WHEN POST MODERN SKEPTICS ASK!
(Questions about Truth, Morality, God, Christ, the Bible, Evil, Miracles, Meaning (Ecclesiastes, "All is meaningless") authored by Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks--When Skeptics Ask, A Handbook on Christian Evidences) (Victor Books, 1990);(Also see Charles Colson's book, Burden of Truth, Defending Truth in an Age of Unbelief (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 1997).
Questions about God:
1. Does God exist? (skepticism, deism, atheism)
2. What does it mean to exist? Does existence entail infinitude in the time/space context between
Newton and Einstein?
3. Where does the God question stand after Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Freud, the Death of God, etc.
4. What kind of God exists?
5. If everything needs a cause, then what caused God?
6. If God created all things, then how did He create Himself? (What of pantheism, polytheism or
7. Is moral law beyond God or arbitrary? (Do we need God for morals?)
8. If God is without limits, then He must be both Good and Evil (e.g.. panentheism of Process
Philosophy, Whitehead, et al or pantheistic denial of the reality of evil, i.e. only an illusion? "Is
that all there is?
9. If God is eternal when did He create the world? (eg. creation of time and space, i.e. history)
10. If God knows everything and His knowledge cannot change, then everything is predetermined
and there is no Free Will (i.e., Freedom, etc., post modern genetic environmental determinism;
tension between genetic and environmental determinism)
11. Is God only a psychological projection after Feuerback and Freud, et al.?
12. What significance(s) does belief or rejection of God have for daily life? (eg., justice, peace,
grace, love, virtue)
Questions about the Bible:
1. Is the Bible really a revelation from God?
2. Are there other sources of Revelation, eg. Koran, Book of Mormon, et el?
3. Did Jesus teach the authority/Revelation of the Old Testament? Matthew 4. 4,7,10 - Finality
Matthew 5. 17,18 - Indestructibility
Matthew 12. 40 - Historicity
Matthew 19. 2-5 - Facticity
Matthew 22.29 - John 3.12, 17.1a - Inerrancy
Matthew 22. 43 - Authority
Matthew 26. 54 - Reliability
Luke 16. 31 - Sufficiency
Luke 24.27,44 - Unity
Luke 24.27 - Clarity
John 10.35 - Infallibility
4. How was the Bible written? Inspiration, II Timothy 3.16 - II Peter 1.21 (word must be written)
eg. Liberal movement from Inspiration to Inspirational, eg. Handel's Messiah and Bach's music,
5. Are human and divine factors incorporated? (I Corinthians 2.13, Hebrews 1.1; II Peter 1.21)
6. Is the Bible only an infallible guide about spiritual matters? (This is a crucial issue in post
7. What of the Biblical Canon, egs. questionable books--Hebrews, James, II Peter, 2/3 John, Jude,
8. What about the apocrypha?
9. What can the Hebrew/Aramaic Greek texts be correctly translated? (eg. cross-cultural
communication, Mission and Evangelism).
10. How reliable are the biblical texts of the Old and New Testaments?
11. How reliable are modern translations?
12. What of the Gnostic Gospels and the Jesus Seminar (see my paper, "Jesus Under Fire" and
"The Search for the Wrong Jesus"). Is God speaking to us through His book about His Son,
Jesus Christ? (See "The Theology of Promise" for unity of scripture with Christ as the Center
(Luke 24, John 5) "Search the Scriptures daily to see if these things are true."
Such popular voices as Thomas Paine (Common Sense and The Age of Reason) and Bertrand
Russell's Why I Am Not A Christian have long before the Jesus Seminar rejected the Biblical
view of Jesus Christ.
The truth of Christianity depends entirely on the truth concerning Jesus Christ. Did He exist? How can we know anything about His life? Who was he? Why should we believe in Him above all others? (No other name!) What are the reasons for believing in the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, etc.? (see James Sire's book, Why Believe Anything?, Inter Varsity Press) From the classical liberal denial of the Deity of Christ to Bultmann's "demythologizing hermeneutic" and beyond to post modern revisionist Christology, Bork, Crossan, et al.
