Is Truth Relative? Greg Koukl at THRIVE Apologetics Conference 2013

See also

  1. Greg Koukl – Moral Relativism lecture to University students
  2. Apologetics PAGE

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When you think about it, there are a lot of ways to show that christianity is false. Look at our story, it starts with „in the beginning God…”  If the atheists are right, we don’t get a beginning, we don’t even get started. Our case is based on Jesus of Nazareth. If He never existed we’re out of business. If He wasn’t the one reflected in the Scripture, if that’s just a bunch of legends, we’re up the creek as well. No soul. Why is that important? Because if there is no soul , there is no thing to go into the afterlife. And since the afterlife is an important part of christianity, we’re sunk again, if they can make the case there’s no soul. On the resurrection, Paul himself said that christians of all people should be pitied if there was no resurrection.

Christianity can be falsifiable in principle, and if it can be falsifiable and falsified, it can also be supported. It can be demonstrated that it can be true. But, the minute you say something like „can be demonstrated to be true”, you run into another obstacle, that is very popular and very in play in our culture. It’s also very unusual to me, because taken at face value, which strikes me as a pointless challenge. The other challenges that I mentioned, and by the way, every one of those areas I talked about- the existence of God, the existence of Jesus, the existence of the soul, the resurrection, and a whole bunch of others, there’s a full course press on all of those right now. And that’s why I’m glad you’re all in this conference. All of those, I would say, are intellectually noble ways of going after christianity.

Relative truth – pulling the rug from underneath the  christians

This next thing, that I want to spend my time talking about, I don’t think it is intellectually noble. I think it’s a foolish way of going after christianity, but it is very popular. Everybody’s fighting over what they think is true. Well, the truth of the matter is in this world truth doesn’t exist- it’s not unusual to go into a campus society in general and begin to talk about these kinds of things. And, as you advance christianity, if you’re doing it properly, you’re doing it as a picture of reality. This is true in the deep sense of the word. That’s our view; that’s our claim. That’s what we’re offering. And people want to dismiss it and say, „Well, there is none of that kind of stuff. Truth doesn’t exist in this world. Maybe it’s true for you, maybe it’s relative to your beliefs. Everybody has different beliefs that are true for them. But, no one can say that what they believe is true, that it applies to everyone.” In one sense it’s a kind of end around  all of the conflict. It’s a kind of a saying, :Well, everybody’s right.” It has a tolerant feel, but, at the same time it’s kind of like saying everybody’s wrong, too, „You are wrong in all your individual beliefs on what is actually so; you are just right for yourself.” And so, it’s an odd kind of „everybody’s right, but, in the background, everybody’s wrong, at the same time. A lot of folks haven’t thought about that particular point.

Truth on this view, then, is relative, is subjective, it is just up to individuals. And, I hope you can see how, when a culture is deeply convinced  of that idea, it’s a complete end around all the arguments. It’s a pulling the rug from underneath the christians. It’s a very clever move, in terms of spiritual warfare.

Notes continue under the video-

Professor Greg Koukl answers the question, „Is truth relative?” at the 2013 Thrive Apologetics Conference, held at Bayside Church in Granite Bay, California.thrivingchurches

…and I think of spiritual warfare in the area of ideas and how ideas are being used to dissuade people. That’s why Paul says that the weapons of warfare are divinely powerful of destruction of forces which are tearing down speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of  God, taking every thought captive through the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 The point here is this is an idea that is a fortress, that a lot of people can’t get past: The idea that christianity claims to be true, but are convinced there is no truth. I wanna deal with that challenge. If you’re a skeptic, I just wanna get you thinking about this. I think that the claim that there is no truth is obviously false, and I think that everybody in this room knows that it’s false.

The definition of what we mean by truth – If belief is what made something true, there would be no difference between belief and make belief. When we say a thing is true, we’re not saying we don’t mean by that that we merely believe it, because we could believe false things. We don’t say that we see it or we have discovered it to be so, because that’s just how you find out whether a thing is true. if we’re just working with the concept of truth, what we mean when we say a thing is true is that our statements match up with the way the world actually is. Or our beliefs match up, or our thoughts match up. The philosophers call this the correspondence theory of truth- or that christianity matches up to the real world. That is the standard definition of what is truth.

