Summary: Speaking the truth in love is the needed standard in a post-Christian/post-modern world.
Speaking Truth to a Skeptical World
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
If there were a patron saint of our age, a hero or symbol for the times, it might well be Pilate. The Roman politician did his best to find a way to not condemn Jesus, as his religious opponents were demanding. But neither did he want to condone, much less follow, the Galilean. Pilate just wanted to “get along.”
Pilate showed his true colors with his final response to Jesus. When Jesus affirmed that his mission was to testify to the truth and that everyone on the side of truth listened to him, he apparently pushed the Roman Governor’s hot button. Pilate abruptly cut off the meeting, asked, “What is truth?” and walked out (John 18:37-38). Like many today, Pilate could tolerate any religious discussion except “truth talk.”
According to George Barna, a California pollster who specializes in American spiritual and religious attitudes, seventy-two percent of Americans agree, “There is no such thing as absolute truth; two people could define truth in totally conflicting ways, but both could still be correct” (Virtual America, pp. 83, 283). Seventy-one percent of Americans believe that there are no absolute standards that apply to everybody in all situations (pp. 85, 230).
Harry Blamires (The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think, 1963, p. 107),
prophetically observed almost forty years ago:
“Ours is an age in which ‘conclusions’ are arrived at by distributing questionnaires to a cross-section of the population or by holding a microphone before the lips of casually selected passers-by in the street.. . . In the sphere of religious and moral thinking we are rapidly heading for a state of intellectual anarchy in which the difference between truth and falsehood will no longer be recognized. Indeed, it would seem possible that the words true and false will eventually (and logically) be replaced by the words likable and dislikable.”
Barna also discovered that fifty-three per cent of those who claim there is no such thing as absolute truth identify themselves as born-again Christians (p. 83). Forty-two percent of those who identify themselves as evangelical Christians agree that there is no such thing as absolute truth (p. 83). But that is only part of the problem.
In July of 2000, George Barna’s research group released a revealing study on what American Christians believe. Barna summarized his study,
“We found that almost nine out of ten adults believe they know all of the basic teachings of Christianity very well. But when you explore what they think the Bible actually teaches, as we did in this study, many theological inconsistencies and inaccuracies emerge. Unfortunately, correcting people’s mistaken assumptions about Bible content is made nearly impossible by their self-assurance about their beliefs. Even if they are exposed to good Bible teaching they typically fail to absorb that input because they think they already know it all. Changing the errant theological positions of millions of Americans is a very tough assignment."
How did our culture get this point? The journey has taken centuries. Once people tended to determine truth based on what an authority said or what had been traditionally believed. If the king commanded it or a bishop proposed it that settled it. Historians call this the pre-modern view.
A few hundred years ago with the rise of modern science and exploration of the New World, another perspective gained ground. Historians call this view modernism. Modernism contends that one can’t trust authorities or traditions, a person must think for himself and use the principles of science, observation, investigation and experiments to find out what is true. If something can’t be proven in this way, modernism says, then it can’t be true. Skeptics asked, “How the existence of God or the accuracy of Scripture or the moral right and wrong can be proven scientifically?”
But modernism proved quite unsatisfying. If reality is limited to only those things that can be investigated in a science lab, then whole ranges of very important things are left out--such as love, beauty, happiness, freedom, and hope. A science lab can help develop a bomb that will kill millions, but it can’t help decide whether to use it or not. Modernism may help contribute to prosperity, but had little to contribute to happiness. To result was that modernism (the only things that exists are those you can prove scientifically or empirically) led to despair.
Forty and fifty years ago many began to give up on modernism. Many intellectuals of the sixties proposed the strange argument that the only thing that made sense was senselessness. Some even said that the only worthwhile choice was suicide. The experimentation with drugs, the rebellion, and even anarchy of the sixties were also a result of the bad taste that modernism was leaving in the mouths of many.