Fellow Jessup faculty member Brad Swope joins Mark and Rex to discuss the nature of truth. Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Do we have access to it? Can we be certain of anything? The trio discusses these questions and more.
Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host Mark Moore
and your co host, Rex Gurney. And Mark, we actually have a fascinating conversation, I think that we are inviting our listening audience into and that’s a conversation about, about truth. Yeah. And about the, the absolute indispensability of maintaining the concept of absolute truth, even in a society that’s very suspicious of it.
Yeah. And, and you, you used your words wisely, and we’re gonna unpack those words. And we have to, yeah, we have the Reverend Dr. Brad Swope, who, as a local pastor also teaches here at Jessup, and he’s been on the show before and just love his mind love his his ability, his desire to get into these conversations and to unpack things and use uncomfortable illustrations Even so, so we hope you stay with this conversation and really just immerse into this conversation and be asking yourself Yeah, what is truth? What is my access to truth? And and what does that mean about then how I live right? So I hope you enjoy the show.
It’s it’s good to have you back on the show. Reverend Dr. Brad’s Whoa. Oh, we got the title. Right. We say that I think are we are we a pair a trio of Reverend doctors ello. Whatever endo doctor. His sounded better is does Yeah. That you have to be you have to live in Colombia for a while to get that title. Well, I was neither one of those things for a long time ago. But you earned it by living in Colombia positively changed my life. That’s true. Yeah, very true. Well, of course, as
you know, everything changes once you become a doctor. People will respect you more your words mean more, have more authority instantly.
I’m just waiting for to be on an airplane. And so is there a doctor? You waited your whole life? Is that airplane or flat? plane? Yeah, yeah. airplane, we can just you know, we’ll see. See what happens. But no, it’s great to have you back on the show. You’re You’re officially I think even before this, we would have called you a friend of the show. But you’re you’re officially a friend of the show. Now I know, t shirts. You know, that’s we’re working. You know, we’re working on our funding. Right? We’re working on our funding and I don’t even believe t shirts. I’ve been promised the T shirt. Or you might be bringing in the listeners in on this. fundraiser. Patreon. You never know Be on the lookout out there because then we could have actual t shirt crowdfunder t shirts, give it our give to our guests. What end of the show t shirt.
I do have on my Jessup when I when I spoke at Chapel, I get one of those mugs. Yeah. And on the other side of it. I do have your your sticker. Oh, nice. There we go with your shout out. Amen. Amen. Amen. I do believe though I paid for that somehow. I don’t think it was free. Did
you get free? I can’t remember. But you paid for it. It went to a good cause I paid for my swag. It went to a good cause. I feel like I gave it to you for free. But I don’t know if you paid for it. It went to a Spain missions trip that never happened. That’s right. But it was for was for a good cause. Okay, for a good cause. Yeah, but glad to have you on the show. And today really wanted to kind of bring, you know, it’s great having you and Rex on the show today as you guys kind of teach our Christian perspective class. And that’s really a class on critical thinking and how to think christianly about topics, but want to want to kind of hit kind of the broad idea. And this is, you know, the classic, the famous question from Pilate for Jesus, right? What is truth? Right, what is truth? And one of the reasons this topic kind of popped up for me was I was recently watching the social dilemma on Netflix, which if you haven’t seen it, it’s a documentary about, really about social media, not just technology, but but social media specifically, and how it’s gonna ruin your life. And so after you watch it, you burn all of your phone and computers, and you log off of every social media network. But I was I was really interested in the middle of the documentary. They talk about kind of the age of disinformation we are in, right and how much false news or false reporting happens on social media, and how much you can get caught in an echo chamber of just people you agree with. And so it looks like you’re getting a bunch of facts and a bunch of things and you’re like, I can’t believe anyone else would think differently. Look at all of these facts, but the other people aren’t even seeing those facts. Let alone maybe those facts be true or not. And so the people on the documentary,
Okay, can we just name something here? We can remember that vice president of debate. Yeah, there was a famous fly that was attacking Mike Pence. And during this podcast, there is a fly. That
seems to only like you, it is attacking me. But I can push through, I’m pushing through that I’ve been amazed at your concentration thus far, you know, maybe it’s a little pensez. from Indiana, maybe I have a little bit that stoicism is like it does matter. Out of this, I can feel fly,
it might have something to do with the product in your hair that’s attractive my
