XFiles Friday: Telling it like it isNovember 2, 2007 — Deacon Duncan
(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 1)
We’re going to cover a lot more ground now that we’ve gotten past the introduction and into the point-by-point presentation. Following their previously announced outline, Geisler and Turek start off with Chapter One, “Can We Handle The Truth?” This chapter addresses three questions: (a) Is there such a thing as “the truth”? (b) Can we know the truth? and (c) What does it mean that “the opposite of true is false”?
As you might expect, there’s not too much to object to in their discussion of the first point. As an evangelical realist, I agree wholeheartedly with the premise that objective reality, aka “The Truth,” really does exist independently of our sometimes fallible perceptions of it. As Geisler and Turek point out, if someone tries to tell you that there’s no such thing as the truth, all you need to do is ask them “Is that true?” If truth does not exist, then there’s no way their denial of the truth can be true. It’s a self-defeating proposition.
Alas, Geisler and Turek seem (or pretend) to be unaware of the fact that denial of objective truth is just as much a Christian problem as a secular one. A few weeks ago I was listening to Focus on the Family during my commute home, and the guest speaker (Josh McDowell, if I recall correctly) was lamenting the widespread prevalence among Christians of the idea that truth is relative to what you want to believe. This notion is particularly seductive for Christians because it means that the Christian faith cannot be demonstrated to be false. Denial of objective truth gives Christians a license to continue believing in Jesus despite the many real-world problems and inconsistencies that plague Christianity, and that’s making it difficult for traditional apologists to combat the growth of Christian relativism.
Geisler and Turek, regrettably, try to portray postmodernism as a purely non-Christian phenomenon.
Although few would admit it, our rejection of religious and moral truth is often on volitional rather than intellectual grounds–we just don’t want to be held accountable to any moral standards or religious doctrine.
Notice the Emperor’s New Clothes argument above: “The reason people do not see the value of our religion is because they are insufficiently virtuous.” Yes, go ahead and pat yourselves on the back for being so noble and humble as to put your faith in what men tell you about God’s moral standards!
Contrary to what is being taught in many public schools, truth is not relative but absolute.
The public schools are grades K-12, in the USA at least, and I think you would be hard pressed to find any public school curriculum that taught that two plus two was equal to whatever you sincerely believe it to equal, or that the War of 1812 was fought, oh, roughly whenever you think it ought to have been fought. If you want wishy-washy post-modern relativism, you’ll need to visit the theology and philosphy departments (not the science departments!), and maybe some of the sociology and anthropology departments, in some of the state and private universities around the world. It is being taught, and it is nonsense, but it’s not (as Geisler and Turek might like to imply) a state-run indoctrination of impressionable minors.
Geisler and Turek don’t seem to realize it, but they’re digging a grave for Christianity in this chapter. By basing their argument on the existence of truth, and by agreeing that “Ideas have consequences” (p. 40), they’re paving the way for a demonstration of the fact that Christianity is not consistent with real-world truth. If there is a real-world truth, and if this truth is consistent with itself (as it must be in any rational cosmos), then it’s possible to determine whether Christianity is true or false by objectively and scientifically examining whether it is consistent with itself and with real-world truth.
Halloween may be over, but I guarantee this approach is going to come back to haunt them.