Tag Archives: Truth

Truth (A Quick and Dirty Guide)


In which we try not to argue over our differences about the truth on truth.

What is truth?

And does anybody have a lock on it?

The preacher? The scientist? The scholar? The engineer? The psychologist? The shaman?

Furthermore, can you trust them?

Not easy questions to answer.

There are so many competing claims and different approaches.

Can we REALLY know the truth? I think we can. And to help me answer that question, a while back I asked my friend Rob Powell to help.

He agreed and knocked out three posts on truth: Absolutism, Pluralism and Scientism. [See below.]

I then pulled together some more posts dealing with the question “what is truth?”

Perhaps you’ve seen them before. If so, skim through each for a little refresher course on truth.

If you haven’t seen these posts before, walk through them slowly and then let me know what  you think.

In the end, we might disagree. My hope is that I at least get you to think. And I promise to do the same for you.

Enjoy the list!

Absolutism (What You Need to Know–and Why)

Is truth absolute? Or is it relative and merely based on personal preferences? There has to be a right answer, right? There is.

Pluralism (What You Need to Know–and Why)

On the surface pluralism seems like a reasonable explanation for the diversity of faiths we see. Look below the surface and it’s not.

Scientism (When You Shouldn’t Trust a Scientist)

Science is awesome. It provides us with great party tricks and is the most predictable way to study the world. But what is it? And can it ever go wrong?

Pragmatism (Where It Breaks Down and Why You Should Care)

Pragmatist argue that it’s necessary to check our religious beliefs at the door when we debate issues. Unfortunately, that can’t work.

The Blind Men and a Queer Animal

In an ancient parable, dozens of hermits and scholars are making conflicting claims about reality. Who was right? D. None of the above.

The Blissfully Plastic Moral Base of Humanism

What does the meaningless, value-absent creed of humanism have to offer? It might surprise you.

How to Answer “That’s Just Your Interpretation

What are we to do when people say, “Well, that’s just your interpretation?” when we present them with moral or biblical truths? Here’s what you say.

How to Deal with Religious Conflict

What beliefs create peaceful behavior and deal with the discord of religion? Here’s the answer.

Hard Questions: How to Make Sense of the World

Answer these seven questions and you’ll discover what’s at the bottom of all your thoughts about God, yourself and the world.

What Camus and Frankl Can Teach You about the Meaning of Life

Is it possible to find meaning in life without God? Albert Camus and Victor Frankl think so.

Russel’s Tea Post, Snuggies and Talking Frogs

What’s the difference between God and an imaginary teapot–and where does this cute little analogy ultimately break down? Take a look.

How to Answer “That’s Just Your Interpretation”

There are no facts–just interpretations.” Friedrich Nietzsche Part of a series on truth.

A bit of eccentric logic.

Especially since Nietzsche is presenting it as a fact…

The very thing he himself admits doesn’t exist.

What are we to do with that?

More importantly, what are we to do when people say, “Well, that’s just your interpretation?” when we present them with moral or biblical truths?

Let me show you an easy way to answer that challenge.

Two Problems with “Interpretation”

In the most basic sense, to deny objectivity is to assume something is objectively true.

In other words, the statement “That’s just your interpretation” .

But let’s just accept the argument that morals or biblical truths are a matter of personal preference.

If that’s the case, then only two things can come out of such a stance:

1. Why believe ANYTHING if it’s just perspective?  [We can never prove anything since “interpretation” becomes a circular argument.]

2. Or nothing makes sense if a person asserts everything is a matter of perspective–except theirs. [Leads to contradiction.]

As you can see, you’re not left with much of anything to cling to. And if you hold that position your world and worldview will eventually cave in on itself as absolutes make themselves unbelievably real to you.

Because in the end, whether we are talking about politics, history, theology, relationships, biology or literature–absolutes do exist.

Some Beliefs DO Come Closer to Truth

Now, we may never quite get things right.

And no doubt it’s difficult to get down to the nitty gritty–especially when we’re talking about morals or emotions or theology.

But that doesn’t mean it’s an impossible task. Or objective truth doesn’t exist. In fact, as we’ll see in a minute, some sources come closer to the truth than others.

Take the Wall Street Journal for instance.

For the most part everyone will agree that you can trust it. The National Enquirer, on the other hand, is something most people disregard as hyperbole, exaggeration and bald-faced lies.

No normal person would quote the National Enquirer to prove their point. Quite a different story with the Wall Street Journal.

And the same is true for religious truths.

“Interpretation” Is Usually a Smokescreen

Now, it’s NOT intolerant or bigoted to suggest otherwise. It’s fair game to say, okay, here’s where you are wrong–and here’s why.

In truth, appealing to “interpretation” is often a smokescreen for pursuing one’s own agenda.

