Opinion: What is truth in a post-truth world?
What is truth? The answer, it seems, depends on whom you ask. We live in a society that has largely abandoned the idea of objective truth, or as Francis Schaeffer put it, “true truth.” This is largely because our thinking is now permeated with a philosophy
known as “postmodernism.” According to Britannica, post- modernism is “characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in assert- ing and maintaining political and economic power.” In other words, there is no absolute truth, and belief systems with authoritative truth claims are simply a means of
oppressing people. Postmodernism has been taught
in American college classrooms for decades now. Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, what- ever works for you” when talking about what they believe?
It should be no shock, then, that postmodernism dogmatically op- poses any authoritative assertions of absolute truth. In volume three of “World Religions and Cults,” Dr. Carl Broggi writes, “Since the postmodernist thinks there is no valid way to measure truth from error, acceptable from unaccept- able, or right from wrong, all be- liefs and perspectives are deter- mined to be equally valid.”
This has, Broggi claims, trans- formed our cultural understand- ing of tolerance. Tolerance used to mean that people with opposing views respected each other’s right to hold those views, regardless of how strongly they disagreed. This is the tolerance that makes conversation about controversial issues possible. It creates an envi- ronment in which people can dis- cuss, refute and promote different ideas without fear of being shut down.
Yet postmodernism has led the transformation of tolerance into, ironically, intolerance. According to postmodernism, nobody can rightfully claim that their beliefs are superior or more factual than anyone else’s beliefs. Saying “I deeply respect you and your right to believe whatever you want, but I firmly believe what you are saying is wrong” is considered by many today to be intolerant, even though this statement would have been perfectly acceptable under the old definition of tolerance.
And so we dwell in a state of un- certainty, where people believe that morality is relative and ul- timate truth is unknowable. In- creasingly, the idea of there being an objective truth is vilified.
In an April 2017 letter to the president of Pomona College, a group of students wrote, “The idea that there is a single truth – ‘the Truth’– is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment.” The students added that the idea of objective truth “is a myth” and that “white supremacy, imperialism, coloni- zation, capitalism, and the Unit- ed States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spac- es, is an attempt to silence op- pressed peoples.”
Despite postmodernism’s preva-
lence in our culture, it is a self-de- feating philosophy. When people claim, “Objective truth does not exist,” the question then becomes, “Is that objectively true?” If the answer is yes, then objective truth exists, and if it is no, then objec- tive truth must exist.
This single contradiction alone destroys the foundation of post- modernism.
Furthermore, I have yet to meet a postmodernist whose life is con- sistent with their beliefs. Prom- inent atheist Richard Dawkins wrote, “Show me a cultural rela- tivist at 30,000 feet and I’ll show you a hypocrite … If you are flying to an international congress of anthropologists or literary crit- ics, the reason you will probably get there – the reason you don’t plummet into a ploughed field – is that a lot of Western scientifically trained engineers have got their sum right.”
Dawkins illuminates the fact that while many people may be postmodern in their approach to religion, morality or politics, they would never apply this same post- modern thinking to science or en- gineering. Would you hire a post- modern architect who assumes there is no absolute truth; that the laws of mathematics and physics, such as the law of gravity, are just social constructs?
Would you feel safe if your doc- tor applied postmodern logic, or rather lack of logic, to how she or he prescribed your medications?
As radio and television host Todd Friel points out in “Jesus Unmasked,” it does not matter if an idea “works” for someone or if most people accept it. That does not make it true.
Suppose, for example, a soldier in the heat of battle copes with his fear of death by simply believing that he is not going to die. Even though the idea may “work” to serve his felt needs by relieving him of his anxiety, that does not mean the idea is true, as he may very well realize moments before a grenade which lands near him explodes.
Or suppose the majority of all the world’s university professors believed that the earth is flat. The idea was then taught in universi- ties across the world, and then in- cessantly spread via mass media so that after many years, 99.9 per- cent of the world’s 7 billion people believed that the earth is flat. Is the earth flat? No.
Furthermore, it does not matter how sincerely someone believes an idea. Suppose a woman sincerely believes she is pregnant. Her be- lief is so genuine that she has a baby shower, chooses a name for her baby and even spends thou- sands of dollars on toys, diapers, a stroller, a crib and a college sav- ings plan for the child. But if she’s not pregnant, well, she’s not preg- nant, regardless of how sincerely she believes. She may even say she “feels” pregnant, but truth is not based on feelings.
Our feelings, which are often the results of various chemicals and hormones as well as diet and ex- ercise, can change — sometimes dramatically and in minutes.
Yet they do not affect what is real. Reality is firmly fixed regard- less of what we feel about it. Just as our thinking can be flawed and deceived, so can our feelings.
And yet, our society is still in-
credibly “feelings”-based. When we want someone’s opinion, we ask, “How do you feel about this?” When we are confused about an issue, we say something such as, “I am still not sure how I feel about it.”
Feelings are important, and we should respect people’s feelings, but we should never regard our feelings as a truth source. Our feelings must always be subject to truth, not the other way around. As Ben Shapiro, the editor of “The Daily Wire” said, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”
Why does this matter? It mat- ters because postmodernism has a strong hold on the Western mind, and not only is it wrong, but its implications are disastrous. For example, if morality is relative and personal, then what Adolf Hitler did in murdering millions of people was not wrong.
If postmodernism is true, then Hitler simply acted based on his own personal truth and what “worked” for him, and the Ger- man people who took part in his heinous crimes against humanity were simply joining the majority in carrying out acts which were deemed “good” by their society in their period of history, and the moral code the Allies used to judge Nazi criminals was just a socially constructed form of op- pression.
Postmodernism, if believed, leaves a person with no founda- tion upon which they can stand against lies, in addition to under- mining the basis for social justice. Without any absolute moral au- thority, can our postmodern soci- ety muster the conviction to stand against evil?
The question of whether truth is subjective or objective is nothing new. The opening line of this edi- torial, “What is truth?” was asked about two thousand years ago by the Roman governor Pontius Pi- late.
Whom was he asking? Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 ESV
In the Old Testament, it is writ- ten, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judg- es 21:25 ESV. That is the heart of postmodernism.
Yet just as the Bible records the very first occurrences of what could be called postmodern think- ing, it also refutes it.
What is truth? Jesus answered that question in John 17:17, when He said to God the Father, “Your word is truth.”