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What Is the Meaning and Significance of Epistemology in Christianity?

For the Christian, truth is not simply a list of material laws guiding the universe, or of morals and values informing the conscience of man, but truth is a person, who is the embodiment of all truth and life.

Man looking at a chalkboard of equations and diagrams

Epistemology is an area of philosophy examining how we arrive at truth and exploring the nature of truth itself.

Most of us have questioned whether something we have been told is true or not, and such questions are important. We can’t just accept any claim as true.

So, the first question we have to address is “What is truth?

What Is the Meaning of Post-Modern Concepts?

The post-modern world we live in makes discerning truth from falsehood difficult for many. Not because truth is elusive, but because post-modern thinkers have changed the parameters of what truth is. 

This isn’t because we have learned more, such that it demands the parameters be changed, but rather, the change was made to suit their peculiar worldview. In other words, instead of allowing truth to form their worldview, they have inverted things and attempt to force truth to conform to their presuppositions. 

The very core presupposition is that truth is subjective. The post-modern flatly denies the objective nature of truth. Thus, there is “your truth” and “my truth.” This presupposition is extended to include morality.

Because the post-modernist does not prefer traditional morality, those morals they disagree with become a part of the fabric of subjective “truth,” and can be accepted or rejected.

One of the commonly used phrases by post-modernists is “the only absolute truth is there are no absolute truths.” Of course, this is a logical fallacy, since the claim is itself an absolute truth statement. It is self-contradictory.

In the area of morality, the post-modernist insists that morals are mere cultural constructs or personal opinions, and therefore lack any objective character, so people are free to reject any moral code they see fit.

In fact, we also can’t be critical of the morals, or lack thereof, of other people or nations. In other words, there are no objective moral values.

The conundrum this presents for the postmodernist is that, if indeed there are no objective moral values, and we can’t critique the morals of other people or nations, then the post-modern has no basis for offering an opinion on such things as the Holocaust, human trafficking, slavery, racism, or any of the multitude of atrocities nations have committed against subjugated people groups.

However, if the post-modernist would offer some argument as to why these things can be criticized, then they have implicitly admitted that there are objective truths, and objective morality is a part of those objective truths.

Any sane person will agree that genocide is an evil, just as they will admit that racism, slavery, human trafficking, etc. are all evils worthy of condemnation. That is precisely because there are objective truths that are nearly universal to humanity, which we are bound by an inner proclivity to observe and enforce.

Dr. Neel Burton demonstrates the logical fallacy of the post-modern who would say we each have our own truth when he writes: “But to believe or assert something is not enough to make it true, or else the claim that ‘to believe something makes it true’ would be just as true as the claim that ‘to believe something does not make it true.’” Again, the argument of the post-modern is self-defeating.

What Is Truth?

In short, truth is that which is in accord with reality; the way things really are. For example, it is true that according to the law of gravity, what goes up, will come down. That is an objective and absolute truth. In the post-modernist’s worldview, it can’t be an objective truth.

Yet you will never find a postmodernist who would be willing to challenge their position by climbing a building and jumping off. They understand the reality that if they did, they would hit the concrete and die.

No amount of word jugglery or philosophizing will change that reality. The law of gravity will prove itself true time and time again. There is no way in which someone can have “my truth” and somehow avoid the objective reality of the world they live in.

And yet, that is exactly what the post-modernist wants to do. Now, this doesn’t discount that people can have opinions about things. My opinion is that broccoli tastes disgusting. However, my wife enjoys broccoli very much and thinks it is delicious.

Neither are objective truths, but merely subjective opinions. But even with opinion, we have to be careful, since one’s opinion can be wrong. For example, there are those who firmly believe the earth is flat, disregarding all the evidence to the contrary.

It is an objective truth that the earth is round, not flat. That reality doesn’t change just because the flat earth is his or her “truth.” Reality remains intact regardless of their opinion. The intelligent, rational person will change their opinion when presented with objective facts (truth).

While the postmodernist would claim that truth is invented by men, the fact of the matter is that truth is external to man and is something that is discovered, not made by the whims of individuals.

Why Does This Matter?

Our duty as creatures of intellect and reason is to search out truth, and once it is discovered, to give it intellectual assent, as well spiritual assent when applicable. For Christians, truth is very important.

We stake our lives on truths every bit as much reality as the Law of Gravity. Scripture is truth, as it presents the objective reality of the condition of humanity and the way in which that condition is remedied.

Interestingly, it is remedied only through Jesus Christ who said that He is “the Truth” (John14:6). In Him, His teachings, life, death, and resurrection, are found the objective and eternal truths that allow us to discern all truth (Ephesians 4:21).

For the Christian, truth is not simply a list of material laws guiding the universe, or of morals and values informing the conscience of man, but truth is a person, who is the embodiment of all truth, all knowledge, all wisdom, and from whom all of those material laws and moral demands come forth.

Sources

Neel Burton MD, What is Truth?, Psychology Today

For further reading:

What Is Knowledge According to the Bible?

How Do We Know What Truth Is?

What Does it Mean That God Is Transcendent?

Is God in All Things?

What Does the Phrase ‘In the Beginning Was the Word’ Mean?

What Is the Spiritual Gift of Wisdom?

Is the Unmoved Mover of Aristotle’s Teachings God?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/francescoch


J. Davila-Ashcraft is an Anglican priest, Theologian, and Apologist, and holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from God’s Bible College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a recognized authority on the topic of exorcism, and in that capacity has contributed to and/or appeared on programming for The National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and CNN. He is the host of Expedition Truth, a one-hour apologetics radio talk show.