Theology 2.0 – Part 4

I am continuing on with this theology series even though I’m not getting much conversation, which was my goal. I suppose that many of you may really just enjoy reading my words, though I doubt that is the case. I really do want to hear your thoughts in response to my posts. Do not fear if you do not know all of the terminology used or haven’t thought about certain topics. Theology is not just done by theologians in classrooms and dark, dusty offices full of books, but by real people living real lives.

On to the recent topics in class, then.

There are two topics that I want to discuss in this post and they go hand-in-hand: truth and knowing truth.

We all think we know what truth is, don’t we. Why, what I believe is true?  Is it not? Well, I certainly think it is or I would not believe it. However, so does the person sitting next to me in the coffee shop whose life and belief system differs greatly from mine. What, then, is truth and how do we determine what is true?

The definition that my professor gave in class for truth is as follows:

a. Truth is a property of propositions that corresponds to the way things are

b. Objective truth is what is true independent of preference or desire

This definition seems simple enough. It basically says that there is such a thing as objective or absolute truth that is true no matter what. (This reminds me of a quote I used to love to quote by Philip Dick: “Reality is that which when you stop believing in it doesn’t go away.”) But what if I believe in something –  God, for instance – but you don’t? To me that God exists may be as absolute as things get. I may say that if God doesn’t exist, then life isn’t worth living and everything I think I knew was a lie. You, on the other hand, fully assert that God does not exist. That truth for you may be the most absolute truth. You may respond  that if God does exist, then that God must be a horrible being to allow so much hurt in the world. Who is right? Who is wrong? How can we know?

Most of us would quickly jump to the support of one of the two views, but how do know we know which one to support? Typically we would support the view that most closely lines up with our own, therein asserting, whether we want to or not, that we can distinguish between what is true and what is untrue by comparing it with our own beliefs. If it lines up fairly closely, then it is true. If it is in direct opposition, then it is clearly not true.

How do you determine what is true? Is there such a thing as objective or absolute truth? If there is such a thing as objective or absolute truth, what tests do you put statements/ideas/etc. through to determine whether they are really true? If you’ve ever held on to a certain “truth” even when it has failed tests of truth (deductive and inductive logic, coherence, etc.), why did you continue to hold it as true?

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4 thoughts on “Theology 2.0 – Part 4

  1. Isn’t this the essence of Postmodernism Thomas. It really doesn’t matter what is absolute or not, as long as it works. I do believe that absolute truth is real in some realm that I can’t understand fully, but when we try to take sides on this issue, it is my feeling that we come closer to alienating people instead of accepting differences.

  2. I don’t believe in an absolute religious truth. If there is such a thing, then that means every other idea out there would be false. What then would be the value in religions that did not coincide with this absolute religious truth?

    I also avoid discussing theology the majority of the time, unless of course it relates directly to the theology of the middle age (i.e. Augustine, Aquinas, etc). I suppose I am a product of my department (and coming from it I suppose you know what I mean by this).

    As for how I decide what is true and what isn’t: I look at the evidence available to me. I take a scientific approach. If the science, as we know it today, makes sense then I accept it as true. If it doesn’t then I accept it as false. If there is something inconclusive about the evidence, then I just table it for later. I am intelligent enough to know that science itself is an ever adapting discipline, and as such if the science changes then it is likely that my opinion of “the truth” will also change.

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