or the product in my beard either. It’s there’s an attractor happening. I’ll agree with that. But it is less mean for now. So we’re good. But on the documentary, it was really interesting. They kept going back. And many of these were like former Silicon Valley workers, some of them had been execs in Silicon Valley, but they kept coming back to this idea of truth. They use an example, you know, that false information is six times more likely to spread than true. But but it kind of begs the question. Okay, well, what do you mean by true? What makes something true? And in obviously, in the Christian world, and theological world, we look at what is truth, and we’ve kind of have this modernism into post modernism. And so want to just kind of talk about that. Rex, I know that you’ve kind of had some, some points on, you know, in terms of like, true theory,
right? There’s sort of different, you know, sort of definitions or iterations of what, what truth means and what it entails. You know, most of us, I guess, when we think of something as true or false, we think of the correspondence theory of truth, it either is, or it ain’t, there’s just no middle ground. Right. And, you know, that was, I think, the accepted definition for a long, long, long time, right. But then there’s several other theories. And you know, we all recognize them, no matter what they’re called, like, the coherence theory, you know, if the ideas involved don’t contradict, then it’s okay. But that can get you in some interesting weeds. Yeah. But I think more likely, with what we’re talking about with this sort of crisis of truth in our society is, you know, with the pragmatic theory of truth, it’s true if it works. And then, most of all, with just the conversation we even had before the podcast started is sort of the emotional theory of truth. If it feels true, it is right. And, and, and, wow, I guess that’s all I can say that that is a very, we’ve come a long ways from, I guess even the Enlightenment, which is really interesting,
right? Yeah, cuz, because a lot of, I think a lot of the questioning of truth, but also a honing in on ideas of like, absolute truth happened in the enlightenment. And then post modernism is a reaction against that, that modernist view of truth, that may be honed in like, like, I think, for Kant, that idea of reason. And that reason, highlights and that truth is something that you can, maybe you have to be able to prove and test. And so therefore, like for Kant, religious knowledge became not like a source of knowledge. You couldn’t access that objectively, but more subjectively, but then postmoderns just even a reaction against like, objective, absolute truth, moves it more into the realm of, of personal truth, or private truth, and it becomes like a bullet. That’s true for you, but not for me. Yeah, we,
I think both Rex and I teach a section of our class on this. What’s happening in modality, what’s happening, even pre enlightenment, a one of the things that’s fascinating to me is the Reformation. And I always quote, Luther at the Diet of Worms, where he’s casting away Pope’s and councils and creeds and all this stuff, and referring back to what, autonomous self through reason accessing the truth of Scripture. So essentially, he’s dismissed any structure except for the self as ascertaining what is true. And so one way we say there’s modernism, and we said is post modernism, but I kind of think that post modernism is just hyper modernism, because what you have is the autonomous self on crack in the current age, you everyone’s out there just assessing what is true, okay. And it’s the autonomous self that does the science for them, decides for themselves. What will be true in this situation, there is no authority, there’s no referral, there’s no there’s no need to tap into anything deeper than Yeah, just what I myself want to say is true. I mean, I’m sure you cover that in the same in the same way in your course. I always find that quote, to be fascinating because here we he is this pillar of reformation and we looked at but this quote just captured perfectly this shift away from authority trician and tradition, the church, a long standing thing that came before him. And it’s just now me right now what the Scriptures and I say, this is what the Scriptures are. And of course, the problem is the next guy swingley. Melancon, yeah. Hey, Luther. That’s pretty good. But I see the scriptures. Right, and you’re wrong. Well, who, where’s the reference? How do we, how do we adjudicate that
scholars have for a long time pointed out that that, you know, the process? Well, the seeds of secularism, were laid with the Protestant Reformation. And it’s almost a foregone conclusion. Actually, once you once once the authority as you say, bread becomes the self instead of the church or the Councils or the you know, whatever. Yeah. And, and mad, you spin that out out to its ultimate conclusion. And you just end up with, you know, me and my truth against the world. And it’s really fascinating. It’s almost very gnostic in a way. But that’s another conversation.
Yeah. You always you like to bring the conversation back to Gnosticism. I’ve noticed that you like he likes to sneak in there.
There’s a lot of Gnosticism and evangelicalism. Oh, totally. I mean, that’s right. That would be another podcast. But like, I it’s fascinating to, to see these. One of the things that I’m not I, I am an amateur, when it comes to philosophy, but I’m intrigued by it. And I think it’s helpful. In this day and age. It’s super helpful to theology. But one of the things when you study history and philosophy, and ideas, you see there aren’t that many of them and they always repeat themselves. So like every age, kind of reinterprets, this set of four or five different distinct ideas. Yeah, repackages them, and suddenly it’s the latest, greatest thing. Right? So Gnosticism is an idea. It’s an ancient idea. And it’s still with us today. But again, yeah.
