Christian truth claims are the foundation of our worldview. These truths have specific characteristics.
When Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6, ESV), he was making five claims about truth. He was saying that truth exists and is knowable, absolute, and exclusive.
Second, it means that truth corresponds to reality.
But what about you? How many times a day do you think or say, "That's true." Or "That's not true." But how do you know that you know what you believe is true?
Do you struggle to know what Christian truth means? And further, how to explain and defend them with non-Christians?
Why All the Confusion About Truth?
We live in an era that either doesn't believe in absolute or universal truth (postmodernism). Neither does it believe in the existence of truth (post-truth). These views are problematic, especially when making moral decisions. By moral decisions, I mean determining what right or wrong and good or bad.
- Postmodernism denies the existence of absolute or universal truth. Instead, it holds that persons, situations, or cultures determine truth (relativism).
- A "post-truth" culture essentially denies the existence of truth. The truth may exist, but it doesn't matter. Lying without embarrassment is acceptable.
Because of our culture's wrong views of truth, fewer people believe in absolute truth. As a result, fewer young adults identify or behave as Christians. But how do these people justify their beliefs and behaviors?
In short, they don't.
Why Does Our View of Truth Matter?
Every day we make morally relevant decisions. For example, "Is this belief right? Is that action good?"
There are two standards for making moral decisions. The first is based on an objective universal truth (i.e., Christianity). The second is based on a subject's feelings (relativism). Each can give a different answer to moral questions.
What is Christian Truth?
Two thousand years ago, Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" (John 18:38).
Since then, believers have proclaimed that Jesus corresponds to truth (John 14:6). And that the Bible is an ultimate source of that Christian truth. It teaches everything we need to know about living a godly life (2 Pet. 1:3). God has also commanded every Christian to defend this truth (1 Pet. 3:15).
How is Truth Defined?
The "correspondence definition of truth" is the correct definition of truth.
This definition declares, "the truth is that which corresponds to reality."
For instance, if I say the sky is blue. Have a look. If the sky is blue, your statement corresponds to reality. Therefore it is true.
This definition is irrefutable because it cannot be denied. In other words, it is "undeniable."
Don't believe me? Go ahead and deny it. To illustrate, you could assert, "Truth does not correspond to reality."
But I would subsequently respond, "Do you believe your denial corresponds to reality?"
- If you say, "yes," you contradicted yourself. Because you said "truth" doesn't correspond to reality!
- If you say "no," then you admitted to making a false statement?
So the "correspondence test for truth" cannot be denied without using it. In other words, it is "undeniable!"
Four Characteristics of Truth
Christian truth has four characteristics. Truth:
These four characteristics of Christian truth are also undeniable.
They are also the first step in Dr. Norman Geisler's classical apologetic for Christianity.
Responding to Non-Christian Views of Truth
Many non-theistic worldviews hold to several incorrect views of truth. For instance:
- Skepticism claims truth does not exist.
- Agnosticism believes truth is unknowable.
- Relativism asserts that all truth is relative to a person, situation or culture.
- Pluralism says all truths are equally valid even if they contradict each other.
Each of these views is wrong.
1. The Skeptic Denies the Existence of Truth
First, skepticism denies the existence of truth.
To see the skeptic's mistake, rephrase his assertion to, "It is true that truth does not exist."
- If he answers "Yes,' he contradicted himself. He made a truth claim denying the existence of truth claims!
- If he answers "No," he admits to making a false statement.
It is undeniable: truth exists!
2. The Agnostic Denies that Truth is Knowable
Second, let's consider the agnostic who argues, "Truth is not knowable."
To show the agnostic's mistake restate the claim. "Do you know that truth is not knowable?"
- If they answer "Yes,": Agnostics have contradicted themselves. Basically, agnostics are claiming to "know" that truth cannot be known.
- If they answer "No:" They are saying nothing meaningful.
It is undeniable: truth is knowable!
