Ethical Answers in an Unethical World

ppt Power Point: What is Truth? World View Apologetics 7.49 Mb 

What is Truth?

Subtitle:  World View Apologetics

John 18:37-38    Jesus:  ?I came to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens
to me.?


Pilate:  ?What is truth??


Now that is a good question.  This is the question of epistemology:  How do we know things are true?


The problem as I see it:


1. The secularization of culture?the banishment of religious thought and of
ideas of absolute truth and morality from public discourse.


2. The loss of morality?the relativization of moral truth.  The loss of a public and
private sense that certain things are just plain wrong or right.


3. The loss of God.  We are at risk of becoming a people for whom God is somewhere
in with the ranks of fairies and lepruchans.


4. The loss of the intellectual high ground at the University for belief in
God and an ethically-centered point of view.


Example of that Lady in Phoenix


The ?enemy:?


1. Naturalism/scientism/materialism.   The only ?truth? is that discovered by scientific



Define Scientism:   The belief that the only reliable or valid instrument to deciding
the truth or even the value of any proposition is the scientific method.


No ethics, no morality, no supernatural, no God, no truth except that found
by science, no consciousness, no ?I.? Justice is a figment of our imagination.


None of us can accept this.


This is a (false) religious assumption, as I will show.


A sample statement:


Richard Dawkins:


In the universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people
are going to get hurt and other people are going to get lucky: and you won?t
find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice.  The universe we observe has precisely
the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose,
no evil and no good.  Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.  DNA neither knows nor cares.  DNA just
is, and we dance to its music.


Thomas Huxley:


We are as much the product of blind forces as is the falling of a stone to earth,
or the ebb and flow of the tides.  We have just happened, and man was made flesh by
a long series of singularly beneficial accidents.


2. Postmodernism.   The loss of truth.   Truth, if such a thing exists, is the property of culture.  Th
ere is no absolute truth.  All truth is relative.    If lying, stealing, murder, genocide are
wrong, there is no way to establish this as an absolute.


There is a sense in which postmodernism is a reaction to naturalism.


A little intellectual history.


Aristotle:  We can apply logic and human reasoning to determine the truth about
the nature of the world in which we live.


Fact: Despite amazing progress brought about by the application of reason to
questions, the Greek model made virtually no progress in describing nature.   Aris
totle?s 7 laws were all wrong.  Nature does not behave rationally (according to human




A Manichaean who held to the teaching of Manes.  But Manes made overconfident statements
about the cosmos which were proven wrong by science.  Augustine:  ?All he achieved by
his numerous statements on these matters was this: he was shown up by people
who had an accurate knowledge of them, and it was thus made perfectly plain
how much reliance could be placed on his understanding of other more abstruse
matters.  When he was caught out making false statements about the heaven and the
stars and the movements of the sun and moon, even though these things are not
an integral part of his religious doctrine, yet it was clear enough that his
presumption was sacrilegious: he was talking about things he did not know.


Thus, Augustine left Manichaeism and eventually became a Christian.


Example:  Hebrews 11:3   By faith we understand that the universe was formed at
God?s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible.   Creation
ex nihilo.


Thomas Aquinas


If something is true, it must be reasonable.  Used Aristotle to analyze Christianity.


Roger Bacon, William of Ockham, Copernicus, etc.


These men began with an assumption:   The universe was created by a single, all-powerful,
loving unchanging God with the single purpose so that we can live in it and
experience a relationship with him.


And thus, science was created.   The Greeks could not discover the laws of Nature because
they had an incorrect understanding of Nature.  The physical world is bad.


It is an undeniable fact that belief in the Christian God is the historical
and logical foundation for what we now call science.


These are the religious, philosophical underpinning of science.


1. The universe is ordered and essentially unchanging.

2. The universe is observable and understandable.  There is a 1:1 match between how the human
mind works and how the universe in which live funcitons.

3. The universe is governed by mathematically precise laws.


Roger Bacon;  To acquire truth about nature, use   ?External experience, aided by instruments,
made precise by mathematics?


William of Ockham:   Nothing is true unless it is known per se, is evident by experience,
or is proved by authority of scripture.




For the Holy Scripture and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine
Word, the former as the dictate of the Holy Spirit and the latter as the observant
executor of God?s commands.?