Right. But it does in one, even with like, Luther his perspective, I think it’s, in many ways, repackaged by Descartes, in the sense of now I’m the referent of my existence, right? I think, therefore I am. It’s not, you know, my, my maybe relationship to God, which would have been before my relation to God, I guess it would say, but now the self has become the reference point for my existence, paid for Luther, the self became the reference point for how you’re reading scripture. And I like what you’re saying, right? Cuz I never thought about that. Because most people view post modernism as this reaction against modernism, but I think viewing it as hyper modernism. it accentuates the role of the autonomous self. Right, so the individual self is king. Yeah. And that really is when we talk about truth. You know, people even say, well, this, you know, true for me, maybe not true for you. And perhaps the problem there is that there are some things that that are subjective, right. So that can be true for you. Well,
tell me what’s not subjective. I mean, okay, yeah, access everything as a subject. Right. So right. Yeah, that’s true.
Yeah. The postmoderns critique about, you know, that there’s no view from nowhere is, I think, self evidently true. Yeah. And that’s, I find that that that scares a lot of people. Right, because especially as Christians, especially our tribe, and feel that we cannot do without a very robust, strong conception of absolute truth in it. As soon as you start even admitting that some of the postmodern critique is true. It’s already been talked about this right? Well, then suddenly, that’s that’s just a very, very threatening thing.
This is where and Rex will attest to this, why I’m such a big Dallas Willard fan. Because he goes, he actually helped me a great deal, because as soon as you admit to the postmodern critique as being valid, then if you admit it, it feels like you’ll lose your way. And then so for me, he he reintroduced a couple of different terms and helped me understand them. And he was one of the things I think he’s brilliant at is trying to distinguish between belief, knowledge and certainty. Hmm, yeah. And I think those terms are for me more helpful than truth. I think truth is, it has a lot of baggage and it, but like, if you start distinguishing What are we actually talking about here? And, and his book that I teach is called knowing Christ today. It’s it’s not a well titled book. It’s actually an argument for moral knowledge. Right, right. And you know, things morally, and he would argue that yes, you can well, in this day and age, that that’s like that, that arguments gone. Yeah. Could you could you make an argument? So like, I don’t know. I don’t know how racy I can get here. Okay. Yeah. Well, we can edit any we can. Okay, so I give this illustration. I actually, in my class, I make them Do this thought experiment, okay? And I say to them, I know a man. And I actually do know the guy who a small business owner in Sacramento. Before the bunny ranch closed in Reno, which is a brothel, he would go up. And he would hire prostitutes to put on high heeled shoes and walk all over his body include his face, and I say to them, can you make a moral argument that this is in any way wrong? And don’t refer to the Scriptures? Yeah. So don’t quote the Bible. Yeah. Can you make an argument? Even not even wrong, bad, you can even make that argument. And they, they sit in stunned silence, right. And eventually, after about five or six minutes of coaxing, they start working on the problem. Because in the culture, in terms of sexuality, you can’t say it’s wrong. You can only say, ooh, yuck. That’s not for me. It’s all that’s all you get. Right. Right. So do we have to just give that away? Or, or can we work on it in a different way? So could can we know that that’s bad? Can we know that that’s wrong in any way? Now? It’s not an easy argument. Right. Right. It’s a difficult argument. I still think it’s worth having. Yeah. But it’s, it’s a challenging way to start thinking about the terms a little bit. And any I don’t know if you want to go belief, knowledge and certainty, but yeah,
no, I think diving into that is really helpful. Because Willard has helped me there as well. And that is a good distinction, because when we use the word truth, does have a lot of baggage. And, and there’s there is more complexity there. And so that idea, so yeah, go into a little bit of what Willard saying with certainty versus knowledge?
Well, both Dallas and a guy named JP Morley helped me a lot with Christians tend to think of knowledge and certainty as being the same thing. And they dismiss that notion. And they say, you know, essentially, there’s very few things that you can be absolutely certain of, there are things that you can be relatively certain of, but that’s more like, stop saying relatively certain and start saying you have great confidence in that. Yeah. So knowledge is not the same thing as certainty. And as finite beings, their certainty is not our, our, that’s not where we get to play. That’s not our sandbox. Yeah, God can play in that sandbox a lot more than we can, right. So we have to, we have to deal with this area of knowledge. And we have to distinguish it from belief. So you can you can believe almost anything, right? You know, Dallas used to say, beliefs are like lint on a sweater, you find that you can just pick them up as you go along. So you can be listening, you can be in the car, and not even paying attention to a news report. And it’s the Wall Street, you know, report and it’s going down, and you can pick up beliefs just simply you absorb it from your arm. Yeah, they don’t have to correspond to reality. But you will act as if they are true. That’s what a belief is. It’s that in which you’re willing to act as if it is true. But it’s a very different thing than to say that how knowledge works in add in distinguish from belief, knowledge is a different kind of thing. So
So I guess the million dollar question with that, especially in the environment we’re in right now, right, of personal truth and alternative facts and all this stuff? How? What can we do to smuggle that back into popular culture? You know, that that’s sort of the million dollar question to me, because because I feel it’s necessary to do that. I just feel sorry. really intimidated?
