Page 1

Centennial Institute

Centennial Review

Colorado Christian University 8787 W. Alameda Ave. Lakewood, CO 80226 Return Service Requested

Principled Ideas from the Centennial Institute

Centennial Review

TRUTH UNDER FIRE

July 2009

Truth Under Fire

By Douglas Groothuis

By Douglas Groothuis

“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Jesus Christ made this statement after Pontius Pilate had interrogated him prior to the crucifixion (John 18:37). Pilate then famously replied, “What is truth?” and left the scene. Although Jesus made no reply to Pilate, Christians affirm that Pilate was staring Truth in the face, for Jesus had earlier said to his disciple Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

Rule of Law or Plunder? by Chuck King

www.CentennialCCU.org is your online resource for this and previous issues of Centennial Review, news of Institute events, and daily updates on faith, family, and freedom at our ‘76 Blog. Tax-deductible contributions from friends make possible the Institute’s outreach and all of Colorado Christian University’s educational work. We invite your support via our website at www.CentennialCCU.org or at the above mailing address.

for me” if it helps me, but false for another if it doesn’t help her. But this view confuses usefulness with verity. Think of a person who chronically mismanages his money and is very unsuccessful. A few hundred dollars are stolen from him without his knowledge. Yet he thinks he has misplaced the money and says to himself, “That’s the last straw. I’ve got to get my life in order!” After this, he becomes successful through hard work and diligence. Yet his belief that he lost the money, however beneficial, was not true because it did not conform to the reality that the money was stolen. This shows that the truth-value of a belief is different from its use-value.9 To determine truth-value, we must consult rational evidence instead of being overwhelmed by propaganda or lulled by intellectual fads. Truth is not in the eye of the beholder, but in the facts of the matter. Keeping this in mind keeps us alert and awake to the things that matter most. Unlike the cynical Pilate, we can stay and listen to what Jesus has to say to us, Jesus who has convinced thoughtful inquirers through the ages that he alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Christians, thus convinced, can then enter the world of ideas armed not with images, slogans, and propaganda, but with well-established and lovingly-presented truth, for only the truth will set anyone free (John 8:31-32). So, “What is truth”? Truth is what corresponds to reality. When this is

established, we can move on to considering which particular statements are true and reasonable and which are not. In our increasingly globalized world, the truth-claims of assorted religions and ideologies press in on us daily through multiple media: Twitter, blogs, web pages, cell phones, video games, and more. Is Islam a religion of peace? Is a massive federal government conducive to human flourishing and liberty? Rather than being bewitched by images and slogans, we should rigorously inquire whether these claims are true: if they match reality or not. Everyone, even those who are uncertain of the God of the Bible, can benefit from the biblical certainty that truth is objective, rational, and knowable. ▪

Philosopher Groothuis is the author of Truth Decay. Centennial Review, July 2009 ▪ 4

This historic exchange raises the perennial question of the very nature of truth itself. What does it mean for a statement to be true? Or, to put it another way: What does it take for a statement to achieve truthfulness? This has been a subject of much debate in postmodernist circles, where the traditional view of truth as objective and knowable is no longer accepted. Many even outside of academic discussions may be as cynical about truth as Pilate. “What is truth?” they smirk, without waiting for an answer. Postmodernist philosopher Richard Rorty claimed that truth is what his colleagues let

From the Editor: For human beings living together in community, nothing is more foundational than truth. Whether as citizens scanning the news, voters in an election, jurors in the courtroom, partners in marriage or business, workers or consumers weighing a decision, students in the classroom, researchers into reality and history, or simply as creatures accountable to our Creator, we all need a sense of what is true and what isn’t. Without that, we are trapped in a bad dream. But the relativism of postmodern philosophy and the shrug of popular culture instruct us to learn to live without truth – or be thought benighted and backward. In an era when truth is under fire, Colorado Christian University is committed to the strategic objective of helping students become seekers of truth. Countercultural, perhaps – but imperative for America’s future, we believe. A nation founded on “self-evident truths” cannot long endure if citizens give up on truth itself. At one of our Strategic Objectives Workshops for the CCU community, we invited Douglas Groothuis, an authority on the subject, to debunk the idea that truth is obsolete. – John Andrews

