IN SEARCH OF ABSOLUTE TRUTH
It helps to ask how do we know what we know?
by Ray Straub
No culture, community, relationship, or person can retain
integrity or good health if truth is not safeguarded. Truth
builds and supports; corrupting it, destroys.
Information is absorbed incessantly through our five senses:
seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and feeling. Processing
information gives us ideas that are never exactly like those held
by anyone else. It is our personal responsibility to account for
what we conclude to be truthful.
This analysis will identify three major academic sources of
truth. While each uses its own approach in sorting facts, they
use each other's tools and methods in arriving at worthy
conclusions about what is. It is helpful to know their
Science is the search for truth through empirical evidence -
what we learn from experience. It is primarily a study of the
physical. The quality of information gained from occurrence and
analysis depends on how accurately our conclusions match reality.
Scientific discovery has provided unfathomable benefits in
efficiency, security, adventure, health, comfort, enjoyment, and
numerous other values. We benefit beyond our ability to
comprehend by truths discovered as we become increasingly
acquainted with what exists physically.
The challenge and nature of science is to continually
question, analyze, experiment with and otherwise investigate
established conclusions. Scientists do not think in terms of
absolutes; they continually ponder new possibilities.
No matter how meritorious and extensive the discoveries, it
remains that science is "an approximation to the essential nature
of all things" (Walter Kaufmann, Existentialism, p.243).
Wisdom and purpose are the underlying concerns of
philosophers, and they seek truth mainly through reasoning and
reflection. Philosophy attempts to determine how we should
perceive the world, treat fellow human beings, and adopt
attitudes that bring greater meaning to our existence. Its
curiosity goes beyond the physical, wondering about the soul,
emotions, religious ideas, and eternity.
Science and philosophy are not inherently opposed. Many
superior thinkers have offered appreciable advances in both
fields. An early Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, was an
outstanding renowned mathematician. He also introduced ideas
about the nature of the soul, further developed by Plato and
later religious writers. Aristotle defined logic in profound,
near mathematical precision, the syllogism being his basic
construction. His observations continue to be a benchmark in the
academic community, providing important criteria to determine the
validity of conclusions.
A downside to philosophical truth is its lack of endurance.
Philosophers reject each other's ideas regularly because many
arise from personal experiences and attitudes that slant
conclusions. They do not build on each other's discoveries as
consistently as do scientists.
It is important to note that the search for truth in both
science and philosophy begins with a hypothesis - an unproven
conclusion based on a combination of experience, intuition, and
imagination. It is an assertion that seeks to be confirmed
through experiment and/or reasoning.
Neither science nor philosophy thinks in terms of absolute
truth. Each has its axioms (i.e., self-evident assertions, like
"the shortest distance between two points is a straight line")
and postulates (i.e., obvious generalizations, like "humans are
emotional"). But there are few "truths" that science or
philosophy cannot continue to question.
The nature of religious truth, called dogma, differs from
scientific and philosophical conclusion in that it is accepted by
believers as absolute. Testing a hypothesis requires some faith
in process, evidence, accurate observation, and other factors. In
contrast, dogmas are accepted as truth by faith and survive with
or without empirical evidence or reasoning. They are subject to
occasional doubt, but that is the nature of faith. What is not
subject to doubt is not being retained by faith.
John's Gospel describes the contrasting nature of a dogma:
"And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not
comprehend it" (John 1:5).
The Greek word from which comprehend is translated has more
New International Version: "darkness has not understood it."
The New English Bible: "darkness has never quenched it." Greek
English Interlinear: "darkness it not overtook," restated:
"darkness did not overtake the light." The assurance is that
dogmas (biblical truths) are absolute, abide with believers, and
cannot be invalidated. Accepting dogmas as ultimate truth is more
than intellectual acknowledgment. Whether or not one can believe
is based on faith, a virtue possessed in varying quantities.
