Tag Archives: absolute-truth

Give Me Simplicity

There are many times during the course of my immersion into the realms of science fiction and fantasy, whether it be reading books, watching shows or movies, etc., when I wish that I could experience aspects of those cultures first-hand. For instance, in the short-lived show _Firefly_, two cultures merged into one when humanity abandoned Earth. The predominant world superpowers at that time were the United States and China. So, when new worlds were terraformed and then populated by Earth’s refugees, it wasn’t long before most inhabitants of this new solar system were bi-lingual, speaking English primarily but switching over to Mandarin in moments of high emotion.

In Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon cycle, the culture of Britain in the early days after Jesu left his mark on the world was rich with history, symbolism, and faith. The mere image of the cross was enough to spark strong emotional and behavioral reactions in the followers of the Great Light, of the one True God. You can believe that nothing in their faith was taken for granted.

What it comes down to is this – I see in many Americans a shallowness that borders on being depressing. I don’t believe it always used to be this way. Early on in our nation’s history, national pride was treasured, cherished. It was important to be known as an American, important enough to die for, as many did. Today it seems that so many of our citizens are almost ashamed to be called Americans, thinking that to claim such is to be pretentious and arrogant in the eyes of the world. We are becoming American in name only, with so many having no concept of the pride that goes with being called such.

So, too, in our churches and in our faith. We are becoming Christian in name only, and that often only barely. Cultural shallowness has begun to penetrate our minds, our hearts, our churches so that our ministries become less effective, less robust. As both Americans and as Christians, we are losing our culture, those elements that root us in what we are and in what we believe. The cross of Christ has become less of an integral, necessary part of our belief system and more of a digitized placeholder of faith whereupon we look and remark in a distracted manner about how important it is to our faith.

A recent email conversation among some friends has addressed this topic from the perspective of the church’s affluence. The problem posed at the outset of the discussion is that of the presence of “fancy buildings… sound systems, and the musical instruments, and the hundreds of different colors of papers, and the power point programs, and twenty children’s programs and all associated materials.” These are all things that most of our churches today seem to think they require in order to function and minister effectively. We seem to require that our auditoriums be air conditioned and that crying children be removed from the service, that the drums not be played too loudly (or at all) and that the pastor have the appropriate level of pious humility if we are to be expected to worship at all. ((Email correspondence))

There are several things that I believe have contributed to the current state of affairs in our churches. The first is that the increased development of technology has pushed the pace of culture into hypersonic speeds. Information and data travel at a breakneck rate nowadays, and most of us have noticed that life has moved into not just the fast lane but into the ultra-fast lane. We have less time now than we ever did, and what free time we have we fill with activities that are, essentially, needless. We are constantly inundated with more and more information that we must sort through and process, and as a result we have become detached from those things that are truly important, things like God, faith, and family. This is contributor number one to the shallowness of culture.

The second contributor is the shift toward post-modern philosophy. Truth is no longer what it once was. It has become an ethereal entity that cannot be grasped. Indeed, truth has become little more than a vapor, a thing that is seen – and then only just barely – before it is caught up by the wind and blown away. We try to clasp it in our hands so that we may know it, yet it slips through our fingers and goes on its merry way, leaving us wondering if it was ever real to begin with. This is the way popular culture sees truth today, as an insubstantial, ever-changing entity that is unique to each individual. Truth has many faces, so that it may look different to each individual who views it, even changing in form to a single person depending on the circumstances surrounding its pursuit. We are continually losing the notion that truth is, in fact, static and stable, never-changing, steady throughout the ages. The Enemy attacks the idea of absolute truth because those who do not believe in it are merely sheep to be led to the slaughter. The disappearance of absolute truth has contributed to the shallowness of culture and the loss of those things which are most important. Now what is most important is determined by each person privately and may look vastly different from what is most important to the next person.

