The truth about truth from “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict”

When Jesus was being questioned by Pilot, the Bible records Pilot as having said, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). It seems that either truth didn’t matter to Pilot, or that Pilot was as confused to truth as many are today. The answer may be plain for some, but for others, truth can be enigmatic depending on our social, political, religious and intellectual surroundings. Josh McDowell examines whether we can truly find the whole truth about truth.

It seems nearly every distinguished philosopher throughout the ages has given a crack at defining truth. The most popular version of truth today seems to be that ‘truth is relative.’ That is, “there is no objective standard by which truth may be determined, so that truth varies with individuals and circumstances.” [1]

But relativism is self-defeating. Can one say, “It is absolutely true that there is no such thing as absolute truth?” If not, then relative truth is relative itself. That means one thing can be both true and untrue. A Christian believes God to exist while an atheist doesn’t. While we can respect each others’ opinions, the truth is that God does not both exist and not exist.

The same goes for moral relativism, which determines what is right based on a particular society’s codes. For example, under moral relativism, Martin Luther King Jr. would have been wrong to demand civil rights for blacks in the South because segregation was considered the moral code for the South; but would have been perfectly fine to demand it in the Northern states where the societal code already agreed with him. Ergo, under moral relativism, segregation in the United States would be both right and wrong.

So how do have we come to know that segregation is wrong and that all people of all races deserve the same amount of respect? As Norman Geisler said, “The only way the relativist can avoid the painful dilemma of relativism is to admit that there are at least some absolute truths.”[2]

But how can truths be known? Truth is based on first principles, or self-evident standards. That is, self-evidence is something that does not need any further explanation or test, and cannot be contradicted. The mind is predisposed to self-evident truths, such as those our founding fathers proclaimed in their Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These self-evidences form the basis for all arguments regarding truth.

It seems that in the search for wisdom, we have confounded ourselves. Students in liberal universities are blindsided by philosophical rhetoric and do not know how to counteract it. When that happens, they either fall for it or, as Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli have said, “Perhaps the primary origin of subjectivism today, at least in America, is the desire to be accepted…”[3]

But there are those who couldn’t care less about being ‘with it.’ I’m reminded of a farmer whom I heard once say, “I’m the type of guy who says two and two is four. If you say it ain’t  well, I have a problem with that.” In other words, truth is simple. We needn’t make simple things complicated to give ourselves intellectual stimulation or to be with the ‘in crowd.’ We need to understand truth, be able to accurately explain it, and be brave enough to stand with it.

[1] Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers), 589.

[2] Ibid. 593.

[3] Ibid. 595.

2 thoughts on “The truth about truth from “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict”

  1. Love the post, JM. Also love the Geisler quote above which may be based on the work by CS Lewis in this book “Mere Christianity.”

    That particular book is the best I have seen with respect to making the case against moral relativism.

    It does a great job at proving that relativism points to an absolute standard!


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