CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Truth, Tolerance, Reality and Religion

Oct 20, 2011

We live in such idiotic and PC times, that the very notion of truth is now seen as a dirty word. Indeed, as I have documented here so often, truth is now seen as hate speech by the radical lobby groups and their judicial activist buddies.

The war against truth has been going on for some time now. The postmodern aversion to truth has swept through the Western world like a nasty plague and has infected everything. As a result, common sense, a grasp on reality, and meaning itself have all gone missing.

Now anytime someone stands up for truth, they are immediately slammed as being bigoted, intolerant, narrow-minded and exclusivist. But what these folks do not seem to understand is that truth by definition has to be all these things.

One of the most basic laws of logic, the law of noncontradiction, makes this clear. This law states that A cannot be non-A. In the words of Aristotle, “one cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time”. No two contradictory statements can both be true at the same time and in the same sense.

If it is true that I am now typing this on my computer (and it is true) then it cannot be true that I am now not typing this on my computer. It is simple stuff really, and is exactly how the world operates all the time. And we can apply the same laws of logic to the religious sphere as well.

If it is true, as the Christian faith proclaims, that Jesus died and rose from the dead, then Islam, which vigorously denies this, cannot be true, at least in this regard. According to Islam Jesus most assuredly did not die and rise from the dead. Thus both religions cannot be true, at least in this respect. One must be false.

Now a Muslim will find these truth claims of Christianity to be intolerant and offensive. But that is how truth operates. If something is true, all contradictions of it cannot be true. In our postmodern times, anyone making such religious truth claims appears to be the epitome of intolerance and arrogance.

But again, if there is such a thing as truth, then there of necessity must also be such a thing as falsehood. If the claims of Christ are true, then the claims of other religious leaders are not; at least insofar as they contradict what Jesus said. So truth will always seem to be narrow and intolerant to someone.

But as already noted, truth of necessity is always going to be quite narrow, exclusive and restrictive. If 2 + 2 = 4 is true, then all other combinations are out. Two plus two will never equal five, or six, or seven, or eight, or nine, and so on. Some people may find such limitations to be too narrow or intolerant, but so what? In the real world, that is how things operate.

Given that I have been doing a lot of flying of late, just consider how intolerant and exclusive the world of flight is. Airplanes have to conform to a very narrow and rigid set of conditions. They must conform to the laws of aerodynamics, the law of gravity, and laws of physics, and so on.

They have to be designed just so, in order to function. A slight change in design, in planning, and in a whole range of factors, will mean that a plane will simply not fly. And a pilot has to operate according to a very narrow range of conditions as well. If he does not do everything according to the book, the plane will not get off the ground. Or if it does, it may well crash, killing all on board.

The architects, designers, engineers and craftsmen who build airplanes work within a very narrow field of parameters. And we are all glad they do. So too with pilots – they need to operate according to very rigid and tight conditions, or else they will endanger everyone.

We are all glad that everyone involved in the construction and flying of airplanes are not relativists. We are all glad that they are sticklers about truth and reality. We are all thankful they stick to objective truth and universal reality, instead of insisting that all truth is relative and subjective.

The same goes for getting to your destination. If I board a flight from Melbourne to Brisbane (which I will do tomorrow), I do not want a postmodern pilot who thinks truth is whatever is determined by the individual or the group. I want a pilot who knows that there is a very narrow range of options for getting me to Brisbane.

The truth is, there are no postmodern pilots, just as there are no postmodern aircraft builders. They all eschew foolish talk of truth being in the eyes of the beholder, and realise instead that truth is that which conforms to reality. They know that truth is not 99 shades of gray, but instead is very much black and white.

A postmodern pilot might just as easily fly me to Perth: “Hey, truth is relative, and what you call Brisbane I call Perth. Who’s to say anyone has the real truth about this?” Yeah right, try telling that to the next plane-ful of passengers. That clown would be looking for a new job real fast.

The same with the rest of life. When I go to the medicine cabinet and pull out a bottle of medicine, I carefully read the instructions. Everyone does. There are no postmodern pill poppers. We all study the instructions and believe that the warnings provided there are meant to be taken quite seriously and truthfully.