Questions Concerning Jesus Christ:
The essence of all forms of post modern Christology reject the very possibility of the supernatural (miracles). After the 19th century scientific historiographical, hermeneutical revolution the historical foundation of the Christian faith was removed as fundamental to the Christian faith (eg. faith after Freud and all forms of Fideism).
1. From the New Testament witness to the Nicene Creed (AD 325) the uniform belief has been that Jesus is very God and very man. His humanity development (Matt. 1.18,20; Lk. 1.34,35), affections (Matt. 4.2; John 19.28; Mk. 4.38; Matt. 26.38; Mk. 6.6; John 11.35), death (Lk. 23.48,49; John 19.25-27).
2. The Deity of Christ: Claims of Jesus
a. To be Yahweh - John 8.58
b. Equality with God - John 5.18
c. To be Messiah - Mark 14.61-64
d. Accepts worship - Matt. 28.17
e. Equal authority with God - Matt. 28.18
f. Prayer in His name - John 14.13,14
g. Claims to be Messiah God - Isaiah 9.6
h. What is Messiah? - Isa 45.1; I Sam 26.1; II Sam 7.12-16
i. Claim of accepting worship - Ex 28.1-5, Deut 5.6-9; Isa 61.1; Zech 9-12; Acts 14.15;
j. Claim to equal authority with God - Matt 5.21,22; Jn 12. 48; 13.34,
k. Claim by requesting Prayer in His name - John 14.13,14; 15.7; I Cor. 5.4; Acts 7.59
3. What Claims did the Disciples make about Jesus?
a. Titles of Deity - Rev. 1.177
b. Messiah - Phil 2.10
c. Powers of God - Col. 1.16-17
d. Associates with God - Gal. 1.3
e. Prayer to - Acts 7.59
f. Called God - Titus 2.13
g. Superior to angels - Heb. 1.5,6
h. Forgiver of sins - Acts 5.31; Col. 3.13
i. Savior of the world - John 4.42
j. Judge living and dead - II Tim. 4.1
All these titles are given to Yahweh in the Old Testament and to Jesus in the New Testament. They considered Him to be Messiah God (Phil 2.10,11). They attributed the powers of God to Jesus (Acts 5.31; 13.38; John 1.3; Col. 1.16,17); they associated Jesus' name to God's (I Cor 5.4; Acts 7.59; Gal 1.3; Eph 1.2; II Cora 13.14). They called Him God directly (John 1.1, 20.28; Col. 2.9; Titus 1.13; Heb 1.3, 8; Phil 2.5-8; Col 1.15). They declared that He was superior to Angels (Eph 1.21; Matt 8.32; Rev 22.8,9; Heb 1.5,6). (C.S. Lewis, "Jesus is either liar, lunatic or Lord"
The evidence to support these impressive claims are miracles, especially His Resurrection from The Dead and fulfillment of Messianic prophecies (Gen 3.15; Gal 4.4; Isa. 7.14; Matt 1.21f; Gen 12.1-3; 22.18; Matt 1.1; Gal 3.16; Isa 53). Critical redating of Old Testament sources cannot remove the significance of Messianic prophecies.
There is no basis of accounting for their fulfillment by statistical calculus and demographic prognostication. There is no "natural" explanation for this amazing phenomenon. A post modern nonsense effort to evade the Biblical writers was Schoenfield in The Passover Plot. His thesis is that Jesus manipulated the prophecies into fulfillment. What? This is not even a possible thesis. Logically it is impossible for "chance" to have caused these things. Mathematicians have calculated the probability of sixteen predictions being fulfilled in one man at 1 to 10.45 (see esp. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Macmillan Co., 1943, p. 556); Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutation (Harper & Row, 1963, p. 36); W.L. Edwards, M.D. et al, "On The Physical Death of Jesus Christ" Journal of American Medical Association 255:11 March 21, 1986, p. 1463; G.R. Habermas, Ancient Evidence for The Life of Jesus (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984, pp. 125-126; and especially W. Craig's two magnificent works on Christ's Resurrection).
