SEPTEMBER 13, 2021 BY DANIEL SEABAUGH
One of the major cultural trends happening today concerns the nature of truth. Truth has largely been replaced by pragmatism and emotionalism. Pragmatism claims if something works, it must be true. Conversely, emotionalism, at it’s basic level, claims if something feels right or wrong, it probably is. Any concept of truth which exists outside of ourselves has not just taken a back seat, it has left the vehicle altogether.
Objective truth, according to Steven Cowan and James Spiegel, is a “real feature of the world that is independent of what a person or group thinks about it. Thus, for the objectivist, if a proposition is true, then it is so whether or not any person believes it. Further, it is true for everyone at all times and places.” I dare say no one speaks about truth in these terms today. In our current world, your truth is yours and my truth is mine. We better not blur the lines, either, or there will be major backlash from all parties involved.
It has always baffled me how anyone could believe truth belongs to a human person or group. We are all, in one sense, creatures of our environments. Surely if my parents insist stars are holes in the sky that allow heaven’s light to shine through, I’ll spend a good amount of my growing years believing it. Furthermore, if my older brother teaches me God created meat for the consumption of humanity and anyone who thinks differently are unenlightened airheads, I will spend much of my life feeling superior to vegetarians.
I’m convinced most of the bickering happening in our world today comes from a difference in perspectives. One person believes they have truth at the exclusion of those who disagree, while those who disagree believe such a person is foolish and simply needs to be educated. Objective truth, by definition, says something is true or false regardless of opinion and with zero neutrality. It exists apart from any system, idea, or human personality.
I was first exposed to objective truth when I began studying Philosophy in college. I recall experiencing an aha moment when I first learned about the correspondence theory of truth. There are several theory’s of truth, but the correspondence theory claims something is true if and only if it is the case. In other words, if I claim my car is parked on lot B in space 24, my claim is only true if in fact my car is parked on lot B and in space 24. If my car is parked on lot B and in space 25, my claim was not true, regardless of how sincere I was in my belief. To say truth “corresponds” simply means my claim or proposition matches reality.
Other theory’s of truth, such as the coherence theory or the pragmatic theory (you can Google them), seek to establish truth from inside a person, not outside. I think establishing truth from feelings, experiences, or a web of other beliefs is flawed for one very important reason: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Apart from being regenerated by God’s Spirit, humanity is in a helpless situation. Education cannot save us. Enlightenment cannot save us. A certain political ideology cannot save us. Our only hope is found in the person and work of Jesus. He is the only one who can eradicate the sinful nature we are all born with. His Spirit is the only person who can convict us of sin and send us on a journey to the cross, where healing and forgiveness is given.
The correspondence theory of truth gets more complicated as the propositions get harder to verify, no doubt. For instance, in their book The Love of Wisdom, Cowan and Spiegel acknowledge some truth claims are harder to verify than others. They write, “For example, the following statement is either true or false: “There is a purple grain of sand on the far side of the Moon.” It may be quite impossible for me or anyone else ever to find out whether this statement is true. Nevertheless, the correspondence theory of truth tells me the conditions under which it would be true: if there is a purple grain of sand on the far side of the Moon.” Just because something is difficult to verify does not mean it is false.
If a proclamation is made, it is either true or false. When it comes to a particular issue, there is no such thing as your truth and my truth. It’s always possible we are both wrong, of course, but we cannot both be right at the same time and in the same sense. It is impossible. If we ever get to a place where we properly understand objective truth, I believe we will simultaneously have respectful dialogue with those we disagree with. When it comes to the huge issues in culture, objective truth should humble us. We should all be able to say, “I could be wrong,” and mean it.
What ever happened to objective truth? I often look around and wonder if I’m living on an alien planet. I suppose, in one very real sense, I am. It’s becoming increasingly harder to believe any person or group these days. Yet, I take heart in knowing the Creator reigns. He is perfect knowledge. Don’t take my word for it, spend some time with Him and see if my claim corresponds to reality. I’m certain you will find Him faithful and true.