Tag Archives: truth

Presuppositionalism, Science, and Faith

I know I’m probably going to take a beating for writing this, but here goes, anyway.

I suppose you could say that I’m a “pressuppositionalist”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presuppositionalist – I tend to follow an apologetic approach that believes it is impossible to find “meaning in anything where man himself is at the center of the pursuit for truth and understanding”:http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa210.htm. I carry with me a “certain set of core beliefs and assumptions”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2005/04/16/saturday-april-16-2005-at-0812-pm/ that guide and govern, not only those things that I do, but also the way I fit together all knowledge into a cohesive whole.

It’s interesting – when the evolutionist looks around him and witnesses nature, “he sees millions of years of natural selection at work”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com/2006/10/mountain-musings-2-whats-god-got-to-do.html; when I look around me, I can’t but believe that _something_ had to have put all this in place. This belief is based purely in logic and observation – I just find it impossible to think that chaos at the beginning of time could have somehow found its way into some sense of organization that just naturally progressed over billions and billions of years to what we have now. That, to me, requires a much greater leap of faith than believing in an intelligent creator. From everything I’ve seen and witnessed and studied, the natural state of the universe at large tends toward entropy. Everything that currently exists is moving steadily toward a state of decay and decline, not the other way around. This has ever been the way of things. So I find it much easier to believe that everything started in a state of perfect order that somehow began a downward spiral toward chaos.

Both of these viewpoints are based on a set of presuppositions. For the evolutionist, there is no God, no creator, no intelligent designer, merely a “long process of natural selection”:http://skatje.com/?p=103, with new species adapting to their environments until we have the diversity that we see today. And natural selection makes some amount of sense, since it _is_ directly observable in the world around us – the strongest of the herd survive while the slowest, sickest, and least able to adapt die off, thus strengthening the species as a whole. I just have trouble believing that natural selection could ever have, ultimately, brought humanity into existence from a single-celled bacterium – and I have yet to see compelling evidence that states such. For the creationist (or the IDist), there must have been something intelligent and powerful to have set all this in place, that there is no way for something like this universe in which we live to have come about by chance or some evolutionary process.

Consider this – what if the all that scientific data that has been collected on the origins of the universe and the evolutions of the species can’t be trusted? Secular scientists place a lot of faith in rationality. They place man at the very center of rationality itself by presupposing that systematic, scientific study will eventually unlock all the secrets of the universe – or at least that’s the goal and hope – and this methodology _does_ and has worked in a great many areas of study and research. But what if scientific study as it relates to these two macroscopic issues has been placed in the wrong context? What if, by placing man at the center, by assuming that if we only ask the right questions and study things in as unbiased a manner as possible, what if in doing science in this manner, we are getting it wrong? What if this basic assumption in secular science has led to a great many misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the data we have?

I believe that faith and science _can_, indeed, “complement each other”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/01/05/christians-and-scientific-discussion/. When “framed in the context of an intelligent designer”:http://www.answersingenesis.org/, the scientific data that seems to lend itself so strongly for evolution yields a very different picture. And contrary to popular belief, scientists who believe in intelligent design _are_ still scientists who work within the constraints of their field. The data I’ve seen on sites like Answers in Genesis is the same data I’ve seen shown on secular science sites, with the same explanations of what it means. The difference is that Christian scientists provide alternative solutions for why some of that data might be misleading. It is unfortunate, in a way, that many of these explanations can never be verified, as they are the result of “unreproducible events”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/01/05/christians-and-scientific-discussion/#comment-8899. Similarly, neither can secular scientists prove their claims about the origins of the universe for the exact same reason. Despite objections from the secular community, Christian scientists _are_ able to provide a complete, unified response for their conclusions based on their presuppositions. And theirs is a response that makes _much_ more logical, rational sense to me than the origins answers that secular science sometimes provides.