The third contributor has already been mentioned – the affluence of culture. As another contributor to the conversation stated, it seems that “the more STUFF we have around us, the more FAITH we need.” I do not believe that this is just limited to material possessions, either. I have watched as men fill their heads with more and more knowledge and ‘facts’, information that they learn and catalogue. In so doing they see less and less of God’s presence in the world and in creation and less need for something outside of themselves to provide truth and to make sense of those things that happen that we simply cannot explain. We are an affluent culture, both in the things we _own_ and in the things we _know_. The more things we have, the more we become distracted by them and the less we see a need for God. It is the _things_ that then become important because we must maintain them, maintain a certain way of life, maintain traditions that we have become comfortable with and that continue to make us comfortable. The things take a place of higher precedence, usurping God and pushing faith into the background. We continue to believe that we have faith, but all we are really left with is a dependency upon things that, when taken from us, cause us to come crashing down because, in pushing faith aside, we have struck our own foundation out from under ourselves. The acquisition and collection of things contributes to a shallow culture and a faith that is sorely taken for granted. Things are temporal; faith is not, yet we seem to have gotten the two in reverse.

I find myself yearning after some of the things I read in my fiction, not as a substitute for my faith but as a return to a simpler way of doing things, a way that eliminates so many of our distractions and restores a richness to culture and to faith that has been lost in today’s hustle and bustle of activity. I think perhaps what most appeals to me about Chinese culture, in some ways, is the richness of it, the legacy of history that inspires millions to both national pride and devotion (though even that is being lost as Western culture invades the Chinese borders). There is a power within a national legacy that the cultures of both America and American Christianity seem to lack. We have become shallow people, abhoring and rejecting that which is most important in favor of pursuing those things that are most important to _us_, our selfish and narcissistic ideals. That is what our culture has told us is important, to what and to seek out that which _we_ want, rather than what our Creator God deems important.

A return to simplicity is needed, I think, in order to return us to our roots, so that we may find again the awe of our faith and the power of God in our lives. I believe that the icons of our faith can once again become powerful, no longer taken for granted as just another pretty picture on a wall or a decorative item to be viewed and then dismissed. I also think that simplicity can be communicable, a contagion that can spread through the Church and returning it to a place where the important things are remembered and the unimportant set aside and forgotten.

Yet, I think in order for that to happen, simplicity must first take place within each one of us separately, as we extract those things in our lives that prevent us making the most of the time we have here in this life – the possessions that demand our interest, the activities that require our time, the pursuit of more knowledge and facts that only serve to distract from serving our Lord. It is in the doing and living that makes the most impact on others, that demonstrates that we do not, in actuality, require most of the things we cling to with such ferocity, that we can really be happy and content with less. It is not, and will not, be an easy process, no. But I think more and more that it is a necessary one if we as a Church in America wish to again be salt and light in our culture. We do not yet see that we need less because we are blinded by our own affluence, but there are Christians in many other countries who pray that Christians in America will face the persecution that strips away all the unnecessary things so that we will once again remember Who it is we serve and remember again what business it is we are to be about.

Less is more. Jesus knew this. It is why he taught time and again that for any man to follow Him, he must first give up all he had and then follow Him. Would that we should remember that.

Nothing More Than Feelings

“Follow your heart.”
“Do what feels right.”
“If it feels good, how can it be bad?”

Do any of these sound familiar? And this one may _seem_ like it’s different from the three above, but it’s not:

“You have to do what’s right for you.”

These are some of the most common phrases heard in our culture today. Postmodernism has infiltrated just about every aspect of our lives. Truth is no longer conceived of in absolute terms, so people are free to determine truth for themselves. ((Do you see the irony in that statement?)) Ultimately, what happens is that people use themselves for their reference point, since in a relative-truth world there _can_ be no other reference point than one’s own experience. More specifically, people end up using their own feelings and emotions to guide them because feelings are powerful, salient, and readily available.

There are two major problems with this system. The first is that feelings are inherently self-serving. This is not necessarily a problem all the time, since our feelings are a prime motivator for protecting our hearts from emotional harm at the hands of another. Where the problem comes in is when following our feelings causes us to pursue our own wants and desires, everyone else be damned. I have seen many people hurt because someone else ‘followed their heart’, making decisions that were ultimately detrimental to other people around them.