Volume 1, Number 3 • July 2009

him get away with.1 Unless we are clear about the notion of truth, any claim to truth—religious or otherwise—will perplex more than enlighten. Before attempting to determine which claims are true, we need to understand the nature of truth itself. I will briefly argue for the correspondence view of truth and then pit it against two of its main rivals, relativism and pragmatism. Does It Correspond to Reality? The correspondence view of truth, held by the vast majority of philosophers and theologians throughout history until recently, holds that any declarative statement is true if and only if it corresponds to or agrees with factual reality, with the way things are. The statement, “The desk in my study is brown,” is true only if there is, in fact, a brown desk in my study. The statement, “There is no brown desk in my study,” is false because it fails to correspond to any objective state of affairs (that is, to the facts of the matter). Questions, commands, and exclamations are neither true nor false, because they do not make claims about objective reality. If I pray, “God, please help me!” it is true that I am praying this, but I am not affirming that “God will help me” (a declarative statement). Rather, I am requesting help. If I say “Study harder!” to my lazy student, I am not affirming “You are studying harder” (a declarative statement). Rather, I am commanding his academic diligence. If I exclaim “Yes!” when my pitcher strikes out the final hitter in the bottom of the ninth, I am not saying, “He struck out the batter” (a declarative statement). Rather, I am voicing my approval. The question of truth is properly applied only to declarative or indicative statements—affirmations about reality. The titanic statement “Jesus is Lord of the universe” is either true or false. It is not both true and false; it is not neither true nor false. This statement either honors reality or it does not; it mirrors the facts or it does not. The Christian claims that this statement is true apart from anyone’s opinion (see Romans 3:4). In other words, it has a mind-independent Douglas Groothuis (Ph.D., University of Oregon) is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary, where he has served since 1993. He is the author of 10 books, including Truth Decay and On Jesus, and serves as a Centennial Institute Fellow. This essay is adapted from a lecture he gave at Colorado Christian University on January 22, 2009. The essay is also available online at www. CentennialCCU.org.


contrary, language is constructed through communities, and it cannot move beyond its own context and refer to realities outside itself. A thorough analysis of the postmodernist assault on truth is beyond the limits of this essay. But a basic critique of this notion of truth is that this view is self-refuting. If all language fails to describe objective conditions, due to its immersion in various cultures, then any language used to describe this universal immersion would be subject to the limitations of its context. But that would mean that any and all language fails to describe the universal limitations of all languages. reality. Minds may recognize this truth, but minds do not create this truth. This is because truth is a quality of some statements and not of others. It is not a matter of subjective feeling, majority vote, or cultural fashion. The statement “The world is spherical” was true even when the vast majority of earthlings took their habitat to be flat. The correspondence view of truth entails that declarative statements are subject to various kinds of verification and falsification. This concerns the area of epistemology, or the study of how we acquire and defend knowledge claims.2 A statement can be proven false if it can be shown to disagree with objective reality. The photographs from outer space depicting the earth as a blue orb (along with other kinds of evidence) falsified flat-earth claims. Certainly, not all falsification is as straightforward as this; but if statements are true or false by virtue of their relationship to what they attempt to describe, this makes possible the marshaling of evidence for their veracity or falsity.3

This kind of statement, therefore, discredits itself. For all its protests about the illegitimacies of “metanarratives” (worldviews), postmodernism offers a metanarrative of its own— one that cannot be true given its own precepts.6 Moreover, the notion that objective truth is unknowable entails that a relativistic and/or pragmatic view of truth be put in the place of a correspondence view. Both of these views are logically defective and unworthy of belief. Relativism comes in various shapes and sizes, but its salient claim is that the truth of a statement depends on the views of persons or cultures, not on whether statements correspond to objective reality. To say a statement is true is simply to say that a person or culture believes it to be true. Hence the popular refrain “Well, that’s true for you” or “We can’t judge other cultures.” According to this view, one person can say “Jesus is Lord” and another can say “Allah is Lord,” and both statements will be true, if they accurately express the sentiments of the speakers. This view seems to advance tolerance and civility, but it does so at the expense of logic, meaning, and truth. That price is too high.

