The Truth Gap

The longer I am involved in speaking around the country – and overseas – the greater one gap becomes: I keep getting older of course but I continue to speak to groups of young people. So one can certainly speak of a generation gap here.

But in reality there is a far more important gap developing. I refer to a truth gap. Whereas most people a generation or two ago believed that there was such a thing as truth – and absolute truth at that – increasingly today we are finding an entire generation which has been raised on the destructive pap of relativism.

Millions of young people in the West today have absolutely no conception of such a thing as truth, and are firmly convinced that everything is relative. They have been duped into believing that there are no universal truths and no absolute rights and wrongs.

An acknowledgment of the reality of black and white has been replaced by a commitment to 99 shades of grey. Adherence to objective truth is seen as intolerant, narrow-minded and bigoted. Instead most young folks today luxuriate in subjectivity, relativism and uncertainty.

Thus we have a whole generation who cannot bring itself to say that the Holocaust was wrong, or that destroying marriage is wrong, or that killing unborn babies is wrong, yet will quite readily assure us that what is wrong is to say these things are wrong!

They insist that there are no absolutes, thus relegating “tolerance” into a new absolute. That are absolutely certain that you are wrong when you insist that there are absolutes, and certain things are wrong. They detest with a passion anyone making sure and certain truth claims, themselves being sure and certain that there can be no such things.

They get livid when you say there are some things worth getting livid about. They will fight you to the death when you assert that there are certain things worth fighting to the death over. They will explode in moral indignation when you claim that some things are worth getting morally indignant about.

An entire generation seems to have lost the ability to think, to engage in moral clarity, and to utilise basic logic and rationality. And they celebrate this. They think it is a sign of progress that they have moved beyond mere logic, moral acuity, and mental soundness.

It really comes down to a clash of worldviews. The Judeo-Christian worldview is at complete odds with the secular humanist worldview which now reigns in the West. A generation has been steeped in the latter, and knows nothing about any other competing view of reality.

And as Francis Schaeffer wrote: “We must never forget that the humanist position is an exclusivist, closed system which shuts out all contending viewpoints – especially if these views teach anything other than relative values and standards. Anything which presents absolute truth, values, or standards is quite rightly seen by the humanists to be a total denial of the humanistic position.”

Quite so. For all of its lip service to diversity, acceptance, tolerance and openness, it is implacably opposed to any competing claims. It simply will not tolerate those who believe in absolute truth and universal morality. It will seek to shut down real debate and censor any contrary voices.

I document this on a regular basis. But those raised on this worldview cannot even see the utter double standards. I chat with young people all the time and it is quite amazing to see them get angry with me when I insist that there really is such a thing as truth.

As they seek to argue for their “tolerant” worldview, they quickly become exceedingly intolerant of me, yet see absolutely no incongruity in any of this. They will shout at me decrying my judgmentalism – little realising just how very judgmental they in fact are.

Indeed, as J. Budziszewski has written, “If you really believe that the meaning of tolerance is tolerating, then you ought to tolerate even intolerance. If you really believe that the best foundation for toleration is to avoid having strong convictions about good and evil, then you should not try to harbor the strong conviction that intolerance is bad.”

But all this would be totally lost on these folks. They have little or no ability to think logically or think critically, so they are quite happy to stumble through life in their mental fog, thinking they are somehow superior people because they refuse to judge anyone – except for those who happen to differ from them of course.

Now in the old days when reasoning and careful thinking were still in vogue, you could shame these people into silence by pointing out their obvious double standards, hypocrisy, and utter illogic. But today that does not work on most people.

Rational thought is sneezed at, logic is disdained, moral perception is dismissed, and intellectual coherence is yawned at. So it becomes almost impossible to argue with these people, to hold a proper debate, to engage in an intelligent conversation with them.

Any truth you speak, any facts you offer, or any evidence you present, means nothing to them. They will simply take any countervailing views as “hate” and “intolerance” and denounce you accordingly. They will then leave the room, pat themselves on the back, and think they have somehow won the argument.

