Tag Archives: Debate

Truth….Re-visited

(Note: This post is based on a conversation my wife and I had about something she said to somebody today. check her out and give her kudos over here: http://suburbanmonasticism.wordpress.com/ )

Here’s something I believe about Truth:

Truth is a thing. A fact. A reality. In fact, I try to avoid using the term Truth and prefer to replace it with the term Reality.

This is actually a pretty simple concept. It has only one uncomfortable and harder to deal with implication. It makes it so that truth as an idea can’t be nebulous. Truth is instead on some level a physical, non-negotiable entity. Maybe this is why an eternal deity would choose to define Himself (in part) by saying something as brazen as, “I am the Truth”

The other day I explained it to a friend of mine like this.

Imagine two people who had never met you were talking about you. Leaving your hidden neurosis aside, let’s imagine that conversation. Let’s go a step farther and say that these two people are actually arguing about what you are like. Maybe they’re having a lively debate about what you would do in a given situation. Let’s assume for the sake of simplicity that they took up truly opposing positions. There are three options.

–          The first person is right and the second person is wrong

–          The second person is right and the first person is wrong

–          They are both wrong

Missing from this list is the idea that they could both be right. Why? Because they can’t. It’s not like you’re a figment of their imaginations. They aren’t little kids trying to decide what their mutual imaginary friend is like. You’re a real person and they are talking about you. You exist. You are “true” in this sense. That means certain things about you are true and certain things are not. To say otherwise would be ridiculous.

If we want to believe that there is a God who is eternal then we have to believe that he is real in the same sense that you and I are real. Not in the same way, that’s confusing the ideas, but in the same sense. In the sense that there are things that are true about the deity and things that are not.

This is pretty old reasoning. In fact, it’s reasoning that has been used by people far more traditional than I am to “beat me over the head” for not believing what they believe is the truth about God.

Obviously I don’t approve.

“Absolute truth” is what exists regardless of how we feel about it. Like gravity, for example. On some level you really have to just live with that. Belief in an absolute truth does not however mean a belief in any one particular version of what men think that truth looks like. This is my pet peeve.

Most of the time when people are accusing others of not believing in truth they’re actually accusing them of not believing what they believe the truth is. This is a far cry from not believing in truth.  

Related, and also irritating, is confusing uncertainty with not believing in truth. Often I will answer a question like, ‘Do you believe God is ____ _____  ______?’ with something like, ‘Maybe. It’s possible.’

Let me clue you in. It’s not because I don’t think there’s an answer to your question or the answer depends on what you or I believe. It’s because I don’t know the answer to that question. Often, I think that believing you have an absolute answer to such a question is arrogant and problematic all by itself.

So remember, because it helps you be a nicer person, that when we’re talking about truth we’re not debating if it exists. (Not usually anyway) Instead, we’re arguing about what it looks like. Also worth remembering is that it’s very much like talking about a person nobody in the conversation has ever met. Being too attached to your perspective as better than everyone elses is not only ill advised, it makes you the jerk in the room.