The question, “What is true,” is the most important question in history. Through the ages people have sought for truth, which can be as allusive as a “dust bunny” in the sunlight shining through a window.
As we embark upon this sermon series on “The Cosmic Quest for Truth” we must be aware of some of the pitfalls. According to “The Barna Update” for February, 2, 2002 Americans are most likely to base truth on feelings. We know that feelings and emotions dominate our thinking; therefore our quest for truth must examine the facts about what truth really is. Barna’s report found that by 3 to 1 adults said truth is always relative to a person’s situation. This perspective was even higher in teenagers. People will most often make their moral and ethical decisions on “what feels right” or “comfortable” in any given situation. That is called “Situational Ethics.” That is to say, the situation or circumstance can change the “truth” to something else other than the truth. Herbert Agar said, “The truth that sets men free is for the most part truth which men prefer not to hear.”
There is a cosmic battle between truth and lies. If there is more than one primary truth then there is not definitive “truth.” That is to say, when everybody’s concept of truth differs, then nobody really has truth. Truth is not relative, although there are exceptions to that rule. For example, if a man shows up at your front door looking for one of your family members, so that he could kill them even if they were at home you would tell them he was not at home. That is a lie, but it is a justified lie. That is not the truth we want to explore. We want to explore what is ultimate truth. Situational ethics, like situational truth, is rooted in human weakness.
It is my firm conviction that when people are convinced of what the ultimate truth is they will then act upon it. Truth is what everyone wants to find. You have heard people say, “I am trying to find myself.” Well, what they are trying to find is not themselves. What they are trying to find is the ultimate truth to give themselves meaning and purpose. And that truth will always lie beyond them.
Many Christians go to worship, because it makes them feel better about themselves. The pastor might be nice (not a Biblical concept); or the music might be inspiriting; or the worship might be entertaining. By the way, the word “nice” cannot be found in the Bible. It is a battle between reality and illusion; between “truth” and “lies.”
Webster’s 1828 definition of truth is, “Conformity to fact or reality.” The current Merriam-Webster Dictionary has the same basic definition. In opposition to “truth” is to “lie.” A lie is an untruthful statement made to someone else with the intention to deceive. The first lie recorded in history is found in Genesis 3:1-4. The serpent said, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Well, the rest is history.
Why are “lies” so prevalent in our culture? “Lies” are so much a part of us, because we carry so much “baggage” from the past. It is very difficult to be a “truth teller,” when our entire lives are about “us.” When our lives are dependent upon our desire to justify ourselves we have no recourse, but to justify ourselves, in spite of the “truth.”
Francis Bacon said, “Truth is the daughter of time; not of authority.” Often it takes considerable time for a person to find the truth. The first hurdle is to determine what is supreme, humanity or God. Next to the most important question of, “What Is Truth” are the next two most important questions: “What Is Humanity” and “What Is God.” We see in Galatians 5:16-17 that a battle rages in each of us to trust in God or trust in the human enterprise. Culture’s perception of this world is the cosmos is all there is or ever has been or ever will be. God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not exist.
So, we begin with two opposing “worldviews.” The first is the God is real. The second is that God does not exist and if God does exist then God is distant and remote. Both of these claims to truth cannot be correct or true. Which one pursues the truth and which one doesn’t? That is our quest. The first believes God is supreme and the second believes humanity is supreme. Which is it? Fair question, don’t you think?
How culture and most professors see the human condition, in relation to God’s truth, can be seen in two of the most prominent psychologists of the 20th Century. They view humanity as basically good, born with a “clean slate, no inherent evil.”
First is Abraham Maslow. In his “Hierarchy of Needs” he declares that humanity can heal itself of evil by “self-actualizing,” which is getting in touch with one’s own inner desires in order to help achieve one’s full potential. This means that humanity is it’s own god.
What is Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs?” It goes from the wide bottom of the triangle to the top in this order of importance: physical needs, security needs, loving and belonging needs, self-esteem needs, and finally self-actualization needs.
Where did Maslow get his “Hierarchy of Needs” from? Surely he got it from scientific research. Not! Maslow writes, “By ordinary standards of laboratory research…this simply was not research at all. My generalizations grew out of my selection of certain kinds of people.” Henry Geiger, a close friend of Maslow, wrote, “The core of what Maslow found out about psychology he found out from himself. It is evident from his writing that he studied himself.” Maslow also wrote, “My confidence in my righteousness is not a scientific datum.” Wow, he made it up from observing himself. Where is the truth about humanity in that? His conclusion is eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you may “self-actualize.” Our culture is built upon Maslow’s Theory of the “Hierarchy of Needs,” based on nothing, but his own thoughts.
Maslow, nor any other humanistic psychologist or philosopher takes into consideration the darker side of humanity. In fact, Maslow wrote, “Human nature is not nearly as bad as it has been thought to be. The fact is that people are good. Give people affection and security, and they will give affection and be secure in their feelings and behavior.” All of this nonsense is right there in his writings in his book, “The Farther Reaches of Human Nature,” 1971. They can’t explain evil in the world so they just say nothing about evil. That, my dear friends, is the pinnacle of “perception” gone wrong.
We live in a culture of “blame” and “victimization” and we wonder why. Because the culture can make any “truth claim” they want and it is accepted in opposition to God’s “truth claims.”
The other psychologist in the 20th Century accepted by culture as being valid and true is Carl Rogers. Rogers wrote, “I do not find that evil is inherent in human nature.” Here is the final hammer. They can’t prove any of their claims on truth. See how these perceptions are responsible for culture’s concept of “tolerance” and culture’s disdain for the church. Nobody wants to be called sinful and evil. And this has been taught since the late 1800’s in our schools of higher learning and it has crept into the church. That is why Barna Research shows that only 10% of Christians have a Christian Worldview.
We will continue next week with an explanation of the Christian Worldview in opposition to secular humanism.
Sources: “The Truth Project.” Dr. Del Tackett (Focus on the Family); “Being the Body.” Dr. Charles Colson; “Reason in the Balance.” Dr. Phillip E. Johnson; “A Christian Manifesto.” Dr. Francis Schaeffer