Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Absolute Truth?


some recent posts i've had on facebook and other places concerning A.T.

Mac, a great philosopher and mentor from OU weighed in and said:
I'd question whether any truth is absolute. I mean metaphysically, there may be a truth out there, but given the limits of our empirical experience, the closest practical approximation of any truth we can attain is variable based on the accuracy (or lack thereof) of whatever is our most current knowledge. Or something like that...


My Sufi friend Ausaf, also from OU stated:
It seems you don't question the existence of absolute truth, just mankinds ability to learn absolute truth which I would agree with you about.

Absolute truth itself, in my opinion, must exist for the simple fact alone that if one was to say there is no absolute truth, that, in itself, would become the absolute truth and disprove itself. Or something like that.


it makes me reflect and think that maybe, just maybe, humanity’s greatest sin is to look for some sure and unassailable truth. craving for certainity, for an infallible authority will always lead to the “death” of our life with the Living God.

we make GOD the eternal immutable Truth and in turn make the scriptures immutable, omiscient, omnipotent, eternal and so on… does a disservice to the witness and revelation of both!

here's my absolute truth: i didn’t expect to be born… yet here i am. this is a result of massive eons of evolution, physics, chemistry, things unbeknownst to me and human wisdom, and not to be outdone, my mom having sex with my dad… ick! but anywho, here i am! somehow i’ve survived thus long… all of this is a gift.

we unwrap gifts, delight in gifts, live with gifts, and are grateful for gifts… authority seldom prompts gratitude. sometimes we need tools in opening a hard to get at package. scripture does that for me but it’s not the primary tool, it just tells me how others have tried to unwrap their gifts and what they expected to find inside. it's all part of the journey back to a God that was ever present yet ever absent.

in response, Brother Eden stated:

I disagree - I think (one of) humanity's greatest endeavors IS to look for sure and unassailable truths. It's what makes us tick sometimes, isn't it? Let's go find them (surely there are some) for the betterment of mankind and the glory of God's creation. But...perhaps the sin is to argue that POV is truth, to hold onto it like POV is salvation.


Sally concured and stated:
Yes! POV assumes that the place where POV originates, human reason, is paramount. Can our salvation be based on that?


i'm not doubting that there's Absolute Truth, i'm doubting humanity's ability to understand it. even Jesus spoke of the Kingdom is metaphor and allegory.. saying "The Kingdom of God is like..."

we have eyes that don't see the full spectrum.. we have ears that can't hear dark matter.. what makes us think we have a brain that can comprehend absolute truth?

that doesn't mean we shouldn't pursue AT... yet we must realize that when we think we've found one.. that it might not be applicable to all situations. thou shalt not steal only works if you're not starve'n, although it's generally a good rule to follow. Love your neighbor as yourself and love God with all your heart, mind, and soul... those are pretty darn close to AT as i can see.

as Brighteyes sang "IF you swear that there's no truth and who cares, how come you say it like you're right?"

long post... but what are your thoughts on this subject? if you hold absolute truth, what is it? here is mine:

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is noble to insist on looking for supernatural elements in the world around us - humans do, after all, desire to see meaning and purpose in the world they live in. But this is not an approach that considers the facts objectively and without bias.

we must face up to the fact that there is no god and that there is more disagreement now about the true nature of god, i.e. more schisms and religions you could shake a stick at, simply confirms the idea that religion has no way of determining the truth.


There are certainly scientists who are Christians: they may be experts on science, but they are not experts on the supernatural, so their opinions in this regard are not worth much. Indeed, there is no expert on the supernatural, because there's never been a good indication that the supernatural even exists. Which brings us back to the fact that religions are so diverse: if there was an obvious universal spiritual truth out there, people would have recognized it by now, and believers wouldn't be jostling for real estate in the crowded bizarre (and I choose that word deliberately) of religion.

Tit for Tat said...

Anonymous

Dont limit the idea of a Creator to just religious constraints. A belief in a intelligent starting point doesnt have to be "Supernatural". I always wonder why people have to be all or nothing.

freestyleroadtrip said...

