How can I or anyone know that they’ve arrived at actual unadulterated truth? How can we know we’re not simply placing faith in a man-made meta narrative of delusion based on the biases already in us from our cultural history and experiences and sources we’re reading from? I’ve seen some Christians quickly almost haughtily dismiss the beliefs of non-Christians, espousing overly confident certainty about their Christian beliefs, as if it’s 100% verifiable, and quickly labeling unbelievers as having bought into a lie and just telling themselves as unbelievers what they want to hear and believe. To me, group think and believing in man made delusions seems to an innate human trait of many humans, of circular reasoning and tendency to believe or think what others around you believe and think. How are Christians immune to that same human propensity, the propensity being to buy into delusion and buy into a meta narrative that fellow humans cooked up? How can Christians be truly sure that their interpretation of the Bible and evidence and truth they’re holding to is the real truth and not truth distorted? How can they be sure that their truth stands outside of human distortion and circular reasoning so prevalent among all belief systems?
Thanks for asking this question! I have a couple of thoughts I would like to share, hopefully they will add something constructive to the conversation!
I have had that concern as well, but I might ask this question, although somewhat rhetorically, “If all of our opinions and beliefs are the product of our environment, is it reasonable to think that the opinion your expressing now is also invalid because it’s merely a product of your own environment? Or is the opinion your expressing outside of your subjective experience and actually true?”
If I’m understanding what you’re saying, I think what your asking more broadly is, “Can we ever know anything is true because we are looking at everything through the lens of our own subjective experience?” I have had conversations like this in the past, and they typically get stuck at this point, because I think you’re basically saying.
We can’t know ultimate truth.
However, if that statement is true, then it refutes itself. If that statement isn’t just an opinion, and it’s true and applies to everyone, then it’s a truth claim, which means it’s rising above our own subjective experiences. Which would mean we can know truth, which would refute the statement itself.
Ravi actually addresses this in the below YouTube video, although he addresses it through a question about free will and determinism.
Atheist Scientist - Challenges - Christian Apologist, Ravi Zacharias
That being said, we are capable of knowing objective truth, which William Lane Craig addresses in this YouTube video Can We Know Objective Truth? , and although we may not be able to know everything with certainty, we are however capable of pursuing and knowing objective truth.
So, because we are capable of knowing objective truth, that should encourage us to investigate what is true, and to look at the evidence and decide what is more reasonable to believe in fact, is true.
Hi Grace @GraceHill, what a great question!!! I commend you for asking such an important question. It is people like you who have asked this question and then have dedicated their life to getting the answers that have helped Christianity be, a faith based on an evidence than just a mere belief. That’s one of the things you’ll see when you compare religions, and you’ll see how Christianity stands out. One of the reasons I left Christianity when I was in college was for the same reason. I saw people abuse the world in the name of religion and that destroyed me. I didnt truly understand my foundations for my beliefs other than my parents telling me it is real. Science “made sense”, the rest not really, nor did I fully investigate it. I thought it was mans way to manipulate humans.
Now it is true humans are defiled evil creatures and they manipulate the world for money, power, position and mannnnnny religions do harm people in the name of religion. Some distort the truth, some just dont have the truth, and like you said there is a mass of people that just follow without assessing everything for themselves and making the belief truly their own. Some genuinely believe a lie thinking it is the truth. This is not unique for religion. Many followers of science although have never verified for themselves what the professor tells them in their class. Who has verified Darwinian theory of macroevolution? Impossible to even verify.
But the next important thing we need to tackle is the statement you made about “100% verifiability.” Now, even the court systems, when they pass judgement on different cases, such as murder, take probability to say it is like this happened. They cant reproduce a murder case. So to say I need 100% to believe something is an unrealistic expectation and depriving of oneself the chance to find the actual truth.