Can I give an example? So I was talking to somebody who tends to be prone towards conspiracy theories, and is politically right. mid September, our president retweeted something about Joe Biden being a pedophile. And we were talking about it. And I said, You can’t just throw that stuff out there. It can’t be. And they said, Well, he might be he could be right. And I said to them, well, your husband might be too. But Should I just throw that around? Or should it be grounded in something Right, right. Now, when we make these claims, these truth claims these propositional truth claims, you have to ground them. Yeah. I don’t want to say that anything could be true. But of course, there’s some percentage chance that he will, but you don’t just say it. Yeah, you have to. You have to it has to be it has to have a reference, right? There has to be a good reason for believing something to be true or claiming that it’s Yeah, that you know, it’s true, right. And this is the thing that I think we’ve given up is that people don’t want to ground their argument. They just want to believe things. And this is why what you’re saying is really hard. What we would say it’s a prior commitment to worldview, whether it’s seen or not seen that that doesn’t really matter to them. If it’s world if it’s reality or not, right. It’s my worldview, and I’m committed to it. So it’s a hard orientation that you’re only committed to. And what I find that scary is the lack of critical thought to even challenge things that might go against your worldview. Now, that is a hard thing. I think Get out. But I’ll just throw something else out here. Dallas Willard once said to me, or to a group of us, do you know the reason why gambling is immoral? And we’re like, no. Why is it immoral? He says, because you have to suspend reason. He said you have to you, if you if you could apply your mind to say that there’s no way I’ll win. Yeah. But you have to suspend that reason to do it consciously, not not recreationally to really believe that you’re gonna win at gambling? We know the odds are against you. Right. Right. And he it’s, he would say it’s a violation of what it means to be human to not access reason is a violation of how we’re made. I find that to be true right now, is that there’s something about the willful determination that not access, what is accessible, using reason to do critical thinking that I find is frightening. Because it can take in some really bad places. Yeah. So to me, the challenge would be, isn’t that why we would teach the course that we teach? How do you do critical thinking? So like, I’m sorry, to dominate the conversation, you know, again, you find people who only choose one, one news source, and they just swim in that stream. Yeah. And then. And then when you challenges say, well, who knows what’s true, there’s so much misinformation. I actually think that’s cheating, what is possible, which is I think you can access, you can build a pretty good picture of reality, you just can’t do it from one source, right? You have to do the hard work of looking at all sources and trying to build a picture. So it’s still possible. But we’ve just throw up our hands and say, Well, I don’t know so much truth. I’m just gonna listen to this one voice. Right. I think you could make an argument that’s immoral. Because you’re actually not accessing here. Back to the word truth. Yeah. Right. What is Yeah, you are accepting something less than truth. So if we were supposed to come to a conclusion as to how to resolve this, I think I’m just getting more depressed at this. Right.
Yeah. But I think it’s, it is helpful to, to at least, show it in a perspective where it understands that truth is not like, obviously, our access to absolute truth is limited. Right? And like you’re saying, like that that’s not our sandbox to play in right? certainty. I think, I think absolute truth maybe lands in that box of certainty, right. And the, and, but, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do the hard work of critical thinking and accessing, you know, because we’ve, especially during this this season, of, of, of kind of the crisis of information, I guess, or disinformation. I’ve had students come up and say, How do we know it’s true? Like, you hear one side, and they say this and other side says this? And part of it is, you know, like, Okay, well, we do have to do the hard work of like, okay, let’s look at all of these sides. And let’s try to find that reference point. Right, try to find our agreed upon reference points, again, you know, it’s gonna be our access is limited to some of those things. But I like what you’re saying, in terms of understanding are finding truth is going to take a little bit of work, right. And it takes the work of being critical and not just listening to something that supports you. And that happens on both sides, right, both sides. And, and I’ve even found, if I’m reading an article, and I can tell it’s gonna say something that I don’t I start to be like, Oh, no, man, I didn’t want this to be true. But I think that’s true. Now I have to change.