Or autonomy.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to see through this smokescreen.  suggests you ask these questions:

1. Do you mean that you just don’t like my interpretation…or that you have good reasons for disagreeing with it?

2. Can a perspective ever be correct?

3. And are some things not a matter of perspective [like chess or abortion]?

Listen: The very fact that we can recognize that some perspectives are better than others indicates that not everything is a matter of interpretation.

After all, if everything is just a matter of interpretation, how can we tell the difference between plausible and silly ideas?

Truth is, we can’t. Give me your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Pluralism (What You Need to Know–and Why)

Guest post by Rob Powell. Part of a series on truth.

In continuing our discussion about truth and absolutism let’s move to how that idea intersects with the wide diversity of faiths represented in our world, specifically in the concept called “pluralism.”

We’ve all heard the allegory of the blind men feeling different parts of an elephant.

Each man describes a completely different animal based on what part they are feeling.

The moral of the story is that each is relating just a small but true part of a larger truth.

This parable is a feel good way to reconcile the differences between the thousands of different religions in society.

In fact, somebody should make a song out of it so they can add a verse to It’s a Small World.

Pluralism: The Good and the Bad

On the surface pluralism seems like a reasonable explanation for the diversity of faiths we see.

Nobody gets their feelings hurt by being told they are wrong and everybody gets to do what they think is true.

A little deeper inspection though shows that just like relativism this view falls apart under it’s own weight.

To allow all these discordant faiths to agree the pluralist has to do a few things, but first let’s take a look where faiths disagree.

Do All Religions [Basically] Agree? Eh, No.

To make that less than a 2 year doctoral thesis we’ll limit our discussion to the most populous religions.

Not that numbers equals truth but even the most PC pluralist isn’t going to say that the Heaven’s Gate Cult or the Branch Davidians has a truth claim equally as valid as Buddhism or Islam.

Bottom line: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism all have a diagnosis for what is wrong with humanity and a cure to fix it.

It’s past the scope of this article to delve into all the differences but they are not insignificant. Here are a few:

The number of gods. Some religions believe there is no God while others believe in only one and still others embracing many.

The problem of sin. All religions describe a very different program to curing sin.

The body and mortality. Each religion seeks to explain the purpose behind our bodies and solve the riddle of death.

In all these examples, the cures range from faith in Christ, to an esoteric experience where we see we are immaterial self aware beings with all knowledge or to realizing that all we are is fleeting conscious states.

The pattern here is clear.

There are a diversity of perceived spiritual problems–and a myriad of just as diverse solutions.

What We Must Avoid

To try and boil all this down and just say that people are broken and need a cure would be as silly as saying a person has “sick” and needs “better”.

If your appendix has ruptured you will not find a doctor that recommends in vitro fertilization.

Each specific diagnosis needs a specific remedy.

Maybe the pluralist believes that God will save those not of a certain tradition based on how they responded to what knowledge they had accessible to them. For example, the Christian God might save Buddhists because they were sincere in their belief.

Unfortunately this is not what ANY of these individual faiths teach. Also, past just the general diagnosis, religions disagree on what makes up a human.

What the Pluralist Must Do to Make Religions “Agree”

Do we have an enduring soul or are we merely a collection of momentary states? Either people come in two (or more) distinct flavors or you have to believe these both of these self contradicting things to be true at the same time.

So how does the pluralist make all of this work for them?

For example, there is no mechanism in the Christian worldview where the Buddhist’s sin problem is resolved outside of faith in Christ. Nor is there is no mechanism in the Buddhist tradition whereby the Christian becomes enlightened.

So the pluralist must create their own system whereby the two are compatible and neither can hold the other as incorrect.

This involves either treating all religious exclusive claims as either being non-literal (mythical) or having limited importance.

This would include any claims to miracle which would seem to add credence to one faith over another. What really matters to the pluralist is harmony, love, justice and unity.

In other words, how you live your faith (orthopraxy) is more important than what how your faith says you should live (orthodoxy).

The Pluralist’s Sleight of Hand

But did you see what just happened there? The pluralist in attempting to negate all the exclusive claims of different religions created an exclusive claim of their own.

The pluralist denies the Muslim a chance to define his or her own religion with exclusive claims but is completely free to do so themselves.

Pluralism fails pluralistically. Which brings us back to the elephant.

A pluralist takes each person describing their religious truth and enlightenment and says “Yes but what you don’t know is that you are blind and only see in part.”

That’s perfectly laughable because the implication is that the pluralist can see just fine and in whole–and you can’t.

In the end, he’s more than happy to make a claim to exceptional knowledge that he won’t let any single faith make own their own.

The Pluralist Is Just as Blind

As you can see, pluralism isn’t an overarching view that combines all faiths in one big bubble bath of goodness. It’s just one more view claiming special enlightenment and truth–which isn’t very pluralistic, don’t you think?