When the label says “Do not exceed 200 mls” or whatever, everyone reads that as if it were true. No one then buys the po mo baloney about truth being whatever we make it to be. And no one argues that it is intolerant to insist on following those very narrow instructions. That is how the real world operates, and that is how all of us operate.

But that is certainly not how things operate in most of our universities. There the malicious poison of postmodernism, and its ugly twin sister, deconstructionism, operates supreme. There these academics are getting away with murder. These eggheads will insist that truth is whatever we make it to be, and there is no inherent meaning in any text. We read into the text whatever we want it to say.

The deconstructionist mantra is that meaning does not reside in any text (book, article, play, story, song, etc) but it is put into the text by the reader (watcher, listener, etc). These guys seriously argue that meaning is merely a social construct, and that we must employ a “hermeneutics of suspicion”.

Doubt everything, believe nothing, and assume that all truth is relative and subjective in nature. But even these theorists have to live in the world of reality. I am not aware of any of these academics taking their paycheque to the bank, assuming that any amount will do.

If the cheque has an amount of 12,000 dollars on it, they will hand it to the banker expecting to receive nothing more and nothing less than $12,000. If the banker instead hands the good professor $12, he will be spitting chips faster than you can say Foucault or Derrida.

For some reason the po mo academic will not take readily to a banker who says, “Well, we all know that there is no inherent meaning or authorial intention in a text. We all read into the text whatever we want to. You have read into it $12,000, but I have read into it $12. Who is to say you are right and I am wrong?”

This prof will drop this po mo and de con nonsense instantly, and demand his hard cash. As I say, no one can live as a postmodernist. It is just another lousy trendy theory which has come along, and is quickly going. But all this of course is not really new.

Two thousand years ago when the Son of God stood before a Roman ruler, the same sort of scepticism concerning truth and reality seemed to exist. When Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?” he was reflecting an age old question. If there is no absolute truth, then we are all in a bad way.

But if universal, binding truth exists, then the most sensible thing anyone can do is to discover what it is and live in accordance with it. We seem to do that all the time when it comes to flying a plane, taking medicine, or cashing a cheque.

It is incumbent upon us to seek to do this in all other areas of life as well. And in this we must realise that truth is about more than mere knowledge. It is also about morality. As George Orwell once said, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”

Jesus reflected this when he said that if you know the truth, the truth will set you free. There is a transformative nature to truth. Jesus also said he was “the way, the truth and the life”. He also said that he was the light of the world, but he warned that not everyone wants to come to the light.

He said that those whose deeds are evil hate the light and will reject the light, preferring instead to live in darkness. So the issue of truth is not just an academic exercise, but something that impacts on the totality of our being. Instead of going on about how narrow and intolerant truth can be, we should all be seeking the truth with our whole being.

Yes, when we find and embrace the truth, that will mean limitations and restrictions. We will have to say no to much while we say yes to truth and life. Truth always means making such distinctions, and allowing for such divisions. Such is the nature of truth. On the one hand it greatly restricts, but on the other it radically liberates.

[1713 words]

14 Responses to Truth, Tolerance, Reality and Religion

  • Reminds me of the Truth Project:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AARDtGay5w&feature=related

    Which I would recommend to everyone.

    Cameron Spink
    RESISTANCE THINKING CO-ORDINATOR

  • A good article Bill. There is also an interesting article I was just reading by Dr Peter Kreeft on this very subject;

    www.peterkreeft.com/audio/05_relativism/relativism_transcription.htm

    audio version
    www.peterkreeft.com/audio/05_relativism/peter-kreeft_relativism.mp3

    Annette Nestor

  • Thanks Annette

    Yes Kreeft is always good value in these areas.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The issue with postmodern professors is primarily theological as opposed to academic. As Romans 1 says, they have become darkened in their understanding. Rebellion is the same for those who reject God everywhere – it simply looks different in different instances.