3. Relativism Denies that Absolute Truth Exists
The third is relativism. Relativism denies that absolute truth exists. Instead, it contends that truth is relative to some person, situation, or culture.
But they make a fundamental mistake. Relativists should only apply their belief to themselves. But they don't.
Instead, relativists want to impose their view universally. In other words, everyone everywhere must accept relativism. Not to mention, at all times and under all circumstances. But that makes their view an "absolute" truth!
To refute relativism, ask, "Are you absolutely sure there is no absolute truth?"
- If they respond, "Yes," they contradict themselves. Relativists are making an "absolute truth" statement that no absolute truths exist.
- If they respond "No." Ask them why they believe in a view that they don't consider correct themselves.
It is undeniable: truth is absolute!
4. Pluralism Denies that Truth is Exclusive
Fourth is pluralism. Some pantheistic religions hold to this belief. They assert, "All truth claims are equally true, even contradictory ones."
On the other hand, Christianity is an exclusive religion. We believe Christianity alone has all truth. And we exclude any different worldview that disagrees with us.
Christianity's exclusivism applies the "Law of Noncontradiction" (LON). The LON is a fundamental (and undeniable) law of logic.
In brief, the LON states, "the opposite of true is false."
Every time I say something is "true," its opposite must be false. For instance, if I say, "On today's date, I am married." The opposite, "On today's date, I am a bachelor," is false.
But pluralists deny the LON. Instead, they believe, "The opposite of true is true." Consequently, their belief violates the LON, proving pluralism is false.
Ask the pluralist: "Is pluralism the only true view?"
- If "Yes": "Then pluralism is exclusivistic! It excludes non-pluralistic worldviews including Christianity."
- If "No." They just admitted that pluralism is not valid!
It is undeniable: truth is exclusive!
The Scorpion and the Beaver
A scorpion asked a beaver to take him across the river on his back. "Are you insane?" asked the beaver. "While I'm swimming, you'll sting me, and then I'll drown."
"Oh, come now," laughed the scorpion. "Why would I string you? Then I'd drown too. Come on. Be logical."
"That makes sense," said the beaver. "Hop on and off; we'll go." The scorpion climbed on the beaver's back, but he gave the poor trusting beaver a mighty sting halfway across the river. As they both sank to the bottom, the beaver asked, "Why did you do such a wicked thing? You said yourself there would be no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?"
"Logic has nothing to do with it," sighed the scorpion. "It's just my nature."
Non-Christian views of truth are fatally flawed. It's their nature to be wrong because they are not logical. Their beliefs can only lead them to unbiblical conclusions that ultimately lead to eternal separation from God.
On the other hand, Christian truth is eminently logical. Wishful thinking or "feelings" are not the basis for knowing God’s truth. Instead, God, the ultimately rational Being, created us in his image. As a result, Christian truth is superior to any other view.
We have shown the correct definition of truth. And that definition is consistent with truth corresponding to Jesus. Furthermore, truth exists and is knowable, absolute, and exclusive. These characteristics are precisely what the Bible claims.
Defending Christian Truth in Real Life
Apologetics (pre-evangelism) is about fostering an encouraging atmosphere to defend and promote Christian truth. In most situations, you will never use these arguments.
That is ok because you are not out to win an argument but evangelize. Non-Christians don't know Christ, the gospel, or God's love (Rom. 3:21; Eph. 4:18). Therefore, we need to be a source of information attractively packaged.
It is best if we follow several suggestions. For example:
- Pursue genuine friendships based on trust and humility rather than winning arguments.
- Be patient and avoid lecturing. Instead, ask questions and welcome feedback
- Meet non-Christians where they are spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally,
- Seek to find a common ground of agreement.
- Remember that it is distressing to learn truths that demolish life-long beliefs.
In creating relationships with non-Christians is always best to consider one question. How would you want someone to behave towards you (Matt 7:12)?