If Jesus Christ is only an illusion, pretender or liar, He is the most powerful illusion pretender liar in world history. The creation of the world, incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection are the four pillars of separation from all the religious claims in the history of the world. Even post modern revisionist history is totally incapable of critiquing the biblical data.
The data of biblical history offers enormous justification for the Christian faith in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. On this fact stands or falls biblical exclusivism concerning all alternative counter claims in world religions--Hindu, Buddha, Islam, Lao-tzu, etc. "If Christ be not risen then is our faith meaningless" (I Corinthians 15)
Post Modern Questions Concerning Evil:
The problem of Evil is perhaps the greatest challenge for post modern acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord. Technically from any form of a naturalistic world view, evil is just an empirical fact. It is no proof that God does not exist, because if there is no God, then all negative factors in existence are merely parts of naturalistic evolution. C.S. Lewis is surely correct in his assertion that sooner or later each of us must deal with the problem of pain, that is the problem of evil.
We often speak about evil acts, evil people, evil books, evil events, evil sickness, but what makes all of these things evil? Is a virus or a rival force in the universe like Darth Vader, the Force? If God created all things, then He created evil, so good the mantra (eg. Augustine's. Manichaeus). The scriptures say that sin and evil have their origin in the garden of Eden with the fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 1-3). If man is not free then no praise or blame follows any act or action. Freedom is imperative if responsibility is to represent our condition. Why can't evil be stopped? From the 17th/18th centuries forward the influence of Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), who claimed to be a defender of Calvinism, expressed in Dictionary had immense influence on The Enlightenment writers such as Hume, Voltaire, Berkeley and Diderot. The thesis set forth was that every problem/mistake ever made was by philosophers; therefore doubting virtually everything.
There is a vast literature which asks the question, "Where is God when it hurts?" Pain often keeps us from self destruction. Lepers lose their fingers, toes and noses. It has nothing to do with their disease. The disease causes them to lose feeling in their extremities and they literally destroy themselves. They cannot feel pain so they touch fire which burns them and without feelings they bump into objects which harm them. Some biblical examples of evil producing a greater good are Joseph, Job, Samson, Jesus, Paul and John (Job 23.10; II Cor 12; John 15.13) (see more examples in Philip Yancey, Where is God When It Hurts?, Zondervan, 1997, p. 37).
It might sound strange for some ears to hear that some evil helps defeat evil. For important first steps in rehabilitation program (prison efforts) in substance abuse, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine it is vital to give the patient all that he or she can stand until he/she gets sick of it. It is easier to quit after experiencing a bad situation. The ultimate example is the Cross! There infinite injustice was inflicted on an innocent man so that good might come to every person.
Meet You At The Cross!
Why did God allow His Son to suffer and die the cruel and violent death of a common criminal? The injustice is very hard to explain unless there is a greater good accomplished by Christ's death which transcends the evil of it. Jesus said that He had come "to give His life (as) a ransom for many" (Mark 10.45) and saying "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down His life for his friends" (John 15.13) Hebrews marvelously declares the same message--"Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame," meaning that the reconciliation of sinners was worth the suffering. The higher purpose of suffering was prophetically declared in Isaiah's "Suffering Servant"--He was pierced through for our transgression; He was crushed for our inequities; the chastisement for our well being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed." (Isaiah 53.5) Compare the Suffering Servant and Crucifixion passages (Luke 23.26ff; Matt 27.32ff; Mk 15.21ff)
Christ's cross is God's higher purpose of His suffering for our salvation from sin and death. His substitute for the penalty of our sins is more important than the evil inherent in the process--our guilt and punishment have been taken away.
C.S. Lewis said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." (Lewis, The Problem of Pain (NY: MacMillan, 1962, p. 93; see also his, A Grief Observed (NY: Bantam Books, 1976, pp. 33-35).
