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Christian Apologetics Part 2: Absolute Truth?

 

Truth

As we begin our search for truth, we should ask the question, exactly what truth are we looking for?

Now considering this course we are embarking upon is to answer the questions, who are we? Where did we come from? What is the cause behind our existence?

I also want to insert right here one of the pillars of our search for truth.

Pillar Number one:   The Principle of progressive revelation[i]:

Daniel 12:4 says there will be a increase in knowledge, and people will be running to and fro

Daniel 12: 9 God tells Daniel: Go your way Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the time of the end.”  These words along with Revelation 13:18 tell us that certain things are sealed up, concealed, kept secret, until God wishes to have them revealed. Let us examine this statement for a moment.  From the time of Adam, on finds that all of God’s revelation throught history has been progressive. The patriarchs during Abraham’s time had a very limited knowledge of God’s plan of slavtion, as compared with the early Christians. Throughout God’s dealing with the Jews, knowledge increased as God gave further revelation through the prophets..  In Colossians 1:26 Paul refers to “the mystery which has been hidden from past but now revealed.

God has allowed things/ knowledge/ science be revealed in a progressive manner over the centuries. And why was mankind made to wait for a savior for 4,000 years?

It is all in the timetable of God revelation… his time table for returning heaven and earth to it’s former glory…

For instance, why did Columbus not discover America until 1492? Why was electricity not discovered before the nineteenth century? So lets talk about the 19th century… the crack in time… It was in the nineteenth century that electricity was discovered, modern manufacturing was discovered, guns were created, modern warfare was established, the paths in the ocean (Psalms 8:8) were discovered, and then this knowledge and technology has exploded since then.

Many of the modern denominations, especially those with strange and misleading doctrines were established, and also one group of believers who decided to only believe what the bible teaches. the modern day group called “The Church of Christ”.

The point is simply this as we search for truth. The truth we seek, the absolute truth was given 3 to 4 thousand years ago, but not understood.

As God has determined this is the time for the information age to literally explode, these things have been and are being revealed today.

Modern technology has given us the ability to learn more and more of the absolute accuracy of the bible through what we call Christian Apologetic.

Lets take note of one more interesting fact… it seems that when one of these “pieces” of knowledge were revealed… it was often to more than one person, in fact multiple people around the world… and sometimes just down the road.

Such as the radio, and the airplane, men were receiving the same inspiration all over the world. One example I am especially fond of is the invention of the automobile.

Though they had never met, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz each invented a high-speed engine in the 1880s. Gottlieb Daimler worked with his business partner, Wilhelm Maybach, to design what was to evolve into a modern gasoline engine in 1885. Around the same time in 1885, Karl Benz utilized bicycle technology and a four-stroke engine to begin the development of one of the first automobiles. Later another man who purchased the first 27 vehicles after they combined their efforts into one company, did so only when they agreed to name the car after his daughter… yep you guessed it… her name was Mercedes….and the rest is history.

So, as we travel through this study of truth with the intention of arriving at an absolute truth, we will look at every aspect of the case being presented.

We will arrive at an answer to the question: “Where did we come from”?

 

 

 

There are only two options, only two possible answers.

  1. We are an accident through the accidental result of two amino acids coming together, and then the addition of other amino acids, until eventually life formed from those acids, and then over billions of years, that life form began to grow and change until today we have all these forms of life, including humans, from that original accident of nature.
  2. The second option is, we were created by a superior being, most people refer to as “God”.

How do we determine which is the most likely reason?  Where do we start?

I would offer by proving there is an absolute truth… some will reject that idea

Finding the source of absolute truth

Following that source until we find the truth.

Live by the truth.

Is there an absolute Truth?

What are the options for finding it?

