Every day we bump into wrong-headed beliefs about truth. And they can be deadly.
It reminds me of the story of a widow struggling with loneliness who went to a pet store to find something for companionship. The owner sold her a parakeet that talked. But after a week, the parakeet wouldn't speak. She returned to the pet store. "The parakeet is not talking."
The proprietor said, "You need a mirror. The parakeet needs to see itself in the mirror; then it will be encouraged to talk." She bought a mirror, placed it in the cage, and made sure that the parakeet could see itself. After another week, the parakeet still had not talked.
The lady returned, complaining, and the owner responded, "You need a swing. The parakeet's got to swing and look at itself for it to talk." She bought the swing, but the parakeet still wouldn't talk. And at the end of the week, it fell over dead.
The upset widow confronted the owner and said, "That parakeet you sold me died. I bought the mirror and swing, but that bird didn't speak until right before it fell over dead."
The store owner asked, "What did it say?"
"Don't they sell any food at that pet store?'" she responded.
Like the pet store owner, false worldviews sell you the wrong things. These include confusing views of truth that will destroy us. So, let's look at an undeniable definition and four characteristics of truth that Christians believe represent reality.
Four Undeniable Truths about Truth
Christians assert that the nature of "truth" means:
- Truth exists
- Truth is knowable
- Truth is absolute
- Truth is exclusive (or "The opposite of true is false")
These "four undeniable truths about truth" are essential for a proper worldview and to refute the many mistaken beliefs that destroy people's lives within our culture.
The Definition of Truth
Christianity claims that the definition of truth is "that which corresponds to reality." This is known as the "correspondence view of truth."
- If I assert, "The sky is blue, and the grass is green," go outside and look at the sky and grass. If my contentions correspond to reality, then they are true.
This definition applies to both physical phenomena and abstract realities (mathematical truths and truths about ideas). In sum, any time you make a proposition (whether expressed as a belief, thought, statement, or representation) and it corresponds to reality... then it is true. If a statement does not correspond to factual reality, it is false.
How do you know that the correspondence view of truth is correct? Because it is undeniable. Why? Because every other definition of truth (e.g., coherence or pragmatism) that rejects the correspondence view uses it to prove it is the correct view.
In other words, alternative definitions of truth such as coherence or pragmatism say their model is correct because it corresponds to reality. Do you see that these alternative views use the correspondence view of truth to prove it is wrong? In other words, pragmatism and coherence base their own definition on the correspondence definition of truth. But that is the definition they say is false! That is a contradiction.
What Undeniability is Not
What does undeniability mean? Let's begin by considering what the term "undeniability" doesn't mean!
I am not saying that you or anyone else cannot deny something is true. People deny the truth all the time! But just because you have the right to deny something doesn't make that denial correct.
For example, what if I deny that I exist? Even though I can make that statement, it cannot be accurate. Why? Because you have to exist to claim that you don't exist!
What Undeniability Means
Now let's consider what undeniability means when dealing with the definition of truth and the four characteristics of truth.
It turns out that anytime someone denies these aspects of truth, they look foolish. Why?
Because when you deny the definition or nature of truth, you have to base your argument on the very principle you are rejecting. And that is a contradiction.
Does that seem confusing? It's not; it's as simple as the following example:
- What is wrong with the claim, "I cannot speak a single word of English"? By applying the statement on itself, you see that the person spoke eight English words to tell us he can't say one word! Therefore, the claim is contradictory.
When it comes to Christianity, our understanding of the definition and nature of truth is irrefutable. That means that if you deny their validity, you are contradicting yourself.
4 Wrong Views of Truth
Christians believe that truth exists, is knowable, is absolute, and is exclusive. Anyone who denies any one of those is wrong. And it is easy to refute the most common incorrect beliefs about truth and show that they are undeniable.
Many non-theistic worldviews hold to several incorrect views of truth. These views claim:
- It does not exist (the skeptic)
- It cannot be known (the agnostic)
- It is relative (the relativist)
- All truths are equally valid even if they contradict each other (the pluralist)
Each of these views is radically misguided about truth. And here's how you can engage each of these four representatives with confidence.
1. The Skeptic
Skeptics claim that truth does not exist. But the existence of truth is undeniable. Truth is discovered, not invented. It exists independent of anyone's knowledge of it. For example, gravity existed before the law of gravitation in 1687 was discovered.
