Tuesday, May 10, 2011

True? False? or Who Cares? - Part 3

In the first article in this series we talked about the fact that in normal daily life we come at truth in very informal ways and yet in ways that work at the practical level. When we build our homes, we conform them to certain truths about how the construction needs to take place so they are safe and function well. We learn these truths by applying what we receive on good authority. This approach seems to be thrown out the window when it comes to discerning, believing and proclaiming religious truth.

In the second article we expanded more on the methods we use to discern what truth is. Here again we discussed the fact that most of us haven’t come in contact with the truth first hand in most areas of knowledge. In other words we weren’t there when historical events took place and we aren’t privy to the information that forms the basis for political decisions. Most of us are not involved in the working out of mathematical equations or scientific principles. We learn these things and base our decisions on them based on good authority. But it’s interesting to recognize that different people accept different authorities. Why is this so? Why, when the President, any President, announces a decision, do some people assume it is a wise and truthful decision whereas others claim the decision is faulty and dishonest? Why do we gravitate to one news source over another or one religious leader over another? Most of these propensities to lean in one direction or another are not driven by facts that we know first hand.

There are usually unproved and sometimes improvable assumptions called presuppositions that move us in one direction or another when in the search for truth. The point I would like us to think very seriously about is that there is no guarantee that these presuppositions are directing us toward the truth. Our feelings tell us our sources are true and we believe they are, but there is no guarantee. I may listen to a particular news source because I feel that it is a truthful source of information. But what makes me think that? And just because I think that, does that make it true? I watch with fascination as CNN fans put down Fox News for presenting a slanted view of the facts. At the same time I hear Fox News followers cut down CNN for painting a false picture of causes and events. Since CNN and Fox present rather different perspectives on events, they can’t both be giving the true picture. One or the other or both are presenting shaded views of the truth. Our presuppositions drive us to listen to and believe one over the other.

The same thing occurs in religious discussion. Some people do not believe that the Bible can be historically accurate and truthful in the narratives about Jesus Christ because it describes events which people have never seen with their own eyes. These miracles are described as though they are facts, but some people dismiss them out of hand because of the presupposition that such things cannot and therefore did not take place. Think of the implications if the resurrection of Jesus actually did take place. In other words if we take it out of the realm of a religious teaching and put it into the same realm as the assassination of Julius Caesar or any other historical event, what would that mean? Think about it. If this man really died, his heart stopped beating and his brain stopped functioning, someone put him into a cold cave and then three days later he was alive again, wouldn’t such an event warrant a place in the history books? But somehow it has been relegated to a religious teaching and the thought of it actually having happened has pretty much disappeared. Has this happened because the history of it has been shown to be faulty or because of presuppositions coming into play?

Our presuppositions tend to move us toward some information sources and away from others. We believe some people who purport to be authorities and we reject others. In most cases we haven’t and usually can’t do the research required to independently verify these authorities. This situation shouldn’t drive us to the conclusion that the truth doesn’t exist or that it can’t be known. We don’t do that in normal daily life and we shouldn’t do it in philosophical, political or religious areas of life. However, we do need to recognize that our presuppositions may not be pointing us to the truth. If we really want to know what the truth is, we need to sometimes work against our natural presuppositions and give other sources a fair and reasoned hearing because it may be that the truth lies in that direction.

1 comment:

David C. Taplin said...

The hardest part about accepting your thoughts on presuppositions is admitting that there may be something that I think and believe to be true, and have to consider giving it up. The most encouraging part of this thought is that those things that I think that are based on the Bible and God's words are solid, and I feel as though I could argue, debate, and support them without wavering because no one and nothing can disprove God.