 

 

The news agencies? Yes____ No____ Maybe ____
Hollywood? Yes____ No____ Maybe ____
History Books? Yes____ No____ Maybe ____
School Teachers? Yes____ No____ Maybe ____
Preachers? Yes____ No____ Maybe ____
Novels? Yes____ No____ Maybe ____
Non-fiction Books? Yes____ No____ Maybe ____
The Bible? Yes____ No____ Maybe ____
Mathematics? Yes____ No____ Maybe ____
Scientists? Yes____ No____ Maybe ____

 

 

Absolute Truth

 

Absolute Truth – Inflexible Reality

“Absolute truth” is defined as inflexible reality: fixed, invariable, unalterable facts. For example, it is a fixed, invariable, unalterable fact that there are absolutely no square circles and there are absolutely no round squares.

Absolute Truth vs. Relativism

While absolute truth is a logical necessity, there are some religious orientations (atheistic humanists, for example) who argue against the existence of absolute truth. Humanism’s exclusion of God necessitates moral relativism. Humanist John Dewey (1859-1952), co-author and signer of the Humanist Manifesto 1 (1933), declared, “There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, then immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or moral absolutes.” Humanists believe one should do, as one feels is right.

Absolute Truth – A Logical Necessity

You can’t logically argue against the existence of absolute truth. To argue against something is to establish that a truth exists. You cannot argue against absolute truth unless an absolute truth is the basis of your argument. Consider a few of the classic arguments and declarations made by those who seek to argue against the existence of absolute truth…

“There are no absolutes.” First of all, the relativist is declaring there are absolutely no absolutes. That is an absolute statement. The statement is logically contradictory. If the statement is true, there is, in fact, an absolute – there are absolutely no absolutes.

“Truth is relative.” Again, this is an absolute statement implying truth is absolutely relative. Besides positing an absolute, suppose the statement was true and “truth is relative.” Everything including that statement would be relative. If a statement is relative, it is not always true. If “truth is relative” is not always true, sometimes truth is not relative. This means there are absolutes, which means the above statement is false. When you follow the logic, relativist arguments will always contradict themselves.

“Who knows what the truth is, right?” In the same sentence the speaker declares that no one knows what the truth is, then he turns around and asks those who are listening to affirm the truth of his statement.

 

No one knows what the truth is.” The speaker obviously believes his statement is true.

 

There are philosophers who actually spend countless hours toiling over thick volumes written on the “meaninglessness” of everything. We can assume they think the text is meaningful! Then there are those philosophy teachers who teach their students, “No one’s opinion is superior to anyone else’s. There is no hierarchy of truth or values. Anyone’s viewpoint is just as valid as anyone else’s viewpoint. We all have our own truth.” Then they turn around and grade the papers!

Absolute Truth – Morality

Morality is a facet of absolute truth. Thus, relativists often declare, “It’s wrong for you to impose your morals on me.” By declaring something is wrong, the relativist is contradicting himself by imposing his morals upon you.

 

You might hear, “There is no right, there is no wrong!” You must ask, is that statement right or wrong?

 

If you catch a relativist in the act of doing something they know is absolutely wrong, and you try to point it out to them, they may respond in anger, “Truth is relative! There’s no right and there’s no wrong! We should be able to do whatever we want!” If that is a true statement and there is no right and there is no wrong, and everyone should be able to do whatever they want, then why have they become angry? What basis do they have for their anger? You can’t be appalled by an injustice, or anything else for that matter, unless an absolute has somehow been violated.

Relativists often argue, “Everybody can believe whatever they want!” It makes us wonder, why are they arguing? We find it amusing that relativists are the ones who want to argue about relativism.

If you attempt to tell a relativist the difference between right and wrong, you will no doubt hear, “None of that is true! We make our own reality!” If that’s true, and we all create our own reality, then our statement of moral accountability is merely a figment of the relativist’s imagination. If a relativist has a problem with a statement of absolute morality, the relativist should take the issue up with himself.

Absolute Truth – The Conclusion

We all know there is absolute truth. It seems the more we argue against it, the more we prove its existence. Reality is absolute whether you feel like being cogent or not. Philosophically, relativism is contradictory. Practically, relativism is anarchy. The world is filled with absolute truth.

