What is truth?

Ask the pastor: Today I had a conversation with a relativist. Her view was that all religions have an element of truth. She made the following claims:

1) God is good, but set up evil events for the greater good. (IE: James town, Holocaust, etc) - NOTE: She was explicit that James Town was orchestrated by God for the greater good. 2) Each person is responsible for that which brings them the greatest good. 2a)Each person determines their own good. 3) Truth is a matter of perception for the individual.

So, when someone makes the above claims? How do you reason with them?

First of all I would say that most religions do have some elements of truth in them. Satan knows that mixing truth into the lies he spreads helps people more readily accept them. This does not mean that every religion is good or the same. Only Christianity tells us without error who God is and what His plan is for us. Second, God is good, but He doesn’t cause evil. We need to understand the difference between God’s permissive and active will. He never actively causes evil, because that would make Him the author of evil. No evil can come unless He allows it though (Job 1-2). He orchestrates in the sense of allowing all that happens for the greater good. He is the grand chess master who uses our evil for His good purposes without being the cause of that evil. Third, the next two points seem very self focused, which the Bible is not. We are responsible for what we do, but our focus should be on how we can bring God the greatest glory, not on how we can bring our own greater good. We definitely don’t determine our own good if this person means by that, that we determine what is good. Only God determines what is good – He is God and we are not. If this person means we determine bringing about our own good, then the answer is yes and no. Our greatest good comes from not seeking our own good, but rather God’s glory. Jesus said if we seek to save our life we will lose it, but if we lose our life for His sake we will gain it. Last, truth is not a matter of perception, it is a matter of what is real. There are two major philosophies concerning what is true: 1) The pragmatic theory which states something is true if holding the belief is useful. There are four problems with this theory: a. Though many truths are helpful some are not. b. Pragmatist understanding can result in contradictory statements both being true. If something is useful for Dave but not useful for Susan then it is true and not true. c. Things are not true because they are useful; they are useful because they are true (i.e. Antibiotics). d. How do we determine what is useful? Short term or long term? If short term then lying could be seen as true. If long term then how can we ever know until years later? 2) The correspondence theory of truth is the only rational view. Truth is that which corresponds to reality. If truth were a matter of perception then the belief that the earth is flat would be true and all believed lies would be true. We are much better off getting our focus off of ourselves and trust in God’s word which is ultimate truth and our final authority in deciding what is true or false and what is right or wrong. See my book, The Uniqueness of the Bible for an extended case for the supremacy of the Bible as our final authority.

God bless, Larry