“Truth is not in the eye of the beholder, but in the facts of the matter.”

Therefore, Christians—who historically have affirmed the correspondence view of truth—hold that there are good historical reasons to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead in space-time history, thus vindicating his divine authority (see Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11).4 The Apostle Paul was adamant: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:14-15). Without the correspondence view of truth, these resounding affirmations ring hollow. Christianity cannot live and thrive without it. Today this view of truth is being brought into doubt. Postmodernist philosophers claim that the quest for objective truth asserted through language is part of the discredited project of modernism, an over-confident approach to knowledge stemming from Enlightenment rationalism.5 Therefore, statements about scientific facts, religious claims, or moral principles cannot refer to objective states of affairs. On the Centennial Review, July 2009 ▪ 2

If I say “Jesus is Lord” and you say “Allah is Lord,” both statements cannot be objectively true because they describe mutually exclusive realities. Jesus is known by Christians as God made flesh (John 1:14), while Muslims deny that Allah incarnates.7 But if “Lord” means a position of unrivaled

metaphysical and spiritual supremacy, then Jesus and Allah cannot both be Lord because “Jesus” and “Allah” are not two words that mean the same thing. If we mean to say that I believe in Jesus and you believe in Allah, there is no logical contradiction, since subjective beliefs cannot contradict each other; that is, it may be true that I subjectively believe X and you subjectively believe non-X. However, X and non-X themselves cannot both be objectively true. When dealing with divergent claims to objective truth, contradictions emerge frequently.8 A 2002 survey by Barna Research found that 44 percent of Americans contend that “the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths.” This reveals an untrue view of truth.

Subscriptions free upon request. Write to: Centennial Institute, 8787 W. Alameda, Lakewood, CO 80226. Call 800.44.FAITH. Or visit us online at www.CentennialCCU.org. Centennial Institute sponsors research, events, and publications to enhance public understanding of the most important issues facing our state and nation. By proclaiming Truth, we aim to foster faith, family, and freedom, teach citizenship, and renew the spirit of 1776. Tax-deductible contributions from friends make possible the Institute’s outreach and all of Colorado Christian University’s educational work. We invite your support at the above mailing address or via our web site at www.CentennialCCU.org.

RULE OF LAW OR PLUNDER? By Chuck King

Social Consensus Doesn’t Create Truth

In the United States, like no other country, “the law is kept within its proper domain: the protection of every person’s liberty and property,” wrote the French economist Frederic Bastiat in 1850. But the rule of law, protecting the rights of Americans from arbitrary government power, has eroded grievously since then. The recent Chrysler bankruptcy brought further erosion.

When truth is deemed dependent upon the person or culture holding the belief, anything can become “true,” which is absurd. Flat-earthers, geocentrists, and phrenologists have been falsified by the facts. Yet relativism removes any reason to change one’s beliefs. If my belief makes something true, there is no objective warrant to alter my beliefs in the face of argument or evidence.

No lender would invest in a business without assurance that his contracted priority position for repayment would be honored by the courts if the debtor faces collapse. That’s why our founding fathers made constitutional provision for bankruptcy laws, and forbade states from impairing the obligation of contracts, recognizing both of these as crucial safeguards for free enterprise.

Unlike the correspondence view of truth, which seeks objective support for the truth or falsity of statements (whenever possible), relativism offers no means of verifying or falsifying any belief apart from discerning whether one holds the belief or whether a particular culture tends to affirm certain things. Such an attitude applied to medicine or science would be deemed ridiculous. Medical doctors have good reason not to bleed their patients, as was commonly done for centuries. This is because we objectively know that bleeding does not help patients, whatever the social consensus may have been at an earlier time.

Lenders now face their worst nightmare. Under President Bush, the government took control of Chrysler with an infusion of TARP funds in direct contravention of congressional statute and the Treasury Secretary’s personal pledge. Under President Obama, Chrysler and Fiat were given 30 days to “design a plan that would protect American jobs, American taxpayers, and the future of a great American car company.”

