In a previous post we discussed truth and nature of truth. This week we continue that discussion by looking at postmodernism and relativism. We’ll also address what this means for the pluralism that seems to be creeping into the Church.
Are all Truths True?
Try this experiment with a group of friends. Have everyone in the group stand up and close their eyes. Now, with their eyes closed have them point to north. Have them keep pointing and open their eyes. How many different directions are people pointing? Are they all correct? If we wanted to go somewhere who’s north reference would we use? Only one direction can be a true depiction of north and be used as a guide to get us where we want to go. The same is true of truth and morality.
Postmodernism would have us believe that there is no objective reality, no scientific or historical truth, that reason and logic are not universally valid, language does not refer to reality outside itself, and that no general theory of the natural or social world can be true. These are some pretty definitive statements for someone that is a relativist.
So, can all these statements be true? Let’s examine them to see if they can withstand their own scrutiny. Frank Turek uses what he calls “The Roadrunner Tactic”. Apply the claim to itself and watch it crash to the canyon floor just like Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons. When someone says “there is no truth” apply the claim to itself and ask, “Is that true?” You’ll catch on as we go.
First, the idea that there is no objective reality. For the idea that there is no objective reality to be true, the statement “there is no objective reality” must be objectively true. If it isn’t and it too is relative, then the statement “there is no objective reality” can’t be true. Do you begin to see the circular logic most postmodern and relativistic thought requires? It is also self-defeating.
What about the statement: there is no scientific or historical truth? One has to wonder how we can know anything if this statement is true. This includes the idea that there is no scientific or historical truth. If the statement is true how did our relativistic friend come to the conclusion there is no scientific or historical truth? He couldn’t have done a scientific experiment to prove it. He couldn’t have read it in a book; books are historical. So, what is the basis for this claim? Coyote crashes to the ground.
Is it true that reason and logic are not universally valid? For this to be true the Law of Non-Contradiction, a universal law of logic, can’t be true. Reason and logic either are or aren’t universally valid; there is no in between. The problem is the person making this claim is using the same law he claims doesn’t exist. Or if the Law of the Excluded Middle does exist it doesn’t apply to everyone so, for some people logic and reason would be universally valid. Crash goes Coyote!
What about the statement, language does not refer to a reality outside itself? Ask “Did you read that in a book or did someone tell you that?” Unless they developed the idea, they had to have gotten it from someone. How did this transfer of ideas occur? Through abstract psychic transference? If it was through writing or speech, it can’t be valid because according to the claim any language used to convey the idea doesn’t refer to reality. In addition, how can we understand their claim if it isn’t backed by a knowable reality. Poor Coyote.
The last idea, that no general theory of the natural or social world can be true, is the hardest on Coyote. If this claim is true then the theory of postmodernism and relativism can’t be true. How can you know anything about the world, except that you can’t know the world? Which means you can’t know that you can’t know anything about the world. As Coyote peels himself off the canyon floor he gets hit by the Acme anvil.
So, how has this erroneous postmodern thought affected the Church?
Christianity and Pluralism
Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Paul makes it clear in Galatians 1:8 that there is only one Gospel and even if Paul or an angel came preaching a different gospel the Galatians shouldn’t listen. He later chastises the Corinthians for so easily following a new gospel taught by false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:4).
Many Christians today, especially among the Progressive Church, seem to have forgotten these verses. In an attempt to be inclusive and tolerant, they say any path or religion is equally valid in following God. They give into the relativist idea that all religions are simply different forms of the truth.
Pluralism is the postmodern idea that there are more than one truth or reality. The problem, as it applies to religion, is that Christianity isn’t the only religion that makes mutually exclusive truth claims. Islam claims that Mohammed is God’s prophet and the Quran is the true word of God. Hindus claim there are thousands of gods. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses each make radically different claims about Jesus than Christians. This means that they can’t all be true. Someone isn’t pointing to the correct north.
Again, if we apply the claim to itself it falls under the weight of its own assertions. If it is true that all religions are true, any religion that makes mutually exclusive claims (hint, they all do) can’t be true. And this invalidates the claim that all religions are true. Look at it this way, if someone tells you it is wrong to say not all religions are true, they are contradicting their claim by saying that your religion is wrong. Does your brain hurt yet?
This isn’t to say that various religions are completely wrong. There may be nuggets of truth, for example say in Hinduism, but the overall religion may be false. There can also be varying degrees of truth in religions but they can still be wrong. Some may come closer than others to answering the questions all worldview must answer; Where did we come from?, Why are we here?, How should we treat each other?, and What happens after we die?
As you begin to think about these concepts you will begin to see the illogic nature of many claims in society today. It’s akin to having blinders removed after years of wearing them. It can be liberating at the same time that it is frustrating, but I encourage you to keep looking to the truth.
In this and a previous post we have shown that subjective truth is really opinion, objective truth really exists, postmodernism and relativism both fail their own standards, and that all religions can’t be true. We are building the foundation to show the truth of Christianity. In our next post we will examine how objective truth points to a monotheistic God.