The truth matters to people. It matters to people a lot. It has been held in such high regard that people have fought for what they believe is the truth, people have died for the truth, people have spent their whole lives looking for the truth. Take the Iraq war for example. What annoyed people more than anything was the fact that they had been lied to by Bush and Blair about WMDs. How often have you felt hurt because your friend lied to you?
Human beings love the truth. We hold it dear and above all we want to know the truth. We want to be in possession of it. We hate not knowing the truth. We hate being deceived.
This means that a lot of people get really angry when Christians claim to hold the exclusive truth in this world. They splutter indignantly and say “How can Christians claim to hold the exclusive truth?” little realising the irony of their statement.
So here is the first of two posts on Truth. In this post I’ll look at the defining attributes that all truths hold and in the next I’ll apply them to Christianity.
Truths can never contradict each other
This makes logical sense. If two ‘truths’ said the exact opposite of each other then one of them must be a lie. If two men look at a blue pen and one says “it is blue” and the other “it is red” then only one is speaking the truth.
All truth is exclusive
Truth excludes all other possibilities. If the pen is blue then this excludes the truth that the pen is red. Truth by its very nature creates a division between the fact it proposes and everything else. There is no such thing as a non-exclusive truth. The blue pen cannot be red.
All truths must agree with each other
This connects back to the first point. If two truths contradict each other then they cannot both be true. One must be a lie. Similarly if someone was to make multiple truth claims then for everything they said to be truth everything said would have to agree. If you have two pens of different colours they cannot both be called blue.
The existence of one truth means the existence of many lies
If there is something that is true it must mean that anything that is contrary to it is not true i.e. a lie. The pen is blue is the truth so the pen being white, black, red, orange, yellow, purple, etc are all lies. Lies will always outnumber truths.
Your opinion on the truth does not make it any less true
If I have a blue pen and you insist it is a red pen then that does not make the blue pen turn red. It just makes you wrong. Even if no one believed in a truth it would still be true. For example everyone once thought the world has flat but that did not make the truth of the Earth’s spherical nature any less true.
I’m sure I have you complete agreement so far. It’s all pretty obvious isn’t it? The difficultly comes when we move from the truth about colours of pen to the realms of spiritual truth claims.
Spiritual truths claims are any truth claims that seek to explain the supernatural world. We have Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, New Age-ism, etc, etc, any religion. But spiritual truth claims also include atheism which explains the supernatural by explaining it away and it includes every philosophy out there as well which seeks to fill the void left by there being no spiritual reality.
Now let’s apply our attributes of truth to spiritual truth…
There can only be one spiritual truth
We have Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Buddhism, New Age-ism, Humanism, etc, etc A vast array of opposing belief systems and truth claims. They cannot all be right! Truths cannot contradict each other. They are not all talking about the same truth. Atheism and Christianity cannot both be right. Islam and Christianity cannot both be right.
You may object that all religions say the same things anyway and make the same spiritual truth claims. I beg to differ; if you study religions you would very quickly realise that their truth claims are so different and diverse for it to be impossible for them all to be right. Sure, they may agree on the existence of a God/gods but they differ wildly in who god is and what god does. To say all religions say the same thing would be like asserting that all economists say the same thing because they all talk about economics.
There can only be one true belief system in this world because every other belief system contradicts all others. I’ll repeat myself. There is only one spiritual truth. Logically this is undeniable.
There are many spiritual lies
Since we know there can only be one truth then it makes sense that considering the variety of different spiritual truth claims there are many lies. If Atheism is true then everything else is a lie. If Christianity is true then everything else is a lie. The existence of such a large number of lies is not evidence to the fact that the truth is not true.
Everyone has what they consider to be an exclusive truth
This is what is so ironic about people asking Christians how they can insist they have the exclusive truth. Because in the very act of asking they are implying that Christianity is not true and therefore that they have the truth. This truth excludes the possibility of Christianity being true and is therefore exclusive.
Sorry if this is making your head hurt. Let’s use an analogy. James has a blue pen. He tells Jack it is blue. Jack asks him how he can be so sure that the truth of the blueness of the pen is exclusive. In doing so Jack is saying that the pen might not be blue. In other words he’s implying that the real truth is that the pen is another colour. Jack has just made a claim to an exclusive truth.
Your opinion on spiritual truth doesn’t make the truth less true
If God is true then your opinion on that truth will have no affect on it. You might not want there to be a God but the truth will still remain. You can say you do not believe in God but if his existence is true then his existence is true. You cannot change the truth simply because you do not like it.
In the same way if the Atheists’ claim to truth is correct then though I may not like it I am still wrong.
Spiritual Truth claims matter
By this point some of you may be wondering why people get so bothered by spiritual truth claims. You may be ‘agnostic’ or apathetic to these claims. You may struggle to care either way.
But now you’re asserting your own claim to exclusive truth. You are asserting that Atheism, Christianity, Islam, etc are not worth bothering about. You’re asserting your own truth that these subjects are fruitless to discuss and that they don’t matter.
Yet if you consider the claims all belief systems make then you should care. All spiritual claims make assertions about what happens when you die, Heaven and Hell, how you should live you life now, what God wants you to do and much more. Even Atheism asserts some extremely important truth claims – there is nothing after death, morality is bunk (ok, I’m being purposely annoying here to my atheist friends; my critique of Atheism will be another post.)
All spiritual truth claims involve faith
Whoa! Slow down Benjamin, you say. And I realise what I’m saying here so bear with me. Let’s first of all answer the question: what is faith? Well as the Oxford English dictionary puts it:
Faith, n, complete trust or confidence; firm belief esp. without logical truth; spiritual apprehension of divine truth apart from proof
Or as the writer of Hebrews puts it:
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”
Hebrews 11 v 1
I’m sure you’ll all accept that religious spiritual truth claims require faith. I could argue over the logicalness of faith but in general faith is being certain of what we do not see. The question I’m sure you’re asking is: how does Atheism involve faith?
Well, Atheism’s spiritual truth claim is that the supernatural, unseen, spiritual world does not exist. Atheism works on a what you see is what you get principle. It makes this claim because science is a logical tool that deals only with the natural world. It can offer no say either way on the existence of a supernatural world. That falls out of its boundaries. Atheism says that because science can offer no opinion on the spiritual world and spiritual realities then they do not exist. If science cannot explain it then it cannot exist. This then is a claim to faith. Atheism requires there to be faith that this conclusion is correct rather than say the conclusion of Christianity which it that science offers no opinion, these realities still exist and are explained to us in the Bible. Atheism makes a claim that cannot be proved and therefore involves faith.
What have we established?
First is that only one spiritual truth can exist because truths can never contradict each other. Second is that since truth is exclusive by its very nature the Christian claim to exclusive truth is entirely logically. Third is that everyone makes claims to exclusive truths. Fifth is that your opinion on spiritual truth does affect the truthfulness of said spiritual truth. And lastly we saw that all claims about a spiritual truth rely on faith.
In my next post I’m going to look at and explain Christian truth claims. I welcome any criticism and I’m well aware that this was only an introduction to a potentially vast subject.