You may ask why does it matter to use an 85 or 90% verifiable data to believe on something such as religion that divides people? Well that is because the answer to this is a life and death question. What is the claim of Christianity.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Setting aside "how dare they say such a thing, how arrogant, " if this is true, this is a life in eternity with God (all goodness) vs without God (hell).
I will tell you, Christians that have made Christianity their own true belief (like you would be when you have all the answers), do not believe out of fear to go to hell. It is the underserved free gift of life, love, and forgiveness of our God/Jesus Christ. He made a way to change our hearts and we die with him and be born again.
You are saying hold on, you are losing me there. Absolutely. When I started, if you told me this, I would have said the same as well. But what I would recommend you do is just like you have asked this question, continue to ask and seek for the answers. It wont be an overnight change, you’ll wrestle with many questions after questions. It took me 2-3 years of research to believe, and then took me another 1-2 years to take communion and truly be part of a church. But I tell you it is welllllll worth it. I wish I woke up in life earlier to have asked this same question but I was too distracted in getting all the worldly things, things that I wouldnt even take when I die. I thank God for knocking on my door everyday even when I ignored him, ridiculed, spat on his face. He never left.
I always use the analogy of parents and teenagers. Teenagers rebel when they are that age but then are thankful when they become adults. We are teenagers to God. How slow is he to anger and his patience. For our own good.
Now many people can claim what Jesus claimed. But if he rose from the dead, then that’s something unique.
So my recommendation is to take one question at a time and seek for the answer. We are here to help. Keep an open mind, dont start with a biased mind saying this is impossible. Then you’ll be surprised and happy.
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
May the Lord help you find the answers of your hearts.
God Bless You
@Danageze I have been a believer since childhood, but have struggled intellectually for over a decade, with periods where I feel close to God and it all makes enough sense for my head and heart to move in the same direction, followed by intense questions again which I somehow feel makes God mad at me. I also struggle very much with the Christian circles I am in where it feels like nobody thinks very deeply and everyone thinks the same. I believe that when everybody thinks the same, nobody thinks very much. I feel like a misfit. Have you ever felt that way within Christian circles? Why do so many Christians just take it all at face value and not have the ability to engage in deep understanding of the mysteries of God that I so desperately want to discuss? If we’re called to really live radically by Christ and to love Him with our heart soul and mind, why does it seem that most Christians are content with a very safe comfy life that looks nothing like the call of the gospel, and why do most have no idea what’s actually in their Bibles and just rehash jargon that all their fellow friends say? I know more issues in the Bible than most of my Christian friends have any clue is in there. It feels like the reason they can have such a peaceful quiet faith is because they’re not wrestling with the difficult stuff in the Bible because they’ve never even read it all for themselves. I want to connect with Christians who have deep beautiful minds that like to talk about this stuff and really radically grow closer to God and live it out, but it feels like most Christians don’t think this way. even though I know there are many good rational reasons for Christianity to be true, I sometimes think I peg certain Christians’ lack of intellectual engagement as weakness in the faith itself. I’m trying to disentangle those perceptions and keep holding on to hope that Christianity can still be rational even if many of its subscribers seem irrational and content with so little wrestling with big ideas. Does that make sense? I don’t mean to sound ugly lol! I’m just being brutally honest with finding my way in a faith that seems to have many subscribers who don’t really know what they even believe but then tout it like it’s all so easy to understand and quick with comebacks they’ve been indoctrinated to say without thinking for themselves. They have answers before they even know the questions. I’m hungry for community with deep thinking Christians I guess.
@joncarp thanks for your reply! Yes, I know this line of reasoning about truth, and I guess I hadn’t applied it to my own questions😂
So, I do believe there is truth and it’s knowable. So your comment has helped me better think through the question I’m trying to get at. my question is more along the lines of how can so so so many people arrive at such distortions of the truth yet be liable for that since they’re using the same tools I am using to study truth: their brain, information, experiences, interpretation, emotional confirmations. How can God hold people accountable if they used the same mechanisms I used to discover truth, and I got lucky that my searching landed me in the actual correct truth, but those mechanisms ultimately led many others who were searching to land in a lie unbeknownst to them? I’m talking about people who really truly were searching with an open heart. Perhaps such a person doesn’t exist?