Everyone has some trust in family, friends, employers,
professionals, governments, and a host of other sources we take
for granted. The gift of faith is shown in the ability to believe
in what the anti-religious call the "mystical" - that which
cannot be experienced empirically nor proven conclusively through
Concerning origins, the contrast between science and
religion is stated in Hebrews 11:3: "By faith we understand that
the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen
was not made out of what was visible" (NIV).
This verse states a non-scientific dogma. Science deals with
matter; it insists that matter cannot come into being from
nothing. Science will never be able to explain with certainty how
the universe originated, because it cannot explain the origin of
matter. It can only give educated ideas of how what already
existed evolved. This doesn't undermine the value of science; it
only identifies an issue beyond its purview. Creation by
Intelligent Design is a dogma accepted by faith and enjoys good
reasons to support it.
Dogma and divine authority
Not everyone has the gift of faith. Those who do not have
this precious gift lack the capacity to accept dogma, which is
why it is futile to argue God's existence with an atheist. Each
believer retains truths held in common with other people of
faith. Such dogmas, among others, include that God exists and is
the creator and sustainer of the universe; that He sent His Son
Jesus to live, die, and resurrect for our salvation; that God
saves those who diligently seek Him; that we should sincerely
love God and our neighbor; that reward in an afterlife awaits
believers; and that the Bible contains information and teachings
that are accurate and adequate for us to gain salvation and
access to God through repentance, prayer, and worship.
Since faith maintains that these dogmas are absolute truth,
the believer protects and nourishes that belief vigorously. Faith
as a gift is capable of being enhanced and strengthened
as talented musicians and athletes constantly perfect their
skills through practice and use. Developing faith is built on a
living, dynamic, personal relationship with God. It communicates
through prayer, thought, biblical study, and worship of a
heavenly Father who loves, sustains, comforts, and meets the
needs of those who trust Him. This faith is demonstrated in a
life committed to love and respect for God's principles.
All religious denominations hold a few unique dogmas that
distinguish them as organiza tions. These teachings may include
varying opinions about baptisms, the nature of the soul, the
rapture, the godhead, predestination, and numerous other
perceptions. Those settled in their hearts and minds on absolute
truths can debate without frustration many of these historic
disagreements, while growing in grace and understanding.
It is virtuous both to be settled in our own minds and to be
hospitable to the sincere ideas of friends and acquaintances.
Faith and logic
Recently a television host boasted, "I don't believe in any
imaginary higher power; I'm logical," followed with applause from
the small audience. This contrast reveals ignorance of both faith
and logic. They do not oppose each other. Logic has led superior
thinkers to faith in God, and people of faith should be
Concern for truth is an obligation we owe to all whom our
lives touch. Three fields have been identified that seek truth:
science, philosophy, and religion.
Each endeavor supports the others, and each has its
limitations. We must accept dogmas because God is pleased with
our faith (Hebrews 11:6). There is no need to be apologetic or
shy about professing and explaining them. They are truths that
Ray Straub, lifelong student of God's Word, writes from his home
in West Linn, OR.
From "The Bible Advocate" - October/November 2009 - a publication
of the Church of God, Seventh Day, Denver, CO. USA.
Jesus promised that when the Spirit came, after He ascended back
to heaven, it would lead and guide into ALL truth (John 16:13).
Jesus did not say we would find all truth at one specific time;
sometimes God gives us truth at different times; that is His
perogative. We have to be content with knowing and believing that
if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, the Spirit of the
Lord will lead us into all truth. Jesus further stated in John
17, that "Thy word is truth" - God's word is truth. We need to
fully realize and know that if we desire truth, if we do as the
Bereans did (Acts 17) and search the Scriptures daily, if we
truly want with all our heart to know the truth of the matter on
any topic (especially those for salvation), and we search for it
in and throughout God's word, WE SHALL FIND IT! Yes, it is just
that simple friends. We can come to know ABSOLUTE TRUTH. God's
WORD is truth, and if we do our part, we can KNOW the promise of
the Spirit leading us into all truth, is a promise the Eternal
One cannot break. It may take some time, it may take some
searching, but theological truth can be assertained. This Website
is dedicated to the restitution of all truths of the Lord.
This one included!