It’s a difficult thing. I i’ve, because I’ve, I’ve felt that I don’t want to live in echo chamber either. And it’s really easy for me to because I feel very passionately about certain things. Yeah. But I’ve deliberately subscribed, of course, it was a cheapy subscription that came to the mailbox. But still, I didn’t have to do it. Yeah, I delivered subscribe to a magazine. So it’s a, I think a bi weekly magazine, I won’t mention it, because then that’ll pin me down a wall here. That has a very different view than I feel but I’m making myself reader. I actually read some of it this morning. Because I and the interesting thing, though, is when I read it, there’s this physical, it’s just really interesting. What’s happened to all of us. It’s just a physical reaction. I have to force myself to to read something that I have already decided. I disagree with. Yeah. But of course, I have to force myself to do that. Because you know, it’s the hard work of seeking after truth is hard work. Yeah. We
we got this little grant as a church to To think about creation care, science and faith, yeah. And so part of the grant, we gathered this fall focus group of people that are on the topics that we want to preach on the spring on. We talk through them all. We read books, articles, and I purposefully gathered a group of very diverse people. And we come together. So the last time was environmental stewardship. And far right, too far left to somewhere in between is in this group of about 10 people. Yeah. And it’s not necessarily comfortable, right. It’s challenging. Now we do it, we do it. And this is I think, part of the principle here of even talking to somebody that you disagree with or that you think differently about is there’s we I wanted, I wanted to wait until we could do it in person. I didn’t want to press flash, and oh, he didn’t actually press last. But you see eyes and Bo, six feet apart. I have to figure it out. See the eyes because I had to have this conversation with an actual human. That’s, that’s right there in front of me, right. Yeah. But like, I always walk away. Feeling like, I gained something really important. I don’t always change my view. But it certainly rounds my perspective to understand. And a different view. Yeah, more fully, or why people was I was I was, started this going 100 different direction. Richard Rohr, somebody that I don’t know who I was reading, but they were talking about the fact that when you when you have somebody with a dissenting opinion or disagreement, try to listen and hear what they value, and see if you can honor that. Yeah, which I found, I find that to be a really helpful, it’s helpful. Because if I can, if I can find out what’s behind the passion as to what you deeply value, and then recognize and sell it, I get that I get where the passion is coming,
where I might even feel that same passion, it just plays out in a different way in my life. And so yeah, there’s something in common that we have our common humanity be made in the image of God. And, you know, that’s always a good thing to recognize, since we dehumanize our opponents so much, you know, we just, and that that’s, you know, one of the saddest things to me about, you know, the the state of our conversations, and there are multiple conversations. Yeah. Yeah. Is is the sort of demonizing the opposition. That’s just deeply disturbing,
right? Or even coming back to the point of, can you access reality? How do you do it? Can you actually get it? Get it? What’s actually there? Sometimes these conversations with the centers are an important part of doing critical thinking, right? You’re just you’re gonna ground. Of course, you can believe what you believe. But if you so one of the things I love about a university, and I say this to my class all the time, there’s things I can talk about here that I can’t talk about my church, right, which is ironic to me, but the university should have is more of a marketplace of ideas where you bring the idea to the marketplace. And it gets it gets tested there. Yeah. So cross disciplines, right. So perspectives and disciplines, and then the idea becomes better because it gets tested in that place. I love that I find most people don’t want to do that. Right? They don’t want to, they don’t naturally think that way. Yeah. And I don’t know how to get at that. I don’t know how to get it that except for I think it’s really important work to do.
And I think sometimes maybe people come and just say, I would love for you to support what I already believe, and just helped me understand better how to support that.
Well, it’s fascinating. I, I’ve had this I’ve had this told to me a number of times when they find out that I teach history. And so I’ll have someone say, I hope you teach the right version. Yeah. And I know exactly what they mean. Right. Right. And it’s like, well, I teach the best historical consensus is as far as we can access that. It does not a really satisfactory answer, if it was the right version that they wanted me to teach. I just agree with.
Okay, can I ask that direct question to you? So history would be a great example. Do you think it’s possible to access reality or truth when it comes to history?
I think it’s possible to get close to it. You could piece it together piece it together with reasonably Yeah, but not without not with no certainty, certainty, no certainty, right. Yeah. And I was actually going to ask the same question. I guess to all of us here, you know, that. I feel as a Christian, I need to believe this, but I also do believe this. So you know, it’s nice when you’re desires and cohere with what you actually believe. But I do believe in something called absolute truth, although I almost don’t like that phrase because we bandied about in ways that I think it’s not really helpful. Yeah. But at the same time, I believe that whatever we’re thinking about when we think about that, you know, is a is is is there it’s a reality. But
can I ask are you when you say absolute truth teeth? Do you think we’re talking about universals? Why don’t you explain universals to me first. So a free for me a universal would be something that would be true. Despite context, it would be true in all times, in all places for all people. So for me, a universal and absolute would be that God exists. Yeah, like I, I would I would put a flag on. Yeah. Now, I’m not gonna say I can’t say certainty. I can claim knowledge of that. But I do think that’s a universal. Yeah, I would argue morality is universal. Hmm. There’s lots of people that would disagree with that. Right. But I would, I would say that you find every human being has a concept of right and wrong, though, then from culture to culture, that how it’s defined is different. But there, there’s a referent inside. Yeah, that there there. Like fairness. Yeah, every category. There’s a category of it. So I do think there are things called universals. It’s not a popular opinion, these days. So that’s what I would mean by Would you say that’s the same thing in your mind as absolute truth?
