Summary: Understanding Biblical truth in a post-truth world
The 2018 notable quote of the year came from Rudy Giuliani, an American politician who said, “Truth isn’t truth”. He meant that there are lots of versions of the truth, different versions called “alternative facts”. We live in a post-truth world. Unfortunately “truth” in the 21st century has a very bad reputation.
One. Conflicting definitions. The Concise Oxford Dictionary (2004) defines truth as (1) “that which is true as opposed to false” and (2) “a fact or belief that is accepted as true”.
The dictionary hedges its bets. It gives conflicting definitions.
The first definition favours the objective sense of truth. It assumes there is such a thing as truth and not to be true is to be false. But the second definition abandons absolute truth by tying truth to belief. Something is said to be true if it is believed or accepted as true.
Two. The world is a tribal place. It’s the second definition of truth that drives our world today. “A fact or belief that is accepted as true”. Truth has been smashed into a million pieces. The world has never been more fragmented. It has never been more tribal and it poses a great challenge for Christians. We need to be careful. The secular view of truth can easily corrode our faith.
Undermines our personal assurance. If we see our faith in Christ as more “an opinion that works for me”, rather than a robust response to “revealed truth”, then where is room for personal assurance? How can we have certainty for the future when the seeds of doubt take root within us?How can we believe Paul’s words in Eph. 1 which assure us that God will bring all things together in Christ when there is doubt gnawing at our souls?
The secular view of truth can:
Undermines our trust in Scripture. If we doubt the truth of Christian belief it undermines our trust in Scripture which is the source of truth. If we deny that Scripture reveals heavenly truth then we must say that the Bible is merely human words to be changed and re-interpreted as we please. Nor will we read our Bibles because we are not convinced that its writings are trustworthy. Indeed, we’ll look for other sources of truth if we are not convinced that all we need to know about salvation is in God’s Word.
The secular view of truth can:
Undermines our zeal for evangelism. We won’t share the gospel if we are unsure that it is true. We will become nervous and hesitant and timid and shy because we are not convinced that the gospel is true. It takes courage to share our faith and we lack motivation if we doubt the grounds if our salvation.
When we talk about truth, there’s a lot at stake. So it’s not unreasonable to ask questions such as these—and these are the questions I wish to address this morning.
BIG QUESTIONS: “Is there any merit in the view that Christian belief is no more than a matter of opinion? (slide) Should we discard any hope of knowing the truth about God”? And if we wish to probe a little deeper, we can ask, “Is there such a thing as truth? (metaphysics) If so, are humans able to grasp what is true”? (epistemology)
I’m going to begin to provide an answer to these questions, and do so in two parts. (1) the philosophical problem—because unbelief in truth is a philosophical problem; (2) the biblical solution. What the Bible says about truth.Then, next week, why we should believe the Bible is telling us the truth when it talks about truth. That is, the nature of biblical authority.
So there’s a bit to think over the next two weeks.
Let’s start with the philosophical problem ……
These days its accepted as fact that there is no such thing as truth. This makes it difficult to have a conversation about religion and morality because no-one is on the same page and those who are cluster themselves together into different and competing tribes.
One need only listen to talk-back radio and political debate to appreciate the aggressiveness and hostility of tribal debate in a fragmented society. For in a post-truth world there is only opinion and who’s to say which opinion is a worthy winner? It’s as though truth is no more than the opinion held by the majority who have the power and the money.
A couple of points about the philosophical problem ….
One. The world did not always believe that truth in unknowable. If you’re old enough you’ll remember the time when most people went to church, and even those who did not usually agreed with the values of their Judeo-Christian heritage.The world was much simpler because almost everyone shared the Bible’s moral code, especially as laid out in the 10 commandments.