 

A relativist maintains that everyone should be able to believe and do whatever he wants. Of course, this view is emotionally satisfying, until that person comes home to find his house has been robbed, or someone seeks to hurt him, or someone cuts in front of him in line. No relativist will come home to find his house robbed and say, “Oh, how wonderful that the burglar was able to fulfill his view of reality by robbing my house. Who am I to impose my view of right and wrong on this wonderful burglar?” Quite the contrary, the relativist will feel violated just like anyone else. And then, of course, it’s OK for him to be a relativist, as long as the “system” acts in an absolutist way by protecting his “unalienable rights.”[ii]

 

3 Easy Steps to Show that Absolute Truth Exists

Gorgias the Nihilist, an ancient Greek philosopher, was said to have argued the following four points:

Nothing exists;

Even if something exists, nothing can be known about it; and

Even if something can be known about it, knowledge about it can’t be communicated to others.

Even if it can be communicated, it cannot be understood.

Of course, if you can understand his argument, he’s wrong. So too, many modern thinkers hold to positions that, fall apart into self-refutation when critically examined.

Today, I want to look at three such popular claims. In showing their inherent contradictions, I hope to show why we can (and must) affirm that knowable, non-empirically testable, absolute truths exist.

 

Step 1: Answering Relativism

The claim: “Absolute truth does not exist.”

 

Why it’s self-refuting: The claim “absolute truth does not exist” is either absolutely true or it’s not. But, of course, it can’t be absolutely true, since that would create a contradiction: we would have proven the existence of an absolute truth, the claim itself. Since it cannot be absolutely true, we must concede that there are some cases in which the proposition “absolute truth does not exist” must be false… in which case, we’re back to affirming the existence of absolute truth.

 

What we can know: Absolute truth exists. Put another way, the claim “absolute truth exists” is absolutely true.

 

Step 2: Answering Skepticism

The claim: “We can’t know anything for certain.” Or “I don’t know if we can know anything for certain.”

 

Why it’s self-refuting: This one is a subtler self-refutation then the first, because it looks humble. After all, if I can say, “I don’t know the number of stars in the universe,” why can’t I take it a few steps further, and say, “I can’t know anything for certain”?

 

Simple. Because in saying that, you’re claiming to know something about your own knowledge. When we say, “I don’t know x,” we’re saying, “I know that my knowledge on x is inconclusive.”

 

Take the most mild-seeming statement: “I don’t know if we can know anything for certain.” What you’re really saying is that, “I know that my knowledge on whether anything can be known for certain is inconclusive.” So you’re still affirming something: that you know your knowledge to be inconclusive.

 

There are two ways of showing this. First, because it could be a lie. The claim “I don’t know who took the last cookie,” could very well be proven false, if we later found the cookie in your purse. So these “I don’t know” claims are still affirming something, even if they’re just affirming ignorance.

 

Second, apply the “I don’t know” to another person. If I said, “You don’t know anything about cars,” I’m making a definitive statement about what you do and don’t know. To be able to make that statement, I have to have some knowledge about you and about cars. So if I was to say, “you don’t know if we can know anything for certain,” I’d be claiming to know that you were a skeptic – a fact that I can’t know, since I’m not sure who’s reading this right now.

 

So when you say “I don’t know if we can know anything for certain,” you’re saying that you know for certain that you’re ignorant on the matter. But that establishes that things necessarily can be known for certain.

 

This is unavoidable: to make a claim, you’re claiming to know something. So any positive formulation of skepticism (“no one can know anything for certain,” “I can’t know anything for certain,” “I don’t know anything for certain,” etc.) ends up being self-refuting. For this reason, the cleverest skeptics often word their skepticism as rhetorical questions (e.g., de Montaigne’s “What do I know?”). If they were to say what they’re hinting at, it would be self-refuting. They avoid it by merely suggesting the self-refuting proposition.

 

Finally, remember that in Step 1 we determined that the claim “absolute truth exists” is absolutely true. We’ve established this by showing the logical contradiction of holding the contrary position. In other words, we’ve already identified a truth that we can know for certain: “absolute truth exists.”