Does There Have To Be So Much Evil?
The extent of evil poses a problem (eg. after Freud, Max, et al, sin, evil worship, etc., were reduced to neurosis--addressed only by psychiatric, socio, economic paradigm changes; therefore radical behavior modification could come by more radical structural changes which caused the problem in the first place). The dominate questions it poses are--couldn't God have made a better world? What about hell--eternal punishment? If God desires that all men are to be saved (II Peter 9.9) does God love everyone? God cannot force anyone to love Him. Forced love is a contradiction in terms. But in our post modern rejection of reason, logic, language, history, etc. this claim is nonsense to the post modern world. The discussion centers around the tension of our Free Will and human responsibility, but in our post modern neurological narrative displacement man is reduced to a low grade computer, thus a machine. If man is genetically and environmentally determined, he cannot be "free." But there is a logical contradiction between the mutually exclusive claim that man is both genetically and environmentally determined. If he is genetically determined he cannot be environmentally determined! If he is environmentally determined, he cannot be genetically determined. Transcendence lurks in the background of these mutually exclusive claims. Only a metanarrative can escape the contradictory impasse! (See esp. Matt. 23.37) People do not go to either Heaven or Hell because God sends them there; they choose it and God respects their freedom. If anyone is in Heaven or Hell, it is because of human choice (eg. John 3.18,36; 5.39-40; 8.24; 12.48; Luke 10.16). The best of all possible choices is structured both in God's sovereignty and man's freedom; only then can man be free and responsible for his decision. Man's biggest sin of all is rejecting God's love and redemption.
We often hear the question, "Couldn't God make a world without evil? If God knows everything then He could have created a different world." There are only two possible worlds that God could have created--(1) Total mechanism or (2) a world where some of His creatures were free. The biblical narrative fuses both God's sovereignty and man's freedom. Man's freedom cannot control the outcomes of his freedom, thus God's sovereignty and man's freedom are fused. Man is not free to determine the consequences of his decision! He is only free to make a given choice, but not free to determine the consequences.
After all, God could have created a world without Free Creatures and free creatures who could not sin! (Genesis 1-3, Adam/Evil and The FAll--eg. totally at variance with all world views of naturalistic evolutionary incarnational development--Heb. 4.15; Rev. 21.8,27. God could have created a world in which man sinned but all are saved, i.e., universalism (contra
Missions/Evangelism; see my paper, "From Syncretism to Relativism to Pluralism: The Inclusivism, Exclusivism, Syncretistic Debate in Theology, Mission and Beyond Mere Diversity".)
Why Did God Choose This World?
Is this the best of all possible worlds? Perhaps it is the best way to the best of all possible worlds. If God is to preserve freedom and defeat evil (eg. distinction between Sin(s) and Evil). Those who abuse their freedom will be judged. God has provided for salvation for all men in Christ (I Jn 2.2; II Pet 3.9)
One of the gurus of the French counter culture of the 1960s was John Paul Sartre, an atheist. In his play No Exit, the gates of hell are locked from the inside by man's free choice. Sartre found his atheistic world view hard to live with. Perhaps the brilliant work of Howard Mumma, Albert Camus and The Minister (Paraclete Press-2000, Box 1568, Orleans, MA 02656) will encourage other counter cultural "Rebels without a cause" to listen to the only voice which can guide us out of the impasse between God's answer to the problem of evil and the despair and despondency which it generates--Hope and Joy come only with God's morning of Resurrection.
Hear again for the first time, "thy will be done." All that are in hell chose it." (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (NY: MacMillan, 1946, p. 69); Ravi Zacharia, Deliver Us From Evil (Word Press, 1996). The vast problems of creation, miracles, truth, evolution, resurrection, annihilation, and reincarnation are inseparable issues. The post modern culture rejects God, True Truth, moral norms, Reason, Logic, Language, and History. These matters are perpetrated in the agenda of multicultural education, revisionist history, anti science and media (egs. MTV, prime time).
