Imagine a courtroom where a litigating party tells the judge that different people have different truths. This situation actually occurred when a hostile witness accused a government contractor of wrongdoing during testimony. Notice how the contractor demonstrated his flimsy view of “truth” after the trial judge informed him of his right to cross-examine his adversary:
JUDGE: It’s now your turn to ask any cross-examination question of [the hostile witness] that you want to ask of him at this time.
CONTRACTOR: I don’t really have a question directed towards him, because…he has his own truth. I have my own truth.
JUDGE: Well, there’s a real truth out there, and that’s what I’m here for, is to try to find that.1
Did the contractor really think a judge would attempt to adjudicate a courtroom trial based upon the assumption that everyone has his or her own truth? Is real truth subjective? No, the judge was right: There’s a real truth out there, and that’s what we are here for—to try to find that truth.
The attitude that there is no objective truth—“you have your truth and I have my truth”—appears in many places today and sometimes even surfaces in learned journal articles authored by respectable scientists. The fancy name for this subjective attitude about truth is “postmodernism.” However, the attitude is not all that modern because even Pontius Pilate swept aside the notion of objective truth when he asked his infamously rhetorical question, “What is truth?”2
Something similar to Pilate’s truth-ignoring dismissiveness has mushroomed among postmodern thinkers. They deny confidence in absolute truth because their mindset at its core is humanistic, asserting that all truth originates from human experience. Postmoderns argue that human finiteness and fallibility prevent us from knowing anything with certainty. This is just another way of denying that God is powerful and intelligent enough to effectively communicate His truths to fallen humans. Like the Sadducees whom Christ rebuked, postmodern thinkers and teachers are blamably ignorant of both the Scriptures and the power of God.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? (Mark 12:24)
Postmodern thinking has corrupted the promotion of truth about origins, including the teaching of basic truths about God’s creation. How does this controversy—this choice between objective truth and subjective preferences—apply to the arena of biblical creation apologetics?
Postmoderns eagerly jettison objective truth for a counterfeit truth-substitute that “liberates” and allows them to escape accountability to God’s absolute truth and authoritative morals. Consider this quotation from an article by New York University physicist Dr. Alan Sokal (which he later admitted was a nonsense-riddled parody that he submitted for publication just to prove the fallibility of peer review “quality control” journal practices):
Madsen and Madsen have recently given a very clear summary of the characteristics of modernist versus postmodernist science….“A simple criterion for science to qualify as postmodern is that it be free from any dependence on the concept of objective truth.”…However, these criteria, admirable as they are, are insufficient for a liberatory postmodern science: they liberate human beings from the tyranny of “absolute truth” and “objective reality”, but not necessarily from the tyranny of other human beings. In Andrew Ross’ words, we need a science “that will be publicly answerable and of some service to progressive interests” [i.e., promoting politically humanistic “progress” such as achieving so-called “liberation theology” agenda goals].3
Notice that “absolute truth” and “objective reality” are labeled as a form of “tyranny.” The article proposes that real truth is a terrible ruler, a dictator who deprives us of liberty and the pursuit of happiness! But Sokal’s article also advocates a specific postmodern version of truth, a relativistic approach that favors a particular political agenda, such as Kelly Oliver’s feminist agenda.3
The point here is not that Sokal is a postmodern. Sokal’s hoax article proves a scarier point: Postmodern bias is so prevalent that a reputable journal promoted his nonsense as if it was serious science-based truth analysis. Even though Sokal’s article was a hoax, he cited real sources, and the fact that a social science journal published it shows that denying the fact of objective reality is often considered to be scholarly.3
But does Sokal’s readily accepted idea of “liberatory postmodern science” really answer our greatest need for genuine knowledge about life and the world in which we live, more so than objectively true science? Absolutely not. Postmoderns would likely disagree, hypocritically arguing that they know with absolute certainty that we cannot know anything with absolute certainty.
Now contrast the truth-rejecting disposition of the postmoderns with the authoritative teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, who taught that real liberty comes from accepting real truth.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)
Why do postmoderns close their Bibles and refuse to acknowledge authoritative, certain, objective truth? Because God’s truth imposes accountability. When truth is absolute, it cannot be your puppet; you cannot manipulate it to be what you want it to be. Attempting to control what is truth—rather than accepting God’s objective truth—is really just another form of human-glorifying idolatry, manufacturing a substitute for the real God. This is the original temptation the serpent offered earth’s first human couple in Eden: “Ye shall be as gods.” When postmoderns invent counterfeit truths, such as theistic or atheistic evolution mythologies, they are guilty of the same ludicrous idolatry that Jeremiah decried more than 2,000 years ago, when people ascribed their origins to sticks and stones.4
The problem of questioning objective reality is not new. It was illustrated in a historic conversation almost 500 years ago when the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez confronted the Aztec emperor Montezuma about who really rules the heavens and the earth. In effect, Montezuma was satisfied with the Aztec religion and told Cortez to keep his own religion to himself. Montezuma was acting like the government contractor who told the judge, “He’s got his truth, I’ve got my truth” —as if there is no objective truth.5
But real truth is not a tyranny we should run from, because real truth liberates (John 8:31-32). It is Jesus Christ, Truth incarnate, who alone gives us an abundant life of true liberty, for it is His Word that truly sets us free.6
- Athens I.S.D. v. Johnson, TEA Dkt. # 033-LH-11-2012.
- John 18:38.
- Sokal, A. 1996. Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity. Social Text, #46/#47 (spring/summer 1996), 217-252. After publishing his postmodernism-promoting “epistemology” article in Social Text, Sokal exposed his journalistic experiment in “A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies,” Lingua Franca, May/June 1996, pages 62-64, describing his successful experiment as publishing “an article liberally salted with nonsense…[that] sounded good and…flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.” Embracing a hoax in order to embrace evolutionary assumptions is known to happen in paleontology as well. Dr. Timothy L. Clarey debunked the “Archaeoraptor” hoax (also known as the “Piltdown bird”) that National Geographic fell for: Clarey, T. 2006. Dinosaurs vs. Birds: The Fossils Don’t Lie. Acts & Facts. 35 (9). See also Austin, S. A. 2000. Archaeoraptor: Feathered Dinosaur From National Geographic Doesn’t Fly. Acts & Facts. 29 (3).
- Jeremiah 2:27-28. This epistemological controversy, at its most fundamental level, is a dispute about who God is and how He has communicated in words to mankind. In other words, is the real God accurately described in and by Genesis? Is Genesis a reliable record of who God is and what He has done? See Cooper, B. 2012. The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis. Portsmouth, UK: Creation Science Movement, 129-130, 328-333, 403-405.
- Eidsmoe, J. A. 1992. Columbus and Cortez, Conquerors for Christ. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 202-203.
- John 14:6, in light of John 10:10 and Galatians 5:13.
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Johnson, J. J. S. 2013. Real Freedom Only Comes from Real Truth. Acts & Facts. 42 (4): 10-11.