 

What we can know: Absolute truth exists, and is knowable.

 

Step 3: Answering Scientific Materialism

The claim: “All truth is empirically or scientifically testable.”

 

Why it’s self-refuting: The claim that “All truth is empirically or scientifically testable” is not empirically or scientifically testable. It’s not even conceivable to scientifically test a hypothesis about the truths of non-scientifically testable hypotheses. In fact, “all truth is empirically or scientifically testable” is a broad (self-refuting) metaphysical and epistemological claim.

 

What about the seemingly moderate claim, “We cannot know if anything is true outside of the natural sciences”? Remember, from Step 2, that “I don’t know x,” means the same as saying, “I know that my knowledge on x is inconclusive.” Here, it means, “I know that my knowledge on the truth of things outside of the natural sciences is inconclusive.” But the natural sciences can never establish your ignorance of truths outside the natural sciences. So to make this claim, you need to affirm as certain a truth that you could not have derived from the natural sciences. So even this more moderate-seeming claim is self-refuting.

 

Furthermore, all scientific knowledge is built upon a bed of metaphysical propositions (for example, the principle of noncontradiction) that cannot be established scientifically. Get rid of these, and you get rid of the basis for every natural science. There’s no way of rejecting these premises while still affirming the conclusions that the natural sciences produce.

 

Finally, remember that in Step 2, we established the truth of the claim “absolute truth exists, and is knowable.” This is a truth we know with certainty, but it’s not an empirical or scientific question. It can be established simply by seeing that its negation is a contradiction. So that’s a concrete example of an absolute truth known apart from the empirical and scientific testing of the natural sciences.

 

Conclusion: There exists absolute and knowable truth, outside of the realm of the natural sciences, and not subject to empirical and scientific testing.[iii]

Truth proven by Mathematics

A friend of mine (statement by the author) recently mentioned (do not read “endorsed” – I wouldn’t want anybody to get any false impressions about my anonymous friends) the idea that mathematical theorems are demonstrably, objectively true. It’s certainly a tempting conclusion to come to, especially if you’re the sort of person attracted to absolute truth, but in reality there isn’t anything absolutely true about math that’s of much interest. You can’t understand this, however, without looking deep into the bowels of mathematics to see what foundation it’s built on, so I’m going to try to do that for the uninitiated in an accessable way. To start with, I’m going to break mathematics up into three layers.

 

Top Layer: Popular Math

This is math as most people are familiar with it. The algebra and the geometry and the calculus and all that. It’s a bunch of properties about mathematical objects and rules for things you can do with them:

 

Multiplying two negative numbers results in a positive number

The sum of the interior angles in a triangle is always 180°

The derivative of xn is n·xn-1

Most people find it incredibly dull and forget anything they’re forced to learn very quickly unless it happens to be helpful to them in some way.

 

Middle Layer: Mathematicians’ Math

Mathematicians’ math is the foundation for Popular Math. Some people would argue that this is the kind of math that the word “math” should refer to, and that Popular Math is something else entirely.

 

What mathematicians do is very much about discovery. They look for patterns, try to determine rules, and invent new ways of thinking about things. It’s a much more open and free activity than Popular Math, but it also takes a lot of genius and creativity to come up with anything new. A different summary of a mathematician’s activity is that they try to come up with interesting questions, and then try to find answers to those questions:

 

Answered Questions

Is there a relationship between the circumference of a circle and its diameter? If so, what is it?

How many prime numbers are there?

Does the square root of two have an infinite number of decimal digits?

Unanswered Questions

Are there an infinite number of twin primes? (a pair of primes whose difference is 2)

Are there any odd perfect numbers?

Answers are called theorems, and they have to be formally proven before they will be accepted. Mathematicians try to make use of previously proven theorems mixed with insight and luck to prove something new and interesting, which itself becomes a theorem. All the results of mathematics boil down to a giant list of theorems.

