Series Posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
2 Thessalonians 2:10 “…because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
In some circles of evangelicalism, truth is suffering the same fate Ralph Nader suffered in the 2004 Presidential race-nobody is paying attention. Many are proclaiming that the idea of truth, as it has been understood for centuries, has been successfully pulled apart by various forces in the postmodern world. I, however, read things differently.
First of all, not only is truth a vital concept biblically, but it is an objective, universal notion of truth is vital biblically. If believing in the truth saves us, and there are some who refuse to believe in the truth, then truth is not socially or linguistically constructed. It would be impossible for 2 Thessalonians to be accurate if truth were a by-product of a linguistic community because if truth were constructed, it would be literally impossible for someone to not believe in the truth. Everyone would believe what their community believes, and would therefore believe in what is true for them. Hence, it would be logically impossible for someone to fit the description in the verse above.
But, sadly, there are and will be plenty of people who do fit the description of 2 Thessalonians 2:10. The consequence for us philosophically is that there is truth “out there” that we need to believe in and which we need to strive to relate to others regardless of their faith/language community. This reality makes a couple of philosophical theories very important to the Christian faith.
The first is some form of modest foundationalism. Typically, when postmodern/emergent writers attack foundationalism, they are after an extreme view that came about through the Enlightenment, and which most thoughtful evangelical theologians and philosophers have not embraced. The most common epistemological replacement for foundantionalism is coherentism. Coherentism is the view that beliefs are true if they cohere with each other in a web of belief-they each support the truth of the others. There are things attractive about Coherentism, but it has at least one infamous flaw. In court, for instance, it is entirely possible to construct a case against a defendant in which all the evidence points to their guilt and no piece of the evidence contradicts any other piece. The catch, however, is that the defendant is actually innocent. What we have is a coherent but false belief that the defendant is guilty.
The second philosophical consequence is the need to hold to some form of realism and/or correspondence to reality point of view. There will be plenty of things in our language that don’t matter when it comes to actual correspondence. What makes a walking stick a walking stick? Well, people name it such and use it as such. But reality is not as fungible as pomos would like us to think. Can anything make a slug a walking stick? Can naming an orange “walking stick” make it thus? What if we want to really cross categories of reality and try to name the color blue as a walking stick? What we find is that reality determines itself for us in many important ways. We can’t use blue on a hike because reality tells us it is impossible.
In the same kind of way, this proposition is true: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.” (2 Corinthians 5:19) This proposition carries meaning that translates what reality is like across cultures and time. There is no faith/linguistic community for whom this statement is not true. In my opinion, some are far to ready to give up on an objective notion of truth in exchange for a linguistic and postmodern theory in which language and community determine truth for its adherents. Part of what I find ironic is that many of them will utilize the meaning-carrying power of propositions to argue that propositions carry no ultimate meaning and cannot map onto reality.