So as I am writing this blog and periodically ranting about whatever has inspired me to set pen to paper (or fingers to keys?), I find myself thinking that maybe I need to provide some foundational thoughts about what I believe regarding truth and the Christian faith.
In today’s society it is not uncommon to have a discussion with someone and lose traction because you come from very different foundational assumptions about everything. Well here are a few of the presuppositions that I am working with in my posts and some basic defenses for them.
I believe that there is such a thing as capital “T” truth and we can know it (at least in part). That is, I believe that an objective reality exists, we can know it, and truth claims either correspond to that reality or are false. To clarify, there are two types of truth claims that can be made: objective and subjective. “Vanilla ice cream is the best” is a subjective claim in that it reflects only the view of its subject or the person who made that claim. There is no objective reality being discussed in this claim. However, a claim like “there is a chair in my room” is objective. It is describing an object, “my chair,” and making a claim about the chair’s reality, that it is in my room. This claim and all objective claims either correspond to reality and are true or do not and are false. According to this thought process, a claim like “God exists” is objective. It makes a claim about an object, God, and a claim about his reality, he exists. This is either true or false. In this view it cannot be held that it may be true for you but not true for me like my preference in ice cream (no, vanilla is not my favorite). Imagine if I used that phrase with my professor after getting an answer wrong on a multiple choice test, “Professor X, it may be true for you that the answer to #32 is ‘B’ but for me the answer is ‘A.'”
This demonstrates the first reason why I hold to objective truth and a correspondence theory of truth: because this is how we all live. Just think about it, if you are looking to cross the street and you see a bus coming you would not cross the street. Why? Because you believe that the bus is actually there and your beliefs about the bus do not change that. If you walked in front of the bus saying to yourself, “Well the bus might be there for the driver and his passengers but it is not truly there for me,” then you would get hit by the bus. The Truth would literally hit you in the face. That is a very brief example, but we act as though the truth actually has a bearing on our reality in every area of our lives. We even get offended at people who believe differently about the world than we do. If your little sister accuses you of breaking a plate and you didn’t break the plate, you will defend yourself with vehemence. There is much more to this, but let’s move on.
Another presupposition I have is that the laws of logic are objectively true and that anything illogical is not just impossible but inconceivable non-sense in the truest sense of the words. C.S. Lewis tackles some of the problems that arise when logic is put aside or challenged by certain beliefs in his book The Abolition of Man. One poignant argument that he makes is that anyone or any idea trying to disprove logic must use logic to do so. Another is the point I made above: we live as if logic existed. So when I say that objective truth claims in religion (God exists, Muhammad is Allah’s prophet, there is a heaven, etc.) I am also saying that not all religions can be true because they contradict each other. Logical contradictions are logical impossibilities. The Law of Non-Condtradiction states that contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. So it cannot both be true that God exists (theism) and God does not exist (atheism). This is an unpopular idea and I believe its unpopularity has fueled the philosophy of relativism and its pervasiveness in our Western culture more than its intellectual appeal.
Lastly, (for the sake of this post at least) I believe that the Bible is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. I believe the Bible is the Word of God written by men and that everything in it is true. I also believe that Christian tradition has taught that there are certain essential tenets derived from Scripture and laid out in the creeds that define what it is to be Christian. Lastly, I believe that people who do not hold to these essential truths do not believe in Christianity but something different. This idea can be summed up by saying that I hold (to the best of my ability and understanding) to Christian orthodoxy. Orthodoxy comes from the Greek words “ortho” (meaning “right,” “true,” or “straight”) and “doxa” (meaning “opinion” or “belief”). There are many reasons I hold to these things — the historicity of the Bible, the evidence for the resurrection of Christ, the death of the apostles for what they believed, and my experience of relationship with God to name a few — but for now I will leave those be.
Every post that I write takes these truths for granted and in the next few weeks I hope to hash out some thoughts about current cultural assumptions and how they measure against Christian orthodoxy. This does not mean that I will be writing with the assumption that if it is believed by the early church then it must be true. I will instead be presenting an apology or defense for what I believe the orthodox view would be and why it is true. Until next time: Soli Deo gloria.
Also, for an extended discussion of orthodoxy, see this article by someone much better informed than me: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/06/an-emerging-understanding-of-orthodox-2/