In the past few weeks I have brought up, in various venues, the question, “What is Truth?” With no set schedule, I would like to take a look at that question.
Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). This is a very good question these days, when everything is viewed as “relative”; law is built on sociology, not truth. Competing religions and belief systems call out to us like hawkers at a carnival: “Hey, you, look over here. I’ve got the best truth.” Others tell us that everybody has the truth – until somebody steps up and says they’re a Christian. Then we get a sort of “selective relativism.”
How can we know what’s true? How can we sort out the charlatans from the purveyors of truth? Related questions include: “What does it matter what’s true? Do we really need to know?”
If Christianity is true, then sin has invaded the world and men need salvation from the consequences of that sinfulness. If I cannot know that this is true, I will be lost – and suffer whatever those consequences are. If there is no God, as many modern teachers claim, then it really doesn’t matter what’s true. Is it worth the risk not to make an attempt to discover what’s true.
The correspondence view of truth, held by the vast majority of philosophers and theologians throughout history until recently, holds that any statement is true if and only if it corresponds to or agrees with factual reality. If I tell you that a hymnal is red I have made a statement which corresponds to reality or it doesn’t.
Another principle of logic, the principle of contradiction states that “A cannot be non-A in the same way and in the same respect.” The hymnal is either red or it is not red.
The theological statement, “Jesus is Lord of the universe,” is either true or false. Its truth or falsity does not depend upon the sincerity or the loudness or the brilliance of the person making the statement. It also does not depend upon the birth culture of the person making the statement. The statement either corresponds to reality or it doesn’t. If I claim that a ladder is sound, and firmly believe that it is, that does not make the ladder sound. It only means that I believe it is. If I’m wrong I could be endangering myself and anybody else who climbs the ladder.
What we’re embarking on, over the course of the next few weeks, (or, perhaps , months) is a study of something called worldview. It has become a popular term in the recent past, but it is a concept as old as mankind.
How we view the truth really matters. Think about abortion, marriage, ethics, euthanasia. How we view truth will color how we deal with such topics.
Christians today, especially in the US are often held captive by the so-called intellectual elites. These are the same people who agreed with the editorial in the Washington Post a few years back which referred to conservative Christians as “poor, uneducated, and easily led.” We’re cowed by them. We allow them to back us into a corner so that we check our intellect at the church door, effectively creating a dichotomy between our “sacred beliefs” and our secular beliefs.
A is not non-A. Either God is who He claims to be in the Bible, or He is not. We cannot have it both ways. If we believe that God is the Creator of the Universe, we have to believe it on Monday as well as on Sunday. More importantly, we have to act as though we believe it – every day.
This is the point of this excellent book by Nancy Pearcey. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity (Crossway Books, 2004).
Her purpose, Pearcey writes, is to help Christians “recover a place at the table of debate.” In order to do this, she explains, “Christians must find a way to overcome the dichotomy between public and private, fact and value, secular and sacred. We need to liberate the gospel from its cultural captivity, restoring it to the status of public truth” In other words, Christians need to stop checking their minds at the door to the office, the school, the shop, the gym. We need to have a full intellectual understanding of our faith and an ability to apply biblical principles in all areas of our lives.
Pearcey urges that Christians develop a full-orbed approach to their world. She addresses both the political activist Christians and those who would shrink from society and create evangelical ghettoes. Neither approach, she writes, has produced any lasting effect on our culture.
I will continue this discussion in the coming weeks.
I’d like to know your thoughts, now and along the way. Join me in the discussion.