Chapter 1 – The truth about reality is knowable.
The authors introduce a contradiction. Why do so many people demand the truth in everything but morality and religion? They respond to this problem with four questions about truth.6
- What is truth?
- Can truth be known?
- Can truths about God be known?
- So what? Who cares about truth?
The tool Geisler and Turek use to identify false statements and philosophies in today’s culture is the recognition of the self-defeating statement. That would be anything that fails to meet its own standard.
Example: There’s no such thing as truth. (For this to be true it would have to be false, wouldn’t it?)
Popular self-defeating statements:
All truth is relative.
There are no absolutes.
It’s true for you but not for me.
There are two messages in Chapter 1
The first one is that ideas have consequences. Good ideas have good consequences and bad ideas have bad consequences. The second message is that false ideas about truth lead to false ideas about life.
The conclusion of the chapter is that truth exists. To deny truth is to make a self-defeating truth claim that there is no truth.
Is this a self-defeating statement?
Truth cannot be known.
This chapter has a powerfully revealing story about a conversation between two evangelists and an agnostic, a person who isn’t sure whether God exists. When asked, he said that he couldn’t know anything for sure. The response to him was, “How do you know for sure that you can’t know anything for sure?”7
Identifying the self-defeating statement for him helped him accept that while he might not know anything for sure it was possible that he could know something for sure.
Here is where the book points out that when a person has this viewpoint they could be open to hearing evidence of the truth about God
The point about truth is summed up by the statement, if you say “truth can’t be known” you can’t claim that what you say is true. You can’t have it both ways.8
Evidence can only convince the willing
The idea that all religions are true is completely disproven here.
Some of the fundamental contradicting beliefs of the major religions are pointed out.
I found the most compelling part of the chapter to be the discussion of truth vs. tolerance on pages 46-48. I hope you read it.
In summary, we learn from the chapter that truth is not dependent on feelings or perceptions because something is true whether we like it or not. Since the major religions do not agree on major issues about God then all religions cannot be true. And finally, we cannot adopt a type of ‘tolerance’ that requires us to accept that all religions are true.
What did you think about tolerance? Have you talked to others about the idea that tolerance means we are required to accept what everyone else believes as true?
One question that I think this chapter leads to is this. Is any religion true?
I found it helpful to have a practical definition of truth to aid the discussion. Calling truth “that which corresponds to its object” or “that which describes an actual state of affairs” is a useful place to base this discussion on.9 It really helps in the area I’ve found where I have seen people confused or misguided by the idea that truth is relative. I appreciate that the book begins by covering the idea completely so that we can eliminate any doubt about the concept of absolute truth. Has anyone tried to convince you that truth is relative? What happened?
6Geisler & Turek page 36 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
7Geisler & Turek page 43 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
8Geisler & Turek page 44 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
9Geisler & Turek page 37 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.