So when someone says “What matters is that it makes sense to me and enables me to grow spiritually,” it’s easy to see the benefit to this claim even taken at face value and not applying it to itself.

It allows everyone to do what they want how they want to do it.

But if there is no objective truth to be found outside of one’s belief then you can never be wrong in what you believe.

In essence you’ve created a Stepford God that is made in your own image–he’s a robotic butler who will never contradict you but always please you.

Unfortunately this approach destroys the distinction between the terms “truth” and “belief” and implies that something is true because “I believe it.”

Where Pluralism Threatens the Christian Church

So where does pluralism affect the Christ follower and it’s church. Here’s a quote from JP Moreland’s book  that I think says it well:

[Such] a church . . . will become . . . impotent to stand against the powerful forces of secularism that threaten to bury Christian ideas under a veneer of soulless pluralism and misguided scientism. In such a context, the church will be tempted to measure her success largely in terms of numbers—numbers achieved by cultural accommodation to empty selves. In this way, . . . the church will become her own grave digger; her means of short-term “success” will turn out to be the very thing that marginalizes her in the long run.

The call is clear to preach the obnoxious and offensive gospel to a world and church that most of the time doesn’t want to hear it.

Absolutism (What You Need to Know–and Why)

**Guest post by Rob Powell. Part of a series on truth.**

True or False: Sean Connery was the best James Bond ever?

Of course the answer is true…

And as long as I keep this statement limited to my experience and preference it remains valid.

But, as soon as I try to put my preferences into a broader context and say “Sean Connery was THE best James Bond ever” I’m no longer stating my subjective preferences but claiming an objective truth and people will disagree with me (even though the rest of them couldn’t tote Connery’s martini glass).

Absolutism’s Enemy

It would be foolish of me to say that my personal tastes and preferences are true for everyone but somehow this idea has morphed into the consensus that everything is relative and we can’t really know anything as objectively true.

Blame it on the  and , political correctness, or El Nino but in some circles if you try to say that something is objectively or absolutely true you will hear “Well that may be true for you but it’s certainly not true for me,” regardless of the subject.

Does that mean that all knowledge is slave to personal bias and our own cultural baggage?

Is anything objectively true regardless of whether someone observes it and interprets it or not?

Relativism would have us think that the answer is an emphatic “no.”

Where Relativism Doesn’t Work

But do any of us actually live like that? Do people drive in a way that suits their biases and cultural milieu…or do they follow the rules of the road?

When figuring out how much Tylenol your toddler needs for a fever are you going to follow the dogmatic and restrictive instructions put on the bottle by “The Man” or will you play it like Ol’ Blue Eyes and say you did it your way?

What if engineers put structural supports where they “feel good” instead of where they will support the weight of the building?

Bottom line: Relativism really hasn’t made headway into areas where wrong beliefs have immediate consequences.

So where do we see it most prevalently? We see it in areas where there is a layer of ambiguity between the belief and its out-workings.

Absolutism Versus Relativism

Couple that with not wanting to offend other people [or have other people telling us what to do] and we get an “I’m okay, you’re okay” sentimental load of horse puckey.

But relativism doesn’t stop there. If you make a claim to objective truth today you can be labeled a bigot, close minded or intolerant.

Absolutism has come to be seen as close minded fundamentalism.

But in reality Absolutism is merely having a belief. It’s picking a team instead of rooting for the referees so you’re not disappointed when your team loses.

In the strictest sense absolutism isn’t that any one particular viewpoint is correct. Absolutism just says that there is an objective truth that matches what really is.

But if there is absolute truth why is it okay for my wife to say the car is too cold while I’m cracking the window because I think it’s too hot?

Because subjectively we are interpreting the temperature as hot or cold.

Objectively the car is 71 F . It would be incorrect for one of us to say it’s 71 F and the other say it’s 95 F.

Both of us can’t be right.

How Absolutism Defeats Relativism

Believe it or not, but within absolutism you can be tolerant of other beliefs. Yet tolerance used to mean we could agree to disagree–not that every idea was legitimately true.

The easy defeater to Relativism’s claim that all truth is culturally biased and only true for the believer is to simply say this:

“Then your belief that truth is culturally biased and only true for the believer is also culturally biased and only true for you?”

Relativism has no ground to stand on to say how truth is to be handled and interpreted on a scale grander than n=1.

I guess I can see the appeal of relativism. It takes the onus off the believer of having to provide evidence for their beliefs. It just has to feel right or pass whatever smell test they want to put on it. Or not.

You know, whatever.

We’ll get to how this plays itself out in greater detail with regards to the pluralist and the atheist another day but what does believing in an absolute truth mean when it comes to the professing Christian?