True Truth in Post Modern Guise
Pilate's words still ring in the ears of post modern auditors--"What is truth?" The cynical voice of post modern gurus is that "there is no true truth." This stance is hardly acceptable to biblically grounded Christians ("Thy word is truth" John 17.17; "I am the truth" John 14.6). Of course truth is relative. But relative to what or whom? There are at last two possible responses to the relativity of truth claim: (1) Truth is relative to time and space(then-now-history) and (2) It is relative to persons (true for me, but not for you).
The claim of absolute truth implies at least two things: (1) Whatever is true of the first alternative is always/everywhere true truth. (2) The second alternative is, what ever is true for one person is true for all persons. Absolute truth doesn't change; relative truth changes from time to time and person to person.
The relativist would say that the statement, "The pencil is to the left of the pad," is relative since it depends on which side of the desk you are studying. Place is always relative to perspective, they say. But truth can be time bound as well. At one time, it was perfectly true to say, "Reagan is president" but it cannot be said now. It was true at one time, but not now (eg. cultural relativism, revisionist history, anti science). The truth of such statements is irrevocably contingent on the time at which they are said.
Likewise, the relativists claim that truth is dependent on the person making that statement. If a Christian says, "you are gods" (Jn 10.34), it means that e have an image of God and are His representatives. If a Mormon says it, he is speaking of his hope to be a deity of his own planet. If a Pantheist says it, she means that humans are God. The truth depends on the views of the one who make the statement and his intended meaning. Also, "I feel sick" may be true for me but not for everyone else in the world. Al these statements are true only in relation to the person who makes them.
The interpretation of the relativist appears to be misguided. As regards time and place, the perspective of the speaker, temporal and spatial is understood in the statement. For example, "Reagan is president" when said in 1986 was true and it will always be true. At no time will it cease to be true that Reagan was president in 1986. If someone uses the same words in 2001 then he is making a new and different truth claim because the present tense is now fifteen years removed from the content of the other statement. The spatial and temporal content of statements is an inherent part of the context which determines the meaning of that assertion (see my papers "Nietzsche's Step Children: All Interpretation Is Misinterpretation," and "The Search For Meaning in Our Post Modern Culture").
The assertion that Reagan was president in 1986 is always true for everyone everywhere; then there is "absolute truth." The same is true about the pencil on the desk. The perspective of the speaker is understood as part of the context. It is absolute truth. The strongest statement of relativism is that "all truth is perspectival" (a' la' Kantian perspectivalism and the cultural relativism thesis in "All 19th Century Behavioral Sciences"-- Sociology, Anthropology, Economics, Political Theory, Psychology, Education, etc., see my bibliography on Relativism and my narrative displacement thesis; my papers, "The Conflict Between 19th Century Positivism and Historicism" and "Sociology of Knowledge Thesis.")
This thesis declares that all truth is really true from a certain way of seeing things or perspective. The classical story of six blind men and the elephant is often used to illustrate and support this thesis. This metaphor proposes that what we think is true is only a matter of your perspective of things. The ultimate issue is that all the blind men were wrong. None of their conclusions were true, so this illustration says nothing about truths. There really was an objective truth that all of them failed to discover. Critical examination of the illustration entails someone's awareness of the existence of an elephant and the nature of blindness versus objective sight. The logic of this illustration is flawed from top to bottom. If "all truth is perspectival," is either an absolute statement or a perspectival one? If it is absolute, then all statements are perspectival. If it is perspectival, then there is no reason to think that it is absolutely true--it is only one perspective. It does not succeed either way (eg. existentialism, phenomenology, Wittgenstein's "language game," etc. The 19th century charged Christianity with being irrational. The post modernism of the 20th century claims that Christianity is too rational. The turn inward begins with Descartes and finds termination in New Age Pantheism. Post Modernism enters the lexicon in the 1980's).
