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What Is Truth?


by David Chong

Apologetics Seminar conducted by L. T. Jeyachandran of the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry

Introduction

CDPC endeavors to grow and learn together as a community of faith. L.T. Jeyachandran, an experienced apologist from Ravi Zacharias International Ministry, shared with us on how to provide seekers with a reason for the Christian hope. 

What is Truth? 

A disciple is not greater than his Master. We can scarcely hope to escape this all-important question since Jesus Himself confronted it during His ministry. (John 18:38) 

Moreover, we live and breathe in a world that is skeptical of any notion of absolute truth. 

  • Your truth is not my truth.
  • There are no absolutes in the world. (Popular Chinese maxim)
  • Everything is relative!

How do we respond to such common (postmodern) mantras? 

Show them compassion and understanding? Definitely! Our friends don't care how much we know until they know how much we care. 

But the early church did not turn the world upside down merely because they out-loved their pagan persecutors. Our spiritual ancestors also out-thought the opposition. 

To do that, we need to be armed with thinking skills like logic and epistemology! 

What is Logic? 

Put simply, logic is 'the study of the laws of thought'. If we think rightly according to these rules, we'd never arrive at invalid conclusions. It is extremely useful as an 'Error-Detector' that screams in your head whenever a logical 'law' is violated. 

Some examples of reasoning crimes we discussed were:

  • Hasty generalization
    Ipoh girls are pretty and fair!
  • Winning by default
    Knock down an alternative view and smugly conclude that therefore we have won. 
    (Has our own view stood the same test?)
  • Begging the question
    Guilty of assuming what needs to be proved. 
    (I believe in Plato because Plato tells me so)
  • The ultimate logical fallacy is breaking the Law of Non-Contradiction 
    Claiming that 'A is B' and 'A is not B' at the same time and in the same relationship. (Square circle)


A Simple Strategy 

Our speaker used a simple strategy to demonstrate that absolute truth exists. We can use it more effectively if we have pencil and paper at hand. 

(Caution: Some mental concentration is required) 

Statement 1: All statements are false. 
(Ask: Is Statement 1 true or false? If it's true, it would self-destruct since it falsifies itself. Therefore, not all views are false.) 

Statement 2: All Statements are true. 
(Ask: Is Statement 2 true or false? It cannot be true since Statement 1 is already proven false. Therefore, not all views are true.) 

The only remaining possibility is Statement 3: 'Some views are truer than others'. 

Therefore, there must be an absolute, unchanging standard by which all views can be evaluated. If '2 X 2 = 4' is only true for me, we can't say '2 X 2 = 3' is wrong unless an objective multiplication table exists. 

Thus, absolute Truth is inescapable for to deny it, we have to assume it in the first place. 

Equally, Truth is discovered, not created by human minds in the same way that Parameswara discovered Malacca, he did not create it.

What is Epistemology? 

To be sure, logical thinking alone is not enough to establish truth. For instance, our conclusions would be wrong if we travel logically from a faulty starting point. 

Simply, epistemology is the theory of knowledge

If logic helps us to eliminate error, epistemology asks, 'How do you know what you know is true is true?' 

For example, we know by logic that a square circle or married bachelor does not exist. However, logic cannot tell us whether non-contradictory stuffs like pink elephants or bachelors do, in fact, exist. 

Truth has to be both logically non-contradictory and epistemologically trustworthy. Logic deals with concepts but truth deals with matter and empirical reality as well. 

Truth is not just a concept or an idea, but the infinite-personal Trinitarian God revealed in the Bible. 

What is the Relationship between Truth and Error? 

When we share the gospel with friends, do we have to assume that their non-Christian worldviews are entirely mistaken or useless? 

Our speaker made some important observations: Truth is absolute but error depends on truth like a parasite feeding on its host. 

There is no counterfeit money for a RM3 note because there was no original. Error must resemble the truth at some points and then, add or subtract from truth at other crucial points. (Revelations 22:18, 19) 

When we encounter error, ask ourselves, 'What is the original truth of which this is the counterfeit?' For instance, Islam reminds us of God's utter transcendence over creation. 

The practical lesson is crucial for inter-faith dialogue: Let's start by building bridges with what is common to our non-Christian friends. 

Affirm the truth that they already possess since all truth is God's truth. 

Then, we can explain where differences still exist. And finally, we can demonstrate how the Christian view more adequately completes the whole picture. 

May the Spirit guide us in the crucial task of defending the faith in a winsome and reasonable manner before a world hungering for truth!