Thursday, September 2, 2010

Truth

Awhile back I posted something about truth on my Facebook, and someone wanted to know “whose truth.”  I decided to talk about truth on my blog because it is a really important topic.  This topic extends far past the conversation about God, though it also can and often does apply.

Truth:
a (1) : the state of being the case : fact (2) : the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality b : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true c : the body of true statements and propositions

A truth is something that is in accordance with reality.  If I say that the air we breathe consists primarily of nitrogen and oxygen, this is a truth because I am stating something in accordance with reality.  If I state that the air we breathe consists primarily of hydrogen, then what I have stated is not true.  I have stated something not in accordance with reality.

My feelings about a particular truth are irrelevant, and the accuracy of my statement has no bearing on the fact of the matter.  For instance, I could say that my dog Starbuck is a cat.  Unless we redefine the word cat to mean dog, then my statement is false.  I could really want Starbuck to be a cat, but my feelings and desires would not make her a cat.  Further, the fact I was incorrect about her cat-ness would not make her any more or less of a dog or a cat. 

A sincere belief, if incorrect, does not change the truth either.  In the same example, I could sincerely believe that Starbuck was a cat.  I could, with great enthusiasm and conviction, go all of my life believing that Starbuck was a cat.  Again, assuming we have not redefined cat, I would still be wrong. 

Some statements and their counter statements are mutually exclusive, meaning they cannot both be true at the same time.  If I were to say that Santa is an immortal who only appears at Christmas, and you were to say Santa is a fictional character, we could not both be right.  We might both be wrong, if say Santa was not immortal but the guy down the street was named Santa and so therefore he also was not fictional.  But we cannot both be right.  Even if we sincerely believe our position, both of us cannot be right.

People may say that truths are relative and can vary from person to person.  For instance, I could say the best color is blue.  My sister could say the best color is purple.  Which is true?  This confuses opinion with fact.  I think the best color is blue and she thinks the best color is purple.  These opinions are fine to have, but have no impact on the reality of the colors of blue or purple.

Perception may also be used as a reason why truth varies.  I might see a shadowy figure enter a bank.  Someone else, with a different perspective, might see this person has a red hat.  The truth could be both of these, one of them, or neither.  Our perspective has nothing to do with the truth; it just affects how we report the truth.  The truth does not change based on our perception.

So why is this on my blog?  Well, some people get confused and think that the truth about God is relative.  For instance, God is real and creator of everything in my world, and God is not real and is a fictional character in someone else’s world.  The problem with that is God’s existence (or lack thereof) is not a subjective opinion.  He either is, or He is not. 

Christians claim that Jesus is the Son of God.  The Jewish claim that He is not.   Our claims, sincere as they might be, conflict with each other.  Jesus cannot be the Son of God at the same time He is not the Son of God.  One of us is mistaken. 

Please note I’ve not said anything about who might be mistaken.  All I’m talking about right now is the logic behind the non-politically-correct idea that someone might be mistaken, that all truths are not all true, and that our emotions and perceptions have no bearing on reality.  So as much as we want everyone to be true on some things, it just isn’t possible.

Now, some people get around this by throwing logic out the window and declaring that all truths are relative.  Which would be great, but look at the statement “all truths are relative.”  Is that not presented as a truth?  The base statement for moral relativism must be assumed to be true for the system to work, even though that would contradict the base statement.

Further, we know that all truths are not relative.  Otherwise, someone could break into my hotel room right now and rape and murder me and say that according to his truth, that was morally and legally acceptable.  If we agree that truth is relative to the person, we’d have to let him go.  Except my dad would kill him, violently, assuming my brother didn’t find him first, because their truth would undoubtedly disagree with his.  And because all truth is relative, we’d have to let them go.

Why is any of this important?  Because if we accept the idea that truth is relative, we can easily fall into the trap that what we want to be true is true.  I don’t want the road outside my house to have a speed limit, and so I believe that it does not.  I act as though it does not.  This is dangerous because, in fact, it does have a speed limit.  My incorrect belief based on my feelings and the idea that I can somehow change the truth to suit my wishes does not change the speed limit, and it should not change the police officer’s mind about giving me a ticket.  There are consequences to my incorrect, yet sincere belief, that there is no speed limit on the street outside my house.

Maybe I don’t want God to exist, so I believe He does not.  Or maybe I’m fine with God existing, but I don’t want a God with so many rules and standards.  I believe then that God does not have so many rules or standards.  I believe then God only has the rules and standards I’m interested in following or I decide are fair or I conclude are reasonable.  I then act accordingly.  And like the speed limit, what I think God ought to be doing has no actual impact on the truth of what God is or what God wants.  

For people who do not believe in God, the choices relating to God are rather simple.  Does He exist or doesn’t He?  Without that first question, the rest are irrelevant.

Then there’s Jesus.  Does He exist or doesn’t He?  Was He resurrected or wasn’t He?

And the list goes on.  If God exists, then His standard is the only important one and the only right one.  We should strive to meet His standard, not ours.  This affects every moment of every day in our lives and all of our decisions.  God is not wishy washy on moral issues, we shouldn’t be either.  Our feelings are irrelevant, God’s will is the only thing that matters once we answer the question about God’s existence. 

Are we living, thinking, and deciding to God’s standard or ours?  Are we fooling ourselves into thinking the standard we prefer is also the standard He prefers? 



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