And this is where faith bonds with science. We believe, based on a record given in the Bible, that the Earth looked a certain way during its beginning. Framing scientific data into this context provides an explanation why, for instance, “carbon dating may not be as accurate”:http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2002/carbon_dating.asp as is generally assumed by the secular scientific community. Because none of these events that various groups believe in – Creation, Big Bang, Great Flood, evolution – can actually be reproduced and examined first-hand, certain things must, by necessity, be taken with a certain measure of faith. This does not stop scientific study itself, nor should it. Mankind is, by his very nature, curious and so there is a great deal of worth to be derived from such pursuits. But the scientific community, no matter what camp, should bear in mind that personal presuppositions are going to greatly influence the way the collected data is interpreted.

So does secular rationality actually fail when faced with its own presuppositions? We can only wait and see, but I would posit that, yes, it does. Mankind is a “limited”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2006/09/05/finite-to-infinite-2/, “finite”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2006/04/05/finite-to-infinite/ creature, and as such our abilities to know and understand will always be subject to that limitation. If science, by itself, reveals anything to us with regard to the origins of everything that is, it will be that we can never know everything and that some ‘secrets’, like how the universe began or where mankind came from, will never be answered by science alone.

But don’t mind me – those’re just my presuppositions talking.

Self-myth

I found this over at “Mark’s blog”:http://fadingdust.wordpress.com the other day:

bq. p. 118: “Americans will go to almost any lengths to avoid sounding negative, pessimistic, or defeatist, even if it means being somewhat less than honest or candid. They try to stay away from topics they refer to as ‘downers’ and to stay out of conversations that ‘bring you down,’ as in down from the giddy heights of optimism and happiness. These topics include anything to do with evil or the dark side of human nature, which Americans either ignore or try to explain away, anything that suggests failure, defeat, or any kind of setback – especially with death, the ultimate setback – or anything to do with limits or limitations, such as reasons why something cannot be done, should not be tried, or is impossible.”

What does it say about American culture when a statement of this kind needs to be included in a travel guide for those coming to our country? Apparently, America really _is_ the feel-good nation of the world, where everything we do is aimed toward making ourselves feel better about our position in life and about our place in the world.

But then again, we already knew that. We’re the nation that preaches a brand of tolerance that forbids anyone else from introducing viewpoints that might conflict with these little universes we have constructed around ourselves. We’re the nation with the highest quality forms of entertainment so that we can escape the trials and hardships of life and feel better for a little while. We are a people of non-truth because relative truth makes it easier for us to create the kind of world we really want to live in.

People are not evil – they are inherently good, and those who stray to acts of evil are nothing more than products of their abusive environments. We do not fail at anything – it is always someone else’s fault when things go wrong because we absolutely know beyond doubt that we are both deserving of success in everything we do and also skilled enough to achieve success. There are no limits in life because truly if we set our minds to something, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

All myths. All lies we Americans tell ourselves because the act of facing the truth – that people really are evil at the core, requiring grace to overcome that inherent dark nature; that failure is a fact of life and that we ourselves are very often the cause of our own failures; that life is fraught with limitations and that, in many cases, just because we set our minds to accomplish something, we will never ever accomplish because we simply haven’t the ability; that, yes, we will all one day die and pass from this mortal coil – is too horrifying for us to contemplate. Somehow, the American culture has come to the conclusion that it is our right to be happy all the time and that real life has no right to infringe upon that happiness. Well, the _truth_ is that life is hard, and it is often very painful. No amount of denial or redefinition of truth will ever change that fact, no matter how hard we try to do so.

Time to face up to the facts, folks. It’s apparent that the rest of world realizes our culture lives in a cloud of delusion. Time we did so, as well. And once you’ve done this, go seek out some Christians. I can guarantee you they can tell you about a hope that makes it possible to face the world’s evil and darkness with strength and courage.

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.))

Fracture

The Society of Serpents and Doves: Ruminating on the Emergent Church

“Dr. Mark Caleb Smith”:http://www.blogger.com/profile/11310269 writes about the emergent church movement, addressing many of the same concerns that I’ve “mentioned before”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=183.

bq. How does one build authentic relationships with those in need by separating from the Body of Christ? If they are correct, then we, the organized church, is in need of change, and the emergents should be “salt” and “light” to the rest of us.

