I think I made a mistake and read some of the comments for religion articles on The Huffington Post. The articles about religion on www.huffingtonpost.com/ consistently have comments that are very angry about religion. Invariably the comments quickly lead away from the article towards polemic against the very concept of religion. I am honestly confused by the angry rhetoric against religion and values.
So this week I have been thinking about what truth looks like for people of faith and how truth and values are understood differently by people who reject the church.
How do understand personal truth and universal truth? Is there a distinct difference between what I find personally true in my life and what I expect is universally true for all people?
I think this question hinges on how we determine what is true. So for instance if a person operates with an experiential view point he will understand truth through what can be observed. Evidence is important and all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the world. This evidence based truth has been accepted as necessary for establishment of scientific truth. But how does this truth system work when there is an intersection between science, philosophy and religion?
I find that people are quickly offended when values are described as universally true. There was a quick reaction by media to Kirk Cameron’s comments about homosexuality on the Piers Morgan. I think the offense experienced by people in response to his comments is a result of people understanding a difference between what is true and what are values.
In this frame work of offense values are considered personal and not universal. Values are an issue for personal identity gained through a mosaic of experiences. A person will measure truth by what he can experience through his own senses. The concepts that he will develop through these observations will develop into a personal set of morals/values. These values cannot be universal truths because not every one who observes the same events will develop the same values from these observations. Another person may observe an event but have a different set of previous experiences that will need to be incorporated into this latest observation. The mosaic of experiences will be different for every person and so each person will have a unique set values as they seek to integrate present experiences with past experiences. All experiences are unique to a person observing them because no one has had the same mosaic of experiences.
The development of personal morals that cannot be pushed onto another are a result of experiential truth.
But can truth exist beyond my observation?
If not, then I have no ability to expect a shared value system. If yes, then I can direct people to truth beyond observation, a truth that exists beyond the validity of personal experience. In fact, it will be a truth that can contradictory to my own personal experiences.
Why does the basis for truth matter? If truth is observed and values are individual interpretations of experience then there is no common values system.
The apostle Paul wrote about the natural law that is written on the hearts of all people. Romans 2:15-16 “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”
So how can a Christian who believes in the universal truth of sin and the ten commandments engage in a conversation with someone who denies the possibility of morals and values having a universal application?