Monday, August 26, 2013

Truth exists- absolutely!

“That’s true for you, but not for me… Truth means different things to different people… there’s no one absolute truth for everybody…” Ever had your Christian perspective rebutted by statements like these? You may not walk around thinking about the nature of truth or routinely use words like “epistemology.” But Christians today- especially those raising teens or who work with youth and college students- have the important job of presenting and explaining truth within a chronically skeptical culture.

The nature or essence of truth is often described using terms like “absolute truth” or “ultimate truth,” or (the term preferred by America’s founding fathers), “self-evident truth.” The Biblical view of reality is one in which truth exists, can be known, and is relevant for all people. Or, as Josh McDowell puts it, “That which is true at all times in all places for all people.” Since truth is related to the character of God (which is eternal and unchanging – See Malachi 3:6; Psalm 90:2; Hebrews 13:8), the nature of truth is fixed. Truth does not have an expiration date, and is not up for revision and re-invention.

Many today judge the heights of arrogance to be not only that some one would claim to know truth, but that some one might claim there is truth. The relativistic spirit of our times presents a challenge for both the missions-minded Christian and the values-minded parent. How can people be convinced to turn from their sin, if no objective moral standard exists that has been violated? How can our children live according to Biblical morals, when a commitment to relativism seems to a prerequisite in social, academic, and professional arenas?

Romans 1:18-22 describes the destructive end of all who willfully “suppress the truth” (v. 18). But problems with a relativistic view of truth are identifiable even without using the Bible. Our own rational faculties (what your grandmother called “common sense”) can lead us back from the hazy realms of relativism. The next time you hear some one’s explanation on why truth is relative, listen for what the skeptic is asserting. You’d be amazed at what has to be assumed as true in order to deny that there is truth! If, “Truth doesn’t exist,” then by definition, that statement is also false. How can relativists be certain about their position if, “truth can’t be known?” Why should I believe the relativist who gives no one the right to be dogmatic but himself: “No one can have a monopoly on truth!” (Notice the self-contradictory implication: “My analysis of reality is true, that no one can really grasp what is true”). Many, many more examples could be given, but the point is this: In order to reject truth, skeptics have to imply the very thing that they are denying. This is what scholars call a “self-defeating” statement.

God hard-wired our brains to for rational thought. With a little practice, you can become very adept at spotting the false and defending what is true. Our culture’s glib and common denials of truth are all- to one degree or another- based on rational fallacies that become easy to spot. In light of his own times, C.S. Lewis observed the following:

“The moment you say one set of moral ideas is better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms more nearly to that standard than the other. But the standard that measures the two things is something entirely different. If your moral ideas can be truer, and those of the Nazis less true, there must be something- some real Morality- for them to be true about” (Mere Christianity, page 25).

Our culture has become quite comfortable in pontificating about the nature of reality and the absence of truth. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal explained that in our internet-driven, “virtual world,” the lines between fact and fiction are often blurred. For many, “default-position” subtly becomes, “truth is what I say it is.” The Christians are often chided into silence, because “all beliefs are equally valid,” and people are “sure that no one can be sure.” Besides relativism’s inherent logical mistakes, the fact is, such platitudes just aren’t livable. It is doubtful that some one would remain tolerant with a bank teller who said, “You and your bank statement both say your account contains $5,000.00. That may be true for you, but it’s not for me.” We can talk as if the world is relative, but we live as if it is absolute.

I believe that the need to instill a love of truth in the hearts of students is more critical than ever. Given this, our upcoming conference at the Cove training center has been planned to give attendees a unique, cutting edge experience, preparing both “heart and head” to stand for truth. The conference will sharpen the thinking skills of those who attend, and provide training to share one’s faith confidently and effectively.

An authentic commitment to truth involves both orthodoxy (right belief), and orthopraxy (right action). A relationship with the One who called Himself the Truth (see John 1:1, and 14:6), must manifest itself in both belief and behavior. Truth can be known, and should be shown. Our lives must convey this to our prodigal world.

Monday, August 19, 2013

No need to apologize for doing apologetics!

While speaking at a church conference recently, a parent came up to speak with me after my first session. With a troubled expression, he said, “I don’t apologize for being a Christian! Where did you come up with that, that … word?” 

Clearly, the man I was talking with hadn’t really gotten the gist of what is meant by the term, “Christian apologetics.” I explained that the Greek word for apologetics appears several times in the Bible. Probably the most well-known passage in which the word appears is I Peter 3:15. This verse uses the word apologia twice⎯ the ancient legal term meaning “to speak in defense” of something. Categories of Christian apologetics include the following:

(1) Textual apologetics—defending the trustworthiness of the Bible, then presenting the content of what it says;
(2) Evidence-based apologetics—presenting external data that provides objective confirmation of the Christian faith (such as historical or scientific facts); and
(3) Philosophical apologetics— exposing the flawed reasoning behind popular arguments against Christianity.

Apologetics addresses questions such as, Is there absolute truth? Does God exist? Is the Bible trustworthy? Was Jesus authentic? Why does God allow pain and suffering in the world? The discipline of apologetics is not about ‘apologizing’ for our faith; rather, it is about ‘speaking in defense of’ the timeless truths that we hold dear. 

All the way back in 1933 G. K. Chesterton observed the following: While it is important to win the lost to Christianity, leaders must increasingly endeavor to “convert the Christians to Christianity.”1 Chesterton’s remark was a timeless reminder that the church must be ever dedicated in its duty to pass on biblical truth to upcoming generations.

Many today reject the Bible and the very notion that there might be ultimate truth which is binding for all people. The degree of rejection impressed on me again as I recently finished writing of book entitled 10 Answers For Skeptics. I interviewed several dozen professed atheists and skeptics. In the course of handling many Q & A sessions with this modern crop of doubters, I was reminded of the vital need for churches to incorporate apologetics and worldview content into their ministries.

Let’s be clear about our language: “Worldview” refers to what some one believes. “Apologetics” is all about why we believe the things we believe. Christians today need to learn about both. Believers need to be preemptively equipped for the intellectual questions and spiritual challenges that inevitably come. Apologetics content helps by demonstrating that Christianity is credible, reasonable, and relevant.

We should never apologize for our faith, though we are commanded to exhibit sound reasoning and an authentic life as a means of demonstrating Christianity’s truthfulness (see I Peter 3:15, 2:15, and Jude 3). I am encouraged by the knowledge that one of the most well-known verses related to apologetics was written by the apostle Peter. First Peter 3:15—quoted by apologists everywhere—was penned not by Paul the theologian and philosopher, but by plainspoken Peter, the fisherman. More than ever before, we must rise to the challenge of his words and equip a generation to “always be ready.”

1. Chesterton, Gilbert Keith. Saint Thomas Aquinas, the “Dumb Ox.” Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 2009, page 20.