A pragmatic view of truth also rejects the objectivity of truth. This view holds that a belief is true only if it works for a particular person. Therefore, Christianity may be “true This is a paraphrase, but represents his views truly. See Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (New York: Princeton University Press, 1979), 176. 1

For an introduction to epistemology in relation to postmodernism, see R. Douglas Geivett “Is God a Story? Postmodernity and the Task of Theology,” in Myron Penner, ed., Christianity and the Postmodern Turn (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2005). 2

For an introduction to the role of logic in the testing of world views, see Ronald Nash, World-Views in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), especially 54-106. 3

CENTENNIAL REVIEW is published monthly by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University. Publisher, William L. Armstrong. Editor, John Andrews. Designer, Danielle Hull. Illustrator, Benjamin Hummel.

Vo ic e s o f C C U

See J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1987), chapter six; N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress, 2003). 4

See Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000).

5

See James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 4th ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 237.

The government then inverted the bankruptcy code by cramming secured lenders down to 29 percent of their claims while providing par recovery to certain unsecured creditors including the UAW, the Treasury Department, and Fiat. White House car czar Steve Rattner allegedly threatened creditors who balked. He denied this, but most creditors mysteriously fell in line. Indiana pension plans for teachers and police sought relief from the Supreme Court, to no avail. Bastiat’s name for such policy was “legal plunder,” which he said occurs when “the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong.” Our plundering regime of 2009 is a far cry from the lawful America of 1850. ▪

6

See Abduhl Saleeb and Norman Geisler, Answering Islam, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002). 7

On this see the booklet by Douglas Groothuis, Are All Religions One? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), and Ajith Fernando, Sharing the Truth in Love: How to Relate to People of Other Faiths (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 2001). 8

See Winfried Corduan, No Doubt About It (Nashville: Broadman, 1997), 60-61.

Chuck King (J.D., University of Denver, M.B.A., Northwestern) is Dean of the School of Business and Leadership at Colorado Christian University.

Centennial Institute Colorado Christian University

9

Centennial Review, July 2009 ▪ 3


contrary, language is constructed through communities, and it cannot move beyond its own context and refer to realities outside itself. A thorough analysis of the postmodernist assault on truth is beyond the limits of this essay. But a basic critique of this notion of truth is that this view is self-refuting. If all language fails to describe objective conditions, due to its immersion in various cultures, then any language used to describe this universal immersion would be subject to the limitations of its context. But that would mean that any and all language fails to describe the universal limitations of all languages. reality. Minds may recognize this truth, but minds do not create this truth. This is because truth is a quality of some statements and not of others. It is not a matter of subjective feeling, majority vote, or cultural fashion. The statement “The world is spherical” was true even when the vast majority of earthlings took their habitat to be flat. The correspondence view of truth entails that declarative statements are subject to various kinds of verification and falsification. This concerns the area of epistemology, or the study of how we acquire and defend knowledge claims.2 A statement can be proven false if it can be shown to disagree with objective reality. The photographs from outer space depicting the earth as a blue orb (along with other kinds of evidence) falsified flat-earth claims. Certainly, not all falsification is as straightforward as this; but if statements are true or false by virtue of their relationship to what they attempt to describe, this makes possible the marshaling of evidence for their veracity or falsity.3

This kind of statement, therefore, discredits itself. For all its protests about the illegitimacies of “metanarratives” (worldviews), postmodernism offers a metanarrative of its own— one that cannot be true given its own precepts.6 Moreover, the notion that objective truth is unknowable entails that a relativistic and/or pragmatic view of truth be put in the place of a correspondence view. Both of these views are logically defective and unworthy of belief. Relativism comes in various shapes and sizes, but its salient claim is that the truth of a statement depends on the views of persons or cultures, not on whether statements correspond to objective reality. To say a statement is true is simply to say that a person or culture believes it to be true. Hence the popular refrain “Well, that’s true for you” or “We can’t judge other cultures.” According to this view, one person can say “Jesus is Lord” and another can say “Allah is Lord,” and both statements will be true, if they accurately express the sentiments of the speakers. This view seems to advance tolerance and civility, but it does so at the expense of logic, meaning, and truth. That price is too high.