The second problem leads logically from the first. Feelings are not always accurate reflections on reality. In essence, just because I happen to feel a certain way does not necessarily mean that the situation at hand fits well with that feeling. For instance, I can feel supremely confident about my ability to handle Situation B because I feel great about the way I handled Situation A (which is, in my mind, similar or related to Situation B). But I quickly find, upon taking on the tasks of Situation B, that I do not, in fact, have the ability to handle Situation B at all, thus I fail. The mistake here is in trusting my feelings to guide me because they were not giving me an accurate picture of the situation.

We live in such an individualistic society that pursuing our own needs, wants, and desires before those of others is simply a matter of course. It’s so natural and instinctive that we do it without even thinking about it. So, it’s logical that our philosophies have changed to more easily allow us to do this. Now, we justify our selfishness and self-involvement by urging each other to follow our hearts and to do what feels right, even when what feels right really isn’t. We are quickly losing any sense of what is true and good and right, except for what we determine for ourselves. Yet, somehow, we have failed to see that people are themselves flawed and prone to mistakes. So, how can people who make mistakes somehow determine what is true and right based upon their own flawed feelings? Yet we do so every day.

Feelings do compliment the decision-making process quite well. Yet, feelings are also unruly and fickle, changing almost at the drop of a hat. Feelings make terrific servants but horrible masters, and as such, they must be governed and controlled as best as possible. No decision should _ever_ be made exclusively at the behest of the emotions. Such a thing is risky because the emotions can, and will, deceive. Logic and rationality must win out when making decisions. They can, however, consult the emotions, but the message of the emotions must be taken with a grain of salt. That niggling sense of fear could tell you that something is wrong about your decision, that maybe there are other factors that need to be considered; or that fear could simply be the fear of stepping into a new situation. Emotions can provide indicators of what _might_ be, but they should not be relied upon to tell you what _is_.

Keep a short leash on those feelings. And whenever someone tells you to just do what feels right, remind them that there is a better way. Engage that brain and push the heart to the background. Letting your heart rule over your mind is surefire way to get yourself into deep trouble. ((By the way, following one’s heart can be good when pursuing one’s dreams. Just make sure that in doing so, you aren’t stepping on everyone around you, that you are considering more than just your own personal needs and desires.))

Progressive

It’s strange – even though I’ve alluded to the fact that most of my views and beliefs tend to fall at (0,0) on the “Cartesian coordinate system”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartesian_coordinate_system, I still tend to think of myself as a full-fledged conservative. Maybe this is because I know for a fact that I am not a liberal and from what I can determine, my philosophies don’t even fit cleanly into the traditional moderate worldview. I just know that whenever I hear someone refer to ‘conservatives’ or ‘religious fundamentalists’ or whatever, I immediately think, “Oh, so-and-so is talking about me,” which is, strictly speaking, not actually true. They _are_ talking about the people with whom I tend to associate, but ideologically speaking, even I tend to fall outside of those same groups.

I think what it really boils down to is that when I hear the word ‘liberal,’ I think of someone who does not believe that absolute truth exists, that truth and reality are both what you make of them for yourself, who believe in evolution and the Big Bang, and who tend to espouse and follow religiously liberal political agendas. Conversely, when I hear the word ‘conservative,’ I think of someone who _does_ believe in absolute truth (and that that truth can actually be known and practiced), that there is a fundamental and unchanging foundation for truth that is external to the human experience, who, at the very least, tend to doubt that evolution is a valid scientific theory and who, instead, see ample evidence for some sort of intelligent design in nature, and who tend to espouse and follow religiously conservative political agendas. When I see these two definitions, the one that seems to fit me best is ‘conservative’, and so it is the way in which I most instinctively think of myself.