 

This process of proving is (I suspect) what most people who argue for the absolute truth of mathematics are referring to. A mathematical proof is simply a list of statements, where each statement either follows logically from the previous one, or is itself some previously proven theorem, and the last statement is the answer to the original question. In the face of a correct proof, there’s not much that can be done except to acknowledge it. Answering the question of whether theorems reveal absolute truth, however, requires looking at the foundations of proof itself.

 

Bottom Layer: Logicians’ Math

A logician is concerned with the actual process of proving something. I said earlier that a mathematical proof is simply a list of statements where each statement follows logically from the previous one, or is itself some previously proven theorem. This sentence reveals the two legs that a mathematical proof stands on.

 

The first leg is the logical connection from one statement to another. What does it mean for one statement to follow logically from another? Most people have strong intuitions about this, but mathematicians aren’t generally comfortable with relying on human intuition if they can help it. Therefore, they rely on a formal system of logic, which is basically a list of rules for how one logical statement can be derived from another. These rules are stated using letters to represent abstract logical statements, and say things such as:

 

If we know that A is true, and we know that A being true implies that B is true, then B must be true.

If we know that A being true implies that B is true, but we know that B is false, then A must be false.

The rules of logic are simple statements that most people would intuitively agree with. Whether or not the rules themselves are true is not something a mathematician could comment on – that question is left to the philosophers. Mathematicians have, however, been able to show that the common set of logical rules are consistent – that is, you can’t use them to come to two contradictory conclusions.

 

Once logic has been formalized, we have a method for creating statements from other statements, in such a predictable fashion that a computer can do it. Theoretically, the work of a mathematician could be done by a computer (realistically, computers aren’t any good at deciding which theorems are interesting, so the amount of help they can provide is limited), so within a mathematical proof, there shouldn’t be any doubt about whether a connection is logically valid – either you can make the connection using one of the logical rules, or you can’t make the connection.

 

The second leg of a mathematical proof is the statements that don’t follow from previous statements, but are themselves previously established theorems. The first statement of any proof must necessarily be one of this sort, because there are no previous statements for it to follow from. Of course, if a proof uses a theorem that is actually faulty (i.e., wasn’t correctly proven), then the proof itself will be faulty. But a more glaring issue is a recursive problem: if this theorem relies on some other theorem, what does that theorem rely on? Probably a third theorem, but we could keep asking the question, like a child endlessly asking why. Where did it all start? This is where we get the idea of an axiom.

 

A system like this has to start somewhere, and every mathematical system has underneath it a set of axioms. Axioms are logical statements just like any statement in a proof, except that the axioms don’t have proofs. They are simply assumed. The idea is that if we start with a handful of well chosen axioms, we should be able to prove all sorts of interesting things. The famous ancient mathematician Euclid realized this, and came up with five axioms for geometry, which say things like “There is only one line between two points” and “circles can be drawn with any center and any radius”. These statements are the starting point for proving theorems within geometry.

 

Once again we can ask if the axioms are true, but once again the question is left to the philosophers. A natural question is if we can find a set of axioms that we’re intuitively comfortable with and that can serve as a foundation for all of mathematics. Maybe if we accomplished that, we could consider math to be “true enough”. Sure, it’s based on a few foundational concepts, but they’re concepts that nobody would argue with, and so at the very least math is the truest thing we can know. Unfortunately things get a little fuzzy from here.

 

A mathematical system (i.e., a set of axioms, and a set of rules for deriving theorems) has two fundamental properties: consistency and completeness. I mentioned consistency earlier when talking about the rules for logic. A system is consistent if it is impossible to prove two contradictory statements. If I can, using the axioms and the rules of logic, prove that something is true and then some other way prove that it is false, then the system is inconsistent. An inconsistent system is basically worthless, because one of the necessary rules of logic is that if a contradiction is possible, then anything is true. I had a professor once who wrote on the board “If I am the king of England and I am not the king of England, then I am the Pope” and said that it was a logically true statement. The idea is that if something is true and false, then we can use that to prove that any arbitrary unrelated thing is true. So in an inconsistent system, everything is true, which isn’t very interesting.