“Truth is not in the eye of the beholder, but in the facts of the matter.”

Therefore, Christians—who historically have affirmed the correspondence view of truth—hold that there are good historical reasons to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead in space-time history, thus vindicating his divine authority (see Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11).4 The Apostle Paul was adamant: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:14-15). Without the correspondence view of truth, these resounding affirmations ring hollow. Christianity cannot live and thrive without it. Today this view of truth is being brought into doubt. Postmodernist philosophers claim that the quest for objective truth asserted through language is part of the discredited project of modernism, an over-confident approach to knowledge stemming from Enlightenment rationalism.5 Therefore, statements about scientific facts, religious claims, or moral principles cannot refer to objective states of affairs. On the Centennial Review, July 2009 ▪ 2

If I say “Jesus is Lord” and you say “Allah is Lord,” both statements cannot be objectively true because they describe mutually exclusive realities. Jesus is known by Christians as God made flesh (John 1:14), while Muslims deny that Allah incarnates.7 But if “Lord” means a position of unrivaled

metaphysical and spiritual supremacy, then Jesus and Allah cannot both be Lord because “Jesus” and “Allah” are not two words that mean the same thing. If we mean to say that I believe in Jesus and you believe in Allah, there is no logical contradiction, since subjective beliefs cannot contradict each other; that is, it may be true that I subjectively believe X and you subjectively believe non-X. However, X and non-X themselves cannot both be objectively true. When dealing with divergent claims to objective truth, contradictions emerge frequently.8 A 2002 survey by Barna Research found that 44 percent of Americans contend that “the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths.” This reveals an untrue view of truth.

Subscriptions free upon request. Write to: Centennial Institute, 8787 W. Alameda, Lakewood, CO 80226. Call 800.44.FAITH. Or visit us online at www.CentennialCCU.org. Centennial Institute sponsors research, events, and publications to enhance public understanding of the most important issues facing our state and nation. By proclaiming Truth, we aim to foster faith, family, and freedom, teach citizenship, and renew the spirit of 1776. Tax-deductible contributions from friends make possible the Institute’s outreach and all of Colorado Christian University’s educational work. We invite your support at the above mailing address or via our web site at www.CentennialCCU.org.

RULE OF LAW OR PLUNDER? By Chuck King

Social Consensus Doesn’t Create Truth

In the United States, like no other country, “the law is kept within its proper domain: the protection of every person’s liberty and property,” wrote the French economist Frederic Bastiat in 1850. But the rule of law, protecting the rights of Americans from arbitrary government power, has eroded grievously since then. The recent Chrysler bankruptcy brought further erosion.

When truth is deemed dependent upon the person or culture holding the belief, anything can become “true,” which is absurd. Flat-earthers, geocentrists, and phrenologists have been falsified by the facts. Yet relativism removes any reason to change one’s beliefs. If my belief makes something true, there is no objective warrant to alter my beliefs in the face of argument or evidence.

No lender would invest in a business without assurance that his contracted priority position for repayment would be honored by the courts if the debtor faces collapse. That’s why our founding fathers made constitutional provision for bankruptcy laws, and forbade states from impairing the obligation of contracts, recognizing both of these as crucial safeguards for free enterprise.

Unlike the correspondence view of truth, which seeks objective support for the truth or falsity of statements (whenever possible), relativism offers no means of verifying or falsifying any belief apart from discerning whether one holds the belief or whether a particular culture tends to affirm certain things. Such an attitude applied to medicine or science would be deemed ridiculous. Medical doctors have good reason not to bleed their patients, as was commonly done for centuries. This is because we objectively know that bleeding does not help patients, whatever the social consensus may have been at an earlier time.

Lenders now face their worst nightmare. Under President Bush, the government took control of Chrysler with an infusion of TARP funds in direct contravention of congressional statute and the Treasury Secretary’s personal pledge. Under President Obama, Chrysler and Fiat were given 30 days to “design a plan that would protect American jobs, American taxpayers, and the future of a great American car company.”

