We believe…but what does it mean? Part 3

Absolute truth. From the time I graduated high school until just a couple of years ago, every Christian worldview seminar and every apologetics class was focused on the concept of absolute truth. The argument of absolute truth went something like this: if I could convince a person skeptic of Christianity that absolute truth exists, then they would have to accept that God exists because where else would absolute truth come from if not from God? It was toted as the end all argument to postmoderns everywhere.

However, in flying the banner of absolute truth, we really failed in two key ways. First, the church misread and demonized postmodernism rather than seeing it as an opening of opportunity to engage a whole generation that sought to bring mystery back into a world composed of scientific formulas and purely physical observations. Second, through the process of first establishing absolute truth then deducing God from that basis, absolute truth became an idol and led to the idolatry of absolute truth. In the quest to prove God, absolute truth became the Great Divine under which God became subservient.

Two questions naturally arise. What does absolute truth actually mean? And how do we take absolute truth (a legitimate Christian belief because truth is found within God) and recast it back into its proper place?

Let’s take each in turn. I usually hear absolute truth defined in terms of moral absolutes- there is a definitive right and wrong. What this definition fails to take into account is that what we often see as definitive right and wrong actually derive more from our values as Westerns than our values as Christians. In other words, if we were immersed in an Eastern, African or South American culture, then our absolutes may not seem so absolute. Instead of viewing absolute truth solely in terms of morality or right and wrong, I propose that we write a new definition and thereby place absolute truth back in its proper place.

Two new phrases have been circling around in my head that attempt to rename absolute truth in such as way as to place as deriving from God and not the other way around. The two phrases are: authored truth and originated truth. I think I like the phrase “authored truth” the best. It connotes that truth is not a force or entity that is somehow separate from God and that God has to follow somehow. Rather, it recognizes that truth has an author and an originator. While I have argued elsewhere that belief and unbelief in God is, in fact, illogical, meaning that there is not a way to fully prove or disprove God’s existence and we each come to God with our share of proofs, doubts, answers and questions. However, that does not mean that we cannot use our minds to think of God, deduce attributes of God, think about how the message of God works within the world and ponder ways of communicating that to people; in fact, this is called theology. A discussion of truth can be one of the ways we think about God, as long as we keep truth under God and not as an idol above God.

We believe in authored truth.

 

© Ryan Vanderland 2014

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