Five years ago, I wrote an essay In Defense of Truth. I decided to revisit and update it a bit in preparation for my blog series, Testify to the Truth.
One of my nephews once wrote that Buddhism “teachings are far more modern and applicable to life than any other religion” and that it isn’t fair to have to choose a religion “because most religions are fragments of stories and ideas passed down from other cultures anyway.” I did not comment on his statements for a couple of reasons. One, I didn’t have a defense of my own religious beliefs ready. Two, I tend to worry too much about offending when I should have the courage to stand in my truth.
My nephew’s thinking reflects the ideas of Postmodernism, a philosophy based on the idea that truth is subjective, a matter of personal preference or point of view. Postmodernists believe that there is no objective reality. They believe that our sense of morality is shaped by our culture, thus the casual dismissal of Biblical teachings passed down for thousands of years.
The Postmodern religious philosophy trivializes the distinctions between religions. Choosing a religion is not like choosing a flavor of ice cream. Jesus Christ is very different from Buddha, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, Mohamed, and the leader of every other religion.
To the postmodernist, the individual defines his or her reality. This a dangerous way to think. Not everything is a matter of personal interpretation. It is important to be able to discern what is real and true based on objective fact.
What is truth? If a statement is true, it conforms to fact or reality. Because truth is based on facts, evidence and reality, it is objective. It is not dependent on personal feelings and opinions. Truth exists outside the self; it is independent of the human mind.
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.John Adams
We can resist facing the truth. We can deny the truth. We can suppress the truth. We can hide the truth. We can bend and distort the truth. But truth is immutable. We cannot change facts to suit our own desires.
Objective truth matters. Truth holds humanity accountable to facts, to reality, to the consequences of our words and our actions.
Not all truths are knowable with the same degree of certainty and not all truths are provable. Sometimes a personal relationship is enough to give you confidence that what someone tells you is true. You believe what they say even it you can’t prove it to be true. This is the trust I have in my friend Jesus.
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.2 Timothy 1:12 (NIV)
I know that the teachings of Jesus Christ are right and true because I’ve tested and tried them. Love your neighbor as yourself. Be merciful. Forgive. Focus on your own sins and let God be the judge of others. Don’t be a hypocrite.
Jesus made extraordinary claims about himself that I cannot prove. He said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He claimed to be able to forgive sins and promised everlasting life to those who believed in Him. He equated himself with God yet lived humbly as a servant.
Prophets predicted the life and death of the Messiah. I take as “gospel truth” the testimonies of his life and resurrection from those who were there even though I can not prove the veracity of their accounts. Yes, the stories were written and passed down long ago, but truth stands the test of time.
The Law of Noncontradiction
Aristotle’s law of noncontradiction is a principle used in logic that means that a statement cannot be both true and not true at the same time in the same context. Truth cannot contradict itself.
C.S. Lewis and others have made the “trilemma” argument that Jesus was either a liar, lunatic, or the Lord. Jesus was either telling the truth when he said he was the son of God or he was a liar or he was insane.
Jesus could not be the good, moral teacher he was shown to be and at the same time be the greatest conman of all time. He spoke this truth: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Truth is on trial
When Jesus stood trial before Pilate, he said “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Truth is on trial, standing firmly against the dark side of deception. It may not seem fair to have to choose which side you are on but you do have to choose. If you choose to stand on the side of truth, be prepared to stand your ground with the full armor of God.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.Ephesians 6:13-17 (NIV)