Of course, conservative and liberal are two extremes in a somewhat linear system. ((I could actually expand it to a planar system, but a single line keeps things simpler.)) I think Scott Garber stated it best when he said in one issue of his newsletter that we should not be liberal, conservative, or moderate, but rather we should be progressive, striving always to improve our thinking and improve the cultural, social, and religious systems in which we live. My biggest gripe with true liberals, conservatives, and moderates alike is that so often they fail to actually use the grey matter encapsulated within their skulls. Too often I see and hear people spout the standard party line that is typical of whatever ideology they follow, and I wonder if they have ever really thought that ideology through to its logical conclusion. Mind you, I don’t expect that everyone who thinks through an issue will automatically arrive at the same conclusions I have, since everyone starts from a slightly different set of presuppositions. But I _would_ hope that by engaging in “metasystemic thinking”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=444, one would be able to revise and alter those presuppositions and, by association, the accompanying conclusions based from those presuppositions.

I hesitate to start calling myself ‘progessive.’ I’m not one to quickly jump onto a bandwagon and rally to a label or banner. And without providing the appropriate context necessary for understanding, labeling oneself ‘progessive’ could be easily seen as pretentious. Yet, in every area of my life and my thinking, progression is exactly what I seek. I seek to progress toward truth and understanding, toward righteous living, and away from untruth and falsehood and selfish, vain lifestyles.

So I view myself as conservative when in reality I am more progressive in nature, and I wish that more people were like that, willing to actually question their beliefs and examine them. In the end, I think it’s ok if they find that they do still actually believe all those things; it is certainly their right and their freedom to, whether those beliefs are right or wrong. But I do think it’s important that everyone know and understand _why_ they believe and live by the things they do, be able to defend them by arguing for them intelligently and with evidence. Call it a product of postmodern culture, but every year I see fewer and fewer people who are able to do this, who simply take on whatever belief systems _feels_ good to them, never fully understanding or grasping what philosophy it is they live by.

I’ve said it before, certainly, but I think this is why I devote so much of my time and energy to writing in a public place – to examine my own thinking and philosophies in a critical manner, and to cause others to examine their own in a similar fashion. We’re not mindless robots, people, and it is our personal responsibility to know _what_ we believe and _why_ because someday, we _will_ have to answer for our choices.

Literal Truth

Rushan had a question posed to him recently that requires some attention, I believe:

bq. “I can no longer accept the Bible as literally true, am I still a Christian?”

If you read my “previous article”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=213, you should already know the answer to this: Yes, so long as acknowledge and accept the message of the Gospel. More specifically, so long as you recognize your inability to attain Heaven on your own and accept the person of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and subsequent resurrection as your only hope for salvation. If you are able to do and say that, then yes, you are still a Christian.

I might express some concern, however, over what parts of the Bible you consider to be literal and what parts you do not. If you do not believe _any_ part of the Bible to be literally accurate, then we might have a problem, for then what foundation do you have for knowing the only truth that matters, to wit, how to know God and live with Him for eternity? If you cannot believe any part of the Bible to be literally true, then you cannot know whether or not the Gospel itself is true, rendering impotent its power to save. Likewise, you cannot then know that God exists, you cannot then know that He loves you and wishes to have fellowship with you, you cannot then know much of anything except for what your own five senses can tell you – and we know just how deceptive and misleading our senses can sometimes be.

I stated previously, as well, that historical passages of Scripture should be interpreted literally, things like the existence of people who appeared in the various stories (e.g. Abraham, David, Jesus, Paul, etc.) and geographical locations. Archaeology have even been able to verify much of the historicity of the Bible, thus giving it a great deal of authority. The trouble with literal interpretation comes with prophecy and imagery-laden parables. Prophecies are sometimes difficult to interpret, though at least partial interpretations were provided by many of the prophets themselves. But because they are visions of future events, I suspect that some of the prophets could only do their best to describe technologies they had never before seen (such as John the Revelator describing his vision of the end times). Whether we were ever meant to know and completely understand is something of a mystery, but it seems clear that much was given in such visions to provide both warning and hope to those who heard. Christ’s parables were told in such a way as to make those people who would to ruminate over the meaning, but He was also not opposed to providing clear meaning to those who asked (typically His inner circle of twelve).