Yes, but I tend to think that there is absolute truth, but we are not capable on this side of the veil of accessing it, that we always access it in perfectly. Yes. And I always say, I also think that the Absolute Truth of the universals are, in some sense, contextualized? Because I don’t think that you can avoid that. No, no, no, it’s always contextualized access is always going to come. And that’s what throws people off, you know, is that that is admitting that because some people I I least have found in, in my interaction with them believe that as soon as you throw context into it in any way, then you somehow are chipping away at the concept of absolute truth somehow, because, like there’s this absolute context that we have access to, which I would argue this side of the veil doesn’t exist.
And that seems to be I think, the fear Yeah, people, especially in in the Christian world, right. We’re using a universal like God exists, like true at all time, all places. When you bring in context, people would feel like, Oh, you have to give up that universal. Right. And I think what we’re talking about is giving up the access to certainty of, of that. I think that’s a helpful with look, yeah,
I don’t think you can be certain that God exists. I actually think that God created the kind of world in which he could be doubted. Hmm, yeah. Because you find lots of people who do doubt. Right, right. He has not wiped out. Right, the ability to doubt him in the world in which he called to being I find that fascinating. Right, right. Like, he apparently it’s not believed that he’s actually after. Hmm.
And it’s perhaps the the process of doubting, or whatever has happened in that can be helpful exactly can be in understanding what the truth is, which is a really interesting way to look. And
I would argue that what he’s actually after his pursuit, not relief, because I use this with my students, you know, we open up the Golden One center a few years ago in Sacramento, why didn’t he just manifest his presence there, right, with all those reporters and famous people? Well, because he’s actually not after belief. He’s after something else. So this is a final famous lecture that morlan gave, why does God hide himself? And I’ve, I actually think it’s a super helpful way of thinking about it. Because of course he does. Yeah, he could make himself more is than he does. So faith, and we can define that too. But a knowledge of god i think is possible. certainty of God’s existence, I don’t think is, and I think it’s a fine distinction, but a true one.
And that’s maybe where Willard is going to that idea of not certainty, but confidence, right? Like you can have confidence God exists, but that’s something different than certainty. And
he would say that, that all knowledge has basically three sources, authority, reason and experience. And you have to define authority because people don’t know what you mean by that. But like, I Tell people when you go to your math calculus class in high school, you actually don’t develop math all the way forward. You take accepted math or authority, and you start from there. Yeah. So much of what we know, we take on authority, because we don’t have the time or bandwidth to actually go relearn everything. Right. So authority is one stream experiences. Another reason are the ways that we access it. Anything we would say that we know, right, and I think you can apply that to God. And it still doesn’t arrive at certainty. It arrives at great competence. Yeah. Like, moving forward.
Yeah. And I love that you would flow that into the idea of pursuit, because I often use kind of a similar maybe example. They’re not exactly the Golden One example. But the idea that, you know, what, if God ripped the roof off of this classroom right now and said, Hey, I’m right here, everybody believe in me? That wouldn’t be enough. Right? The problem of not being enough, we would all subjectively access that. And you could ask us, it’d be like, Yeah, something like the roof ripped off. I don’t know what happened.
Well, even James says, you know, the, the, the demons have perfect theology. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Right. demons have perfect. They believe the right things. Yeah. Yeah. That doesn’t lead into anything in terms of pursuit of God. Right. So like, it’s possible to believe, right? Yeah. He was only after belief. Of course, he could make us all belief. Right. But that doesn’t seem to be what he’s ultimately after.
Yeah. Yeah. And calling us into that pursuit. And I think maybe, as we wrap this back into truth, right, because you might be listening to this and be like, Oh, man, we don’t know anything. Right. We know, there is no truth. We can be certain God exists. What is happening? Have you been following the arguments if you come to that, right, yeah, cuz that’s not that’s not it. And but it is helpful to know. Okay, truth is much more complex than just what, hey, it’s right or wrong. That’s either true or false that we do. We have to know we do bring subjectivity into it. We bring in experience. I think we also do I mean, there is that element. I think when that’s what struck me about the social dilemma. There is an element of I mean, on that documentary, they’re saying, This information is not true, because it doesn’t correspond to an action that happened, right. Like this is not ground data. It’s not grounded. Yeah. So it’s not justify. So I think it is something within our culture. Even in this hyper modernity and self being the reference point. There is this sense of you need to ground statements, you need to ground the truth, right. So there’s the maybe we wouldn’t use the word absolute truth, we wouldn’t use correspondence theory. But I think people are looking for what is the grounding for, for what we’re saying, right? And, and I think that’s what they mean by truth, or what we mean by truth, like saying someone just throwing out a baseless claim about someone. The reason it offends us is because you’re like, well, that’s not grounded on anything. In the social dilemma, they use the pizza gate as the example where it was online and the conspiracy kind of again, pedophile ring or sex ring that pizza places where, and a guy actually went to a pizza place with a gun, and was like, unlock the kids, right? And the police arrest him in eighth show body cam, and the police officers on the ground, handcuffing him, and he’s like, why are you here? And he’s like, I’m just here to rescue the kids. And he’s like, What are you talking about? And it’s just this idea that obviously, that was not true. Right? Pizza gate was not true. It didn’t have anything that grounded it. There weren’t actually children back by the boxes of pepperoni or something. How do you know that mark? Hey, you got a website here that
I can argue that was possible to know that it wasn’t true. Yeah, I just don’t think they want to do the work.