Absolutely @GraceHill. You dont sound ugly at all nor are you a misfit. We have to encourage all of us, the body of Christ, to be resilient in our faith and understanding. A faith founded in depth and understanding will not wither, it is like the house built on strong foundation. I remember when I first watched Nabeel Qureshi and before his conversion, he used to enjoy talking to “Christian” as a Muslim apologist because they were easy to mess with because they did not know their foundation. As Peter tells us we have to be ready to give a defense to all that ask in the hope that is within us.
At the same time though, as Jesus said, we have to pluck out the dirt out of our own eye before we tell others the same. We have to be examples instead of condemner. Jesus knelt down and washed his disciples feet. We have to be engaging as well and be servant leaders. I am not blaming you but presenting a different perspective. So for the groups you have that are not taking the time to discuss the deep conversation, next time just ask them the hard questions after you already have had the answer for yourself. They might get unsteady, just like many do when they go to college when the enemy or science challenges them because their foundation is rocky to begin with. That’s why we all should take the responsibility, it’s starts with I and you, to encourage and be a role model. I look forward to you being the next apologist to help the nations to come to Christ. I have faith in you, because once you have the right answers, your faith will be unshaken.
Also, another thing to keep in mind is we all have different gifts. Some of us with great ability to empathize with others and be convicted to start asking the deep questions. For some, it takes personal hardship or experience. For some, they need to travel across the world where there is suffering. It is different for all. The devil also is not taking any breaks. He distracts us chasing our worldly fleshy desires. At times our church leaders also just “preach” without making making biblical reading a priority. I will be honest, the traditional churches, orthodox/catholic tend to have people that believe that reading the bible is not as easy and that the priest is the one that has so much knowledge and thus stay content just having a preaching once a week. I did that for the longest time. Obviously this is generalization but there are many reasons to why people behave the way they behave.
So we need to take the responsibility on ourselves to be the change we want to be and let others be changed seeing us. Dont wait for your group to change, take the lead. Don’t desert them either, because the enemy is not far. If you have to go to grow to come back is fine. Also, let us pray for all of us, that God continues to give us the wisdom and the ability to see how he sees.
God Bless You. We are here, Connect, you are part of an amazing group and body of Christ. Ask away, grow, and change the world.
I also recommend that you take one of the RZIM courses. I am currently taking the core module. It asks and explains the deep questions of life in a setting of many like minded people. You’ll love it. Very affordable too.
@Danageze thank you for taking the time to write this valuable perspective. Very thought provoking. I’ll have to look into these modules you speak of. I didn’t know about them!
Very true sir. I once was also facing these challenges, I saw too many diversities, tooany dictori es and everyone claim to have the truth. And as a young preacher I wanted to make sure I give people the truth and not human knowledge. I begun to search and research on various topics onchristianity. I remember one guy asked me how will you know your religion is the true religion and I told him whenever he finds himself in a particular religion, he should ask himself if it’s actually the true one, does it give answers to life and eternity. Can that religion give true answer to the meaning of life, oringin, morality and destiny?. I told him he is not a Christian because he was born into a Christian home, he should rather be convinced of it. I am not saying this to boast of myself, God knows the number of books I have read, the articles I have read on various topics, Men of God I have asked them questions, and am still wants to find truth. Even though I may not get answer to every question but it can release me of my skepticism. In all these I have never ignored the voice of the Spirit. I make sure to be certain with what does not agree with my spirit. Above all I know the Holy Spirit is our ultimate teacher, with Humility we learn much from Him.
Anytime @GraceHill. God was gracious with us, so that’s our job back to our brothers and sisters too. As of the courses, here is a link below.
Let me know if you have any more questions or need the details of the courses.