I do believe that the Bible is a wholly trustworthy document. It’s accuracy has been verified time and again all the way back to the earliest manuscripts, and as such, it holds a great deal of authority and power. It continues to change lives merely by the simplest reading of its pages, further demonstrating that the Holy Spirit has preserved it and uses it to bring God’s children to Himself.

Dealing Truth with Grace

Back from the weekend internet desert…

bq. Jim,
OK…now here’s the dilemma I find I get myself into…but I feel you can help me clarify this in my mind. I believe in absolute truth. And yet, in situations like you’ve described here, with the Hindu, (very similar to what I deal with on my blog in some ways with some of the visitors I get) how do you declare that your truth is absolute without offending them to the point that you can’t be agreeable? I sometimes feel like I don’t speak the truth plainly enough and yet, I do…I really think I do. I don’t know. Can you give me a word of encouragment about this…”#”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=108#comment-269

Good question. Honestly, I think the way you would handle this is going to vary a bit, depending on your audience. To some extent, we have to do exactly as Christ instructed — declare our faith with boldness. Sure, this is going to offend some people, maybe even a lot of people, but Christianity is offensive to those who want to live life on their own terms. They don’t like to be told that the things they do and believe, that the way they have lived their lives is wrong and displeasing to an Almighty God. But the only way they are going to know is if someone tells them.

Now, this does not mean that we have to be harsh and cruel about it. Tact is a virtue. With people who are more understanding and not quick to anger, I am usually able to speak with a greater degree of frankness without having to worry about using exactly the right phrases and words to avoid stepping on their personal sensibilities. With people who are, in my opinion, more insecure, I try to speak openly and honestly about what I believe and why without using dialogue that is abrasive. Essentially, I share what I believe, that I hold that my beliefs are right and true and the _only_ way to live and believe, without trying to force anyone to believe as I do. I try to always make it clear that I can’t make anyone think the way I do and that I am not trying to. Part of this requires me to treat the viewpoints and opinions of others with respect, even if I disagree, and if I can poke holes in their arguments, I will do so (even though this is not usually well-received). But part of discoursing about what is truth and what is not requires people to talk and share and pick apart each others’ arguments.

One of my favorite philosophers is Francis Schaeffer, and it was his ministry to tear apart the inaccurate philosophies and worldviews and demonstrate why those philosophies could not be held with any kind of consistency. He showed time and again how the philosophy of the Bible was the only one that could be adhered to consistently. Yet, he was not ‘offensive’ about it, _per se_, though he offended a great many people by demonstrating the untruths of their philosophies.

It is impossible to live the Christian life well without offending other people. Christ said that we would be hated by the world for our beliefs, and we see this every day. But it is possible to have agreeable discourse with those who disagree with our beliefs. Really, I think the biggest part of attaining this is maintaining respect for people who disagree. Those Christians who lose respect with the world and who find they cannot minister effectively are typically those who treat the world with condescension and snide behavior. It is impossible to share Christ when you make yourself better than Christ.

Tension

There is a tension inherent in holding the belief that morals are absolute but in recognizing that one cannot force once’s value system on everyone else. Specifically, I hold to the notion that moral standards are absolute — they do not change over time. The same moral standards that were right and good yesterday are still right and good today. At the same time, I also believe that there is room, within reason, for personal freedom for one to choose what morals they believe are right and good and to live by them. That is part of what America and democracy are about, allowing people to live as they will. I live by the ideal that people should live by what is right and good and be held accountible to that standard. Yet, I am stuck with the reality that not everyone agrees on what is right and good, and so the definitions of such are going to vary from person to person. It is also not within my right to make anyone accept or embrace my own beliefs. I can possibly persuade others that I am right, and then teach them to live by the system that I embrace, but I can only do so after they are convinced that it is the right way to live.

