Part II: What Pontius Pilate Asked
What is truth?
In Star Wars, Obi-Wan tells Luke Skywalker that the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.
Yes, our natural disposition, upbringing, and culture make certain belief and value systems more appealing to each of us. But does the uncertain, variable nature of our own hearts nullify the existence of an objective truth?
In our post-modern culture, many people think faith and belief are entirely functions of nature and nurture: biological and genetic hard coding, family values, and society. It’s come to be widely accepted that objective truth doesn’t really exist, or doesn’t matter, and you should just believe what works for you and makes you happy. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, right?
While I agree that we are shaped by our culture and environment, truth cannot be confined or defined by these boundaries. If you say there is no absolute truth, you just made an absolute truth claim. If you say truth cannot be found, you just made a truth claim you believe you found. A worldview founded on subjectivity—where truth is relative, or every person can have his or her own truth—is fundamentally self-contradictory.
Consider these questions: Where did the universe come from? What happens when we die? Is there a God, and if so, what is He like?
“I like to think God is a kind, fatherly figure up in the sky who gives us an allowance of daily wishes.”
That sounds very pleasant, but unfortunately, that has no bearing or influence on the reality of things.
Ultimately, these questions have objective, factual answers, whether or not we know the answers, and whether or not we accept them. Truth is by nature exclusive—when something is true, it follows that anything contradicting that is false.
We tend to see questions like “What is our purpose and the meaning of life?” as subjective and up to each individual. But the reality is, if there is a creator God who made us for a specific purpose, trying to define our own purpose is empty and foolish. It’s like a potter who makes a cup, and the cup tries really hard to be a chair. No, really, you can sit on the inside! We cannot conform truth to our preferences and desires, but we must conform ourselves to truth. You can insist that 2+2 is 5 because you like that better, but you will be wrong, and on a test you will lose points.
Okay, but does objective truth necessitate the existence of God?
No one can definitively prove the existence of God. As humans, we are limited by our cognitive capacity, our finitude, and our physical and space-bound limitations. How can we prove Something or Someone beyond our dimension and narrow understanding? If we could “prove God,” wouldn’t He be limited and boxed in by the reach of our minds and reasoning power? We would then have a man-made idol, a human conception of god, not God Himself.
Certainly, it takes faith to believe in God. Truth cannot ultimately be reached by human rationality. It also takes faith to disbelieve in God—to look out at the universe and inwardly at our being, and to say everything came from nothing.
Consider you hear this news report: a tornado blew through a junkyard yesterday, and today we found a fully-functional Boeing 747 there, somehow pieced together from the random scraps of metal and trash that perfectly aligned and joined together as the winds swept through. Cockpit, controls, seats, wings, everything. Do you believe it? I mean, I guess it’s arguably a non-zero probability (depending on what kind of junk was in that junkyard), but the chances are so miniscule most of us would dismiss it.
How infinitely more complex is the universe? Or the human body?
This guy sums it up very well:
”Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
Next time: Assumptions, axioms, and authority (because I like alliteration).