Isaac Newton:


Universal Law of Gravity.  The idea that we live in a mechanical universe.


This is no surprise to Bacon et al.


In fact that seems to be how God works in everything.  He sets up physical and moral laws. 
He sets into a world operating by those laws.  It is (apparently) the nature of
God to only intervene in the workings of those laws very rarely and for very
definite purposes, yet God?s hand is the power behind everything and he is always
upholding and sustaining the system.  (Colossians 1:17  In him all things hold together.  Hebre
ws 1:3 ?sustaining all things by his powerful word.?)


Evolution falls into this category, but I digress.

18th century:  Naturalism/The Mechanical Universe naturally leads to skepticism.  How can
we know anything about morality, religion, truth.  Voltaire, Hume and others and the
rise of skepticism.   (Was bad Christianity to blame for this?)


19th century.  LaPlace,   Darwin.  Materialism/Modernism appeared triumphant.


20th Century.  Quantum Mechanics questioned the deterministic nature of Nature.


Reason and Logic cannot explain WWI  WWII    Hiroshima.


The idea of the completely independent, individualistic person, outside a community
looked down upon.


Scientism appears to be hubris.  Scientism cannot do justice to beauty, art.


The very idea of the rightness of Western culture came into question


(All this was good!!!)


But, intellectuals overreacted (typical)


We got postmodernism.


Postmodernism.  Cultural Relativism.


Reality is a social construction.  Is it?  If so, science is wrong.  But we cannot accept that.


?It is true for you, but it is not true for me.?     Can anyone (except a philosopher
or academe) accept this proposition?


All beliefs are theory-laden, non-objective.


The meaning of a text is determined by the cultural mileau of the readers.


Author does not have a privileged position to interpret his/her own work!!


Meaning, if it exists, resides in the community who assign that meaning.


There is no such thing as the book of Romans.   Methodist Romans, Lutheran Romans,
Buddhist Romans?.


The external world and even the self are just constructions of our society/culture.


Who are you?   A mother, a salesperson, a Christian.   All these things are culturally created.


Consciusness is social, not individual


No rational way to determine which is the best world view.



Response to Scientism.


The Theorist who maintains that science is the be-all and the end-all?that what
is not in science textbooks is not worth knowing?is an ideologist with a peculiar
and distorted doctrine of his own.  For him, science is no longer a sector of the
cognitive enterprise, but an all-inclusive world-view.  This is the doctrine not of science
but of scientism.   To take this stance is not to celebrate science but to distort it.


This is the dominant (not necessarily the majority) view of scientists.


Problems with scientism


1.  It is self-defeating


Science pre-supposes:


1. The universe is ordered and essentially unchanging.

2. The universe is observable and understandable.  There is a 1:1 match between how the human
mind works and how the universe in which live funcitons.

3. The universe is governed by mathematically precise laws.

4. Language is adequate to describe the natural realm.


None of these assumptions can be proved by experiment.  In a sense, science is not scientific.


2.  It is wrong.


If materialism/naturalism/scientism is right then


?I? do not exist.  Consciousness is just a word.    Love is just chemicals.


Belief in God is just a ?meme?  an unfortunate accidental result of random evolutionary


No soul, no spirit.


Religious thought is total nonsense.  Prayer is my chemicals talking to my chemicals.


Life is completely and fundamentally without purpose.


Nothing has value.   There is no reason to say that the works of Shakespeare are better
or more valuable than anything else.


Beauty is a mathematical formula.


Why do materialists/naturalists believe all these things?  Because they assume they
are true.  They have no evidence against any of these things.  None.


Circular reasoning.


Why is this wrong?


The universe was created.


Life was created.


Anthropic Principle


Virtually no one can accept that sex with anyone is OK, that consciousness is
a simply a complex chemical phenomenon, that art and beauty and love and inspiration
and a purposeful life are just epiphenomena.



3. It is dangerous.


There is no good and evil.


There is no reason to believe that stealing is bad.


Any kind of sexual relationship is only ?right? or ?wrong? depending on whether
it helps the human race to survive.


Violence, genocide, hatred are neither good nor evil.


Justice is a meaningless word.  There is no logical argument to defend the claim
that one must act justly.


