Is there a difference between objective and absolute truth?
You will have to study how a person uses these terms to determine what he means by them. Of course, it will often be the case that he has never considered these terms, and he might use them in awkward and unwarranted ways, or in ways that are inconsistent with his own philosophy. I can tell you what I mean by the terms and how they fit with the Christian system. From the perspective of the Christian faith – the only perspective that is right – they ought to be just different ways of referring to the same thing.
It is often said that everything is relative, and the assertion is made in order to dismiss all definitive judgment. But we can reach a different conclusion when we investigate the matter further. To call something relative is to acknowledge that it is relative to something. A mass murderer is judged to be especially vicious relative to one who has murdered only one person. However, Christians would not call the underachiever an exemplar of righteousness and compassion. Why? Because we judge him by a standard that we have received from God, a standard relative to which all else is judged, and that is measured only relative to itself. The Christian faith acknowledges that God is the definitive standard of judgment, one that cannot be dismissed by an appeal to the relative nature of all judgments. Whether a man has murdered one person or a hundred people, or if he has only stolen a stick of chewing gum, he is a lawbreaker relative to God.
Every person is evaluated relative to God, or the standard that he has revealed. On the other hand, God's judgment is measured only against God's judgment. There is no higher authority. All creatures are judged relative to God. If he disapproves of a man, then that man is condemned. And God is judged relative to himself. If he approves of himself, then he is vindicated, and the opposition of men means nothing. When we lift our hands to heaven and praise him for his perfection, it is not because we recognize that he is closer to some final standard to which we are both accountable. There is no higher standard, and he is accountable to no one other than himself. We praise God because he is who he is, and that he is perfect relative to himself, who is perfection. Therefore, God is the absolute, and the absolute and relative are one in God.
Likewise, our judgments are said to be subjective. My judgment is my opinion, and you might have a different opinion. My opinion might be truly my opinion, but they might not be true – that is, objective. What is the difference? We must appeal to God to resolve this for man. My opinion is that there are three marbles on the table, and your opinion is that there are five. But God thinks that there are ten. The objective truth (one that is the case because of itself and that is independent of the opinion of creatures), then, is that there are ten, because God is the one who has created the marbles, who has put them there, and who now sustains them moment by moment. So he knows about the marbles because he is the doer of all things and he knows himself. Our subjective opinions are wrong, and they are wrong because they differ from God's opinion.
With God, there is no difference between desire, opinion, and reality. If God desires to have ten marbles on the table, then there are ten marbles on the table, because his will is never defeated. He makes what he wills, and what has been made is always what he has willed to make. His desire and power are in harmony. And if God thinks that there are ten marbles on the table, then there are ten marbles on the table, because his knowledge never fails, and he knows himself. The will to create, the act of creating, and the knowledge of his own desire and action, are in harmony.
Therefore, God is the objective truth, and the objective and subjective are one in him. They are not one in his creatures; rather, they must look to him for objective truth. Since God is the ruler and cause of all things, he has decreed and caused my opinion that there are three marbles on the table, and God thinks that I think that there are three marbles on the table, although he himself thinks that there are ten. My subjective opinion is that there are three marbles on the table. It is the objective truth that this is my subjective opinion (because he causes and knows my opinion), and my opinion disagrees with God's opinion (because we disagree on how many marbles are on the table). Thus the objective truth is that my subjective opinion is wrong.
This is the basis for the condemnation of those who do not believe the message of Jesus Christ. Their opinion differs from God's opinion, and so it is objectively true that they are wrong and subject to the endless torment of hell. Since the objective and the subjective are identical in God, this means that whenever I agree with God – whenever my subjective opinion is identical to God's subjective opinion – that is when I attain objective, or absolute, truth. To have knowledge of anything at all is to agree with God on that particular matter.
In a realm where the king possesses total authority, his subjective opinion is the objective law for everyone – the two become identical. He always remains in good standing with the law as long as he approves himself, because he is the law. Anyone who crosses him is a criminal and is brought to justice, a justice that this same king defines by his opinion, which accords with his nature, or the kind of person he is.
"Ah," you say, "but this makes him a tyrant." The king is a tyrant only if the king thinks so, and it is bad to be a tyrant only if the king thinks it is bad to be a tyrant. In any case, no mere man possesses such authority, but this kingship is fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ. By him, all our beliefs and actions are measured. Without him, we are nothing and can accomplish nothing. But in him, we are the righteousness of God and the heralds of his kingdom.