@Danageze thank you! Ok sorry one last thing I wanted to pick your brain about.
So it seems there are a lot of human beings who simply aren’t wired to think super deeply or be naturally super curious. Many are content to ardently believe what their family believes or how they were raised. Many Christians who were raised Christian can grow into very devout Christians but who have nonetheless not thought super deeply or fully explored/questioned other beliefs. And they aren’t faulted for that because it is by grace we are saved through faith, not by brains and thinking and exploring all religions. But such Christians happen to be lucky in a sense that they got saved by landing in the right belief system as a Christian. So if not thinking super deeply and not questioning deeply isn’t required for Christians to land at truth, how can we say that a kind, gracious, devout Muslim is going to hell who was raised that way and simply never thought to think more deeply about other faiths? How come the Christian who didn’t explore lots of other questions and religions still gets in to heaven, but the Muslim who similarly didn’t ask lots of questions and just took their beliefs at faith value doesn’t get in? Why is there the expectation that the Muslim could have come to the truth had he/she been truly searching and questioning more deeply, yet many Christians happened to be brought up in the real truth but never questioned deeply and still go to heaven?
I guess my thought is Nabeel was able to find truth and errors of Islam because he was a deep thinker and seemed designed to question things deeply, which allowed him to do the rigorous intellectual work needed to get to his heart. But many people simply aren’t wired that way. So how are they all held to the same standard that expects everyone to be able to find the truth if they look hard enough and probe deeply enough? Not everyone will even think to worry about ultimate truth or the urgency of it.
Brilliant question @GraceHill. As a side note, actually in Nabeel’s case, it is being faced and challenged by a Christian (David Wood) who had a strong foundation and answers to the questions you are asking that actually saved Nabeel’s life. Well, Nebeel was open minded and willing to find the truth and thus he found it. He didnt harden his own heart and accepted Christ. So you and I being ready will save many lives .
Now going back to your primary question about people being lucky to get to heaven without asking the deep questions while Muslims dont, it is a tricky question. A faith founded in knowing Christ saves. Knowing does not mean just his name, because even the demons believe and tremble. But a saving faith has good works that flows naturally from it. It’s how you mentioned it earlier. A radical change, as a new creation, that is completely different from your life before. With that comes the desire to evangelize, ask deeper questions, be part of suffering, and fulfill the command to share the good news to ends of the world to every living creature. As a verse I have below will also as well, being a new creation and the desire to be with the least of the brethern will definitely have you ask of the tough questions when you are dealt with suffering day in and out.
God says also when he comes he will separate the goats from the sheep. That includes Christians too. That means not all of us even though “Christians” may actually make it despite our belief. Because a belief not a based on a true faith is not a true faith. A true faith is a life changing one. God is just and fair. We have to be resilient in our faith and understanding.
Matthew 25:31-46 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
(continued) 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
So, in short, not everyone who is a Christian will make it to heaven in my opinion. So we all should be asking the deep questions in life and make our belief truly our own, whether a Christian or Muslim or any other religion. Being a Christian in the 1st century meant martyrdom, not just a Sunday activity. We need to grow and change.
And if you look at the different denominations, they also have their own view points of what it means to be saved. A rough outline is below, but I also encourage you to learn Christianity in its fullness and not just one denomination or a church.
In orthodox Christianity: faith saves you by the grace of God, death of Jesus. This re-establishes the pathway to go back to heaven (the one destroyed by Adam) but to actually make it into heaven, you need to stay in good works. Meaning you can lose your salvation. Catholic believes similar but they add purgatory to say that after death, your loved ones can pray for you and you can maybe get mercy (which I dont think is biblical).
In terms of protestants, faith alone is needed for salvation. And no amount of sin can take you away from God, meaning you wont lose salvation. The assumption here is that when they announced their faith in Christ, it was a true one, one founded in true foundations and their being born is legitimate. Aka should have automatic good works and be obedient and be there for the brethern and evangelise and more - radical transformation. Now this does not mean people cant fail and confess their sins and grow in faith (sanctification), but if they reject God whether by their actions or words, then it questions their original faith.
