Saturday, February 25, 2012

Can We Know God (and Thoughts on Absolute Truth)?

For one to endeavor to find truth in regard to religion has become somewhat of a taboo journey in American Culture. It is asserted by some that it is ignorance that causes a man to believe He can know absolute, universal truth about the ultimate questions in life. Questions such as: Why are we here? What purpose and meaning is there to life? What happens when we die? This objection to the idea of any absolute truth in our culture has been labeled as post modernist thinking.

Post modernism is basically the idea that because our human experience is fallible, no one can speak for anyone else regarding truth because any one man's reality or experience is not authoritative concerning universal issues. Post Modernism suggests that one's perception of reality is perfectly true for the one experiencing it, but since no man is perfect, he cannot find a perfect truth that speaks for the whole of mankind since his reality is constructed from his own experience. Thus, ideas such as an Almighty God who dictates the whole of creation suddenly becomes ignorant and politically incorrect. Post modernist thinkers suppose that what is true concerning topics like truth and morality are subject to change based on the culture and therefore no one can speak with certainty about.....anything. This is also referred to as relativism.

Before I go any further I must tell you I believe in the Bible, the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son"Jesus", and God the Holy Spirit), and that everyone is subject to the truths that are held within the Bible which God graciously revealed to mankind through divine inspiration. The primary topic I wish to discuss in this post is the idea that while it is true that man is fallible and thus his ideas are fallible, He is still able to find and understand perfect, absolute truth. I would also like to further correlate the idea of the ability to know truth with that of the ability to know God. The critical error in understanding of the postmodernist is that he thinks truth is derived from and determined by man. However, the Christian worldview asserts that absolute truth cannot be derived from man but from God. Through the Bible, which is God's revelation to man, we can know absolute truth that is universal and true at all times and in all places.

So how can we be certain of truth since man is a fallible being? If mankind's ideas about religion are often misled, (racism, genocide, slavery, suicide bombings, etc) then mankind's ability to definitively pinpoint a perfect truth that we must all subject our lives too seems implausible. Fallible men being able to speak truth into other men's lives is a daunting task when subjected to the beliefs held with the idea of post modernism, but if a perfect truth (God) exists then is His perfection subject to man's shortcomings and subsequently his own experiences? For instance when a man breaks the speed limit on a highway, which is the absolute authority of the allowed speed for the road, is the speed limit then non-existent or fallible because of an imperfect being disobeying truth? Of course not, the speed limit, whether the man adheres to it or not is still the truth governing that road. Man will always find ways to misconstrue or blatantly disobey any authoritative entity that exerts it's power over his life, but man's actions certainly do not negate the perfection or legitimacy of truth. You see, the truth or law still exists perfectly for everyone even though one's own experience may be fallible in regard to keeping the law. Men can know tangible truths and yet still fall short, disobey, and willfully forsake the truth.

Now the conversation turns into: Can men be aware of a perfect truth if it does indeed exist, and also are they accountable to the said truth if men are in fact unaware of it?

In regard to law, men are very aware that there is a moral standard by which we all must abide. Stealing, killing, rape, adultery, lying, cheating, etc. are all prime examples of mankind's awareness of a higher moral law that we all must subject ourselves too. But where does this moral law come from? Some may say that there is no authoritative moral law, but I would ask those people if they have ever been angry with another person for wronging them in some criminal manner. How could anyone "wrong" anyone else if there is not a universal moral code of conduct which all mankind knows intuitively? How could the civilizations of the world propose the distinct governing systems for each civilization if they were not aware of a supreme moral standard? Did the vast number of nations in our world all stumble upon these similar ideas of what is right and wrong merely by chance? It is obvious that our hearts are aware of a moral code by which we all must live, and I am suggesting that Truth, which originates from a perfect law giver, God, can be known, and that He does desire a relationship with His creation, and that is why we all possess an innate knowledge of the righteous acts that we should live by, and also possess the knowledge of the detestable actions that we should not commit.