"we make GOD the eternal immutable Truth and in turn make the scriptures immutable, omiscient, omnipotent, eternal and so on… does a disservice to the witness and revelation of both!" (Luke)

Right on, brother. Peter Rollins stuff has helped me understand that best place to exist is in the tension between the extremes of what is considered to be AT. As soon as you claim to have AT, you have destroyed it. It is to be held delicately.

Luke said...

"more schisms and religions you could shake a stick at, simply confirms the idea that religion has no way of determining the truth."

and since there's only one field of science with one orthodoxy... oh wait! there isn't there either! there's anthropology, biology, chemistry, geology, psychology, psychiatry, etc. etc. that all borrow and mix and match and argue and make a wonderful racket!

all are paths seeking understanding.

"But this is not an approach that considers the facts objectively and without bias."

and i'm unaware of anything on this earth that does. i don't believe in objectivity, everything has bias whether we consider it or not. culture colors everything. from our metaphors we use in speech to what we're doing now.. type'n to each other in a uniform language we understand.

how'd we get this uniform language? RELIGION! thanks to the King James Version of the Bible, english was made uniform. just like Luther's translation of the bible unified the german language. now it's had it's share of negative effects on the world, i'm not going to lie about that because i'm not in the field of apologetics. here's my view, take it or leave it...

the world is rather fluid and choatic. Schopenhauer and Neitszce (spelling?) both worked with the metaphor of water for reality and how religion functions as a safe boat in a storm. i'd posit that religion has royally screwed up by not looking at the possibilities and instead focused on obtaining "ABSOLUTES" which was an exercised that failed miserably. science is another boat in the storm. it focuses on possibility.

the mystery of life to me is that i see connections and experience things that aren't mere coincidence on a daily basis. i'm seeking understanding as to what this is.. and believe that it's some force that effects and is affected by me. i question all the time.... Is God an absolute truth? If so, does that mean God is the immovable mover, the fixed center of the cosmos that moves us about? Or is God moved by us as well? based on my experience and observations i've come to the latter conclusion and have done so with a melding of science and religion (maybe theology is a better word here).

to rule God out entirely is just the flip side of the THERE MUST BE A GOD coin.. it's an either/or set up. i tend towards a both/and system. you state there's no evidence for God empirically yet there is intuitively, so it's a possibility, and since science is a "boat of possibility" that considers all things, therefore it must be a possibility. to use circular logic we "religous types" are known for.

that's my thinking and it's a postmodern mindset. so i name it, try to articulate it, and if you're not buying it, then at least you know where i'm coming from and i will know where you're coming from in your responce.

Luke said...

@ John T.

i should have read your responce first before i responded... would have saved all of us some time.

@ Doug

Pete Rollins! add another name to my book list. and your comment made me think of a Zen koan:

The bird of wisdom lands in the hand that doesn't grasp.

good stuff dawg! RAWK! to yous guys!

Anonymous said...

"and since there's only one field of science with one orthodoxy... oh wait! there isn't there either! there's anthropology, biology, chemistry, geology, psychology, psychiatry, etc. etc. that all borrow and mix and match and argue and make a wonderful racket"

With one very crucial difference: these fields don't disagree with each other, they dovetail in fact! The entire premise of schisms, on the other hand, is that they're born of disagreement.

Diversity in the sciences reflects the natural diversity and complexity of the world we live in. Diversity in religion, on the other hand, simply reflects a diversity of opinion on a single topic.


"The mystery of life to me is that i see connections and experience things that aren't mere coincidence on a daily basis."

This is probably a worthwhile exercise, and I applaud you for looking deeper into things. However, hopefully you'll see that what you consider as more than coincidence, someone else might see as nothing more than coincidence, or perhaps as a correlation that has nothing to do with the supernatural and everything to do with natural laws. To interpret things as more than coincidence is certainly a subjective exercise.


