Thursday, May 26, 2011

Truth - Part 2

In a previous post I talked about absolute truth, and gave a general description for what kinds of truth there actually is.  In this the second part, I am going to respond to objections that people might have to there being  such a thing as truth, and hopefully this will help bolster your position when you meet people who object to what you believe. 

Many people believe that moral truth cannot be tested by science.  While it is true that morality can’t be detected by the scientific method, so what?  There are many truths (historical, relational, etc.) that can’t be tested by science.  While moral truths also do not appear to the physical senses, they appear to our inner sense – conscience.  While we can’t prove scientifically that love is better than hate, we are still justified in claiming that we know it to be true. 

I hear many people say, “It may be true for you, but not for me.”  Although this is a commonly used phrase, we must ask, can truth exist solely for the person who believes it?  Can something be true for one person and not the other?  Underneath this phrase is a deep confusion between truth and belief.  While we are entitled to our own beliefs here in America, does that mean we each have our own respective truths?  Objective truth is independent of our beliefs.  Imagine that you and your friend find an apple on the table.  Your friend believes it’s rotten on the inside, while you believe that it is good on the inside.  Can your different beliefs create two distinct truths that each of you experience as reality?  The only way to solve the dilemma is to slice open the apple and see what it’s like on the inside.  By doing that you’ll be able to discover the truth about the apple – if it’s rotten or not.  The instant the apple is sliced, the truth will be revealed and the false beliefs will be exposed.  The truth about the apple exists independently of you and your friend’s beliefs.

Someone might say that, “I can create my own truth.”  Society creates rules that we are to follow, but truth is not invented, nor is morality.  We can’t invent the length of a day, but the standard for driving in America, for example, says we drive on the right side of the road.  We can’t make lying right, and we can’t make murder good.  We are not free to create our own values, and we are not free to create our own truths.  We are free to accept or reject truth, just as we are free to obey or disobey moral laws.  We don’t invent the law of gravity, but we are free to disregard it and believe that we can fly by jumping off a building.  Our disregard for the truth does nothing to change truth itself.  We don’t create truth, we discover it.

I often hear, “It doesn’t matter what people believe, it’s how sincerely they hold to those beliefs.”  People of all religions demonstrate the same degree of zeal as the best of Christians.  So how can we, as Christians, criticize such commitment?  Shouldn’t sincerity count for something?  It’s important to remember that sincerity is necessary for salvation but not sufficient.  If this objection were true, then the sincerity of the 9/11 terrorists would be admirable.  But we all know that their actions – despite their sincerity – were wrong.  As integral as sincerity is for belief, it cannot be alienated from truth. 

Many young people say, “If it works for you then it’s as true as it needs to be.  No one has the right to judge you or question what you have chosen as true for yourself.”  There are two significant problems with this philosophy.  First, some truth doesn’t “work”.  The truth that there is no largest prime number has no practical use, but it is true.  Second, sometimes falsehoods may actually “work” in our favor (“The dog ate my homework”).  Although truth does work (as God intends it to), what “works” is not always true. 

One of the most common ways truth is attacked is the claim that it changes over time.  What is true for people today was not true for people in the past.  Obviously, if what is true now was not true in the past, then what is true now may cease to be true in the future.  If we follow this line of reasoning, truth quickly loses its practical importance.  The classic example is the flat earth vs. round earth dilemma.  The key is the distinction between belief and truth.  While people may have believed that the earth was flat, common sense tells us that the earth has always been round, despite changing beliefs. While beliefs may vary, truths are constant.

Life without truth is a life of tragedy. But when we know truth we are equipped to make wise decisions and to flourish as human beings.  While truth occurs when our beliefs match reality, truth is also much more than that.  Scriptural commands and rules are not merely instructions to obey, but rather ways to deepen a relationship with Jesus Christ.  When we personally experience the truth of Jesus Christ, we will be empowered to live a bold and meaningful life.

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