This has been one of my major criticisms of the separation of the emergent folks from the traditional church. Now, I realize that many emergents are still practicing their faith in their local churches, but from what I have been able to ascertain, even many (or most) of them are isolated from the rest of their congregations. ((Whether by their own choice or that of their peers remains unclear to me.)) But many of the emergent folks I have conversed with have stopped attending church, with most of their Christian fellowship taking place in more casual surroundings with smaller groups of people. Indeed, the question that Dr. Smith asks seems to be a valid one. How can the perceived problems and shortcomings in the church be corrected but for those who have identified them to stay and work to repair them?

Another of the blog’s “writers”:http://www.blogger.com/profile/11495817 comments:

bq. More problematic, the emergent alternative is not a return to the authority of Scripture. Often emergents emphasize multiple authorities (community, experience, creative thought or action, Scripture, church tradition, etc.), thus relegating God’s Word to just one among many.

Again, while this certainly does not describe all of those individuals who consider themselves emergent, it _is_ a trend that even I have noticed. It is, I believe, a symptom of this postmodern culture, where our own perceptions, understanding, and knowledge is suspect, where the existence of absolute truth is doubted, and where common experience is often given as much authority as established, verifiable fact. As a result the Bible’s authority is questioned – whether because we doubt its accuracy or source of truthfulness or our ability to understand the information contained therein matters little; the end result is the same – and we find ourselves falling back and relying on our own experiences and philosophical musings in our quest for truth and enlightenment. We hope that we can arrive at the truth simply by talking about it and sifting the chaff from the wheat. I do believe that there is some relevance to this approach, else all our conversations with one another would be for naught, but by relegating the Bible to a place of like authority as our own experiences, we remove any source and hope for discovering absolute truth. We become to ourselves a self-referential source for truth, and secular philosophy has proven time and again that this approach to seeking truth leaves us severely lacking. ((To some extent I almost think that some emergents are becoming more like agnostics in this regard.))

I don’t know how much of the emergent population this describes. That’s part of the problem, I fear – the emergent church is reluctant to establish a definition for itself or goals or a mission statement, since that is part of the very structure and legalism from which they are trying to escape. But I think Dr. Smith again hits the nail right on the head when he says that the emergent church is a further fracture of the Church, something which we all know is a very bad thing.

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.

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.

Postmodernism in Politics

There is no clear-cut definition for postmodernism, but it does seem to encompass two general facets of philosophy — 1) that all ‘truth’ is relative to the individual, that it is, essentially, whatever you make of it, and 2) a strong focus on relationship, both to people and to the world and nature in general. Listening to another political talk-show on the way back from New York last night, a connection clicked into place.

Politicians today are expert post-modernists in action. To them all truth is relative, subject to the whims of whoever is strong enough to sculpt it and make their message heard to the populace. Every single event is open for interpretation, and so the focus is not on finding out what happened but on putting a spin on the event that provides an advantage to one’s own party/organization/lobby group, etc. The only real truth in politics is power — how to attain it, and how to keep it. All else is relative to that. There is no such thing as truth or lies — only political advantage gained from remaking events and history so that they favor oneself. There is no such thing as good or evil — only people who serve as pawns to cast the politician in a favorable light. There are no good or bad ethics — except where it serves the politician to point out one’s own good ethics and the poor ethics of one’s opponent. Popularity is power, and politicians will do anything to gain that power and maintain it, whatever the cost. There is no concern for the people supposedly being served. There is only concern for one’s own political status.

