Many times I’ve heard Christians ask: “So, how did our society get so messed-up? Well, that’s one thing I think I understand. We simply have not lived the beliefs we profess. This is evidenced by the lack of outrage on the part of all Christians.
Early scientists were devout Christians. They were seeking to understand the Laws of Nature – meaning, the Laws that God put into place to govern the physical world in which they lived. And, about which, they were learning a great deal. The point is that these pioneers in scientific method were seeking truth – God’s Truth. And when they found a new physical law they were awed by God’s perfect creation.
Moving forward (in time) several hundred years, I find it interesting (not surprising) to note that the definition of science in Webster’s New Dictionary of the English Language does not mention the “…search for truth”. This is not by accident. Truth implies a universal standard. But, in today’s world there is no universal standard. What is “good” for one may be “bad” for another. It all depends on your point of observation… doesn’t it? Come now, if a poor man steals milk to give to his hungry infant… well, right away we have a problem. We can’t really call that “stealing” …can we?
Let’s look at Webster’s definition of truth.
Truth n 1: real state of things 2: true or accepted statements 3: agreement with fact or reality.
How many “problems” do you see with that definition? First, we have to get the definitions of the words used in the definition. (Sorry, but this is important.)
Re·al adj 1: relating to fixed or immovable things (as land) 2: genuine 3: not imaginary.
Gen·u·ine adj being the same in fact as in appearance.
True adj 1: loyal 2: in agreement with fact or reality 3: genuine.
Fact n 1: act or action 2: something that exists or is real 3: piece of information.
Reality n 1: quality or state of being real 2: something real.
Now back to our understanding of truth. The first thing I note in our search for truth in the definition of “truth”, is that there is a great deal of “circular” argument. It’s like saying, “… truth is that which is true”. The reason for all this circularity is that again, there can be no reference to an absolute. Let’s try it anyway.
Definition #1 for truth says that truth is, “…the real state of things”. Real means “genuine” and genuine is, “…being the same in fact as appearance”. But, if things can appear different from different perspectives, then how can the resultant facts be anything but different? In other words, facts are variable dependent upon your point of view. Unsatisfactory; and already, I’m getting a headache.
Let’s leave definition #1 for “truth”, and go for definition #2, which is “…true or accepted statements”. Right off the mark I see trouble looming. How can we define “true” if we can’t define “truth”? We’ll try, anyway. The dictionary says the definition of “true” is, “…adj 1: loyal 2: in agreement with fact or reality 3: genuine. Let’s agree the first doesn’t apply. And, we know that reality depends on your perspective so that doesn’t help. Genuine is essentially mire we’re already slogged around in to no avail. So, now we are left with “truth” defined as “…accepted statements”.
Is it just me, or is this not laughable …if it weren’t so pathetic? Truth is defined as “accepted statements”?! Really? Accepted by whom? Even authorities on particular matters seldom agree on the particulars! Can you imagine the chaos that would result if everything that is said to be “true” on the Internet were simply accepted as factual and acted on! To say, “…anything (everything) that is generally accepted is therefore truth” is asinine …or insane. No, definition #2 for “truth” is also sadly lacking. And, my headache is getting worse.
So, we look to the 3rd definition of truth “…agreement with fact or reality”. Now we’re getting somewhere. A fact is defined as #1 “An act or action”. Well, that’s something we can actually observe. But, oh me, observations are unreliable because they appear different from different observation points. Well then, facts are “#2 Something that exists or is real.” That’s certainly helpful. How do we know something exists or is real (IE. not imaginary)? Well, by observing it and… Oops. O.K., How about, “#3 A piece of information.” And, even I know that a particular piece of information may actually be factual; but, not all information is factual, valid or true – whatever “true” means. I am so confused!
And, where is the discussion about the role time plays in our search for truth? Time is another perspective that makes a huge difference to observation and what we “know” to be true. We live a short lifespan. I think it’s safe to say that much of what we “know” to be true today will prove inaccurate, to one degree or another, over the next couple of decades; assuming that we have another 20 years.
My head is splitting!
So, if you’re still with me, it seems that we have a most difficult time defining even basic concepts. (Yes, I too thought I knew what all of those terms meant.) The tragic result is, if I am not sure of my definitions and why I KNOW them to be TRUE, I am ineffective and extremely vulnerable. Equally tragic is that not only will I have questions; I am left in the dark as to where to find the answers. On the other hand, I won’t be in the dark for long. School, my friends, the TV, and the Internet will all supply answers that will let me make up my own mind about these questions. It will all work out just fine. Except…
It won’t! And, it doesn’t!
And that, readers, explains the mess we live in.
Next week, I’ll pick-up at this point and discuss the solution to this problem and relate some of my insight for how you might wish to proceed.