I would say that morals are both subjective and objective — subjective insofar as nearly everyone will have, at the least, subtly different notions of what is right and good and just, objective insofar as I believe that there is one, and only one, code of morals that is actually right and true. Some people believe that the standard for morality can only be found within oneself, that one can only discover their personal value system by working it out for themselves, since there is no other true and stable source for such truth. Other people believe in God (or a god or gods) as the source for the standard of morality, looking beyond the fluid system of their own mind and heart to something they consider to be stable and much more permanent and unchanging. For the religious this is not so difficult to believe, but for the non-religious and the atheist, this is a difficult pill to swallow. One must first be convinced of the existence of a God before one can believe that He could serve as the standard for morality.

Morality only becomes out-of-date because men themselves change, and when men, who serve as their own moral standards, change so then must their moral systems. We have seen many such changes over the past couple of hundred years since this nation’s founding, a greater acceptance of a wider range of behavior. This has, in many cases, been a good thing, but in others it has been a very bad thing. Where such changes have been good, in my observation, are in those places where the conservative (read, ‘legalistic’) right has relinquished their militant hold on beliefs that are actually very judgmental and hateful and, for the religious, have no basis in Scripture. Where such changes have been bad are in those areas where the liberal left has been more ‘tolerant’ of traditionally deviant behaviors that have, in so many cases, caused so much heartache. But such behavior has been allowed to exist, within legal limits, in the name of freedom and permitting people to build, or destroy, their lives as they see fit.

Of course for me, this creates a tension. I hold to this standard of morality that has been defined by the God I serve, a standard that, when lived by as described in Scripture, provides nothing but joy and peace and healthy living. I want others to know this standard, to live by it, and experience the joy of a lifestyle that shuns self-destructive behaviors, that gives respect to all men, and that embraces only those things that are good and right. Some Christians wish the same, but in such a way as to become forceful and offensive in trying to make other people believe as they do. When they are rebuffed again and again, frustration naturally crops up, leading to anger and bitterness and hatred. These Christians forget, in their anger, that they are called to reject these feelings; instead, they allow themselves to be controlled by them. Much damage is done in the name of Christ, as a result, further adding to my own tension (and I am not alone in this, I am sure), as I work to persuade others of my own viewpoint while working both against destructive Christians and antagonistic unbelievers. (There are also still a great many of the aforementioned legalistic Christians who, while I share some of their beliefs, carry many hateful rules and regulations that I believe are very unbiblical. More tension.)

Tension is part of life, part of the nature of the human condition, part of what it means to be a community of people who live together in relative peace but who sometimes hold very different beliefs. It is only for me to share my beliefs with others in a way that is bold and confident, yet respectful and peaceful. If I can convince others that God exists and that His way of doing things really is best, then glory be given to Him. If I cannot then I can do nothing more than continue to boldly proclaim the tried-and-true beliefs that serve as the guiding light in my life.

Laws and Morals

I love getting feedback, whether it be to one of my own articles or to a comment left on another site, and I certainly have plenty to think on and respond to today.

bq. I agree that “what is right for me is not right for everyone” does not apply to laws – Laws are absolute. It does however apply to morals, as morals are subjective. Everyone’s morals differ – Some people have stronger morals than others. Some people have no morals at all. For instance, how is it morally acceptable in some regions for a man to have multiple wives, but it is morally wrong in other areas for that same occurence. Vegans think it is morally wrong for you to eat meat, but that doesn’t strike me as being a bad thing. I also don’t find it morally wrong for two men to have sex, but there is a large population of people who do find it wrong. “#”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=103#comment-246

The question that I have that comes immediately to mind here is this — are not all our _absolute_ laws based on _subjective_ morals, according to this reasoning? Does this not then make said laws subjective? How does something based on subjectivity somehow gain absolutivity? All laws in all nations are based on some set of morals. This is a necessity. It is, in fact, the only possibility. Laws are the practical application of an abstract value. If we follow this reasoning through to its logical conclusion, then we have to admit that anyone can establish and follow any laws that they want, since they are based on some value system, some system of morality that is relative to the individual. Since your moral system is different than mine, then your laws cannot apply to me, unless I agree with whatever moral your law is based upon. In essence, if I kill someone, I am justified, so long as my moral system allows for the killing of another human being. You cannot apply your intolerant law against murder to me because your law is based on your value that murder is wrong, a value which I happen to disagree with. Your moral, and hence your law, is not right for me and therefore cannot be applied to me, since it would restrict my freedom to do and believe as I choose.