    The conclusion of postmodern academics that truth is relative is the logical implication of their view of being – starting with man only and rejecting the possibility of God and God Himself. If man is all there is, as they suppose, then knowledge must be purely subjective and the picture that you have painted for us Bill is the logical outcome.

    Of course, God is, and so they cannot possibly live consistently with the theory of being that they hold to for dear life. They live in God’s universe and are forced (and do in many ways as you have outlined Bill) to live in terms of reality.

    Van Til (or it may have been Rushdoony…) used the illustration of a rustler stealing cattle from a neighbouring ranch to live, but denying that he was a thief. It is obvious to all that his subsistence comes from his illicit acts in stealing from the cattle owner, and his staunch denial is against all evidence.

    The other very frustrating thing of course is that having taken their theory of being logically to their current position, they then refuse to accept the full consequences and implications of their rejection of God.

    The area of morals is an obvious example. The humanist who rejects God and touts this postmodern concept of truth MUST then accept the relativistic nature of knowledge. This means that all morals must be relative. From such a position, it becomes impossible to meaningfully criticise the morals of others, and the implication is that anything goes. In being outraged morally, these atheists are ‘stealing more cattle’, as they have no logical reason to be outraged based on their view of truth.

    It is helpful to realise that the issues are primarily theological in nature. In so doing, we can give thanks to God that ‘but for the grace of God, there go I’; and we realise that our apologetic and evangelistic efforts depend wholly upon a sovereign work of grace from God by His Holy Spirit. Without this realisation, we’d be beating our heads against a brick wall in frustration!

    May God bless the efforts of His people, and may His Kingdom increase as more souls are freed from the bondage of sin by coming to faith in the Lord Jesus.

    Yours in His grace,
    Isaac Overton
    ACT

  • Check out this “new” (read: rehashed) worldview called possibilianism:
    possibilian.com/?

    It has quite a bit to say on absolutes:

    “Maybe people are a little bit tired of people acting as though they’re certain about things that they can’t possibly be certain about.”

    Be careful, mind you don’t trip over some fallacies in all those possibilities.

    Cameron Spink
    RESISTANCE THINKING CO-ORDINATOR

  • You mean like the way there is incontrovertible evidence that evolution is true; which means the bible is false?
    Bernard Kay

  • Thanks Bernard

    You mean like the way there is incontrovertible evidence that the bible is true; which means evolution is false?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I have been born-again now for 35 years. A few times when I have been in rebellion against Father God, He has caused that scripture from Proverbs to jump out at me: “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom”. I once mentioned to a friend in Church one Sunday, how people like Chairman Mao seem to make so many stupid decisions. In a flash, he came back with this gem – “That’s probably because the one stupid decision ie to say no to Father God, was then just followed by many stupid decisions”. In my own life, and in my observations of others, I have found how true this is. Jesus is the Truth. To oppose Him is to go into un-truth.
    Ian Brearley

  • Bernard is right in logic but wrong in fact. If evolution did happen to be true the Bible would indeed be false, but unfortunately for Bernard there is no “incontrovertible evidence” that evolution is true. In fact it requires more faith to believe in the claims of evolution (e.g. life spontaneously arose from non-life) than it does in the more reasonable claims of Christianity.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • As a CRE teacher I have been asked by several students: Is this true? These kids NEED truth. They are seeking truth. Will the politcally correct police ever wake up to this fact?
    Alison Stanley

  • Bill,

    It would be great to one day put the best of these articles into a book.

    Carl Strehlow

  • Thanks Carl

    Yes others have suggested the same and it is a good idea. Hopefully I can get around to it soon.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bro. Bill,
    I appreciate the stand you take for the ‘TRUTH’. When one has the truth of the Bible as their foundation there should never be any need to compromise with the ‘enemy’. Hasn’t some [so-called] Christian leaders in the U.S. and probably elsewhere opened themselves up to questioning their credibility and belief. I say this because some have come out saying things like Christianity and Islam have enough in common that the differences don’t matter. Like wise, it has been said by some that Mormons are Christians. If a person who calls themself a Christian believes this is it possible that they truly may not be a Christian. I rest my case on John 14:6.
    God bless
    Randy Ganyo

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