But skeptics like David Hume (1711-1776) believed we should "doubt everything." If Hume were consistent with his view, he would agree with other skeptics claiming, "There is no such thing as truth."
But the skeptic's mistake is made clear when we rephrase his assertion that, "It is true that truth does not exist." He is making a truth claim denying the existence of truth!
- Ask them, "Is that statement true?"
- If they respond "Yes,": Then they have contradicted themselves
- If they respond "No": "Then why make an untrue statement?"
It is undeniable: truth exists!
2. The Agnostic
Consider the agnostic like Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), who argues, "Truth is not knowable."
By applying the statement on itself, the contradiction is apparent. To help the agnostic see the self-refuting nature of his proposition, you can restate their claim to, "I know that truth is not knowable."
- Ask the agnostic, "Do you know that your belief is true?"
- If they answer "Yes,": They have contradicted themselves.
- If they answer "No:" They are saying nothing meaningful.
It is undeniable: truth is knowable!
The most commonly held misperception about truth is relativism. It contends that truth is relative to some person or culture.
Consider relativism's claim, "All truth is relative."
Relativists believe their view is universally true and should be imposed on absolutely everyone, everywhere, at all times under all circumstances. But that is an "absolute" view about truth. But relativism denies such absolute statements.
Relativism's error becomes evident when their belief is restated, "I am absolutely sure there is no absolute truth."
- Ask the relativist, "Are you absolutely sure that all truth is relative?"
- If they respond, "Yes,": They have contradicted themselves.
- If they respond "No,": Then why are they wasting their time pushing their beliefs on others and believing in something that they don't consider correct themselves?
It is undeniable: truth is absolute!
The fourth wrong view of truth is pluralism. Many pantheistic religions hold to this belief. They assert, "All truth claims are equally true, even contradictory ones."
Pluralism contradicts the fourth undeniable characteristic of truth, namely exclusivism. Exclusivism means if something is true, its opposite is false. This conviction is the fundamental principle of logic called the Law of Noncontradiction (LON).
- "Opposites cannot both be true in the same sense, at the same time in the same way" is another way to express the LON.
- For example, it would be contradictory to say that I am married to Deb today and that I am a bachelor on today's date. While both claims could be wrong (i.e., I could be married to someone else), only one of those statements can be correct. And if one of them is true, every opposite assertion is false.
And that is why the LON is simple to identify. Whenever you say something is "true" or "false," you are invoking the LON.
The LON is essential because every worldview has core principles that contradict all of its competitors, which means that when one religion is correct, all the opposite choices are wrong.
The problem is that pluralism believes that all worldviews are equally valid and that none are wrong, meaning contradictory beliefs are equally valid.
In essence, they believe, "The opposite of true is true." But since this interpretation violates the LON, it proves pluralism false.
Using the LON to Deny the LON
But some pluralists push back. Instead of accepting defeat, they insist, “The LON is wrong!
They insist that Christians use "Western logic," and they use "Eastern logic." But wait a minute. If you say something is true or false, you are using the LON, and they just claimed that the LON is false, aren’t they using the LON to deny the LON?
Yes, they are contradicting themselves. So to respond:
- Ask the pluralist: "Is pluralism true and Christianity false?"
- If "Yes": "Then pluralism is exclusivistic because it excludes Christianity as true."
- If "No": "How can pluralism reconcile that all worldviews are true (including Christianity) when Christianity claims that your pluralism is false?" They can't.
It is undeniable: truth is exclusive!
Responding to the Allegation of Intolerance
On occasion, despite efforts to be kind and civil, someone will accuse you of being intolerant. But tolerance never means agreeing with everything someone else says. Tolerance implies a willingness to listen to another's opposing views respectfully. If you are respectfully disagreeing, you are tolerant. And that's what you'd expect from anyone else as well.
Also, as we've seen, any view claiming to be true is claiming to be exclusive (whether that's my claim or your claim).
My Next Step
Use these arguments wisely. These insights can help others see their mistaken perceptions of reality. They should not encourage you to become arrogant or overbearing. Use these rebuttals humbly and respectfully. Why? Because that is the same way, you would want someone to behave towards you (Matt 7:12).