Human rights have no basis.


Racism is justifiable.  Make no mistake about it?









Response to Postmodernism/Cultural Relativism


u    Positive Contributions

?       Importance of groups and relationships between groups.

?       Gives honor to culture, beauty, wonder, imagination.

?       More accurate description of history (including the history of science).

?       The Western mindset is not the only valid one.

?       Gives a broader, more realistic view of the human condition than materialism.


u    Problems

?       Very confusing. 

?       No world view is preferred.

?       The idea of truth, for all practical purposes, disappears.


Theories of truth:


u    Correspondence Theory of Truth:  A statement is true if reality corresponds to
that which is predicted by the statement.


u    Relativism (postmodernism):  A claim is made true for those who accept it by that very
act (of accepting it).


u    Truth is either discovered or created.

u    Truth is either absolute or relative.


If the Postmodernists are right, then:


u    Reality is a social construction.

u    A thing is made true by people believing it.  (Is this what makes postmodernism

u    Language creates reality.

u    ?It is true for you, but it is not true for me.?

u    Truth is found only in an accepted narrative of a group.

u    No universal trans-cultural standard of truth or value.


All beliefs are unobjective and theory-laden.


u    No authorial prerogative.  The truth of a text is determined by the culture reading
the text.

u    There is no such thing as the book of Romans.

?       Methodist Romans, Lutheran Romans, Buddhist Romans, Atheist Romans.

u    Consciousness is social, not individual.  Self is a construction (mother, British,
grad student?)


u    No rational way to decide which is the best or true world view.  No metanarrat


u    All truth is relative.  All truth is cultural.


u    Individual has no authority to determine what is true.


Problems with postmodernism.


u    Self-refuting.

?       If nothing is true, then postmodernism is not true.


Q:  Is it true that truth is definitely relative?


?       Its authors insist on authorial privilege.


u    I do not care what they say, some things are just true.


u    Either God is real or he is not.  Even if I cannot prove it one way or another.


u    If you culture told you it was safe to jump off a cliff, would you jump?


Scientism may be bogus, but science is not.


u    The naturally convincing explanation of the success of science is that
it is gaining a tightening grasp of an actual reality.  The goal of scientific endeavor
is to gain an understanding of the structure of the physical world. The conclusions
are always tentative, but they are dictated by the way things actually are.


What is wrong with postmodernism?


u    It does not agree with reality?with the world as it is.  Our understanding
of truth may be relative, but truth is not.


It is dangerous (but maybe not as dangerous as materialism)


Ethics is relative, morality is relative.


The group truth of Nazi Germany is not preferable over any other.


Who is Jesus or Gandhi or Martin Luther King to criticize their given culture?  By wha
t authority?



A way forward.


God needs to make a comeback.  I do not mean prayer in schools and the Ten Commandments
in the courthouse.


Why are postmodernism and naturalism wrong as philosophies?


There is truth, and science is not the sole arbiter of truth.


Because Jesus is right.


John 14:6              


Jesus:  I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except
through me.


Two possibilities:  Jesus is the truth or he is not.


John 8:31,32    Hold to his teachings


Hold onto them as truth.  Cling on to the truth.  Grab hold of it

I hold (declare)  that?..  declare them to be true.

Hold to the truth. Uphold the truth.  Obey the truth.  Apply the truth to your life.


John 1:14   Jesus full of grace and truth.


Because Jesus Christ is right.  Jesus gave us a world view which agrees with reality
and which works.


John 6:35   I am the bread of life.   He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he
who believes in me will never be thirsty.


Jesus answers the big three questions:  Where did I come from, why am I here, and where
am I going?


Just before that, Jesus fed 5000 people?created food out of nothing


John 11:17-27       followed by    John 11:38-44


What is your response?


John 11:45-53   Which response is yours?


A call for action:    We need to take back the intellectual high ground.  Let us confront
this foolishness in a loving way.  Let us not be intimidated by these sophomoric
intellectuals.   Let us get degrees in science, philosophy, history, etc.


Tomorrow night:  How I know the Bible is inspired by God.

Saturday:  Why Christianity and not some other religion.  Many paths to the same place?

Monday.  A response to The God Delusion.  The Anthropic Principle.  Why I know there is a god as
a scientist.


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