"you state there's no evidence for God empirically yet there is intuitively"

To your intuition maybe, but not mine :-)


"that's my thinking and it's a postmodern mindset. so i name it, try to articulate it, and if you're not buying it, then at least you know where i'm coming from"

Indeed, and that's productive I think.

Luke said...

and yet the behaviorists disagree in parts with the Freudians who disagree with the Jungians. sure things dovetail, just like Lutherians dovetail in parts with Catholics. all things are borrowed and expounded upon. nothing is neat and clean, it's a mess of overlapping theories and hypothesiseszzesz.

yeah.. and i'll go with the my intuition thing. it's an entirely subjective experience for me, religion that is. just like if you and i were brothers. we wouldn't have the EXACT same relationship with our mother would we? in fact some people go so far as to say that they don't have a mom... now of course this is a loose metaphor for my "invisible made up parent in the sky" and thus does nothing to futher the conversation but just reitterates my bais ;-)

so it goes. but thanks for the willingness to be in dialogue. that IS productive. :-D

societyvs said...

Absolute truth - I like the idea it may exist but we may not be able to grasp it...we are limited creatures after all.

Seek the truth - I see that to mean - seek the best in a situation and that which is mosy wholesome for all...not that we need some absolute truth - just some compassionate judgment skills (using what we know as the basis for impartiality - not our biases).

I am not one for truth these days - but for 'that which is the most fitting'. For me, God is - and for some God ain't. Who is right? Is it a numbers game? Is it a proof game? Is it a moral game? Do that which is most fitting for your situation - neither is right to the other...but in their own minds they are both correct.

Who needs truth (in less we are talking about honesty and sincerity -- then I am all ears)?

Anonymous said...

The only reason contention remains considering the origins of the universe is because science hasn't figured out an answer yet. The god-of-the-gaps has been cornered into his last remaining refuge: the origin of the universe. Like all the gaps that have been filled by science before now (god is no longer thought to keep the planets in motion, he is no longer thought to have created life, etc.), this final gap will also be taken from him eventually, leaving no space for god whatsoever. Maybe that's when extremism and dogmatic thinking will begin to truly wane :-)

Luke said...

i object to the notion of "god of the gaps" as God is much more than that. Nature seemingly reacts, things bend to others... is this gravitational pull? karma? aural interruption/spiritual energy? or is it God? as previously stated my mind is a both/and sort of mind... holding paradoxes in tension... and my answer is yes to all of the above and i use the term God to name the tension.

but we do need a reduction of literalism, dogmatic thinking, and extremism. i think all that stems from fear.

Anonymous said...

Luke, I think most atheists would readily dismiss your approach as wishful thinking: hoping something is there, when there is no real evidence. Although I'm tempted, I won't go quite that far, because I don't think it hurts to explore these matters: after all, we don't know everything about ourselves.

Atheists might also ask that if you consider the bible to contain a general overarching message expressed through the largely superstitious language of an ancient culture, then why not consider other writings too? Wouldn't Muslim, Hindi, and Buddhist writings be just as useful? Indeed, why not also include Greek mythology, which surely contains something profound about our place in the world? What about Shakespeare?

Instead, you have chosen one very specific document (or set of documents), thereby stating implicitly that you believe that they, more than any others, have some sort of claim to the truth. How do you justify that? Why the Christian god?

Erudite Redneck said...

Re, "wishful thinking"

I'll cop to that, although I'd say hopeful, instead of wishful.

Howdy, Luke.

Tit for Tat said...

Luke, I think most atheists would readily dismiss your approach as wishful thinking: hoping something is there, when there is no real evidence(anon)


The fact is the evidence of a creator is us and the universe. Now what that creator is may be another matter.

Luke said...

I question the truthfulness of beliefs which may be considered absolute. we are. we do. we exist. i need no proof than that.

Things are not what they appear to be: nor are they otherwise. The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual's own reason and critical analysis.Anything that contradicts experience and logic should be abandoned.

there is a war going on for your mind.. if you are thinking, you are winning. fight with tools, whether be science, religion, philosophy, action, or at best all of the above.

this is what i'm talking about through not talking about it.