What Is Truth

I can’t sleep tonight as I ate too much fatty food at a restaurant. So I started watching Collision: Is Christianity Good For The World. Its a debate between the famous atheist Christopher Hitchens and Pastor Douglass Wilson. I immediately thought of the teaching notes I developed for my Year 10 Christian Studies course a decade ago and thought I’d share them with you, in a readable format. So, here we go…

Truth is a claim which agrees with the facts. Truth is trans-cultural, unchanging, above beliefs, independent of followers and absolute. Two beliefs can contradict each other, but two contradicting truths are not possible.

Here is a list of topics. Go through them. What do you personally believe is the truth regarding each one: The origin of the universe. The existence of God. The religions of the world. The role of science. The person of Jesus. The purpose of life. The existence of life after death.

The modern world hates the word truth, especially as it relates to moral choice and social behaviour. Yet it paradoxically claims to have found the truth when it comes to evolution, which is then used to justify a multitude of social and moral choices. Anyone who publicly challenges the evolutionary truth claim is ridiculed. If evolution falls, so does modern morality, especially sexual morality.

But truth moral and social truth is knowable. We still demand it in everyday life. We expect it in leaders. We expect it of friends and family. We demand it in legal matters, contracts and most social interactions.

You see, what we believe to be true has huge consequences for the destiny of our lives. Different beliefs regarding ultimate truth will result in vastly different choices and lives. If we get it wrong our lives will be far less happy, purposeful and way out of sync with reality. We will stuff up our very existence.

Here are some truth claims we often here these days. All of them are self-contradictions: “There’s no such thing as truth”. “All truth is relative”. “There are no absolutes”. In claiming there is no such thing as truth, they claim their position is the only truth! So every worldview, regardless of its trendy claims to relativism, always has a claim to be the truth underlying its superstructure.

Here is an alternative set of truth claims to those above:

Psalm 25:5: “Guide me in your truth and teach me or you are God my Savior.”

Psalm 119:160: “All your words are true. All your righteous laws are eternal.”

John 8:31-32: “Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

So how do we know which set of truth claims is…TRUE!?

With all the competing claims to truth in different secular and sacred beliefs, philosophies and religions, it is hard to find an objective truth. It’s like a maze of possibilities. Some have even given up on the concept of objective truth. But I believe we can know when something is true. We need to use sensible filters to get rid of the silly ideas, especially on the internet! Here are some of the methods people use to decide what is true. Can you see the silly ones?

Authority:          The truth claim comes from someone who we respect and trust

Coherence:      The truth claim ties all things together consistently

Consensus:      The truth claim is believed by nearly everyone

Consistency:     The truth claim does not contradict itself.

Reality:              The truth claim agrees with what is observed

Custom:            The truth claim has been part of the custom for many years

Emotion:           The truth claim feels right, it must be true for me

Majority:            The truth claim is believed by more than half a population

Observation:     The truth claim must be able to detected by the senses, nothing more

Practicality:       The truth claim works well in the real world

Revelation:        The truth claim comes from our creator or prophet, so it must be true

Time:                 The truth claim has stood the test of time

To sensibly look for truth, the following four filter are what I believe are the most trustworthy guides:

  1. Scientific: Those beliefs which line up with observation and logic
  2. Cultural: Those beliefs which help culture and freedom flourish
  3. Philosophical/Spiritual: Those beliefs which best answer the great questions of life
  4. Moral: Those beliefs that generate the greatest moral good

And that’s where I left the students at the end of lesson one! I hope reading this lesson that you will be challenged to think a little more deeply about what you believe to be true, because most of us don’t.

Kevin Davis

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