In actual practice, of course, we see that this simply cannot work. Laws exist so that large groups of people may live together in peace. This is the primary reason, I believe, why government exists, to enforce the peace. Laws, however, _must_ be based on some set of morality. Laws are practical statements of morals. The local governing body simply bases their laws upon those values that are most likely to ensure the greatest amount of peace and least amount of conflict. Sometimes, they get it right; sometimes they don’t. In the case of the previous example, someone has to decide what value to enforce in order to keep the peace and the one that works best is enforcing the sanctity of life. (Notice that this is a functional, rather than an ethical, definition at the moment, one that ignores any mention of right and wrong.)

bq. So the fact remains that as long as abortion IS legal in certain areas, it is a moral issue and not a law. When it is a moral issue, the morality of it is personal to each person who thinks on it. So, in your opinion, abortion is morally wrong. I however live in an area where abortion is legal, and although I do not agree with the reasons why a lot of women have abortions, I do not think that I am one to judge someone for their decision to have one, as their morals are obviously different than my own.

Everything is a moral issue. Every deed, every thought, every word spoken is based upon some moral. But as I have stated before, laws are also based upon morals, and what legalizing abortion says to me is that it is ok to commit murder, so long as the child is not yet born. Of course, the underlying value here that is the real center of debate is whether a fetus can be called human. I know of few people who do not at least _claim_ to value the sanctity of life. The difference in the argument centers on the fact that some people believe human life begins at conception and some believe that human life begins at birth. This is both a philosophical and theological point and not one that is likely to be settled anytime soon, since science cannot seem to adequately answer this question (lending further proof to my conclusion that science is ill-equipped to handle the questions of beginnings, but that is an argument for another time). Unfortunately, this also means that the abortion debate will not be settled anytime soon, either.

Subjectivity of Truth

For me, the fact remains that what is right for one person may not be right for everyone.

I really hate this argument in most instances in which it crops up. It is essentially the admission of the individual that they do not believe in absolute truth, not surprising considering the postmodern philosophy of the vast majority of our culture. But I generally dislike this argument, despite the fact that it does at times have legitimate applicability. It reminds me of schoolyard children taunting each other with, “I know you are, but what am I?” It has always held for me, perhaps unfairly, that tone and that attitude of superiority and condescension toward the opinions of others. It is not even so simple as the individual who says this implying that they disagree with another opinion and are just too polite to say so; often, the individual really believes that what is right for you may not be right for me.

For personal preferences, this argument makes sense. For instance, chocolate ice cream may be my favorite, but because vanilla might be your favorite, then chocolate is not right for you. And because there are no laws or moral or ethical rules that dictate that chocolate must be everyone’s favorite, it is completely legitimate in this case to say that what is right for you may not be right for me.

Where it comes to laws and morals, however, there are absolutes, so what is right for me must also, necessarily, be right for you. I cannot commit murder. It is immoral and illegal. There are laws against such behavior, and justice is meted out for such crimes. All people are governed by laws against murder, and so there is an absolute measure for what is right and what is wrong in murder.

The waters have been muddied where it comes to abortion, though. Somehow, a fetus is not considered human until it is born. Legally, it has no rights, not even the right to live. It is completely up to the whims of the mother to determine whether or not the child — excuse me, the fetus, the _parasite_ — is brought to term. Traditional emphases on the value of all human life are tossed aside. It became convenient to think of the unborn as less than human because then there is no conflict, no guilt involved with terminating a tiny life. What was once straightforward thinking has now become shaded in gray — what is right for you may not be right for me. You may choose to have your baby, but that may not be the right thing for _me_ to do. The emphasis is on the self, with little thought given to life growing inside the womb.