We must always consider what the actual claim is in its context before we can tell if it is true. What about "I feel sick"? Personal pronouns do not transfer as well as verb tenses. What about the truth--"that truth is relative to the context." We are not saying that "meaning" is relative to the context. If relativism were true, then the world would be full of contradictory conditions. But surely these contradictory conditions are impossible. All relative statements can be only relatively true. Here we engage an infinite regress that will never pay off in a real statement. If "Life is but a dream" there are some benefits to relativism. It means that you can never be wrong, therefore all learning is moving from a false belief to a true one.
Does one have to possess absolute evidence to believe absolute truth? No--the truth can be absolute no matter what our grounds for believing it are. We might not ever know a truth, but it is still absolute in itself. The truth doesn't change just because we learn something bout it. Knowledge acquition can also contain error! But there must be a metanarrative from which to adjudicate that X is true while Y is false, if and when it is (see by bibliographies in my papers "Death of God: From Hume and Kant to the 1950's Death of God Movement", "God, Creation, Science and Atheism", "A Contextualization in Context", "Relativism", and "Post Modernism").
There is an entire category of "in-between-things" like what warm means or sound--when is it too loud, beauty and ugliness, taste--when is it too sour or sweet, when not shaving becomes a beard--how can those things be absolute? The fact of in between for me/you is an "absolute fact." Also the conditions of real temperature and the exact length of the beard are "objective" and "real conditions." If truth never changes we should never confuse "open mindedness" and "empty mindedness." If truth never changes, then there cannot be new truth. This dilemma can be confronted in at least two ways: (1) It might mean "new to me," like a new data item for reading or a new discovery in science. The discovery of the DNA, Gene Code, Periodic Chart, black holes--might be new to us but these new data items were decoded from reality, not socially constructed. So the phrase "new truth" can have at least two significations; (2) Something new has come into existence (social construction, Sociology of Knowledge thesis). Absolution has no trouble rationally evaluating both. On January 1, 2000 a new truth was born; my birthday July 3, 1929 was a new truth but absolute, it can never be changed (contra Revisionist History and Anti Science). On January 1, 2022 there will be truth that was never true before but now it is absolute. "Old truths" don't change but "new truths" can come to be, but only because reality is structured, not created. Behe's Darwin's Black Box declares that all reality starts from "Genetic Complexity"--it does not incrementally develop from simple to complex.
Terrors of Truth
There are four basic views of truth: (1) Correspondence theory of truth, (2) Coherence Theory of Truth, (3) Pragmatic Theory of Truth, and (4) Post Modern Denial of absolute truth thus leaving only a cafeteria of socially constructed truths (a' la' Wittgenstein's "Language Game"). Now the historic development of Epistemological theories has reached Epistemological/Cultural Relativism a' la' Multicultural Pluralistic Diversity.
In order to critically evaluate the history of "narrative displacements" we must at least have control of thought from Aristotle (development of the Scientific Method, Deduction/Induction, Probability Calculus, Goedel's theorem--see my paper "Whatever Happened to True Truth?"), development of Science (Scientific Method), Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Einstein, Plank, Heisenberg, Crick, Monad, Husserl, Heidegger, Fish, Quine, Kuhn, Wittgenstein, Lyotard, Rorty, De Man, et .al.
Is Truth Correspondence or Coherent?
The Correspondence Theory of Truth claims that truth is what corresponds to reality. Coherent theory says that if it coheres or holds together as an internally consistent set of statements it is truth (a' la' Hegelian Pantheism or Post Modern Wittgensteinian "Language Time"). The former view of truth is what corresponds to reality. "Truth is telling it like it is" (objectivity - observation does not shape the outcome - absolute Space and Time). The coherence theory of truth is a web hanging in space internally connected like a chain, each link is dependent on the other to hold it together (see my essay "Goedel's Critique of Positivism"). Coherence theory claims that there are no false claims, only more coherent claims. Truth claims are true only to the extent that they fit into the system (eg. World View, Paradigm, Legitimization Structure, Narrative). This position is only another way of saying that "all truth is relative" to the internal consistency of the system. If all statements are "dependent" (contingent) on the system, then no truth can be absolute. Even the system as a whole is not absolute, because it depends on the coherence of all its contingent parts. Therefore, all parts are relative to the truth of the other factors. If the coherence theory says that truth is relative, then the theory must be wrong.
