In discussing religion in general and Christianity in particular, there is often disagreement between theists and non-theists about the concept of truth. Naturally, if two people don’t agree about truth, they won’t agree about much weightier matters such as God or morals. Not only that, but disagreement on this point really makes discussion of any of those topics unproductive. Aside from laying the groundwork for discussions between theists and non-theists, a firm grasp on truth is essential for developing a Christian worldview.
My first two points are these (borrowing from the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek):
- Truth about reality is knowable.
- The opposite of true is false.
In talking about “truth” I mean “the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality.” To quote Geisler/Turek: “If something is true, it’s true for all people, at all times, in all places. All truth claims are absolute, narrow and exclusive.”
Geisler/Turek go on to say several others things about truth:
Truth is discovered, not invented. It exists independent of anyone’s knowledge of it. (Gravity existed prior to Newton).
Truth is transcultural; if something is true, it is true for all people, in all places, at all times. (2+2=4 for everyone, everywhere, at every time).
Truth is unchanging even though our beliefs about truth change. (When we began to believe the earth was round instead of flat, the truth about the earth didn’t change, only our belief about the earth changed).
Beliefs cannot change a fact, no matter how sincerely they are held. (Someone can sincerely believe the world is flat, but that only makes the person sincerely mistaken).
Truth is not affected by the attitude of the one professing it. (An arrogant person does not make the truth he professes false. A humble person does not make the error he professes true.)
All truths are absolute truths. Even truths that appear to be relative are really absolute. (For example, “I, Frank Turek, feel warm on November 20, 2003,” may appear to be a relative truth, but it is actually absolutely true for everyone, everywhere that Frank Turek had the sensation of warmth on that day.
Again: if people don’t agree on what truth is in the first place, then trying to convince one another of a particular position can only be a frustrating endeavor. The title of the post is the Latin version of what the Bible records that Pilate asked Jesus “What is truth?” I think it’s an essential question to answer along with a few others: Can truth be known? Can truths about God be known? Who cares about truth? What difference does it make?
Statements such as “There is no truth” or “All truth is relative” are self-defeating statements. Both of those statements are absolute truth claims and therefore they fail to meet their own standards. If there is no truth, then the statement “There is no truth” cannot be true and must be discarded. The claim that “All truth is relative” must also be discarded because it makes an absolute claim about “all truth.”
Another common statement regarding truth is that although there might be such a thing as truth, we can’t really know anything for sure, and that includes any such absolute truths that might exist. That statement, however, is yet another self-defeating statement. How can one know for sure that nothing can be known for sure? Even the most committed skeptic can’t possibly be a skeptic about literally everything because that would require him to be a skeptic about skepticism. “But,” as Geisler/Turek put it “the more you doubt skepticism, the more sure you become.”