OPIN­ION

Test for truth

The Covington News - - RELIGION -

Truth seems to be a very elu­sive com­mod­ity. The great philo­soph­i­cal sys­tems of our world are the off-spring of man’s search for truth. Pi­late asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), and many to­day live by the phi­los­o­phy that what is true for you may not be true for me. Many of the ma­jor dis­agree­ments among peo­ple can be traced to the prob­lem of try­ing to de­ter­mine what is true or what is right.

One pro­fes­sor of east­ern thought tried to avoid the prob­lem by stat­ing some­what cat­e­gor­i­cally that this con­cept of right and wrong was a thor­oughly west­ern con­cept; that in the west we want to ar­gue for an ei­ther-or po­si­tion but in the east peo­ple view truth not as an ei­ther or propo­si­tion but a “both-and” mind-set. Now this both-and mind-set seems to be be­com­ing more pop­u­lar in our west­ern world in form of post-mod­ern thought which de­clares that there is no ob­jec­tive ab­so­lute truth. “Truth” is what you be­lieve it to be. Some­thing can be “true for you, but not true for me.” “Choice” is a big virtue in our con­sumer so­ci­ety. And choice ex­tends to value sys­tems, be­liefs, and lifestyle choices. All are seen as equally valid. Choice of re­li­gious be­lief is by mix and match — what­ever you feel com­fort­able with.

While such a view may work (to a cer­tain ex­tent) on an ex­is­ten­tial level and while it may ap­peal to our feel­ings, on a log­i­cal, in­tel­lec­tual, and truth level, it is a view that is un­ten­able. De­spite what the pro­fes­sor of east­ern thought wanted to ar­gue, even in In­dia peo­ple know the dif­fer­ence be­tween right and wrong, oth­er­wise much of the Hindu re­li­gion from which this man wants to ar­gue for the “bot­h­and” con­cept from is it­self mean­ing­less.

Je­sus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32 TEV). I be­lieve there is such a thing as ab­so­lute, ob­jec­tive truth. Those who ar­gue against the con­cept ab­so­lute ob­jec­tive truth pos­tu­late that there is no such thing as ab­so­lute truth. But their ar­gu­ment is weak in that it fails the first test of truth.

Pic­ture truth as sit­ting on a three legged stool. The first leg of the stool is that of log­i­cal con­sis­tency, that is, the state­ment has to be con­sis­tent with it­self. The ar­gu­ment that there is no such thing as ab­so­lute fails be­cause it is not log­i­cally con­sis­tent. If there is no such thing as ab­so­lute truth, then you can’t be sure your state­ment to that ef­fect is true. If you can­not be ab­so­lutely sure that your state­ment is true, then you have to re­al­ize that there might in­deed be an ab­so­lute truth (though you may not be aware of it at the mo­ment). On the other hand, if you main­tain your po­si­tion that there is no such thing as ab­so­lute truth, you have in fact made an ab­so­lute state­ment which then de­stroys the very ar­gu­ment you are pre­sent­ing.

The sec­ond test of truth, the sec­ond leg of our prover­bial stool, is em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence — does it fit with the known facts? Some state­ments might sound cor­rect by them­selves, but they may lack any fac­tual ev­i­dence. The rea­son that Chris­tian­ity stands unique among the world reli­gions is be­cause Chris­tian­ity and the Bi­ble are ver­i­fi­able and con­sis­tent with known facts. His­tory, ge­og­ra­phy and arche­ol­ogy are dis­ci­plines that have again and again con­firmed the claims of scrip­ture.

The third test of truth is found in the ques­tion, “Does it work in life?” The pro­fes­sor above who wanted to ar­gue that you have to un­der­stand east­ern thought from a both-and mind-set was shocked to re­al­ity by the In­dian Apol­o­gist Ravi Zacharias who re­minded him, “So your telling me that ei­ther I ac­cept the both-and po­si­tion or noth­ing at all?” To which the stunned pro­fes­sor said, “Well, the ei­ther or does seem to present it­self doesn’t it?” And Dr. Zacharias re­sponded, “I’ve got news for you. Even in In­dia we look both ways be­fore cross­ing the street. It’s ei­ther the bus or me.”

Chris­tian­ity is the one re­li­gion that fits the tests for truth. But know­ing the truth is not enough. Know­ing truth doesn’t help me un­less I ap­ply it. Many peo­ple miss out on real help and free­dom be­cause the clos­est they ever come to spir­i­tual truth is the re­al­iza­tion that God ex­ists, but they never ap­ply that truth to their lives.

John Pear­rell

Colum­nist

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