How To Justify Truth?
There is no escape from an infinite regress, if all truth is "dependent." We have now entered the post modern rejection of True Truth! If we are to explain explanation itself, we cannot accept an infinite regress as solution. Only the biblical God can provide this metanarrative for stopping infinite regress in its tracks. Hegel's "dialectic" avoided infinite regress via his Lutheran view of the infinite "geist" (his god is no god!).
Infinite regress judges "coherentism" impossible as a solution to our question--"How to Justify Truth." When re reject logic, language, and reason there is no way to refute pantheism (or panentheism). In fact, if there is no true truth, what would it mean to "refute anything?" All systems require metanarrative in order to escape solipsism. If there is any True Truth some form of critical realism, i.e., correspondence theory, is imperative. Once this narrative was displaced in Western thought, we entered post modern relativism, eg. multicultural diversity (a' la' dining in the cafeteria of post modern tolerance) of Christian Education. Nothing short of preaching the Gospel, Missions and Evangelism are at stake!
Is Truth Intentions or Persons?
Another important post modern theory of truth is that truth is not a quality of propositions, but of intentions (see my papers "Nietzsche's Step Children: All Interpretation Is Misinterpretation"; "The Christian Faith and Scientific Revolution" and "The Search for Meaning in Our Post Modern Culture" (Lost Intentionality).
In our post modern culture, a statement is considered true if it achieves its intended purpose, and considered false only if it is intended to mislead someone (misinformation, FBI, KGB, CIA, advertisement/media/virtual reality, see Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death). This serious error is relevant in the discussion of "errors" in the Bible and has been espoused by many post modern evangelicals in the discussion of revelation and supposed errors in The Bible. Some claim there can be factual inconsistencies in The Bible and still call The Scriptures infallible. Their dubious claim that the scriptures infallibly accomplish their purpose of leading men to Christ and the authors never intentionally deceived anyone.
The correspondence view claims that truth resides in proposition. Meaning is a disclosure of the author's intentions. Therefore we can escape the Freudian error of attempting to psychoanalyze dead men; only the author's words are available to decode his or her meaning. This is possible only when we see the proper relationship of all words in the sentence and the sentence to the paragraph and ultimately the entire message of the Canon (see my "Theology of Promise as Scripture Metanarrative").
The tension between correspondence and post modernism might be perceived by the following comparison: (1) Correspondence--factual versus practical; (2) Nature--propositional versus personal; (3) Referent--reality versus results (pragmatism); (4) Medium--language versus life; (5) Location--affirmation versus intention; (6) Nature of Error--falsehood versus lie and mistake versus deceit; (7) Implication--all mistakes versus not all mistakes and are errors versus are errors.
Is truth ever in a person rather than a proposition? Only John 14.6 uses Truth of a person of 100 plus uses in the New Testament (1.14,17; 8.44, I John 2.4; II John 4). Yet at no time is there failure to correspondence between the person's behavior and God's commands, which are proposition. Truth is always correspondence! Persons, their character and conduct can correspond to reality as well as propositions can. The entire scripture is word oriented, i.e., corresponding to proposition.
If truth is not expressible in proposition, then neither are the words used to express it. Words cannot be vehicles of True Truth. Propositional truth resides in both persons and propositions.
Is Truth Knowledge?
