A question. Not just any question, but a question which is permeated by heartfelt curiosity, the hunger for truth, and maybe even a drop of doubt. A profound question. Silence greets the question. A moment passes, followed by an unsatisfying response.
What shall become of the curious thought? How shall we end this delightful tale? Maybe: "The curious thought, feeling a bit disappointed, returns to the depths of the mind and is never heard of again. The End"?
It is without a doubt that our Bible study leaders, our pastors, our parents, our teachers, and our scientists do not possess all the answers. Our wisdom is limited by our humanity. Upon the asking of a profound question it is commonplace to be met with a response which the asker may consider as 'unsatisfying'.
But should the journey of the curious thought end here on the brink of something exciting? How awkward would it have been if Bilbo Baggins had remained in the bubble of his hobbit hole, or if Harry Potter had neglected his offer to Hogwarts? They would have not discovered the wonders, the intricacy, the dangers and the conflict pervading the worlds which they live in. Thankfully, that's not how the stories end.
Sometimes we don't even reach the point of asking the question. What use is a curious thought confined to the depths of the mind only to foster obstacles of doubt for the Christian? There is so much to discover.
How should we end this unfinished tale, and is it even possible?
Surely the ideas of which an individual's life is based upon are worth delving into. These ideas are known as an individual's worldview. The philosopher and Christian apologist, Ronald H. Nash, defines the concept of a worldview as: "the total of answers people give to the most important questions in life. The five most important questions any worldview must answer are God, ultimate reality, knowledge, ethics, and human nature."
The truth to the most important questions in life; is that not worth pursuing?
Big Questions Worth Pursuing?
However, there are those who claim that there is no absolute truth; that truth is relative to the individual; that there is no objective reality. This viewpoint is called postmodernist relativism. Relativists say things like: "That might be true for you, but it's not true for me."
Well then what is truth? The philosopher and Christian apologist, Paul Copan, writes: "Truth functions more like opinion or perspective, and that truth depends on your culture or context or even personal choices." In this sense, truth has been reduced to something which can be compared to one's taste in fashion.
So what does it mean if truth is relative? The philosopher and Christian apologist, William Lane Craig, writes: "Since there is no absolute truth, since everything is relative, the purpose of education is not to learn truth or master facts – rather it is merely to acquire a skill so that one can go out and obtain wealth, power, and fame. Truth has become irrelevant."
But the implications of relativism do not merely stop at the education system. In the relativistic mindset there are no grounds for saying that the Nazi regime and the 9/11 attacks were objectively evil. ("They had their reasons, because truth is what you make of it.")
Of course, the majority of people do believe that the Nazi regime and the 9/11 attacks were evil. So it seems that postmodernist relativism is somewhat selective in its application. People aren't usually relativists when it comes to gravity, 2 + 2 = 4, or 'murder is wrong'; but matters concerning religion are 'different'.
Douglas R. Groothuis writes: "this mindset has affected how many people view spirituality, particularly in nations with significant religious freedom. Many think that religion is a matter of choice, taste, and preference. One seeks a designer religion that suits one's taste, or one is born into a religion that defines who one is. One may even mix and match elements from several religions. Debating whether a religion is true or false is pointless. All are "true" in the postmodern sense because they give meaning to people's lives."
Postmodernist relativism is readily upheld in diverse societies to promote tolerance between otherwise conflicting worldviews, with the value of truth being traded away for a false sense of peace and non-conflict. Many say that tolerance is of utmost importance in maintaining a functioning and moral society within a pluralistic setting. However, this does not necessarily mean that something as paramount as truth must be degraded.
For the Christian, both truth and tolerance are highly valued, for we believe in Him who said not only, "I am the Truth" (John 14:6), but also, "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44).
A quick assessment of postmodernist relativism reveals that it is self-defeating.
In saying that there is no objective truth, the relativist is in fact making a claim about objective truth. The atheist philosopher, John Searle, comments on relativism: "It satisfies a basic urge to power. It just seems too disgusting, somehow, that we should have to be at the mercy of the 'real world'."
Big Questions Worth Pursuing
If an absolute truth does exist then the implications for humanity are tremendous. If an absolute truth exists, then there's an objective reason for our existence. Yes, I'm alluding to the clichÃ© question of: "What is the meaning of life?"
If an absolute truth exists then maybe we are a colossal, cosmic accident and our objective reason for existing would be 'no reason'; thus the meaning of life would become subjective. Or maybe not.
If an absolute truth exists then maybe life isn't about obtaining wealth, power and fame. Maybe life isn't about living and dying in comfort and luxury. If an absolute truth exists then maybe there are many people living in rebellion to the objective reason for our existence; living in rebellion to reality.
The implications are mind-boggling. So…you know that curious thought in your mind? Maybe that's worth pursuing. But will the pursuit ever end?
Anton Zhang is studying aeronautics and arts at the University of Sydney, he is part of a family of four, his hobbies include music, hiking and fencing. He is an active part of the Christian youth work at the Padstow Chinese Congregational Church
Anton Zhang's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/anton-zhang.html