Friday, May 17, 2013

In Defense of the Truth

Recently one of my nephews wrote that Buddhism "teachings are far more modern and applicable to life than any other religion" and that it isn't fair to have to choose a religion "because most religions are fragments of stories and ideas passed down from other cultures anyway." Even though I disagree with his statements, I did not comment for a couple of reasons. First, I didn't have a defense of my own religious beliefs ready. Second, I worry too much about offending when I should have the courage to stand in my truth. 

Relative Truth
My nephew's thinking reflects the ideas of Postmodernism, a philosophy based on the idea that truth is subjective, a matter of personal preference or point of view. Postmodernists believe that there is no objective reality. They believe that our sense of morality is shaped by our culture, thus the casual dismissal of Biblical teachings passed down for thousands of years. To the postmodernist, the individual defines his or her reality. This a dangerous way to think. Not everything is a matter of personal interpretation. It is important to be able to discern what is real and true based on objective facts.

The Postmodern religious philosophy trivializes the distinctions between religions. Choosing a religion is not like choosing a flavor of ice cream; the stakes are much higher. Jesus Christ is very different from Buddha, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, Mohamed, and the leader of every other religion. Jesus made extraordinary claims about himself. He said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He claimed to be able to forgive sins and promised everlasting life to those who believed in Him. He equated himself with God.

The law of noncontradiction is a principle used in logic that means that a statement cannot be both true and not true at the same time in the same context. Jesus was either telling the truth when he said he was the Messiah or he wasn't. He can either forgive sins or he can't.

Objective Truth
What is truth? Truth embodies real things, events, and facts. If a statement is true, it conforms to fact or reality. Because truth is based on facts, evidence and reality, it is objective. Truth exists outside the self; it is independent of the human mind. The concept of objective truth is important because it holds humanity accountable to facts, to reality, to the consequences of our actions.

Truth matters, but not all truths are knowable with the same degree of certainty. Sometimes having a personal relationship with the one who tells you something is enough to give you confidence that what they tell you is true. You believe it even it you can't prove it. That is the kind of trust I have in Jesus.
2 Timothy 1:12 (NIV)
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
I know enough about Jesus Christ to know that his teachings are timeless. Love your neighbor as yourself. Be merciful. Forgive. Worry about your own sins and let God be the judge of others. Don't be a hypocrite. I also know that prophets in the Old Testament predicted his life and death. And I also take as "gospel truth" the eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life and resurrection from the dead.

Filling in the Gaps
I am an accountant who is proficient with systems. As an "expert" on one of the policy administration systems used by my company, I recently helped a consultant document the flows of data from this system to the general ledger system that is used to account for premiums and losses. A very simplified version of the flow chart is shown below.

There are two important things to note about this. One, there are a lot of things about the policy administration system that I don't know. That means I have to rely on other experts and ask a lot of questions. Two, even if the data is extracted from the source system accurately, the extracted files can't be uploaded to the financial system unless the system is prepared to accept the data. An interface map tells the financial system where to find pieces of data in the file, e.g. expect an account number in column one and a state code in column two.

This is analogous to my Christian worldview. God is at the top, the source of all matter, the creator of all life. Man, God's creation, is at the bottom. There are a lot of things that prevent us from having a relationship with God. We worship money and success or power or the pleasures of life. We are limited by our sin and selfishness. We don't understand how a loving God could let bad things happen. But mostly, I think we're not prepared to accept God's love. We're unwilling to submit to anyone's will but our own. We don't trust what we can't see with our own eyes.

Jesus Christ came to atone for our sins and to restore our broken relationships with God. He is the direct "interface" between God and man; he bridges the gap. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

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