

My friend believes some objective truth can change. It seems he equates the majority of people's opinions (scientist's views in particular) to objective truth. Like people now objectively believe the world is round as before it wasn't so as he tries to claim the bible says. How do you understand objective truth, can it change?

October 31, 2013 at 12:01 am PST
#2  Janet Meyer - La Crosse, Wisconsin

Brian, if there was an explosion, it would, of course, change the shape of the earth. But the objective truth is that at this moment in time, the world is round. How it may change someday cannot affect that truth. One day it may be in pieces or cease to exist altogether, but that does not change that at this point in time it is round.

This is not unlike the objective truth that my dad lived from 1929 until 2013. Before he passed, the objective truth was that he was alive. If you had said before his death that he couldn't objectively be alive because one day that would change, that makes no sense. You could have argued that it was only my opinion that he was alive, that it was my truth but not your truth, but that would have been wrong.

Now that he has passed, the truth hasn't changed. It isn't that he never lived. The objective truth is that during the days we claimed he was alive, he was actually alive..and that hasn't changed. Conditions change, but truth does not.

October 31, 2013 at 11:53 am PST
#3  Brian Dempski - Gurnee, Illinois

Hi Janet. BTW, I'm Catholic. Thank you so much for sharing. Sorry to hear of your father's passing... I have prayed for him.

Please help me to think through these things and correct my thinking if you have time. It seems my last point contains errors. Maybe I should post in the forum :D

- Objective Truth = Reality. The way something Is. God Is.

- Subjective Truth = Personal beliefs, feelings, emotions, thoughts, etc.

- Objective Truth can never become Subjective Truth.

- Objective Truth can never change. The substance or shape of an object can change, but not the objective truth or reality of it's given substance or shape for a particular duration of time. That's why we can look back at a substance or shape of an object and say it was objectively true that such and such was this particular way. But if that substance or shape does change, then its past configuration doesn't cease to be objectively true for that given period in time, and the new substance or shape of that same object now takes on a new meaning of objective truth for a subsequent duration in time.

It would then seem that objective truth is somehow related to time. If there is no time, objective truth can change and therefore cannot truly exist. And since God is outside of time, how can He be immutable, not changeable? Maybe I made a to far of a leap in my thoughts there....

Then, how can we absolutely know that something is absolutely objectively true if objective truth can change?

I am not sure of the theological and philosophical consequences if objective truth doesn't exist or if God can change. Or if the belief that God is in fact changeable would mean there is no objective truth and or vice versa.

November 1, 2013 at 5:02 am PST
#4  Joshua Paine - Tampa, Florida

Brian,

I see nothing wrong with your bullet points, but you step right off the cliff in the next paragraph.

The first thing to get hold of firmly is that being in time means being subject to change and vice-versa. As a thought experiment, try to define change without reference to time. You may with circumlocutions be able to work explicit time words out of your definition, but you can't avoid the concept. Time is harder to define in the first place, but any definition we give it necessarily refers to change, too. If we say something like "time passed, but nothing changed" we are using a figure of speech. If nothing at all changed--not even the slightest vibration of an atom or phase change of a quark--we would be forced to say that time did not in fact pass, or if it did such "time" is meaningless to us.

So being outside time doesn't make God or truth subject to change, it makes change a meaningless concept regarding God.

So what of the relation of truth and time? Truths about changing things have a time component, because otherwise (being about changing things) they would not be true. Truths about unchanging things need not have a time component.

At my house today is clear and sunny. Where you are, perhaps, it's cloudy or rainy. These weather facts are both objectively true. The meteorologist with a weather satellite is able to perceive the weather over my house and yours simultaneously. But she is not thrown into confusion or incapable of accessing objective truth because she can see both regions. Neither does she experience reality as contradiction. We recognize very easily that she just has more information than either of us and so can perceive each of our slivers of the objective truth of the global weather situation and much more besides.

Though all analogies about God and eternity are dangerous and ultimately mislead, we can think of God's relationship to the objective truths that we perceive as similar to the meteorologists superior view of earth's weather. God is not disadvantaged or disconnected by being outside of time, rather, His view of truths is vastly (infinitely!) superior to and more complete than ours.

-Joshua

November 1, 2013 at 12:48 pm PST
#5  Janet Meyer - La Crosse, Wisconsin

Joshua did a good job explaining things! Brian, thank you for praying for my Dad. Even with our hope for living with God, loss is always difficult.

I also want to say that I really like that you try to think through things and to learn. Those are good qualities.

November 1, 2013 at 7:23 pm PST
#6  Brian Dempski - Gurnee, Illinois

Thank you Janet and Joshua.

You're welcome for the prayers, Janet. Thank you for the encouragement to continue seeking answers.

The time and change comment was somewhat helpful, but I need to process everything a little bit more to get some more understanding. If either of you or anyone has any additional thoughts, please share.

November 3, 2013 at 11:23 am PST
#7  Dick Martin - Frazeysburg, Ohio

The TRUTH is: John 14:6 Jesus said; "I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life, No one comes to the Father but thru ME". John 17:17 The WORD is TRUTH. Word is the Bible. Nothing has more authority than the WORD of God. This is the check list to prove TRUTH with. John 16: 13 states that the Holy Spirit will lead you into ALL TRUTH, for He is the Spirit of TRUTH. All scripture is given by inspiration of God. and can be interpreted thru the guidance of the Holy Spirit by everyone. If any one speaks TRUTH that contradicts the Word is not speaking TRUTH. God said " I AM the same ,yesterday, today, and forever; I never change". The most important Truth you should be seeking is ; How to get to Heaven thru Jesus, since He says HE IS THE WAY; not if the earth is round. it's like straighting up the pictures on the wall of the Titanic. Love in Jesus-- Dick Martin

January 14, 2014 at 9:12 am PST
#8  Dick Martin - Frazeysburg, Ohio

The Truth is: GOD never changes . He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Humans change by their FEELINGS, EMOTIONS, PERSONAL BELIEFs, THOUGHTS etc. The Bible is the Truth written by God himself. It is the only unchangeable measuring stick that we use to find truth. The Church has made its own rules and created deceptive truth and put their stamp of approval on it. Subjective truth is NO TRUTH AT ALL. Real Truth is something that can be counted on as TRUE by Everyone. This is why there are so many CULTS today ,thinking their all going to make it. Saddens my heart . Could you imagine building a 10,000 square ft. home and the contractor uses 8 carpenters, 4 masons, 3 plumbers, 6 roofers; and they all used different tape measures , nothing would be plum and square. the home would fall over in the next storm. Buy a Bible and not only read it but study it. you can understand it. have a Bible study with others- seeking the truth. you'll only get one chance at HEAVEN. Your "ticket to ride" is an individual's single choice. JESUS is the WAY. Choose Life not Death. Love in Jesus.

January 20, 2014 at 12:07 pm PST

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