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“How can you say that your Truth is better than ours?”

January 17, 2012

I remember going to a work’s training event a few years back, and the first thing the training coordinator said was ‘Right, here are the ground rules, there is no truth, everyone’s perspective is just as true as everyone else’s’, as soon as I heard that I groaned!

Perhaps you too have heard this line of thinking; I wonder what your views are on the matter. Does it really work to say that everyone’s opinion and perspective is true?

A great way to unpack this issue is to think of it in terms of story writing. When you read a story, more often than not, you’ll be aware of the fact that there is, what’s called, a meta-narrative. This is the main storyline communicated through lots of sub-narratives.

A meta-narrative makes sense of everything that we’ve experienced. There is an overriding objectivity that pulls together a community of subjectivity. So for example I am sure many of you are aware of the details of World War 2; put very simply the meta-narrative is that Hitler and the Nazis went to war to gain more power and spread Hitler’s dictatorship and after 6 years of war the Allied Forces put an end to it (I know this is a massive simplification). This meta-narrative makes sense of all the events that took place leading up to and during WW2. The stories that fill our history books, details of various fights and battles, stories of heroes and villains all fitting together like a jigsaw that tell the story of The 2nd World War.

For a long time it was accepted that that was how life was in general. There was an objective truth that made sense of our subjective lives.

However during the dawn of post-modernism a very clever chap called Jean-François Lyotard stated that the notion of a meta-narrative was obsolete and oppressive. His view was that mainly due to the advancing of science and technology we had grown sceptical of any ‘transcendent and universal truth’

I’m not saying that in his ramblings Lyotard didn’t have any points worth considering – I believe he did, I also believe his work is worth studying. However, he, along with other post-modern pen pushers ended up making a claim that “there is no objective truth!”

Now I’m sure you’ve already noticed just how circular and stupid this claim is. How can anyone objectively say that there is not objective truth? Kinda taken the wind out of their own sails a little don’t ya think?! In fact I remember once listening to an interview on the radio (years ago now) where someone was advocating this line of thinking, and the interviewer asked this question ‘so what you’re saying then is that there is no absolute truth.’ And with no sense of irony the fellar responded ‘yes, that’s absolutely true!’ Now I hate to be rude – but that’s pretty dumb! Even Karl Pilkington isn’t that foolish!

Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not against subjectivity totally. I think a difference in opinion and the freedom to disagree is not only helpful but also healthy, as William Cowper once said, “Variety is the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.” In fact I would even say that in certain spheres there really is no objective claim. For example there is no one definition of beauty, there is no one worldwide agreed ‘best film’, or ‘best song’ – it’s ok to be subjective and each opinion, by and large, is valid, (I say by and large because some music sucks – FACT!).

However my main concern with this modern day philosophy is that we take it from an appropriate arena (such as the arts) and move it into an arena that is inappropriate, and as such damage ourselves.

Let’s imagine a scenario; let’s imagine that I am in a room hugging a beautiful brunette who isn’t my wife. Let’s also imagine that a friend of my wife (who knows me) walks past the window and sees what I’m up to. Instantly she suspects foul play – from her perspective my behaviour is totally inappropriate and she tells my wife immediately. However unbeknown to this friend this beautiful brunette is in fact my sister whom I haven’t seen for years, and whom I love dearly. If we raise these two perspectives to an equal standing then we do ourselves an injustice. In this imaginary scenario there is one truth – not two, one valid perspective and a misunderstanding.

As I have already said, there is nothing wrong with appreciating people’s different opinions, however as we have seen, in the wrong context it could lead to a gross injustice.

But it goes deeper still…

In my opinion when it comes to issues that involve God and life after death (eschatology) then the stakes are too high to play the “subjectivity card”.

In our world today there are millions of different faith claims, thousands of different organised religions and numerous versions of the gospel. If you were to ask Joe Bloggs how to get to Heaven his response would probably be: ‘which Heaven?’ Do you mean the Christian Heaven? Do you mean Paradise? Maybe you mean Nirvana? Or perhaps you just mean a really nice new holiday resort in the Bahamas.

We live in a day where there is such a diversity of faith and belief that in order to avoid causing offence we push away the thought of there being one true faith claim. After all ‘how can you say that your truth is better than mine?’ The measuring stick of how to live our lives is no longer objective truth but rather our subjective perception of happiness. Why are we like this? Well mainly because we too scared of offending people.

The problem here is quite a logical one, even whilst there are millions of opinions and beliefs about life after death there can only be one truth. If we’re being logical we could all feasibly be wrong – but we most certainly cannot all be right. Therefore if there’s a chance that you or I could end up spending an eternity in the wrong place then in my opinion it’s worth exploring. It’s just not good enough to back down and call it a difference of opinion. If eternity is at stake then we need to find out what’s true, we need to do that with love, grace and humility but we do need to do it.

It goes without saying of course that I wholeheartedly believe in one meta-narrative, one objective truth that makes sense of all history and all humanity. The narrative of the gospel – the story of a hero who came to rescue an undeserving people, the story of a faithful and fierce bridegroom who came to woo his bride.

Let me finish with this CS Lewis quote (I know I quote him a lot – but the dude’s a legend):

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

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