The world of journalism is divided. For a long time, journalists held standards of neutrality and objectivity in the highest regard. You don’t give your opinion or get involved in the story. You tell both sides of the story, regardless of who they are. “Just the facts, ma’am.” Now, many are moving away and embracing a different standard that says objectivity is impossible and possibly racist. Are objectivity and neutrality the goal to strive for or an impossible and problematic pipe dream? After taking several journalism classes for my minor, I saw a lot of debate on the issue and think it is a topic that Christians should be ready to discuss. A growing number of people want to alter the nature of truth itself. Is objective truth still worth fighting for?
When I say objective truth, I mean that something can be true or false, regardless of belief or opinion. Something is subjective because it is rooted in the subject. I, the subject, have the opinion that pineapple on pizza is delicious. I can’t make a rational argument or present evidence that pineapple on pizza is objectively good. An objective truth, like that exercise, is good for physical health, or George Washington was the first American president, is true or false even if everyone believes the wrong thing. They are true about the object.
Why the Christian Needs Objective Truth
Both Christians and non-Christians alike may ask what the big deal is. How does an abstract philosophical concept of truth impact my ordinary life? For the Christian, truth must exist outside of our own opinion and perception. There are at least three key areas where objectivity is essential to Christianity and why objective truth is still worth fighting for.
1. Objective History
The Christian story hinges on certain necessary truths. God exists, he created the universe, man sinned, God became a man in Jesus, died and rose again, and through his sacrifice, we can have salvation and be united with God. None of those issues depend on my opinion. Most of them are facts of history and reality. Either God is real, and these things did happen, or they didn’t. If history is just a biased perception written by the victors, can the Christian still confidently believe this?
2. Objective Morality
If objective truth does not exist, then, of course, neither does objective morality. Yet this goes against so much of what we experience. Even in my ethics class that emphasized subjectivity, we spent a lot of time teaching us certain accepted rules like not to cheat on a test or be racist or harmful to other people in class or writing. Even when we don’t believe in objective truth, we act like it exists. These are fundamental truths that we assume to be true without asking why they are true. If objective truth is lost, we lose the ability to make moral judgments any more than people can judge me for liking pineapple on pizza.
3. Objective Meaning
The other important part for the Christian is the nature of scripture. Despite how many treat it, the goal of interpreting scripture is to find the original meaning. The goal should not be, “What does this mean to me,” But “What did the author mean by this?” The foundations of Biblical study and interpretation hinge on the notion that there is an objective meaning, not just whatever I want it to mean. If there is no objective truth, we have a few thousand years of biblical scholarship we can toss since now it can mean whatever I say it does.
Impossible or Difficult?
Keep in mind that there are two questions to be considered. First, does objective truth exist, and second, can we know it? Even as someone who believes in it, objective truth is difficult to find. For every story you hear, you need to get through many barriers of bias, individual perception, and communication limitations to get to the raw facts. That’s why when looking at something like the gospels, variations in the stories are not necessarily contradictions since one would expect eyewitnesses to have differences. It’s only by analyzing the stories and putting them together with all of the differences and idiosyncrasies that we get a good picture of the whole story.
You need to have multiple sources. If I just interview one person for a story, I can’t compare their statements with other people to report the facts. We seem to have mistaken difficulty with impossibility. Postmodernism took us from, “Objective truth is a difficult goal, but we are going to take the steps we can to achieve it,” to “Objective truth is impossible, and damage has been done in the name of trying to achieve it, so let’s stop trying.” They have rewritten the nature of truth to say that personal experience is all there is. All we can do is report people’s perceptions. Any real truth beyond that perception is an illusion. It takes time and work, but both for the Christian and the journalist, objective truth is still worth fighting for.
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