Claims about Truth freak people out…

There is a way to make a more scholarly statement on this topic, but the title is pretty much the bottom line.  I’ve realized this for a while, but never really mulled it over seriously…modern peoples are freaked out by truth claims, especially religious truth claims.  Now, I’m not limiting this to non-believers, but yes, I’ve picked up on this vibe from the non-believing individuals I’ve talked to often.

If you make a claim of truth or knowledge, often your discussion partner acts as though you’ve slapped them in the face.  I have to admit that it amuses me, even though it shouldn’t.  I recently had a back and forth with an atheist on a forum; our back and forth regarded the phrase, “I know.”

I was informed quite seriously that I cannot use that phrase, that it is inaccurate.  I got quite a chuckle out of that.  I informed them that English is my first (and only) language, and that it can indeed be used accurately, “I know I’m not feeling hungry right now,” “I know one of my nicknames is Kliska,” “I know that I had a turkey sandwich for lunch,” “I know that Jesus is Lord,” “I know that I have a pond in my yard,” “I know that my house is white,” and on, and on…

I feel our society is partially to blame for this shock and amazement…everything is so “wishy-washy” anymore.  A majority of the people don’t even bother to try to get the know the truth about themselves, esp. when the truth hurts, let alone the truth about anything or anyone else.  Parents are beginning to lose their knack at parenting (have you noticed that?), part of which stems from a lack of consistency, which could be connected to a denial of the existence of truth; plain good ol’ black and white truth that back up the idea of true right and true wrong.  The truth in our society has become negotiable.  Morality has become negotiable.  Tell someone that it isn’t and you get stared at like you have two heads, esp. in the realm of Religion.

If a Muslim tells me he knows that Muhammad is a prophet, I don’t  get upset.  I don’t agree with the Muslim, but I don’t get upset that the Muslim is making a truth claim.  I can’t say the same for the majority of humanity, however…or I guess I should say, the majority of “Westerners.”  Make a claim, “I know for a fact that Jesus is Lord, and He’s the only way to the Father” and you are likely to cause mass panic, unfortunately this can also be seen amongst my fellow “Christians” as well (I put “Christians” in quotes for dramatic effect, I cannot judge their salvational standing, it’s not my job).  It is getting far less popular a thing to make any sort of truth claim in religion.

What has struck me, is how they must have looked at Jesus when He made the very bold, but very true claim, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Not only did He claim to know the truth, He claimed to be the walking, talking, eating, drinking embodiment of Truth itself.  I’ve said it before, “how I love the Lord!”  There is no wishy-washy here, no beating around the bush.  You know precisely who and what you are dealing with.

I’m comforted by the fact that God has a preference for this style of truth and communication of truth, and that He expects us, and likes us to use “I know.”  Revelation 3: 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Anywho, just a few musings on a very windy day, “I know it is windy at my house today…”

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14 Comments

Filed under Humor, Musings, Philosophy

14 responses to “Claims about Truth freak people out…

  1. motleyflux

    While I’m probably more with the atheist on “I know,” I agree that we shouldn’t be so easily offended by people’s convictions; and just because someone doesn’t /say/ “I know,” doesn’t mean they’re not thinking it. ^_^

    I just saw two people having an “I’m right, you’re stupid” debate. You know the type. You can find it at
    http://motleyflux.wordpress.com/
    or
    http://truelogic.wordpress.com/2008/10/21/god-moral-murder-and-torture-are-not-moral/

  2. motleyflux

    P.S. I was /just/ thinking about Revelation 3:16 today in reference to the gay marriage. People seem to be trying to find some kind of biblical middle ground that just ends up watering down /everybody’s/ moral authority.

  3. carpcatcher

    Good post. I to get tired of the “nothing is real” or “nothing is true”. My experience has been that these are used when someone is trying to get out of the argument and doesn’t want to lose. Kind of a stalemate statement.

  4. Carl Sachs

    If a Muslim tells me he knows that Muhammad is a prophet, I don’t get upset. I don’t agree with the Muslim, but I don’t get upset that the Muslim is making a truth claim.

    How do you respond to the truth-claim being made by a Muslim?

    I’m ask because I’m curious as to how similar are your responses to the truth-claims made by an adherent of another religion, and my responses to truth-claims made by people of faith in general

  5. Carl Sachs

    Here’s one way to think about it: “knowledge” is traditionally (by philosphers) distinguished from “belief” in terms of truth and in terms of justification. Knowledge is justified true belief.

    I informed them that English is my first (and only) language, and that it can indeed be used accurately, “I know I’m not feeling hungry right now,” “I know one of my nicknames is Kliska,” “I know that I had a turkey sandwich for lunch,” “I know that Jesus is Lord,” “I know that I have a pond in my yard,” “I know that my house is white,” and on, and on…

    The philosophical difficulties here should not be overlooked. One problem, it seems to me, is that these are very different kind of claims — about the present, about the past, about external events, about self-knowledge, about God — and because these are different claims, they rely upon different kinds of evidence in order to be justified.

    But now we encounter a further problem: about the agreement or disagreement about what counts as evidence for a claim.

    In the case of “I’m not hungry” or “My name is Carl,” there’s widespread acceptance on my first-person authority as counting as evidence for those claims. If I were to say, “I’m hungry,” and someone were to respond, “how do you know?”, we’d suspect the other person of either not knowing English very well — or of being an epistemologist!

