I was posed with a question that I did not know exactly how to answer, one
of many that I am unable to answer is; “If you discovered a truth that was
truer than the Bible, would you go for it?” In other words, if you were to
discover there to be a higher truth than the Bible, do you really love
truth enough to put your convictions aside and adhere to it? Or would you
fight to defend the truth you now have?
My first response to this interesting question was that this sounds a bit
like one of those “if a person was convinced of Jesus in the middle of the
desert and wanted to be baptized, but there was no water, and he died,
would he go to heaven?” kinds of questions. I assume you know what I mean.
Then I thought about it for a bit longer, and I think that this is
actually a deep and significant question. Please forgive my first reaction!
Actually Augustine of Hippo faced a similar question at one time in his
life. He had formerly been convinced of the truthfulness of Manicheanism,
but had a nagging question which none of the leaders in his religion could
answer. It was a question about a Manichean teaching about the heavens
which seemed to him to be in contradiction to the clear facts of
observation. Finally, the leading intellect of the group came to his city.
This respected leader blew off the question rather than explain the
apparent inconsistency. When his questions went unanswered, Augustine was
forced to reject the entire premise of his religion. It was not long after
that that he was drawn to the religion of his mother–Christianity.
I would have to say that yes, in principle, if I could find a set of
truths which fundamentally were more in line with what I know and with how
things obviously work….. if I was shown a truth-claim which had deeper
and more convincing evidence (although it is hard for me to imagine what
form such evidence would take), I would have to say that I would
absolutely have to reject what I have believed and accept the new “truth.”
There is an interesting analogy in the way science works. Science
progresses by revolutions rather than by slow steady growth. Thomas Kuhn
was the first to apply the word paradigm to the completely new,
out-of-the-box model change which has happened occasionally in science.
Examples are plate tectonics, germ theory, relativity and so forth. In
every case, there was a former paradigm which seemed, for the time, to
explain all phenomena in that field for a long time, but eventually,
evidence arose which was unexplainable by the current “truth” (paradigm).
Such inconsistencies eventually lead to new models–new paradigms with
broader and more consistent explanatory power.
Having said all that, I struggle to understand what truth could overthrow
the resurrection of Jesus. Have you read my book, “Reasons for Belief: A
Handbook of Christian Evidence”? The evidence for inspiration and the
evidence that Jesus was not a liar seems absolutely overwhelming to me.
However, a truth which is not examined is to be held in fear, and I would
have to say that, at least in principle, one must be honest with oneself
and hold out the possibility of having been mistaken in one’s
interpretation of the evidence.
Let me turn it around on you. What kind of evidence might you imagine
which could overthrow the resurrection of Jesus? I do not say this to
ridicule the question, but to ask a sincere question which I have. It
seems that this new truth would have to either contain Jesus or overthrow
Jesus. To contain Jesus means that there is a sense in which it cannot be
greater than Jesus. To overthrow Jesus is to prove him mistaken about
So, in summary, I have to say yes to your question in general grounds, but
struggle to see what form this higher truth might take. One of my favorite
quotes seems to address this question. It if from Michael Faraday, a
renowned scientist and a man of deep convictions about the Bible. He said,
regarding the search for truth, “The man who is certain he is right is
almost sure to be wrong; and he has the additional misfortune of
inevitable remaining so.” I believe this truism even applies to belief in
the God of the Bible.
John Oakes, Ph.D.