It is all very convenient when truth becomes subjective. The only person I have to answer to, then, is myself.

Standards of Truth and Righteousness

I continue to be befuddled by those who would claim that absolute truth does not and cannot exist. I am also somewhat bemused by this because I find such individuals cannot remain true to their own arguments and philosophies. Their arguments claim that it is impossible to know truth because every determination of what is true is tainted and colored by the interpretation of that truth and by one’s own experiences, thus leading to many different understandings of what that truth actually says and means. Naturally, the more complicated the concept, the greater the deviation in understanding that truth (though I would posit that a complex truth is really actually made up of many smaller, individual truths, which easily understood separately, may combine to create a concept whose relationship between the smaller truths may be more difficult to observe and determine, yet not negating the truth of either the smaller truths or that of the composite truth).

Now, I have also talked with non-absolutists (as I will refer to them here) who have said that such-and-such act is or was wrong or evil. My response then becomes, Well, how do you do know? By what standard do you compare such an act to determine its level of good or evil, or its degree of rightness or wrongness? For anything to be considered in terms of morality (and the need to conceive of the world in such terms is obvious and necessary and inherent in all men, as evidenced by the natural inclination to establish rules and laws in order to keep the peace), there must be an absolute standard by which that morality can be measured. In the world of weights and measures, for instance, there are standards for all units — an object measured out to be the standard for the gram, or the liter, or the centimeter, etc. All all larger units are based upon these smaller, more basic standards so that measurement around the world may be consistent and uniform. It is the same with truth and morality. The rub seems to come in because these are more abstract concepts, not observable through any of the five senses. Yet the world functions in terms of morality, as it must in order to prevent its descent into anarachy and chaos.

So, there must be some standard for truth that is knowable and attainable and that can be standardized across the entire population. Men have tried using rationality as a basis for determining truth, and ultimately they are able only to return to the self as a standard, since that is the very origin of the rational mind, themselves a shifting morass of thoughts, ideas, emotions, and opinions. It should be obvious that this is not an ideal reference point due to that very continuous shift. Therefore, the standard of truth must lie elsewhere.

Science itself is not an adequate standard of truth. It is an ever-changing source of knowledge as its observations become more acute and the knowledge gleaned from its studied more comprehensive. And science addresses only those things that are directly observable; there is no ability for it to address the truth of good and evil, moral and immoral, those concepts that are often most necessary for the daily exercise of living. Therefore, the standard of truth must lie elsewhere.

Creation is not equipped to answer the truth of good and evil, to establish standards of moral and immoral, much for the same reasons as science cannot. Creation is observable and supplies only those truths that we can see, even though we may not be able to understand them fully. It has no voice to speak to the abstract, to the intellectual knowledge that governs the behavior of men. Therefore, the standard of truth must lie elsewhere.

So, the standard for truth would most likely belong to a sentient being, one gifted with a mind to fully know the secrets, both of the universe and of the ways of mankind, with a vision of the whole so complete that it could speak the knowledge into the hearts and minds of men, teaching them how they should live so that they may act with wisdom and live at peace with each other. Such an individual cannot be found among men, creatures who by their very definition are confined to and limited by the world they inhabit. Only an individual who is outside of the known universe, yet lives within it so as to interact with it, would be able to hold the entirety of it within their mind and be able to know it so completely as to speak the truth into it that would give men a standard by which they could govern their lives. This being would have to be a personal being, for no other would be able to establish the relationship with mankind to communicate the truth by which men may live.

There is One who claims to be all this and more, and who may be determined, through the testing of His precepts, to be the absolute standard of all truth. He is wise and all-knowing, greater than all existence, personal and knowable. His words are the truth and the way of life. His name is Jehovah.