Critical Thinking and Absolute Truth

It appears that the church has almost whole-heartedly accepted the relativistic viewpoint of our society. The world today says “there are no absolutes.” Christians worship the Lord Jesus Christ, who proclaimed himself to be the Truth (John 14:6). How then is it that somebody can claim to be a Christian and yet reject the reality of absolute truth?

The church has lost a very important ability – the ability to think critically. Relativity has become interwoven into the fabric of the church. Scripture no longer portrays truth, but only opinion. People are free to talk about what a passage “means to them” but reject the idea that there is such thing as a wrong interpretation. Whatever is true for me is true for me, and that may very well be different than what is true for you. This is the heart of relativism.

The loss of the ability to think critically leads to the inability to discern truth and reject falsehood. It is a paradox that Christianity should lose its ability to discern truth. If we cannot discern truth, then we do no truly know the Truth, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Critical thinking makes the assumption that one can find the right answer to a question or problem by sheer reasoning. However, as a Christian I do not view the Bible in a purely rationalistic sense either. I recognize that I serve a supernatural God who created the whole universe and thus stands outside the laws of science and sometimes even reason. Even so, I recognize that God has revealed himself to the human race through the very natural order which he created, and appeals to our minds. In fact, he commands us to worship him with our minds.

Therefore, using the mind that the Lord has given me to worship him with, and in accordance with my understanding that God Almighty is supernatural, I have come to these observations and conclusions:
1) Sometimes God works in ways we do not understand. Being supernatural, that is outside of the natural order of things, he has the ability to do the miraculous. Sometimes he works outside of our human logic. But he also has eternity in mind, and we do not. Sometimes the logical answer to the question “why” is “God knows and I do not.” It is logical to believe that a God bigger than the universe can work in ways we cannot understand.
2) There is a place for critical thinking in the church. However, I reject the positions of liberal theology, which try to rationalize everything supernatural and explain away the Scriptures (see point 1).
3) Time and time again in Scripture we are invited to think for ourselves, and in these invitations it is always implied that there is a correct answer to be found out.
4) Scripture makes many absolute statements, including the assertion that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven (John 14:6). Again, this asserts that there is a right way to salvation, and all others are false.
5) There is such thing as absolute truth. To assert that there are no absolutes is in itself an absolute statement, and thus stands in contradiction with the statement itself. Therefore it makes logical sense to view the reality of absolute truth
6) All this being said, it is reasonable to seek out that which is the truth. In the case of the church, it is our responsibility to know the Lord Jesus Christ as the Truth, and to acknowledge that his words are true. We may use our reason and logic to understand the words of Scripture, but we must never forget that the Author and Perfecter of our faith is supernatural. We must look to him to understand the words of the Scriptures, which he divinely inspired. We must understand that in every area of Scripture, God intended to say something specific to us. Through careful Bible study we must always strive to seek out what God is saying to his church. Only when we know this can we apply the passage to the different areas of our lives.

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5 Responses to Critical Thinking and Absolute Truth

  1. evanescent says:

    I agree that we should critically analyse all claims to determine objective truth. Unfortunately, the problem theists have with their holy books is that the text is often ambiguous, contradictory, and open to vast interpretation.

    With claims in the real world, such as science or forensics, we have a standard by which to determine objective truth: evidence and reason. Unfortunately, there is no such standard when deciphering the passages of holy books; is it a contradiction or isn’t it? And who’s to say, and how? Is is a copying error, or not? Is there a trinity, or not? How exactly is salvation achieved, etc?

    The myriad different sects of Christianity all believe that their interpretation of scripture is correct, but there is no standard benchmark to test their interpretations against.

    I welcome your approach to rational thinking and praise it! However, as a non-believer I would add that one mustn’t ASSUME the validity of the bible a priori, otherwise, really, what is the point of studying it? At the end of the day if you’re going to believe ANYWAY, why pretend to study it and understand it? Why not start off treating the bible as you would ANY OTHER holy book and see if you apply the same commendable standards. You wouldn’t except ambiguity and contradiction in the Koran, so why the bible?

  2. Ikaruga says:

    @evanescent@ – the short response to why we assume the validity of the Scriptures is because that’s why it’s called “faith.”

    The real question is “What is faith?” Faith is not impersonal or BLIND — it is trusting in the Person of Jesus Christ. Practically speaking, this means that we come to accept the validity of Scripture as we walk with God.

    Secondly, there are objective facts to which we GROW our faith. God always keeps His promises to us — otherwise, we would be fools.

  3. hewhofucksupoften says:

    How can you have a personal relationship with Jesus while knowing that it is a struggle to just have faith in scripture. As a man who asks many questions i can not accept this form of faith without historical evidence.
    According to the gospels Thomas put his fingers into the wounds of jesus and invoked God. So according to this Jesus is God. Then how is it Jahova Witnesses do not believe as such?
    The room for opinion or “misunderstanding” makes me seriously doubt the authenticity for the bible as the sole authority for God’s word.

    • Let me direct you to a series of posts I wrote a while back, “How Can I Know the Bible is True?” The links to the other 4 posts are found on the bottom of this first post. I am convinced that there is good reason to trust the accuracy of the Bible, and most importantly its divine inspiration and authority.

      As for differing opinions, it is true that there are many out there. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own version of the Bible, the New World Translation. This “translation” came about when some people went in and changed the Bible to suit their doctrine. They do not believe that Jesus Christ is God, so they have changed the verses that point to that fact. They claim that these changes are based on the original Greek, but when put on the stand at trail the original translator was proven to not know a word of Greek – He was shown John 3:16 in Greek and did not know what it said. It is not mere opinion that dictates to the Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus isn’t God, it is false teaching. We are told in Scripture, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” We are repeatedly warned in Scripture to watch out for false teachers.

      When it comes to opinions, they are just that – opinion. We are interested in finding out the truth. Truth by definition is absolute and exclusive. Some may disagree with what is true, but that doesn’t change the truth. 2+2 will always equal 4, no matter what. Jesus Christ is God and is the same yesterday, today and forever.

      • Hi. I couldn’t agree more with you’ but is not always easy to argue that objective truth exists with someone who believes that truth is relative’ even when they are Christians. I tried last night to do just that with a fellow Christian and got nowhere. Objective truth is going the way of the dinosaur’ but subjective truth will not save anyone.

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