...YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. (JOHN 17:17)
THE NECESSARY STARTING POINT
When it comes to our ability to make sense of life, it is my contention that the God of the Bible is the one who alone provides the answer to life’s most fundamental questions: where have we come from, why are we here, what happens to us when we die. He is the conclusion to the argument.
However, Christianity teaches that God is not just the conclusion to the argument; He is also the necessary starting point.
Without God, how do you account for truth, knowledge, logic, reason, morality, or the uniformity of nature?
The short answer: you can’t.
This is what is meant when we say that God is the necessary starting point.
Consider our ability to reason. Correctly defined, reason is our intellectual or mental capacity. It is our capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought: intelligence. When we calculate mathematically we are using our reasoning. When we draw a logical conclusion we are using our reasoning. When we recall to memory something we did yesterday we are using our reasoning.
Every day, we reason about different things. We appeal to our reasoning from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep. But it’s more than that. We don’t just appeal to our reasoning, we appeal to the validity of our reasoning.
Let’s say I ask you to tell me something you know, and how you know it. Perhaps you say, “I know that yesterday I went to the post office and posted a letter.” Well, how do you know you posted a letter yesterday? You tell me you know that you posted it because you remember posting it.
Consider what is now taking place. You are appealing to the validity of your memory and the validity of your reasoning (our memory is a key component of our reasoning).
However, I have a question for you: “How do you know your memory is valid?”
Can you, in and of yourself, attest to the reliability of your memory?
Please understand that I am not questioning your ability to reason, or your ability to remember things. The question is not centred on your ability. As a Christian, I believe you have been created by God, and so I believe He created you with the ability to reason.
The question is how do you account for your reasoning? In other words, what is your basis for trusting the validity of your memory, or the validity of your reasoning?
How do you know your reasoning is valid?
As a Christian, I have a basis. The God of the Bible is my basis. I can know what I know because of God. Indeed, before I can know anything, I must appeal to God. This may sound peculiar to some and outrageous to others. Even so, consider the following two points:
1. Knowledge presupposes truth. In other words, before we can know something, truth must first exist, because knowledge rests on truth.
2. Truth comes from God, because apart from God we cannot account for truth.
Let’s address my first point: People believe many different things, and they believe freely. However, for a belief to make sense, the said belief must be objectively true (I could believe that I can fly, but this does not mean that I can fly). Knowledge of what we believe likewise only makes sense if the accumulated beliefs are themselves true. This is why we define knowledge as justified, true belief.
You see, in order to know something it must be true, because we cannot know something if it could be false. If I were to ask you the speed limit of the road outside your house, and you answered, “It’s 30mph, but I could be wrong,” do you know it’s 30mph? Well, not if you could be wrong. Similarly, if I were to ask you to name for me the capital of Brazil, and you answered, “Brasília, but I could be wrong,” do you know it’s Brasília? Again, not if you could be wrong.
So truth is necessary for knowledge. Knowledge rests on truth. Put simply, if truth did not exist, it would be impossible to know anything!
We turn now to my second point: What is truth, and where does it come from? Very often the answer to this question is limited to an expression of truth — “Truth is that I am tall,” or “Truth is that the earth is round.”
However, these are expressions of truth, they do not define what truth is. Furthermore, it is important to understand that expressions of truth presuppose the very existence of truth (before you can form an expression of truth, truth must first exist).
It is truth itself which must be accounted for. To provide varying expressions of truth is clearly superfluous, for it does not deal with the question at hand, namely, what is truth?
Sometimes truth is defined as the mere by-products of the electrochemical processes in our evolved brains. However, if this is true, we wouldn't get truth, we would get “brain-fizz.” Think of it this way: when chemicals react in a laboratory, we do not think of the reaction as being true or false. It just is. But to the evolutionist, my Christian beliefs are just a complex chemical reaction within my head. So why would he think them to be false? Moreover, his beliefs are simply a different chemical reaction. Why then would he think they are true?
At the end of the day, it’s a bit like shaking up a can of Pepsi, and a can of Sprite, opening them, and watching them fizz. Neither fizz is “true” — they just are.
What then is the Christian definition of truth? Put simply, truth is that which conforms to the mind of God, because truth comes from God, because apart from God you cannot account for truth. Indeed, God’s word is truth (John 17:17).
(If you would question why truth can only be limited to the Christian God, please see question 4)
So the Christian has a basis for his knowledge. He can account for his knowledge; he can tell you how he knows what he knows.
You see, if God does not exist, and all we are is the mere by-product of random evolutionary processes, how can we possibly know that the signals firing through our brain at this very moment are reliable? How can we know that they are able to attest to the reliability of something we did yesterday?
There really is only one explanation. God has revealed Himself to all of us (through creation and His word), so that we can know some things for certain. We can know what God has revealed! For example, we can know with certainty, that our memory and our reasoning is valid, because God gives us certainty. It is God who gives us certainty, for we all know some things to be true. But this is only because we know, in truth, that there is one who knows all things — and He is the one who says that those things are true.
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© 2016 A Defence for The Truth
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