Summary: Only the armor of God can prevail against the great lie that there is no truth outside our own experience.
I've spent a good part of this week since coming back on vacation catching up on the mail - sorting things, answering letters and reading. I subscribe to a lot of publications; probably about half are directly related to religious issues; the rest are mostly news or public policy oriented. I think I've worked almost halfway through the pile by now. And it struck me fairly early on in the process of digesting all this stuff that one particular theme seemed to predominate. The question "What is truth?” was the subject of all of the articles in the summer issue of a publication called Renewal News, published by Presbyterian and Reformed Renewal Ministries. And the same issue kept popping up as I read my way through the stack throughout the week. And the more I read, the more depressed I got.
The most shocking thing I read was in an article by Chuck Colson called "The Crisis of Truth.” Most of us know that most Americans no longer believe that there is any such thing as absolute truth. In a 1995 poll by George Barna 72% responded that there was no such thing as truth. And before we comfort ourselves with the notion that that only applies to the secular world, and not to us, let's look at how many Christians believe exactly the same thing. Take a guess. Go on. And don't be afraid to guess high. The answer is that in the same poll 62% of people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians said there is no
such thing as absolute truth. That's only 10% less than the population at large, and a 10% increase in only 5 years. That scares me, and I hope it scares you. If we follow the one who says, "I am the truth,” and yet we believe there is no truth, we believe in nothing.
Well, I continued to read, and what caught my eye next was that the Utah Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) is promoting polygamy as a solution to the problems of working mothers. Elizabeth Joseph said, "I've maximized my female potential without the trade-offs associated with monogamy.”
Another article revealed that the woman who reviews research on the health risks associated with abortion for the Federal Centers for Disease control is a militantly pro-choice feminist who dismisses any test which suggests that such health risks do exist and should be taken into account by women contemplating abortion.
Two related stories jumped out at me next. In one branch of the military, carrying a stretcher has been redefined as a 4-person task instead of a 2-person task, so that the average female can perform it. In another, the qualifying distance for throwing a grenade has been reduced to enable more women to meet the standard.
In story after story, what leaped out at me was the determination to advocate whatever benefits one's personal convenience or political philosophy, regardless of evidence to the contrary. The overriding principle seems to be winning at all costs, with truth the first casualty in the war. And far too few even regret the demise.
"What is truth?” indeed. You would think the church, at least, would be able to hold on to a few central principles. The PCUSA's abortion policy statement says that "Problem pregnancies are the result of, and influenced by, so many complicated and insolvable circumstances that we have neither the wisdom nor the authority to address or decide each situation.” Who has the wisdom and the authority to speak to life and death issues if not the church? More troubling yet, I was challenged at my ordination hearing for affirming that Jesus Christ is the only way to reconciliation with God.
Parker Williamson, the Executive Editor of the Presbyterian Layman, writes
"To say 'I don't know' is more than an admission of ignorance; it is a statement of faith. False faith. It reflects an ideology that says no human being can know the truth. It suggests that all we can testify to is our truth, our experience... It is a declaration that we humans are the center of our universe. We know only what we feel, think, and opine, and we cannot be certain about anything else.
"Those who hold this position often accuse evangelical Christians of arrogance. Following Pilate's lead, they taunt the believer: How... can you claim that your opinion is the truth, and by implication, all other faith experiences are false?” Pilate's progeny believes that truth is ultimately whatever each of us says it is, for with no final arbiter outside ourselves, one person's opinion cannot be used to rebut another.... Ironically, the charge of arrogance best fits those who deny any possibility of absolute truth, for nothing reveals greater conceit than the determination that I alone determine what is true. Promoted under the [label] of tolerance, this affirmation is actually the most self-centered claim that a human can make."