A pragmatic view of truth also rejects the objectivity of truth. This view holds that a belief is true only if it works for a particular person. Therefore, Christianity may be “true This is a paraphrase, but represents his views truly. See Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (New York: Princeton University Press, 1979), 176. 1

For an introduction to epistemology in relation to postmodernism, see R. Douglas Geivett “Is God a Story? Postmodernity and the Task of Theology,” in Myron Penner, ed., Christianity and the Postmodern Turn (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2005). 2

For an introduction to the role of logic in the testing of world views, see Ronald Nash, World-Views in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), especially 54-106. 3

CENTENNIAL REVIEW is published monthly by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University. Publisher, William L. Armstrong. Editor, John Andrews. Designer, Danielle Hull. Illustrator, Benjamin Hummel.

Vo ic e s o f C C U

See J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1987), chapter six; N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress, 2003). 4

See Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000).

5

See James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 4th ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 237.

The government then inverted the bankruptcy code by cramming secured lenders down to 29 percent of their claims while providing par recovery to certain unsecured creditors including the UAW, the Treasury Department, and Fiat. White House car czar Steve Rattner allegedly threatened creditors who balked. He denied this, but most creditors mysteriously fell in line. Indiana pension plans for teachers and police sought relief from the Supreme Court, to no avail. Bastiat’s name for such policy was “legal plunder,” which he said occurs when “the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong.” Our plundering regime of 2009 is a far cry from the lawful America of 1850. ▪

6

See Abduhl Saleeb and Norman Geisler, Answering Islam, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002). 7

On this see the booklet by Douglas Groothuis, Are All Religions One? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), and Ajith Fernando, Sharing the Truth in Love: How to Relate to People of Other Faiths (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 2001). 8

See Winfried Corduan, No Doubt About It (Nashville: Broadman, 1997), 60-61.

Chuck King (J.D., University of Denver, M.B.A., Northwestern) is Dean of the School of Business and Leadership at Colorado Christian University.

Centennial Institute Colorado Christian University

9

Centennial Review, July 2009 ▪ 3


Centennial Institute

Centennial Review

Colorado Christian University 8787 W. Alameda Ave. Lakewood, CO 80226 Return Service Requested

Principled Ideas from the Centennial Institute

Centennial Review

TRUTH UNDER FIRE

July 2009

Truth Under Fire

By Douglas Groothuis

By Douglas Groothuis

“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Jesus Christ made this statement after Pontius Pilate had interrogated him prior to the crucifixion (John 18:37). Pilate then famously replied, “What is truth?” and left the scene. Although Jesus made no reply to Pilate, Christians affirm that Pilate was staring Truth in the face, for Jesus had earlier said to his disciple Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

Rule of Law or Plunder? by Chuck King

www.CentennialCCU.org is your online resource for this and previous issues of Centennial Review, news of Institute events, and daily updates on faith, family, and freedom at our ‘76 Blog. Tax-deductible contributions from friends make possible the Institute’s outreach and all of Colorado Christian University’s educational work. We invite your support via our website at www.CentennialCCU.org or at the above mailing address.

for me” if it helps me, but false for another if it doesn’t help her. But this view confuses usefulness with verity. Think of a person who chronically mismanages his money and is very unsuccessful. A few hundred dollars are stolen from him without his knowledge. Yet he thinks he has misplaced the money and says to himself, “That’s the last straw. I’ve got to get my life in order!” After this, he becomes successful through hard work and diligence. Yet his belief that he lost the money, however beneficial, was not true because it did not conform to the reality that the money was stolen. This shows that the truth-value of a belief is different from its use-value.9 To determine truth-value, we must consult rational evidence instead of being overwhelmed by propaganda or lulled by intellectual fads. Truth is not in the eye of the beholder, but in the facts of the matter. Keeping this in mind keeps us alert and awake to the things that matter most. Unlike the cynical Pilate, we can stay and listen to what Jesus has to say to us, Jesus who has convinced thoughtful inquirers through the ages that he alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Christians, thus convinced, can then enter the world of ideas armed not with images, slogans, and propaganda, but with well-established and lovingly-presented truth, for only the truth will set anyone free (John 8:31-32). So, “What is truth”? Truth is what corresponds to reality. When this is

established, we can move on to considering which particular statements are true and reasonable and which are not. In our increasingly globalized world, the truth-claims of assorted religions and ideologies press in on us daily through multiple media: Twitter, blogs, web pages, cell phones, video games, and more. Is Islam a religion of peace? Is a massive federal government conducive to human flourishing and liberty? Rather than being bewitched by images and slogans, we should rigorously inquire whether these claims are true: if they match reality or not. Everyone, even those who are uncertain of the God of the Bible, can benefit from the biblical certainty that truth is objective, rational, and knowable. ▪

