Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Is True? What Is Truth?

So often in discussion with your friends over a meal, and then even in forced conversations with religionists like Latter Day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses, what someone believes is said to be true by a person just because they believe it.

Of course this is silly, for plenty of people believe wrong things about all kinds of things.  The religionist Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in blood transfusions, so they put their life at risk for no reason.  The religionist Latter Day Saint may believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, when really we know from both archaeology and from North American history nothing he said existed exists in Missouri.

The same goes for other areas, your friend in discussion might believe that Apple stock is going up, only to watch it go down in a moving trend for long periods of time.  You may believe a relationship will work out when really it fails.  Dallas-Fort Worth meteorologists routinely predict what will happen in West Fort Worth is what will happen for the whole 7 million person Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.  It never does, but people plan their schedules by it.  You might also believe that it will rain, and it does, but your believing it has nothing to do with making it true, but people think it does.  The fact is finite creatures oftentimes get what is believed by themselves or their club (postmodernism) wrong either way.  You and I no less are in that boat.  However, the Bible says we can be certain about Jesus Christ.  Now how is that, given that in life things are not certain, except as the old adage says "death and taxes"?

So what/who is it that makes a belief into something that is actually true?  What is actually true is called by philosophers 'knowledge.'  Just like any word, knowledge can misunderstood.  To you knowledge might be you can cure anything with some lavender and a dropper, while another trusts a medical doctor who gives them statin drugs, only to find out it caused them to lose vision in one eye and they continue to have heart problems.  Was it certain to help them?  No.  Certainty or what is sure/true belief is in common use (street level) a best guess, and this makes it a so-called inductive argument, a probability.  If something is a probability, we can speak of certainty like I'm 30%, 45%, 70% certain.  Even then the "standard" of what is certainty (how do you know its 45%) is up for grabs.  In weather forecasts, it is coverage most of the time. Where I live that inductive guess is pretty much useless (false) since the news covers such a large area. When someone predicts a success rate of 80% for your organ operation, then you hope they're better at gauging things.

The Bible does NOT give a green light to Christians to call their relationship with God a probability (or induction).  See my new book, Know Why You Know, for where/why.  In the end, even though it does permit use of probability talking (500 brothers saw risen Jesus), Scripture records certainty of your relationship as without doubt, aka therefore without inductive/probability arguments being why you are certain.  This is especially true of basic salvation beliefs forming (real) knowledge.  You can have a discussion of you believe/we believe, that's fine.  Just don't tell people that God's Word reveals that is how much certainty we can have, a probability argument, which is a major weakness of current evangelical apologetics and philosophy.  I think we can do better since we have warrant in Scripture for a better position of certainty, not rooted in the changeableness of mankind or a nation or a people group or a community (postmodernism).  So...

What about your eternal destiny, and whether you ought to spend innumerable hours serving the Lord over your lifetime, and whether you should guide your marriage by wisdom/biblical principles?  Are you comfortable with 70% or 80% accuracy, or 51% (Richard Swinburne)?  The thing is Christ followers do not have to be content with a percent, they can know for certain that Jesus Christ has saved them and is their Lord and Savior.  This means not necessarily that we fall back into deductive argument, that uses a widely accepted premise per se, to conclude something is always true/knowledge.  The one person that is left out of discussion with a friend or a religionist at lunch break or your door, is God in contemporary discussions.  He gets an honorable mention and then people move on to their "ideas" of what is true and what they believe. This places Christian faith in a mere category alongside Islam, Buddhism, or any cult or agnosticism in a postmodern Western culture.  This is truly unfortunate since Christ, the living Christ, is not just your idea, or what you believe.  If your believing makes Christ Jesus true to you, then that's all He is, true to YOU.  But what about reality?  Is He really the Savior of the world?  Is Jesus more than an existential urge you had to live for Him?  Yes!  Jesus holds all things together in His power (Colossians 1:15-20).

One of the worst things you can do in a postmodern society to have your Savior written off is like the Mormon missionary says that Jesus is 'true for you,' so Jesus should be true for them.  That's fine as a way of just talking, there is nothing wrong with just talking, but let's not call that giving a reason for why you believe or a life-changing witness.  My monthly Latter Day front door visitors always tell me their testimony and then tell me to pray about it.  They never talk about God, just the feeling I should have if I should become a Mormon.  Haha, well, that isn't going anywhere in the new scene that is unfolding in the West.  What they are selling is existentialism, it is not even close to Christianity, just like Muhammad's angelic message is based on, surprise, surprise, Muhammad's own testimony.  Wow, that is NOT a game changer.  I want to be with the living God, and that is in Christ Jesus, not man-made, man-felt religion of us making something 'true' (at the end of the day anyhow).

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