Right. Right. And maybe another way of finding out if it’s true or not, is not going to the pizza place with a gun but just going and you know, saying hey, can I see your freezer real quick? Are you know, like exploring that more, but we’re looking Yeah, what I think was interesting for me is that, I think in our culture, in the midst of a very much of a personal idea of truth, and subjective idea of truth. We’re still longing for some type of grounding, something to ground our statement,
do you think that’s necessary for cultural survival? Do you think that this is not just some esoteric, you know, philosophical slash theological concepts that we’re banding about here, but that we really somehow need to recapture a commonly accepted view of what truth is in order to survive as a culture.
Can I ask you as historian we’ve had regimes that that ran for decades on propaganda that were is not true, right? So I always, I always say to my classes as well, that reality is like a two by four, you can act like it’s not real. But if it’s being swung at your head, you better duck. Right? Or it’s gonna hit you. Right? So like, you can defy reality, perhaps for a season but does not always, in some ways win. Yeah,
I believe so. Because I believe that reality is actually kind of hooked up to the absolute truth that I believe in, which is always in the person of God. And right. I do believe that. And I’m thinking about that a lot lately, too, right? within the current situation that Yeah, and I think I mentioned this to you guys before the podcast that you know, the arc of the arc of history in the arc of reality, bends towards justice and Shalom, and the truth. It may take a while for that to happen. But it’s sort of interesting, all of these regimes at some point have been exposed,
exposed, and the camp came crashing down, and
they cannot continue because after the exposure, they can’t.
So in my mind, a flourishing human life is the one that parallels what’s true, or what’s real. So if you live at cross purposes to what’s real, yeah, it’s going to, it’s going to, it’s gonna break you. Right, right. So there, there is a way in which now we’re back to God. Right? aligning ourselves with God, as revealed in Jesus is actually in my view, that the fastest and best way to reality or truth, yeah, because you’re actually paralleling with, with what’s real. And sometimes I say, God is more real than material presence, because he called everything into being so he was first he’s primary, right? Everything else is built on him and is sustained by him. So to know God, to align with God to seek God is actually to seek truth, reality, and to try to live your life in parallel to it. You know, it’s, for me the way to successfully most successfully navigate the human life. Yeah, it doesn’t mean it’s gonna be perfect, you know, make lots of mistakes, but you will arrive at something that’s true and real and can be counted on. Yeah, so I’ll just say one more thing, then, yeah, I hear Hey, you’re allowed to say, I know, I don’t know how, what, where we’re at the time like, again. So like, we were all young man at one point, and deeply studying in seminary and so smart. And we know so much about God and theology, it was just coming out over years. And we can answer any question, right? We get older. And some things we would say we know less well, right. But there are some things we know. More well, or more deeply. Yeah. So like, one of the arguments in my church I make all the time is I actually think I can know the sufficiency of God. And I can, I can make I can ground that I think it’s justified true belief, which is what I believe knowledge is, yeah. So like, I, I really believe I can count on it. I can base my life on it, I can build my life on it. I can bet on it. I can make decisions based on it right? Now. Scripture promises us that yeah. So that’s one source, right? We have Paul, Romans eight, we have this history of the church. And as they believe it, and act on it, finding it to be true. Now we’re tapping into this long tradition, this authority I can access as by reason, and I can also look in my 30 years of being a Christian that it’s God’s always been sufficient, you know, every season. Yeah. So now I can have great confidence. Not certainly a great, great confidence. Yeah. And then act as if, you know, right, this thing. I can count I can live in parallel with this deep, deep truth. Now I can enter the world without fear or anger. Because I don’t have to defend myself or secure my own existence. I can know that God has me. Yeah. Well, making this argument for at least in I don’t know about the culture, but in the church. If we can convince the church of that, just that truth alone. It changes. Almost everything. Yeah. Now we don’t grip. We don’t fear. We don’t have to be angry. We don’t have to be partisan. We don’t have to fight right. Yeah, we don’t have to us in them. We don’t have to demonize because God, the most real thing secures our distance. I think this is the whole purpose of the Sermon on the Mount. Yeah. Matthew six. I think this is the purpose of Jesus ministry. Yeah. Why do you run around like the pagans, right? The godless ones trying to secure existence? Don’t you see the flowers? Don’t you see the birds? Yeah, if God loves them, you can get much more you. So I think this, this is a really important way of saying to Christians, you can know things. And you can access reality and you can access truth. Yeah, it’s not. It’s may be hard. It may be complex, you might have to do a lot more work. But it’s possible and it’s worth doing.