Of course, if there is no True Truth the above question is meaningless. If there is no True Truth, then the narrative of negative responses are nonsense: (1) Agnosticism/Skepticism. Though these positions are different, they ultimately give identical answers. Agnosticism says that nothing can be known, but Skepticism only says that we should doubt whether anything can be known. Skepticism as an interpretive narrative came first, but as Kant read Hume's doubts about absolute knowledge, he decided to take it one step farther (Kant's First Critique) and rejected all knowledge of reality. Really both Kant and Hume's views are self defeating. How can one know that one cannot know? If anyone knows that he doesn't know, then he at least knows one thing; therefore agnosticism is false! Also the presupposition of the consciousness of the knower or doubter are assumed. There is a "person" who knows our doubts. Skepticism precludes daily human decisions. If we are skeptical about everything we could not even make a move, at least rationally. Now if there is one thing that you can be certain of the skeptic falls, or if there is no thing that you know, then the agnostic position is falsified.
Descartes' Rationalism: The Origins of Subjectivism
(Existentialism/Phenomenology--turn to consciousness, irrational Romanticism, etc.) Rationalism claims that all knowledge has its origin and validation in the mind. (See esp. Hiram Caton, The Origins of Subjectivity (Essay and Descartes (Yale University Press, 1973); and Alister McGarth, A Passion For Truth (Inter Varsity Press, 1996).
It is logically impossible for Rationalists who don't believe in reason to escape Cartheism. Therefore they employ reason to attack reason! Rationalism becomes the foe of reason. Descartes' Rationalism (and Spinoza's) tries to prove its own foundations to offer a justification for itself. From Aristotle forward, great minds have denied and/or agreed that foundational principles cannot be proven. Descartes was a mathematician who presupposed the autonomy of classical number theory and Euclidian Geometry. Goedel's theorem was the death kneel to autonomous mathematics. His theorem attacked Russell/Whitehead's Principia (autonomous logic mathematics which were the only source of True Truth because of the universal foundations of the principles of logic and mathematics, thus generating mathematical Logic, Linguistic Analysis and Logical Positivism).
This position has generated Pantheism, Theism and some finite gods, but none with the rationally necessary basis that they claim will justify their beliefs.
Fideism: Circular Self Justification
Another response to Truth Claims is Fideism, which holds that the only way we can know anything about God is by faith. This position can hardly justify the Christian faith, especially after Freud. This fideism is expressed in the old hymn "You ask me how I know He lives; He lives within my heart!" Soren Kirk's Existentialism is a major voice of this view. (We need to give careful attention of new Evangelicals succumbing to this dubious enterprise).
A critical response to the claims of Fideism has no intention of denying the significance of Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord! Augustine's phrase still rings powerfully clear--"I believe in order that I may understand." Certainly logical arguments are not the basis of Christian commitment. Fideism has the right answers for the wrong reasons. The believers question God's existence, incarnation and The Bible as the Word of God, etc. Witnessing must strive to remove the reasons for unbelief! Fideism makes no truth claims. It also does not recognize the difference between belief in and belief that the object of Christian faith is Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If faith alone is the only way to know truth, why not have faith in The Koran or the Book of Mormon. Fideism does not really attempt to justify any beliefs, so we could simply believe anything that we choose. If there is no reason for one choice, one choice is as good as any other. Since there is no test for truth it cannot really make any claim to be true. Any effort to justify or explain Fideism ceases to be Fideism. Either fideism is making no truth claims or it is self defeating. In either case it cannot answer the question of how we know God or why and how any "unbeliever" can ever communicate cross culturally.
Any preceding views are either inconsistent or self defeating. We cannot know everything (rationalism), for there is no way that a finite mind can comprehend all of an infinite being. But we do know something because agnosticism is self defeating. This is a reasonable and realistic view. But the question remains, How do we know what we know about God? This remains the fundamental question.
Can We Know Truth?
Agnosticism: Self defeating - how do they know that we can't know?
Skepticism: Self defeating - do they even doubt skepticism?
Rationalism: Inconsistent - cannot rationally prove that something is rationally inescapable.
Fideism: Self defeating - either unjustified belief or it is not Fideism.
Realism: We can know some things that are True Truth.
Dr. James Strauss
Lincoln Christian Seminary
Lincoln, IL 62656