How to Know Truth and Evaluate Competing Worldviews
- Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Rev. Chris Daniel is the Executive Director of the Richmond Center for Christian Study. This article is based on the first of five sessions of an apologetics course that Chris originally presented at Virginia Commonwealth University March 24 - April 21, 2010. Details and audio recordings can be found here.
Truth - Why Should I Care?
Why should I care about truth? There are many reasons. One is because it is often detrimental to be out of touch with reality. Let's say you were standing in front of an oncoming bus. If oncoming buses can't hurt you, then it really doesn't matter. But if it's really true that standing in front of an oncoming bus would likely hurt or even kill you, you probably need to know that.
Likewise, if sticking a needle in a power outlet can't hurt you, then it really doesn't matter. But if it's really true that sticking a needle in a power outlet could hurt or even kill you, you need to know that.
Take the case of failing to embrace your Creator who determines your eternal destiny. If God isn't there or doesn't determine your fate, it really doesn't matter. But if it's really true that there is a Creator who determines our destinies, you need to know that.
Truth matters. It's not the only thing that matters, but it does matter. To live out of touch with reality is detrimental to our well-being. But as the following poem illustrates, people sometimes choose to ignore the truth…
My face in the mirror
Isn't wrinkled or drawn.
My house isn't dirty,
The cobwebs are gone.
My garden looks lovely
And so does my lawn.
I think I might never
Put my glasses back on. 1
For those who don't want to see it, there's not much you can do. But for those who want to see and know the truth (that is, the basic nature of reality), I believe it is easy to get to. Although higher education can be a great tool, you don't have to have an advanced degree to get a basic handle on the nature of reality. It is truly accessible to the average person.
To understand the basic nature of the world we live in, it is helpful to start with three foundational principles that I like to call the Reality Principle, the Bias Principle and the Certainty Principle.
Principles for How to Know What's Really True - #1 The Reality Principle
The Reality Principle simply states that truth is really there and is really knowable. This is important because it means that it's not all just a matter of opinions and viewpoints (the impression we often get in our world). Now, I'm not claiming that we can know truth exhaustively, but I do mean that we can know it genuinely. In fact, to deny this principle is self-defeating. To say "truth is not there" is to make a truth claim, which of course undercuts the statement being made. Likewise, to say "truth is not knowable" is to claim to know something to be true, which again undercuts the claim being made. The moment you try and deny this principle, you affirm it. So we can't say that everything is just a matter of personal perspective, but must maintain that truth is really there and is really knowable.
Now, some might say "You can say that certain things are true in the realm of science and history and things like that, but when it comes to things pertaining to God, that's just a matter of faith." I would respond in two ways. First, the idea that faith and truth (i.e., fact) are somehow divorced and reside in two different realms is an idea that we got from the Enlightenment and is not shared by most of human history. Secondly, the notion that "you can't know truth about matters pertaining to God" is itself a self-defeating notion. Such a notion makes a truth claim about matters pertaining to God, namely, that you can't know truth when it comes to matters pertaining to God.
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