Philosopher Groothuis is the author of Truth Decay. Centennial Review, July 2009 ▪ 4

This historic exchange raises the perennial question of the very nature of truth itself. What does it mean for a statement to be true? Or, to put it another way: What does it take for a statement to achieve truthfulness? This has been a subject of much debate in postmodernist circles, where the traditional view of truth as objective and knowable is no longer accepted. Many even outside of academic discussions may be as cynical about truth as Pilate. “What is truth?” they smirk, without waiting for an answer. Postmodernist philosopher Richard Rorty claimed that truth is what his colleagues let

From the Editor: For human beings living together in community, nothing is more foundational than truth. Whether as citizens scanning the news, voters in an election, jurors in the courtroom, partners in marriage or business, workers or consumers weighing a decision, students in the classroom, researchers into reality and history, or simply as creatures accountable to our Creator, we all need a sense of what is true and what isn’t. Without that, we are trapped in a bad dream. But the relativism of postmodern philosophy and the shrug of popular culture instruct us to learn to live without truth – or be thought benighted and backward. In an era when truth is under fire, Colorado Christian University is committed to the strategic objective of helping students become seekers of truth. Countercultural, perhaps – but imperative for America’s future, we believe. A nation founded on “self-evident truths” cannot long endure if citizens give up on truth itself. At one of our Strategic Objectives Workshops for the CCU community, we invited Douglas Groothuis, an authority on the subject, to debunk the idea that truth is obsolete. – John Andrews

Volume 1, Number 3 • July 2009

him get away with.1 Unless we are clear about the notion of truth, any claim to truth—religious or otherwise—will perplex more than enlighten. Before attempting to determine which claims are true, we need to understand the nature of truth itself. I will briefly argue for the correspondence view of truth and then pit it against two of its main rivals, relativism and pragmatism. Does It Correspond to Reality? The correspondence view of truth, held by the vast majority of philosophers and theologians throughout history until recently, holds that any declarative statement is true if and only if it corresponds to or agrees with factual reality, with the way things are. The statement, “The desk in my study is brown,” is true only if there is, in fact, a brown desk in my study. The statement, “There is no brown desk in my study,” is false because it fails to correspond to any objective state of affairs (that is, to the facts of the matter). Questions, commands, and exclamations are neither true nor false, because they do not make claims about objective reality. If I pray, “God, please help me!” it is true that I am praying this, but I am not affirming that “God will help me” (a declarative statement). Rather, I am requesting help. If I say “Study harder!” to my lazy student, I am not affirming “You are studying harder” (a declarative statement). Rather, I am commanding his academic diligence. If I exclaim “Yes!” when my pitcher strikes out the final hitter in the bottom of the ninth, I am not saying, “He struck out the batter” (a declarative statement). Rather, I am voicing my approval. The question of truth is properly applied only to declarative or indicative statements—affirmations about reality. The titanic statement “Jesus is Lord of the universe” is either true or false. It is not both true and false; it is not neither true nor false. This statement either honors reality or it does not; it mirrors the facts or it does not. The Christian claims that this statement is true apart from anyone’s opinion (see Romans 3:4). In other words, it has a mind-independent Douglas Groothuis (Ph.D., University of Oregon) is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary, where he has served since 1993. He is the author of 10 books, including Truth Decay and On Jesus, and serves as a Centennial Institute Fellow. This essay is adapted from a lecture he gave at Colorado Christian University on January 22, 2009. The essay is also available online at www. CentennialCCU.org.

Truth Under Fire  

"America as a virtuous society and America as a free society..."

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