Of course this happens all the time amongst today’s worldlings. But the really frightening thing is that perhaps most young people today who call themselves Christians also engage in the same mental mushiness, relativism, and moral myopia.

So many have lost altogether the ability to think, to discern, to critically analyse, to make moral differentiations. Thus they are Christian in name only. They may profess to be believers, but they live, think and act just like pagans. There is no difference at all between their worldview and that of the secular humanists.

That is because they have never learned to think biblically and they have never developed a biblical worldview. They have simply soaked up the prevailing secularism, relativism and sceptism of the surrounding culture. Instead of being transformed by the renewing of their minds, as Paul commands in Romans 12:2, they have allowed their minds to be turned into mush.

As such, they are breaking the greatest commandment which Jesus gave: to love God with all your heart, all your strength, and all your mind. This, as Francis Schaeffer said, is part of the “great evangelical disaster”. Those who should know better, who even come from Bible-believing churches, have simply stopped loving God with their minds. Indeed, they have simply stopped using their minds altogether.

But as C. S. Lewis warned, “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than He is of any other slacker.” We have a generation of believers which needs to repent – repent of its worldliness, its anti-intellectualism, its compromise, and its indifference to truth and morality.

Fortunately there are many notable exceptions to what I have discussed above. There are many fine young believers who use their minds for the glory of God, who have a love of God’s word and a distrust of the world, and who are soldiering on for the Kingdom.

But they are too few and far between. We need an army of young believers to be raised up by God who will champion truth, affirm biblical absolutes, resist compromise, and fearlessly proclaim Christian principles. At the very least we all need to be praying for such an outcome.

If this does not occur, we will simply get much more of what G.K. Chesterton warned against: “a hardening of the heart with a sympathetic softening of the head”. And that is nothing to write home about.

[1292 words]

19 Replies to “The Truth Gap”

  1. I ask …

    – what is 1+1?
    – what if killed you now?
    – what if Jack raped Jill?

    I generally get silence. I never get acknowledgement of the reality of absolutes.

    Graeme Cumming

  2. What an excellent column, Bill. I suppose it’s a normal experience that as one ages, they see by contrast how the next generation has changed (and hopefully by accumulated experiences, one gains wisdom to see when those changes are for the worst). At the same time, it’s become normal for younger people to disdain the “wisdom” of their “elders”.

    But this issue can’t just be chalked up to you or I turning into “old” men who are “out of touch”. This is a trend that has been developing for our entire lives, and longer. Sadly, we find our culture exactly where Schaeffer said we would be when he spoke back in the 60’s and 70’s. And as we observe the closing of the Western mind to truth and to God, we see the result in “Man’s inhumanity to Man” that he spoke of.

    This should remind us that we have to pass on a Biblical worldview to the next generation, and that, ultimately, only the Holy Spirit can change minds– but we have to make ourselves available as his tools.

    Ronin Akechi

  3. If we all send our children to those brain mush factories called public schools, then we have ourselves to blame for the mindlessness of our youth.

    Mario Del Giudice

  4. Then add these issues: (1) The pastor and youth group leader don’t think it’s an issue to be addressed; (2) It’s not addressed from the pulpit; (3) There is no equipping of the laity to deal with the issue, and (4) Those who think of this as an issue are being “too intellectual” – that’s what a church leader told me recently.

    We really do have a crisis in the evangelical Christian mind. Forget about the modernists and postmodernists in theological liberalism – they lost it long ago. But it’s the evangelical church that is of great concern to me. We’re more interested in rockin’ the music than in rock-solid biblical thinking.

    Spencer Gear

  5. Excellent article Bill, and sadly so very true.

    Thanks,
    Annette Williams

  6. But to be fair they are trained in this moral idiocy by our modern universities/colleges.

    But this way of thinking is a great way of keeping the classes where they are as they are fooled into thinking that there is no objective value in getting married before children, working hard, self-denial, discipline etc. but these virtues will get people out of poverty!

