Things Have Changed
Things have changed in the 40 odd years I have been interested in apologetics. There was a time when you could begin a discussion on the truth of God’s existence with someone by talking about the reasons why we should believe in God. Now you often have to begin with why we should believe in truth at all.
This denial of objective or absolute truth is never held consistently, but it is held passionately because people seem to believe it offers a sense of freedom and a release from what they see as the tyranny of other people’s ideas. There has seldom been a time when this freedom from truth has been so championed. “Truth is possibly the most violated concept in our world…This is probably the first time, certainly in Western civilization, that society at large does not believe in the existence of absolute truth.” (Ravi Zacharias in Deliver Us from Evil, page 212)
This creates some difficulty for Christians who have built into their lives the understanding of Philippians which tells us to think on whatever is true, and of Psalms 119:160, “The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” It also creates a problem because too many Christians ignore the thinking of their day and then are surprised when that thinking influences the culture at large. Just this past week I heard someone say Christians are guilty of too much thinking and not enough feeling. I believe that is exactly backwards—not to mention a false dichotomy. People like Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, Jacque Derrida and Jean-Francois Lyotard have had a great impact on our culture even if Christians (and many non-Christians) do not know who they are. Their views on truth have won the day and left our culture, and even the church, unable to function in the real world.
The studies of George Barna have consistently shown that people who claim to be Christians are not far behind unbelievers in affirming that there is no absolute or objective truth. Then how are we to obey verses like Zechariah 8:16? It tells us, “These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates.”
We have no peace because we accept no truth.
We need a revival of the understanding that, as Christians, we believe that God is there. God exists ontologically. It is not just that we have conceived of God or imagined God—but that God is actually there and that this is true for all people in all places in all times. If God exists then there is absolute truth. There is no other possibility because if God exists, God exists absolutely. We have to ask how people who claim to believe in the One who is the “way, and the truth, and the life” do not believe in truth. I hear people say they want to worship in the Spirit and experience God’s presence. They say they don’t need all that “theology and doctrine.” Not only is such an attitude letting the world be demolished by the enemy, but what do we do with John 4:24, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and TRUTH.”?
The Biblical World-View of Truth
The biblical world view of truth offers hope to a world that cannot seem to make clear decisions any longer: a world where agreement is seldom achieved and rational discussion and sound leadership has turned into emotions and whatever makes those in power feel better. In this kind of world, where there is no truth, moral relativism naturally follows. Moral relativists claim that morals are relative to a culture and, since cultures differ in their values and morals, values and morals must be relative. But, one must ask, cannot a culture make mistakes just like the individuals who make up the culture? (No I am not committing the fallacy of composition. I am not saying it logically follows, only that it is possible.) That is, a consensus in a culture might believe that it is perfectly fine to oppress people or to engage in human trafficking. Are we to say this is a correct view because the culture holds it to be so? I do not think the relativists would agree to this.
Some who deny truth claim that relativism leads to openness and tolerance. But here is the center of the problem. How does our culture that believes there is no truth tell us that the recent shootings in Charleston S.C. are wrong? How do they say the Confederate Battle Flag is bad? How do they oppose oppression? If there is no truth then their favorite evils and the politically incorrect causes they oppose cannot be wrong. If all values are only relative, then so is tolerance. It is inconsistent to espouse cultural diversity and then oppose all cultures that do not have your view of relativism.
In the midst of this the biblical world view breaks through with an understanding of truth that makes sense of the world we live in. God is really there. Because of this we can look to God for truth. We find truth that applies to all people in all places and in all times: truths that are eternal because they are based on the very nature of God. Denial of truth changes tolerance from the freedom to hold differing views to the notion that all views are equally valid—but those who hold this are always telling you what you should believe (about race, homosexuality, abortion, and on and on). There is no consistency here. Consistency is found in the biblical notion of worshiping the creator rather than the creation. In God’s truth we find peace, love, unity, tolerance, patience, kindness. The truth of Christ does set you free.
-Dr. Ricketts graduated from California University with a degree in Social Casework. He has an M.Div. from Ashland Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Reformation Studies with a focus in Apologetics from Westminster Theological Seminary with additional graduate studies at Duquesne University. He is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church and the Professor of Apologetics at Biblical Life Institute.