What is Truth? (Part 2)

Bible verse used in podcast:

  • Isaiah 28:9-10 ESV 
  • Proverbs 25:2 ESV 

Let’s examine truth

Often we have this issue when talking about Truth. Is Truth absolute or relative? We should explore both to get a good sense of the topic. On the one hand, you can’t really make anything that makes sense without having absolute standards. For instance, if you are reading this, you need to assume that I am using the same English rules that you are; otherwise, this wouldn’t make sense. You could look at other examples like the display that makes up your screen. There are hundreds of lights that represent pixels of what this image should be. Each pixel has an absolute color and intensity associated with it. Similarly, in science, we are trying to figure out how the universe works. Even if we don’t know the exact position and velocity of an electron, we know there are absolute rules (or our best approximation) that govern how they interact. 

The Absolute side

When looking at the relative truth idea, all one has to do is look at the classic example. By declaring that truth is relative, this is an absolute. But that absolute says there is no absolute standard. So the idea contradicts itself. Often to look at relative truths we need to put off the most basic and logical way for us to think. It is like the famous quote attributed to Einstein about insanity: 

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Einstein?

If you take a breath of air, you expect that there is something there even if you can’t fully explain what it is. You don’t have to think about moving your legs and often we don’t think about all the physics and circuitry that goes into the wiring of normal house lights. We expect these to follow basic rules we don’t need to prove over and over again. These rules don’t change and you rely on them to do literally everything in life. We make a fundamental assumption naturally that the universe is consistent and that its rules don’t change. You don’t walk out tomorrow and wonder the earth will be there when you step outside your house. Outside of movies and TV shows we expect that the world doesn’t change much and if it does then we would be in a nightmare.

The bridge

When looking at absolute truth, all you have to do is drop a ball. You expect that it will fall. You do this over and over again and it doesn’t take long to conclude that the ball will always drop. Unless the laws of the universe change (or some crazy setup), this will always be true. Generally, we expect that things happen outside of human experience, and the same rules that apply to me apply to you. If Isay I was talking, I don’t explain to you about the floor being there and how my feet felt a “counter-pressure” as I stepped and how I moved forward. All of this is assumed and you don’t bring it up. 

On some level, these rules govern our experiences even if we can’t explain them. Like dropping that ball. You might not be able to explain why the ball drops; even today what is gravity is debatable even past just the debate of Newton vs Einstein. 

What we are left with is a box that we can’t open. It’s a box that we can hold an pick up.  We can move it all around and as we do, we hear a rattling sound. As you listen, you can infer that something is inside the box. But you can’t tell exactly what it is. The big question of life is trying to figure out what is inside the box since we can’t open it. That would be absolute truth. We can all agree about the sounds made and agree on what the outside of the box looks like, how it is rotated, and so on. But inside is a mystery. We can only move the box to figure out what is going inside. But until we decide to exam the box we can never have an idea. This is similar to how God created everything:

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.

Proverbs 25:2 ESV

God doesn’t just reveal all the mysteries of the universe as from the moment we are born. Let alone all the mysteries of who he is. There is a relationship aspect to this. Because we don’t know everything about him, we get to pursue a quest to discover his character and his love. But until we start the search, who can we begin to understand an infinite, all know, all-powerful God? 

Getting back to the point of the box. Through a series of tests we can figure out if what’s inside is a ball, a paper clip, and so on. But we can’t know for sure unless we experiment enough to rule out all other possibilities and be convinced of what we have left. Often when learning, we need to start from a small absolute principle and slow build-up what we know to be true. This is no different than learning about the character of God.

9 To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? 10 For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.

Isaiah 28:9-10 ESV

But now we have a problem. We are human and we are limited, we don’t know everything. Our understanding always seems to be lacking and there is always something new to learn. IT turns out there are even things we can logically show exist but we can’t absolutely experience it. For instance, if you add 1 to a number, you will get a bigger number. Then you can add 1 to that number and keep going on and on; all the way until you get to infinity. But you can’t get to this idea of infinity. You just know you can always keep going but you can’t get to the end to prove this is true. Now the question is what are the limits of human understanding?

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