    Damien Spillane

  7. Yes, indeed, you are like many before you exploring the contradictions of liberalism.Should we tolerate intolerance? Should we give freedom to those who want to take away freedom?
    In the last resort, these notions only create a tangle of contradictions and neither “tolerance” nor “freedom” are any substitute for positive moral values and civilized rules of behaviour.
    You are not getting old – you are getting wise.

    Julia Gasper

  8. As a bible-believing member of Gen-Y I would like to say – have hope!!
    While it is difficult to have solid biblical beliefs in the midst of this ‘anything goes’ culture when you are the same age as the ones who think themselves so ‘enlightened’, I am regularly surprised and encouraged by the conversations I have with people my age (Christian and sometimes not) who wrestle with the relativistic nonsense they grew up with and respond quite well to the notion of absolute, God-ordained truth.
    Lauren Hughes

  9. About 50 years ago I met with this problem already when I had preached my first ever sermon. I was told that objective truth does not exist. What we think of as objective truth is only a generally accepted agreement. The speaker gave me the analogy of the length of the meter. It was merely agreed to make a meter the length it is. It could have equally been agreed on a little longer or shorter.

    I was at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s organised “Amsterdam 2000”. Ravi Zacharias gave a wonderful address on “How to convey the Gospel to post-modern society” or some such title, dealing with this very problem. He concluded this address by saying that we have to understand that post-moderns “hear with their eyes and think with their feelings”, and to communicate we have to adapt to that. (I write from memory, but I think I remember substantially right).

    Joost Gemeren

  10. I can see exactly where you are coming from Bill, the church seems to be filling up with an increasing number of people who do not want to speak up or speak out, they do not want to judge, they do not want to offend, they do not want to rock the boat and anyone in church who does is dragged over the coals for it, just this morning I was labelled a dummy spitting, protesting revenge seeking lobbyist – all because I said that Christians have a duty to speak out against evil – please, someone out there tell me what I did to deserve being called this by someone who is a Christian!!!!!

    Steve Davis

  11. Boy you’ve really done it this time Steve, and like me THIS morning too. In church this morning a young lady was telling me in a matter of fact way that kids church is great and she runs it. She went on to tell just how good it is. And how the kids have a great time etc etc. Like you I couldn’t help it, I said something un-PC. I said “How many kids have come to Christ through this ministry do you think”? She said, it’s not about that, it’s about showing the love of god and maybe their parents will come to church because of the love we’ve shown.
    I said ever thought of another approach? Like what she said? Well maybe teaching the children to pray for each other and also a great idea is taking the children to a hospital to see and pray for people?
    She said wow, the pastor keeps talking to me like that and now you (me) still she said, the way I minister is my style and yours is different. I thanked her for listening.
    Daniel Kempton

  12. Thanks Daniel, if nothing else, your post tells me that I am not the only one out there who is copping a bit of flak, all I am saying is this – we need to pray about things but sometimes we need to stand up and speak out and/or do something, that does not seem too hard to me. I prayed that the woman you spoke to might see your comments as a confirmation from God that she needs to take on board what the minister said. Let’s hope he stirs her heart into action.
    Steve Davis

  13. Thanks for that Daniel.
    To Lex, probably someone who is stupid!
    Steve Davis

  14. We do indeed have a generation of believers young and not so young with a different way of thinking ‘going with the flow’ – a very dangerous situation for christian minds. On having a conversation with an older christian regarding certain errors in our society, her response was that ‘she did not think that way’. How can the older christian teach the younger (as we are told in Timothy) if they think the same. Certainly the schools, colleges and universities and places of employment and the government have a lot to answer for. We must pray for Godly men and women to be raised that are not afraid to stand against evil in all areas of society.
    Margaret McLeman

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