Does that kind of truth exist? Is it possible for us to make statements about the world, and have some confidence that our statements actually match up? Can we know things about theology, about ethics? Can you actually know these things? Is it just not a leap of faith or a mere assumption, or a mere assertion? Can we have good reason that this is something we can count on? My answer to all of those things is: Yes. And I wanna show you how that can be the case. (23:00)

How can we know that the claim: There is no truth is false?

and that therefore, the claim that there is truth is a true statement.

  1. First problem: It’s suicidal, self refuting. The first reason that I reject the idea that there is no truth is that it is obviously false. When I go on campus, I am actually mystified  that this has gained such favor among people at university campuses. The minute I want to acquiesce to their view I run into a problem. The problem is that I am being enjoined to believe that it is true, in the sense I just described it and defined it, that there is no truth. Somebody says, „There is no truth.” You say, „Really? Is that true?” You’ve got to tell me what you expect me to do with your statement. Accept or reject. This is the way people are: When they say there is no truth, they don’t see the inherent contradiction in their own statement. I actually had a debate on this issue with Marv Meyer. The debate was titled: Is truth true? Meyer was arguing that there is no truth, and I was arguing with this question: There’s no truth. Is that true? That’s one of the ways to show that the statement „There is no truth” is false, it’s just obviously self refuting, and there’s no way around that. There’s just no way out of that problem.
  2. Second problem: That every single person knows things to be true. And you know that because you took an idea that you had in mind, and you compared it to the world, and you matched it up to see that there was a fit, and when your thoughts matched the way the world is, that’s a truth relation. If we are able to take statements or beliefs and in some measure match them against the world, to see if our beliefs are accurate, well, then we can find out what the truth is there. And, indeed, we do this every single day. In fact, if we could not determine truth about a whole bunch of things, we’d be dead in a day. Our lives depend on our ability to determine whether there is truth or not.

Now, I have just given you 2 reasons to believe that the statement „There is no truth” is false. (34:00 there are still 15 minutes left of the video where Koukl gives 2 examples)

How do we know God exists? J P Moreland at Thrive Apologetics Conference 2013

See other lectures at the THRIVE Conference 2013 here –

There is a public relations problem we are facing today, and it’s essentially the idea that Christians believe things for no reasons whatsoever. In fact, the idea that is widely promulgated is that what modern people have discovered has made belief in God an unreasonable thing to hold.

So, for example, the late William Provine, who is a biologist at Cornell University, made the following statement about the evolutionary theory, „Let me summarize my views on modern evolutionary theory: „Let me summarize my theory on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear. There are no gods, there are no purposes, there are no goal directed purposes of any kind. There’s no life after death. When I die, I’m absolutely certain that I’ll be dead. That’s the end of me. There’s no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and there’s no free will for human beings either.”

So, this idea is that intellectuals have discovered something, such, that if average people knew what it was, they wouldn’t be able to believe in God any longer. And so, we live in a time, when it is not only widely thought that belief in God is irrational, but, it is now widely thought that if you believe in Jesus Christ, you’re not only stupid, but you are a bigot. Recently, a novelist put our ‘bigotry’ in this way, „Here is how their ignorant bigotry works (referring to christians). First, they put the fear of God in you, if you don’t believe the literal word of the Bible, you’ll burn in hell. Of course, the literal word of the Bible was tremendously contradictory, and so, you have to abdicate all critical thinking to believe. And, you must accept a simple, but logical system of belief, but you’re not allowed to question. A corollary at this point is that they make sure you understand that Satan resides in the toils and snares of the complex thought. So, it’s best not to think at all.”

Now, this is not the christian religion as it’s been for 2,000 years. It was we that founded the universities of the western world, that produced art and literature, and some of the richest intellectual literature ever produced. What is being talked about here is a relatively recent phenomenon, and I am seeing signs that this is changing, over the last 20-25 years. I’d like to ask the question: How do we know that God exists? Is there a case that can be made for God’s existence?

Through the experience of God and the testimony of the Spirit. God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirit that God is there. However, as important as that way of knowing God is, that is not what the Bible suggests, when we come to the topic of ‘how do we know God is’? When we come to that topic in Romans 1, Paul says that the way we know God exists is not from an experience of God, and it’s not because the Bible says so, it’s because of the created world. Paul says that since creation, God’s existence and His invisible attributes are clearly seen through what has been made. Now, what this does is the idea that the creation, in some way or other signals the idea of a supreme being. That provides us with encouragement, that we might be able to formulate some arguments, based on the creation , for the conclusion that God exists.