I realize that there are numerous civilizations in history that acted in the most heinous way possible by the sacrificial offerings of their children, genocides, rape, etc of their own people in various ritualistic acts to their gods. I realize one might ask, "What about them?" How do you reconcile the idea that people innately know right and wrong with the knowledge of the criminal ways of those said people groups? My humble opinion in regard to such questions is as follows: sin is the act of rebellion against God and his law, and every man on earth has partaken in this global rebellion. We all sin in multiple ways every day. Entire nations have been seduced into detestable and deplorable practices. Take the Nazi ragime in our own time, for example. I imagine very few Germans today would uphold the acts of the Holocaust. Some sins are more private than others, and some sins are very public. Some are recognized by secular and religious people while others are only regarded as sin by Christians. Being that mankind has sinned against God we have been disconnected from perfect unity with God our Heavenly Father. Though we know what we ought to do, we do not do it, and some have traveled down that road of rebellion more so than others, but the fact is that sin is disgusting and wretched.

When left to ourselves we become more and more sinful to the point that we can lose our grip on the very morals we may have started out believing. I wonder if those various cultures from the very beginning were sacrificing people? History demonstrates they generally moved progressively toward moral and social degradation over time. Ancient Israel is a perfect example. While they started out being obedient and pious toward God, they continually found themselves slipping into rebellion. Even Solomon is recorded as having built alters to Molech (1 Kings 11:7-8) -- a well-known heathen god who demanded the sacrifice of children. Solomon was a King of Israel and is recorded in the Bible as being the wisest man to ever live. HE BUILT THE TEMPLE OF GOD. Even this guy faultered in sin and ignored what He knew to be right and wrong. As men, we will always misconstrue the Law of God, and constantly rebel against Him. However this does not mean God is not real or that His law is not hidden in our hearts.

An objective truth can be known by men, and just because we are fallible beings does not mean that there is not an infallible, innate, moral law that we are all accountable too. If there is a moral law, then there must be a law giver. This is the topic of a post yet to come, but we cannot subject the perfection of God's law to our own moral weaknesses. I know this short essay does not comprehensively answer every question one may have about the multiple directions that they may take in their journey to find truth. However my goal in this post is to give some insight into a very complicated, but most important journey.

1 comment:

  1. You have two main arguments, I think, in this post. First, that God (I presume the Christian God) exists and possesses all of the characteristics imputed to him in the Bible, therefore making his existence, and therefore our subjection to him, absolutely true and necessary, respectively. Second, that there is an objective moral code by which we must all abide lest we shall incur eternal punishment. I have a couple objections to this argument.

    I think the first argument you make begs the question and should not consume a lot of space here--also because I feel that that is not your main argument. However, I will offer a terse rejoinder. If there is an absolute truth and that truth is the Christian God (the moral argument aside) what makes every other religion null and susceptible to falsification? If other religions claim absolute truth, what makes the case for the Christian God? How is one to determine the validity of so many religions all claiming the same thing? There surely can't be more than one set of contradicting, absolute truths. If I were to concede to you that there was a god, and if everyone knew this to be an absolute truth, how would this prove your argument for the Christian God? In science, a good hypothesis can be tested and, possibly, falsified. What type of testing can be undergone to prove this hypothesis? I only bring this up because you assume it to be a given assumption in your argument, when, in fact, there are many objections to it.

    If there is an objective set of moral laws by which we must abide, can there be any instance in which it would be tolerable to go against that moral code? It seems as though a moral code which is deemed objective would admit to no infraction of that code. But is that the case? Can we think of any instance in which an infraction of this moral code would be acceptable? What about lying, killing, etc.? If these actions are objectively wrong, then there would be no instance in which it would be acceptable to commit them. But I can think of numerous circumstance in which to commit these acts would be not only tolerable, but moral.

    And if there is such a thing as objective truth, then that truth cannot change with the zeitgeist. That truth must maintain complete constancy. But this is not what we witness when we look at history--even the history of Christianity. I'm not talking about events that were unordained by God and were testaments to man's errancy and wantonness. I mean those commandments (without the capital C) in the Bible which are inexplicably given by God to his people which demand them to commit heinous acts of aggression. If there is such a thing as an objective, immutable moral standard, then how can it be vulnerable to mutation? This seems highly relative to me. And what about evolutionary psychology? Do you deny that our morals have evolved just like our organs? History shows this, just as the Bible does--that our morals have evolved and continue to evolve.

    I immensely respect what you do here; I know how difficult it is to write and put your convictions out there for the world to scrutinize. Thank you.