 

The second property is completeness. Completeness means that within a given mathematical system, any statement that can be made within that system is either true or false. This is obviously desirable, because it means that every question has an answer. It also says something else about our axioms besides consistency, something related to usefulness. If I decide to invent a mathematical system where the only axiom is “ten is a number,” then it wouldn’t be of much use. We could prove a few things, such as “If an object is ten, then it is a number” and “Something that is not ten is not a number,” but that’s about it. If somebody asked a question like “is seven a number?” then our system could not answer. It would depend on whether or not seven is ten, and we don’t have any axioms that address that issue. So for our ideal set of axioms, we’d like them to be both consistent and complete.

 

Unfortunately this turns out to be impossible. Within the last century it was proven that no system which is expressive enough to contain arithmetic can be both consistent and complete. One way of looking at this is that, given some consistent, complex mathematical system, there will always some statement within that system that is simultaneously true and unprovable.

 

So mathematicians play around with different sets of axioms, and use each for different things. The original geometric axioms of Euclid are just one way of doing geometry (it’s called Euclidean Geometry), and there are others (e.g., “what if lines weren’t really straight?”).

 

Conclusion

I’ve run through some pretty complex topics quickly, so if anything I said didn’t quite add up, leave a comment and I’ll try to clear things up.

 

Asking whether some statement is mathematically true is a bit like asking whether some action is legal: it depends on the context. In practice there are very good sets of axioms used in each field of mathematics which are either believed to be, or have been proven to be consistent, and result in all sorts of interesting theorems. For most of the history of mathematics, mathematicians didn’t question their axioms, and math has shown itself to be incredibly useful for all sorts of things. So we shouldn’t draw the conclusion that all of math is a lie. And usually we can get away with doing mathematical things without even thinking about the underlying system. But we can’t philosophize about the underlying truth without acknowledging that underneath everything else, math relies on human intuition, one way or another.

 

So if math isn’t necessarily absolutely true, why has it been so successful at describing the real world? Excellent question.[iv]

This is the way I interpret this….

(2 + 2 = 4)…  if (2 + 2 = 4)…. then it stands to reason that (2 + 2 does not = 5)

If there is something such as a lie, then there must be something that is not a lie, or the word lie would be meaningless, and untrue (a double negative which always = a positive)…. Therefore for lie to be truly a lie or non-truth, there must be a truth, so there can exist the lie.

Simply put I can be what’s called white, or brown, or black

But I can’t be two or three of the colors at the same time…. I am white… I am not Black…this is a truth.

The thing we must prove is what is the truth….the absolute truth.

Is there a God? Or Not?

If there is a God, a Creator of all things, is He the God of the Bible? Or Not?

Are we here because of Evolution? Is evolution true or not?

Can we absolutely prove the answer is God or Evolution?

If not can we be content with relying on the most overwhelming evidence?

 

But if I say I am white….I am black… this is not a truth… for I can’t be both.

Without finding an absolute truth in mathematics we could not have cars, trains, or planes… there couldn’t be a currency system, or properly sized clothing.

 

Let’s conclude with a simple statement of truth…. There is an absolute truth…. Either Hitler lived or He did not…. Both cannot be an absolute truth.

 

 

[i] Comes from God’s Best Kept Secret Revealed/ by Del Washington, and Jerry Lucas

[ii] AllAboutPhilosophy.org is a service of All About GOD Ministries, Inc, a 501(c)(3) Non-profit organization located in Belen, NM. Currently, we have a very small team and a much larger number of volunteers. Formal governance is maintained by an outside Board of Directors.

[iii] Written by Joe Heschmeyer

Until May 2012, Joe Heschmeyer was an attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in litigation. These days, he is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and can use all the prayers he can get. Follow Joe through his blog, Shameless Popery or contact him at joseph.heschmeyer@gmail.com.

[iv] This comes from gfredericks.com | blog | 17