Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Truth Is Out There

I have been thinking a lot lately about the notion of truth as well as standards in regards to that truth. We are constantly bombarded in the media with stories of court cases where both sides are attempting to convince a judge or a jury that their version of the “truth” is the right one. Our society has promoted a relativism in which truth is no longer an absolute but is created by individuals based upon personal preference, level of comfort, and experience.

What happens when we find ourselves in a place where truth is defined on a person by person basis? How do we establish a standard to which to hold people? If truth is relative, what (and who) is the ultimate authority that defines this truth?

In a democracy, we would most likely say that our government, which is by the people and for the people, is the defining body, the final authority on what “truth” is. But what is the standard that they hold? Do they hold a standard? Does that standard move or is it constant?

As a follower of Christ, I believe that God’s Word is the ultimate authority for Truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” This is an absolute which is not easily digested by a relativistic culture. But it does not change, regardless of the flawed people who claim to adhere to the Truth of Scripture, regardless of their imperfect interpretations, clouded by a broken and fallen nature in a broken and fallen world.

My major concern over a “floating truth” is that there is nothing that pins it down. There is nothing that makes it stable. There is nothing that guarantees that it will be there five minutes from now. It changes, which seems to be somewhat contrary to the definition of truth. If truth is ever-changing, how can it really be truth?

I am not a philosopher, nor am I the son of a philosopher. I don’t claim to fully understand the different theories that philosophers through the ages have posed to answer these questions. What I do know is that if truth is ever-changing, the future cannot be bright. If definitions can be redefined based upon what makes me or someone else comfortable, they are unstable, and we are in serious trouble!

There are some who believe that the answer to this is that we become a “Christian” nation. I have visions of the Crusades in my head, people being forced to attest to a specific viewpoint for fear of their life. While I don’t think it would ever come to that, there are some who would read that and say, “So, what’s wrong with that?” That’s as troubling to me as the idea of a flexible set of rules.

There are others who see no problem with a society where truth changes as often as the weather. I would gather that the moment that it began to cause them any discomfort or pain might be the moment that they take issue or exception with it, but that may be presumptuous of me.

Regardless of the extreme viewpoints, I know this one thing for sure: we are on a slippery slope when truth can be redefined by my level of comfort with it. If I project the path down that slope, I fear where standards and lines will be drawn. There are three children that I love deeply who I know will be impacted by that future and that slope. And to be honest, it scares the hell out of me. My imagination can contrive some fairly dark depths to which that slope leads and it pains me to think that they would be affected by that.

If you are one who believes that truth is relative, ask yourself whether your opinion of it would change if there were negative consequences for you. While you might not think that this could be a possibility, is there really something there in a relativistic society to prevent it from happening? After all, truth is relative and subject to change, so are laws and legislations, right?

If you are one who believes that “Christianizing” our culture is the solution, try to project out that path for the future. While those of us who follow Christ are called to make disciples, leading someone to meet Christ is far different than forcing them to do so.

I don’t have the answers, but I know that something is broken. The truth is out there, it’s just a matter of which version of the truth you are willing to accept. If it is constantly being changed and redefined, there’s a lot of instability there. Unstable systems will prove to be volatile and even explosive. They may operate in a ruled and controlled environment for a time, but eventually, the instability will prove too great. Caution: contents under pressure

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