This is the reason why we see so much mud-slinging on the political front. Since the truth does not matter, the only important thing is to make sure that when the dust settles, your opponent looks worse than you do. This is why so much of the information coming from Washington and other government sources is always cast with so much doubt — who can believe anything that comes from a politician when the only important thing to them is twisting the facts to cast themselves in the best possible light? This is why so many people are so cynical about politicians — they know they are being manipulated, and so the only thing they can hope to do is to choose the ‘best’ of all the manipulators. This is why so few politicians actually have plans for governing, and why those that do have plans cannot gain the cooperation to get them implemented — everyone is too busy playing the game of telling events as they want them to appear to actually make good and wise laws. This is the game that is played with our government and with our country. This is why we always feel have to choose the lesser of all evils when election day rolls around again. Truth is whatever the politicians can make of it for their own advantage, only that advantage has left the rest of us with the messes they don’t want to admit to because it would sully their reputations and whatever political power they have gained.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to isolate this phenomenon to just one political party or another — they are all guilty of post-modernistic politics. There are notable exceptions on both sides, of course, and we can only hope that those who approach politics with genuine honesty and integrity can have some influence on the rest. I fear, though, that it is a losing battle, that all politicians will ultimately end up being dirty, rotten liars, that ultimately our nation will fall because our leaders are too busy twisting the facts to recognize real danger when it rears its ugly head. The irony of all this is that in a democratic society such as ours, we are the ones who give the politicians power. We are the ones who keep electing the same liars and manipulators to office, the ones who twist facts and events to suit their purposes. What is more frustrating is that we can elect politicians who seem honest, only to find out they are no better than their counterparts. The world of politics today is fraught with dishonest men, and finding the honest ones is becoming harder and harder to do.

This is why I believe we need more Christians in politics, not to push their religious agendas, but to restore a measure of honesty and integrity to the positions of power that guide our nation. It’s not an easy job, but I have a deep respect for those few who can gain those seats, maintain their integrity, and wield power with wisdom, despite the overwhelming force of dishonesty that they face. Pray for our leaders on a regular basis. It’s a tough job they choose, and it is made at least somewhat easier by the support of people who care about bringing politics to a place of truth and integrity.

Pointless Speculation

When does “speculation become pointless?”:http://open-dialogue.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1526#1526 Just how many times can one ask, ‘What if…?’ before one ends up beating a dead horse? There are a lot of questions asked within the realm of Christianity and theology, a lot of arguments and discussions that can be viewed as pointless because the answers can never be fully known, because many of the conclusions are left to the individual’s opinion and discretion, because the discussion ends up only spinning its wheel, cycling again and again through the same arguments and logic. Are these questions and discussions then, in and of themselves, pointless? I would say, Not necessarily.

The backbone of most theological questions within Christianity rests upon the assumption that God exists, that He is active in the lives of His image-bearers, that we are in need of His salvation, that His Son provided the means to obtain that salvation, and that we only need accept that gift in order to permanently secure our place in Heaven in eternity to come. Everything else is, to some extent, up for discussion once you have accepted these foundational principles. I believe that God expects His children to be curious about everything, to ask questions, even if those questions have no answers right now. I think it hurts nothing at all to entertain speculative discussion, so long as that undertaking does not result in anger, hatred, and bitterness. It is all too easy to formulate an opinion about something and then hold to that opinion so strongly as to consider it proven truth.

The point of speculative discussion is, I believe, to ferret out falsehoods, as much as possible, and replace them with Biblical truths. God has provided for us everything that we NEED to know through the medium of the Bible — everything that we need in order to know Him, to enter into a relationship with Him, to live a righteous and moral life that is pleasing to Him. What He doesn’t tell us or leaves unclear is, therefore, less important, though no less open to our searching. I believe that it pleases Him when we entertain those questions that have no answers because it means that His image-bearers are exercising the image of God by thinking critically, using creativity, and discovering the vast intricacies and mysteries of this world, this universe in which He placed us. But I believe that it displeases and saddens Him when this exercise of His image results in conflict with each other and with Him.

So, ask your questions, entertain your ‘pointless’ discussions, but bear in mind that all this should bring glory to God and should be done with the end of learning more about this God we serve and to deepen and make richer the fellowship of the Body of Christ.