It means that Jesus’ exclusionary claims as the Messiah are not bigoted and intolerant. They are either true or they are not.

It means Jesus was either the Son of God or He wasn’t–but He can’t be both at the same time.

Once we know there is truth to be found we can study the evidence and come to a conclusion one way or another. It is a call to be like the  who though open minded still studied the Scriptures to make sure Paul and Silas were speaking the truth.

So the next time you hear a relativist say “There’s no such thing as absolute truth”, ask them if they’re absolutely sure about that.

Now, discuss…

4 Characteristics of the Impeccable Author of Justice

Part of The Nature of God series.

During his New York gubernatorial campaign, –the square-jawed crusader and former prosecutor who chased corruption on Wall Street so ferociously that people nicknamed him –promised to bring ethics to Albany, New York, home of the state capital.

And because of his previous track record, many people believed he could.

But every ounce of credibility he acquired during his career evaporated the moment he was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel.

As the :

The idea that Gov. Eliot Spitzer…was somehow involved in a prostitution scandal was too much. New Yorkers who thought they had heard everything were, for a change, dumbfounded.

For a man who cemented his reputation with aggressive prosecution of wrong doing…who once seemed to stand above the tawdry universe of politics…who drug a whole lot of people through the mud…the hypocrisy is incredible that he’d fallen from grace in such a low-rent kind of way.

“I feel betrayed” was a common sentiment among New Yorkers. And it did not take long for Spitzer’s opponents to call for his resignation.

God: Perfectly Positioned to Be Our Judge

God, on the other hand, will never be called to resign. Because, even as a human, he’s never fallen from grace. Indeed, he was perfectly sinless as Jesus.

Thus, perfectly positioned to be our judge.

The biblical judge is expected to love justice and fair play. He’s expected to loath all ill treatment of one person by another.

Think about it: A corrupt judge who has no interest in seeing right triumph over wrong is, by biblical standards, a monstrosity.

Moreover, a judge who is found to be living a double life–one condemning criminals and one condoning his own crimes–deserves no such respect, honor or admiration.

He SHOULD resign.

However, the judge of the Bible displays 4 characteristics that make Him an impeccable author of justice–and a being far above any charges of corruption or grounds of impeachment:

1. The judge is a person with authority. 

He is both the Lawgiver and the Judge. That’s God’s nature.

2. The judge is a person identified with what is good and right. 

The Bible leaves us in no doubt that God loves righteousness and hates iniquity and that the ideal of a judge wholly identified with what is good and right is perfectly fulfilled in Jesus.

3. The judge is a person of wisdom, to discern truth. 

There is no jury: it his responsibility alone to question, and cross examine. When the Bible pictures God judging it pictures him as a searcher of men’s hearts and the finder of facts. Nothing can escape him.  We may fool men, but we cannot fool God. He knows us, and judges us, as we are.

4. Finally, the judge is a person of power to execute sentence. 

God is his own executioner. Always potent. Always mighty. As he legislates and sentences, so he punishes. All judicial functions pour into him.

But why even have a judge to begin with? Can’t God just overlook our sins? We’ll explore that next week in a post on retribution and grace.

6 Basic Benefits to Studying Your Bible


That’s the average number of  in a 24 hour period.

Tempting to read them all. I know.

Such wonderful, witty wisdom holed up in those nearly one million posts.

But you’d need over 900,000 minutes to read them all (that is if it took 1 minute to read each post…which is about the average time spent on a page here).

In other words, 625 days.

Now, while there are some gems out there, frankly, most blog posts are not useful. Especially if you’re after divine revelation. Or a power that can sustain your daily Christian walk.

The Bible provides that power. And it reveals a rich source of benefits. Benefits you’ll enjoy when you read less blogs (including Fallen and Flawed) and more Bible.

So, what are those benefits? Here are six.


In the Bible you’ll find the truth that sets you apart as a believer for a particular purpose, namely, to do what God wants and to hate what God hates.

Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is the truth. 

God’s Blessing When Obeyed

 Once you discover what God calls you to do and you do it, you receive reward. Among those rewards…peace, genuine fellowship and joy.

But He said, ‘On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it’. 


The truth of Scripture is the weapon you use to defeat the world, the flesh and the devil. 

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 


Crawling through the Scriptures in search of the truth about God cultivates an ever-growing hunger for this truth. Sometimes this growth is rapid. Sometimes it’s slow. But it’s always growing.  

Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you grow in respect to salvation. 


In the message of the Gospel you find God’s omnipotence. Which is important. It’s this power–and this power only–that overcomes a man’s sinful nature and gives him new life.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 


God’s Word opens our eyes and illuminates our life so we can avoid stumbling. 

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 

So, what am I missing? What other benefits do you receive when you study your Bible? I look forward to hearing from you.