“Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”
There are so many great resources on the topic of truth vs. relativism. For this post I am using insights from three great Apologists, and I highly recommend going to their work on this topic:
- In his book “Relativism” Greg Koukl, President of the Christian Apologetics Ministry Stand to Reason says, “Today we’ve lost the confidence that statements of facts can ever be anything more than opinion. The word true now means “true for me” and nothing more. The death of truth in our society has created a moral decay. When we abandon the idea that one set of laws applies to every human being, all that remains is subjective, personal opinion.”
- In his book “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist” Dr. Frank Turek points out that “Many people in our culture today have adopted the ‘whatever’ theme and are willfully ignorant and apathetic about truth, except when it comes to money or their own tangible items.”
- Biola Professor and author Jonathan Morrow’s “Impact 360 Institute” has excellent lectures and resources on the topic of truth and the Christian Worldview. Much of the following information comes from the notes I took at one of his online courses.
Can we know truth?
“To me, it was self-evident that truth exists. What’s the alternative? If truth doesn’t exist, then it would be true that truth doesn’t exist, and once again we arrive at truth. There is no alternative; truth must exist.”
-Nabeel Qureshi, from “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus”
We demand truth in virtually every area of our lives:
- Doctors—we want the right diagnosis and the right prescriptions or treatment
- Stock brokers and Bankers—we want the right information about our money
- Courts—we want justice
- Employers—we want truth and fairness
- Loved ones—no one wants lies from a spouse or child
- Public transportation—we want safety in travel
But what about truth in morality or religion?
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” John 18:37-38
(It is interesting to note that the truth was standing right in front of him! John 14:6)
What is truth?
1. Truth is that which corresponds to reality
The correspondence theory of truth…
- truth corresponds to its object
- truth is an actual state of affairs
- truth is the way things really are
2. Truth is not relative but absolute
- It is true for all people, at all times, in all places
- truth is transcultural
- truth is absolute, narrow, and exclusive
3. Truth is discovered, not invented
- truth exists independent of anyone’s knowledge of it
- truth is unchanging even though our beliefs or attitudes about it might change
- truth matches reality
Definition of Absolute Truth: Something true For ALL people, in ALL places, and at ALL times
Postmodern thought in culture: “Relativism in action”
“There are no hard distinctions between what is real and unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false, it can be both true and false.”
-Harold Pinter, 2005 Nobel Prize winner for Liturgy
This is what we are up against in public education and culture today. However, a simple review of what Mr. Pinter has said shows the inconsistency of that type of thinking. We can ask Mr. Pinter…
- Are you making a hard distinction with that statement?
- Is your statement true?
If he answers yes then he admits that hard distinction can be made, and that truth statements can be made and known. If he answers no, then he becomes irrelevant to the conversation since his statement is illogical.
Can relativism be true?
Relativism vs. “the Road Runner”
- Relativism = the claim that, “there is no truth and truth cannot be known.”
- Road Runner = Questions the view with a focus on reality: “Is that a truth statement? Is the worldview of relativism the only view that’s true?”
Relativists make self-defeating statements and they don’t meet their own criteria:
- What’s true for you is not true for me. —–Is that true just for you and not for me?
- There are no absolutes. —–Are you absolutely sure?
- There’s no such thing as right or wrong. —–Is that a right or a wrong statement?
- You ought not judge. —–Is that a judgment?
***False ideas about truth lead to false ideas about life.
According to Jonathan Morrow there are five Reasons Relativism fails the reality test:
- Relativism is self-refuting
- Relativism eliminates the possibility of moral reform
- Relativism eliminates the possibility of moral progress
- Relativism removes our ability to praise good and condemn evil
- Relativism is unlivable
Culture looks at truth in 2 ways:
Preference (subjective) claims vs. truth (objective) claims
Preference (subjective) claims are about the person making the claim, for example: Chocolate ice cream is the best flavor, or turquoise is the prettiest color in the world. These are opinions or tastes.
Imagine someone telling you: “You are going to hell if you don’t believe that turquoise is the prettiest color in the world!” We would think that they are crazy, but this is often how people in our culture see the claims of Christianity.
In contrast, truth claims are objective. They are about an object or event, for example: Insulin is a medicine that controls diabetes and it can save your life, or Barak Obama was voted in as the 44th president of the United States in 2008.
These are objective claims that are not our preference but are true for everyone, everywhere, at all times. This is the type of claim Christians are making when we say Jesus died for our sins and resurrected in defeat of death, and the Bible is the Word of God.
OBJECTIVE CLAIMS ARE NOT DEPENDENT ON WHAT ANYONE BELIEVES, THINKS OR AGREES ON. OBJECTIVE CLAIMS ARE ABOUT REALITY—THE WAY THINGS REALLY ARE.
Postmodern relativists who deny that there is such a thing as objective truth are like Winnie the Pooh—they answer a knock at the door by saying, “no one is home.”
What truth is not…
1. Truth is not defined by how you feel or how sincere you are:
- Feelings change
- People have different feeling and differing opinions at different times about everything
- People can be sincerely wrong
2. Truth is not determined by what works:
- Just because you can get away with it does not make it true
- Just because it produces results that you want does not make it true
- Lies can be very useful (Satan is the father of lies–Genesis 3; John 8:44)
3. Truth is not relegated to popular vote:
- Truth cannot be determined in the polls or voting booths
- Truth cannot be set by cultural norms
- Truth cannot change over time
“Bluntly, to serve God well we must think straight; and crooked thinking, unintentional or not, always favors evil. And when the crooked thinking gets elevated into group orthodoxy, whether religious or secular, there is always, quite literally, hell to pay.”
– Dr. Dallas Willard, Christian Author and Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern California
…we have been too unwilling for too long to talk about what is right and what is wrong. We have too often avoided saying what needs to be said—about everything from marriage to welfare to common courtesy.”
-Prime Minister David Cameron
Watch Dr. Frank Turek’s 27 minute presentation on the truth of Christianity:
Does truth matter in your worldview or are you OK with relativism?
A person’s worldview (A set of beliefs and presuppositions used to define views on major life issues) should be based on truth that corresponds to reality. A Christian’s worldview comes from the Bible; it speaks to all of the life issues we encounter. Christianity offers the best answers to life’s most important questions like these:
1) Where did I come from?
2) What’s wrong with the world?
3) Is there a solution?
4) What is my purpose?
5) What is my destiny?
The way a person sees the answers to these questions will form the basis of their worldview and all of the major life decisions that they will make. Everyone has a belief, or worldview, based on the way they live their lives. People often get their beliefs from people they know (family or friends), their own feelings, or the culture in general. While such beliefs could be true, it is also possible that they are false, and false worldviews will always bring about unfavorable consequences.
Objective truth can be known about God and that truth will always correspond to reality (the way things really are). God has not made it hard for us, in fact He has made it quite easy:
…since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:19-20
God’s truth can be found in His general revelation (nature):
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4
God’s truth can be found in His Special revelation (Scripture):
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
2 Peter 1:20-21
God’s truth can be found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
God’s truth can be found through the Holy Spirit’s teaching:
(Jesus said…) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
(Jesus said…) But when he, the spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.
…and it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
1 John 5:6
God’s truth can be found in our conscious because God has placed a moral code and a sense of eternity in all humankind:
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know His law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thought either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. Romans 2:14-15
Join us next week as we take a look at religious pluralism vs. Christianity’s exclusive claims.
You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research. It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in! Join us as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.
Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.
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