    When it comes to external events — such as “that house is white” or “it is windy today” — again, there are agreed-upon criteria we can use in determining what counts as evidence for or against those claims.

    But when it comes to claims such as “God exists,” “Jesus is Lord,” “There is one God and Muhammad is his Messenger” — and, to be fair, we’ll include, “God does not exist” — here, I think, we find that there is no widespread agreement about what does and doesn’t count as evidence for or against those claims. Instead, what counts as evidence is very much based upon one’s faith-community.

    (A faith-community is comprised of agreement about criteria for evidence for or against truth-claims contested by that community. A Muslim simply cannot take seriously an appeal to the Gospels as evidence as to the nature of God. A skeptic cannot take seriously an appeal to any sacred text. And so on.)

    By the by, my points here are really about justification, not about truth — which are inter-related concepts that are difficult to distinguish.

  6. Kliska

    Carl, I respond with the evidence against their truth-claim, in the case of a Muslim, I’d make sure they are aware of who Muhammad is, and his actions and his teachings…but I would not try to convert them by saying such silly things such as, “Muhammad never existed.”

    I also discuss alternative possibilities, and always always tell them the truth about Who Christ is. If Christianity is the religion which points to Christ and salvation, which it is, then it goes against Muslim beliefs. How do I know that Christianity is “it?” That’s where the evidence points, so I share that evidence. How I share that evidence, and what evidence I share will be different based on the other person’s starting point.

    Also, I’m quite aware of the differences between “belief” and “knowledge,” in fact, I had them firmly in mind in making my post. When I say, “I know Jesus is Lord,” I’m using the term on purpose and as it is meant to be used. The evidence is there for me to be able to make that claim and know the truth of it; both personal evidence, and evidence that anyone can study.

    1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe (faithe) on the name of the Son of God. 14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

    20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

    There’s got to be some part of people that yearns for this kind of knowledge, an the comfort it brings. I can tell you that far from being a thing that makes people panic, this kind of truth claim brings much contentment with it. Is that a reason to accept it out of hand? By no means, but it is a reason to lay aside unending speculation and try to find the Truth.

  7. dwilli58

    “There’s got to be some part of people that yearns for this kind of knowledge, an the comfort it brings.”

    I believe there are millions of people, that have allowed themselves to be silenced by relativistic political correctness, who have a strong desire to speak out in truth.

    The proponents of this warped philosophy (relativism) are evidently blind to the harm that it is causing in our society: Columbine HS, mass murderers, cold-violent people, mediocrity in the arts etc.

    This illness, as you pointed out, has even infiltrated the organized church. How can anyone hear and experience the truth, OF GOD (Not man’s feeble and ever-changing truth), unless they read or hear it from someone else?

    Great post!

  8. Carl Sachs

    When I say, “I know Jesus is Lord,” I’m using the term on purpose and as it is meant to be used. The evidence is there for me to be able to make that claim and know the truth of it; both personal evidence, and evidence that anyone can study.

    Yet at this point you appeal to some verses from John. And accepting the truth of these verses — that what they are saying is true — depends on recognizing the authority of Scripture. And of course that is not something a Muslim would do.

    That’s what I meant by saying that you and Muslim do not merely differ about the conclusions you reach, nor about the evidence considered — you and a Muslim differ about what criteria are appealed to in deciding whether something counts as evidence or not. For you, the Gospels count as evidence about the nature of Jesus. For a Muslim, they don’t.

    That’s a much trickier and more difficult issue, it seems to me.

    I’m not implying, by the way, that we ought to be relativists — but I am implying that there are genuinely difficult issues here, and given how difficult they are, relativism can seem an attractive option for someone who wants to stop thinking.

    • Kliska

      Carl, I don’t “appeal” to some verses in John at all, sorry if it came across that way; I’m simply showing the strong and certain language used by faithful men such as John who walked and talked with the Lord. Yes, the Muslim should very well ask how I know that I can trust scripture, and then I can proceed to explain why the scriptures should be used as evidence, and why they can be trusted. In fact, many Muslims come to understand that their bias against scripture is completely unfounded, that scripture has been shown to be accurate in every area that it touches upon, including prophecy, and that the manuscripts are reliable. In the same way, I’ve looked at their claims about the Koran, and have found them wanting. One of the things I expect is for people to use the same criteria in judging certain things, that gets people on a more even playing field.

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  11. “Carl, I don’t “appeal” to some verses in John at all, sorry if it came across that way; ”

    I had to look at that twice too, before I realized the purpose of quoting John there!

    But I have seen Christians actually do exactly as Carl describes without realizing the logic error.

  12. Carl Sachs

    One of the things I expect is for people to use the same criteria in judging certain things, that gets people on a more even playing field.

    What I find most interesting, philosophically, is how we find ways to give voice to disagreements under conditions where shared criteria cannot be relied upon — when everything is up for grabs, so to speak.

    • Kliska

      That’s one of the major philosophical differences betwixt certain people, as you are well aware. I don’t believe everything is up for grabs…for one small and simplified example, I believe that there are certain criteria accepted by a majority of people, including academics, when they try to judge the accuracy of ancient manuscripts, historical events, etc… All I expect is that those same types of criteria should be employed (and accepted) when we are looking at “religious” manuscripts and events as well.

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