Three arguments for the existence of God:

  1. The Universe began to exist and something supernatural was used to bring it into existence…. If God exists, He is the first cause. If He doesn’t exist, that’s fine. But, if there is a God, He’s the first cause. You can’t ask a first cause what caused it, because if you did, it’s no longer a first cause. The first cause, by its very nature is an uncausable kind of thing. (25:00)
  2. Biological information. Information only comes from an intelligent mind. The biggest discovery of biology in the 20th century is that living things are filled with libraries of information. There’s more information in one cell of your body than the entire library at University of California, Berkeley. If we’re gonna use the principle that information is explained by an intelligent mind, why can’t we explain the info. in the DNA as coming from a very intelligent mind?
  3. The moral law. There is an absolute moral law. This is what philosophers call self evident. It’s obvious. The idea that torturing little babies for the fun of it is wrong, is as obvious as  2+2=4. That there is an objective, absolute moral law is self evident to virtually all people. When I talk about an objective moral law, what I mean is: moral principles that are true, whether anyone believes them or not. So, on this sense of an objective moral law, we discover morality, we don’t invent it. It’s discovered, just like we’ve discovered the laws of nature, and the laws of logic and math, and so on.. So, there is an objective and moral order. And that moral law imposes duties and responsibilities on us. What if someone says, „I don’t believe in an objective moral law? I think everything’s relative?” What do you do? You find out something they care deeply about, and treat it as relative and see what happens. You’ll get an absolutist that will come out of the closet quickly. Where did moral absolutes come from? Matter can’t produce moral absolutes. As a matter of fact, the moral law imposes duties on us to be loving and kind. Now, what kind of a thing can impose duties on another thing? The answer is ‘A person with a will’. You have to have a will to impose duties on something else. And laws come from lawgivers. We know where the moral laws come from, they came from a moral law giver. Why, again? Because the moral law comes in command form  and it imposes duties on us, and the only kind of a thing that can impose duties on something else is a being with will. There is a willing behind the moral law that imposes duties on us. One important aspect of the moral order is that there are objective duties that are imposed on us. Everyone knows they’re there, and the most reasonable explanation for the origin of the objective moral law is that there is a legislator, or an imposer, someone who imposes moral duty on the human race.

While we’re talking about morality, there’s also the issue of evil. Here’s how I believe evil provides evidence that there is a God, not evidence that there isn’t. What exactly is evil? Throughout western culture, for at least 1600 – 1700 years, the most widely accepted definition of evil is this: Evil is when things are the way they are not supposed to be. Can you have a bad carburetor in a car? Of course you can. When you say it’s a bad one, what we mean is that it’s not working the way it’s supposed to work. That means it’s not working the way it was designed to work. Then, if there is a designer, then there is a way this object is designed and supposed to work. And, if it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to work it’s evil, or bad, or defective. So, we can learn that there are bad things, if those things are not like they’re supposed to be and that can be true if there is a designer. So, evil, in the world indicates that things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. But, that presupposes that there is a way that things are supposed to be. And that makes sense if there is someone who designed them to be a certain way.

If God does not exist and evolution is how we got here, I’m sorry, but things just happen, and there really is no way things are supposed to be, and there really can’t be any such thing as evil at the end of the day. And, if God exists, because of the origin of the universe, can’t cross infinity, ing bang, something supernatural that’s timeless, spaceless, invisible, had to bring the universe into existence… if the SETI scientists themselves that information is best explained by an intelligent line, why don’t we follow that reasoning when we come to the discovery of information in living things.

Finally, the absolute moral law is best explained by an absolute moral law giver. Everybody knows there is an absolute moral law. And evil itself is best explained if there is a designer for the world. How do you move to christianity from here? I appeal to fulfilled prophecy, miracles, and the resurrection of Jesus. And this is where I would appeal to historical evidence.

Professor JP Moreland answers the question, „Does God Exist?” at the Thrive Apologetics Conference, held at Bayside Church in Granite Bay, California. thrivingchurches

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