Some of you may remember the game show, “Truth or Consequences”. The program began on radio in 1940. In 1957, the show made the jump to television where it was hosted by, among others, Bob Barker.
On the program, contestants were given roughly two seconds to answer a trivia question correctly (usually an off-the-wall question that no one would be able to answer correctly, or a bad joke) before a buzzer sounded (in the rare occasion that the contestant answered the question correctly before the buzzer was heard, the question inevitably had two or even three parts). If the contestant could not complete the “Truth” portion, there would be “Consequences,” usually a zany and embarrassing stunt. The show was so popular, that the town of Hot Springs New Mexico actually changed the name of their town to “Truth or Consequences” in order to persuade the show to broadcast live from there in 1950.
Cultural myths are ideas in society that are just sort of assumed. Nobody really thinks about them, we just take the idea at face value. One example of this (borrowed in part from Professor J.P. Moreland) was how people viewed smoking in the 1950’s. It wasn’t uncommon at that time for doctors to do commercials for cigarette companies extolling the health benefits of smoking. “Four out of Five doctors recommend brand x cigarettes” was a common marketing ploy. Doctors assured us that smoking was healthy. It relaxed you and relieved stress. It wasn’t until we began doing studies on the effects of cigarette smoking that we began to realize the dangers.
One of the current cultural myths is that you can’t know truth. And you especially can’t know truth when it comes to religion. You may have heard the phrase “it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something”. That’s become kind of a motto in our culture now. Just believe something, and don’t act like your truth is any better than someone else’s truth. This is a particularly difficult mindset to penetrate when trying to spread the Gospel. When people are convinced that truth can be known, then the truth you have isn’t terribly important or valuable. It’s just one idea among many that are equally valuable and true. But this is not what Jesus taught. And unlike a game show, a false view of truth can have serious consequences to our lives.
What is Truth?
Many people think that truth is just what you believe. But truth isn’t a belief. It’s a relation between a belief and the way the world actually is. Christianity and other religions make truth claims about the world and how it works. Some of these can be shown to make sense of the world we live in; others don’t seem to fit what we know of the world. Aristotle put it like this: If you say that it is, and it is, or you say that it isn’t and it isn’t, that’s true. If you say that it isn’t, and it is, or you say that it is and it isn’t, that’s false. Sadly, now days, many people try and bend reality to fit their world view, rather than changing their view to fit reality.
Is Truth Relative?
Some will argue that all truth is relative to the person who believes it. In other words, “that’s your truth, but I have a different truth”. This view has some flaws as well. Things don’t pop in and out of existence by our belief in them. I often ask people who make this claim “If I stop believing in gravity, will I then float off the earth?” That sounds ridiculous, and it is. But we know from experience that realities don’t change with our point of view.
So why should we think that heaven and hell might only exist for those that believe in them? Do we really think someone could escape hell simply by not believing in it? If someone commits a crime and then states they shouldn’t be punished because they don’t believe in jails, would we let them go free? That’s not the wayour justice system works. But this is the same danger people face when denying the existence of God, heaven, hell and other truths. And again, the consequences for having the wrong view of truth are severe.
How can we show truth exists?
So how can we show people that truth actually exists? It’s actually pretty easy. If they make the claim that there is no religious truth, simply ask them if that’s a true statement about religion. If it turns out that their statement is true, then that would demonstrate that there is at least one truth about religion that can be known. Second, note that they believe this truth applies to all people, regardless of their opinion on the matter. They are not saying there is no religious truth for those who agree with the statement, they are saying even if you are a Christian; their opinion applies to you as well. So, they are not taking a neutral, non-judgmental position. They have a belief about religion that they think is true. Once you have exposed this fatal flaw in their thinking, you can begin to share the truth with them.