Yeah. And I think that’s really helpful for our for our listeners and for the church. And I think that is something that that culture wants, like they they want, they they want that grounding. They want That. And they, they always would would maybe use it when we use it all the time in counter arguments, right? Like, hey, what you’re saying that’s not true, or that’s not grounded with you just logically true.
I mean, if we’re meeting the image of God and the God is the source of all truth, and we are not fulfilled as a Gustin said, until we actually find our own, you know, find find ourselves in him then then that’s a universal, not just longing, but that’s a universal need. Yeah, that people have and and when one thinks of it that way, it it’s it shines a little light in the in the present darkness
does not mean that what we offer the world is actually good news. Sure. I mean, yeah, so you own galley on. It’s it’s good news. I don’t know if the church has been giving a lot of good news. But like, maybe in this area, culturally, not sure everyone’s gonna believe it, but we can offer good news. Yeah. And that’s something to have hope in.
Yeah. And that’s, and that’s sort of open. And I like that Rex, that, that we see that universal in everyone. And I think for me, kind of, we’re gonna wrap it up here. But coming back to the social dilemma, that’s what that’s what really struck me was, oh, and all of this. And I remember, you know, the time I was just coming out of college, when kind of a lot of the conversation about post modernism, and what we were going to do, and truth is gone now. So we’re not and it was this, this holding on to absolute truth, right? It was this grip by the church, like, we can’t give these things up. We can’t give an inch to post modernism. And it was this fear that hey, once you give up truth, no one will ever, but I feel like social dilemma, majority thing that drove them was, hey, the problem here is this information is not true. Like we live, you know, in a in a period that is now well past that. But no one has given up on the concept of truth. No one has just no one in that documentary said, it doesn’t matter what the post is. That’s what people think that’s good for them. They’re like, no, that is dangerous, right? That untruth is dangerous. And so yeah, it’ll always because we’re made in the image of God. And because we’re called, I think, into that truth, it’ll always come back there. I don’t think culture can ever get in. Because it’s like you’re saying, Brad, the idea of reality, reality is always going to be there. So you can only deny reality for so long before the two by four smacked in the face. You know,
it’s the guy at the pizza place. You know, he was not in touch with reality. And right and reality smacked him. Like, he got arrested and taken off. Yeah, he did not live his life in correspondence what was true and real unknowable, right. And he found out the hard way,
but he was still look, as I was just thinking about that, while you guys are talking about, I think he was still still exhibited that desire that something be true, or he wouldn’t have gone to the rice in the first place, which I
want to even honor the guy. If you were convinced that there were children out there, right. That’s a noble thing.
I don’t know. that correspond to reality, but it was no, the aspiration was, well, this has been a strange conversation is, you know, you never know where it’s gonna go. That’s not the takeaway of this podcast.
Maybe edit that out. Now. But But, but it did. I mean, I think the, the takeaway would be that, that idea that, that there is this longing for truth, there’s this longing for grounding and justice. Yeah. And, and when we live in that reality, that is where God is calling us right? living in truth with that reality, the reality of not just God’s existence, but yeah, you’re saying of justice that’s he’s put in to this world of beauty of truth, like when you live in that, that is like that is in line with God and that and, and, and then obviously, understanding the complexity of truth and maybe an encouragement for our listeners to do the hard work, of, of truth of being able to look at two sides of an argument, even though it might physically make us cringe. Look at both sides so that we can see different things and use reason, authority experience, and understanding what what God is saying to us as well. I think that is just important. And it’s helpful for me to, to note that you don’t have to no one’s abandoning, you know, absolute truth or universals, like you know, it’s not an abandon this. It’s just a better understanding of what actually is the nature of truth of what we’re talking about who you are. Yeah, and and pursuing that. So thanks a lot. Brad and Rex was a helpful conversation. For me. We covered a lot of ground, so I’m glad people can hang with us. And I know there will be more and more topics like this will will pop up. Well, thanks for having me. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup.
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