Our God created this universe and said it was all good. We ruined it, because we want to do it our way. He hears the cries of his children day in and out. He is just and fair. He is not just going to brush it off all our doing. Yes, he died for our sins, but it does not mean we can just go our old ways. For the wages of sin is death. To truly know him means to be radically different. We cant be radically different if our foundation is not built in depth and understanding. That’s when we see his amazing love, his wisdom, his superior ways, and we just submit and say, yes Lord. You are magnificent and I trust to walk in your ways as your way is the ultimate expression of love, forgiveness, servitude, oneness, and fulfillment.
I hope this helps.
These are excellent questions, Grace, and I would like to share some thoughts about them, but I think I’ll have to take them one at a time.
Let me start with the one about people being born in a culture where the truth was easier to stumble onto than for others in a different culture where they had to think more deeply to see through the prevailing errors. It sounds like a variation on the question about how God will judge those who’ve never heard of Christ.
It is true that not all people have the same level of light to work with - either internally or externally. But all do have some light (John 1:9 and 12:32) - and all are accountable for the light they do have, not for the light they don’t. Jesus said that to whom more is given, more is required. And those who turn from greater light face greater condemnation (Matthew 11:20-24). Those who turn toward lesser light face greater reward (John 20:29).
I think a useful illustration would be to imagine a cavern that branches again and again beneath the roots of a mountain until it becomes a complicated labyrinth.
Then imagine that all of humanity is scattered from the beginning of this cavern into its deepest recesses.
Then consider the great quest of this parable to be for people to escape the cavern before they die.
Obviously, those who find themselves near the entrance would have little problem following the light out of the cavern. But the deeper one goes, the less light there is - until those in the very furthest recesses might only stumble upon a glimmer of light now and then.
But now picture someone in the cavern depths coming upon a cross tunnel. He turns one way and sees nothing but darkness. He turns another and thinks that he can make out the barest hint of light.
Now he has a decision. The rest of his tribe has always turned toward the darkness. So he must weigh the pros and cons of breaking with them to go check out the light. Also, he’s known the darkness all his life - he’s learned how to manage its dangers - even use them to his advantage. But the light is an “unknown”. His tribe has a proverb about choosing the devil you know over the devil you don’t.
So it’s a tough decision here. If he plays safe and follows the tribe, he may never see another glimmer of light again. But if he follows the light…
If he follows the light, do you know what he’ll find at the next split in the way? In one direction - more darkness. But in the other direction? Greater light!
And if he’ll just keep following the light, you know what will eventually happen, don’t you?
So yes - in Bible times, it was a harder journey for Ethiopians and Babylonians and Cretians than for Israelites. But the light was always there - and we see people from pagan lands coming to the God of Israel against incredible odds while the children of the kingdom were cast out.
And in our day, there are strange byways through which people in the most unlikely cultures follow the breadcrumbs God gives them, in the light of creation, the light of conscience, the light of providential encounters, feeling their way and finding Him, because He is not far from every one of us.
And what about the “lucky people” born near the cavern entrance? Getting out is easy for them, right?
Well, that’s the odd thing. Look at the Israelites throughout most of the Old Testament. It was like the great monuments they built to the light only blocked the light!
Look at how rapidly people in the “Christian West” have turned from the most Biblical heritage the world has ever seen!
And worse still - look at the people born in the Millennial Kingdom who will experience the presence of Christ on the throne of David for a thousand years - every man dwells securely beneath his own vine and fig tree - the lion lies down with the lamb - war is spoken of only in songs of a bygone era - as the days of a tree, so shall the days of God’s people be - and the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
And yet, look at the tragic fall of the Kingdom in Revelation 20:7-9!
More light rejected - greater judgment. Less light accepted - greater reward. God knows how to guide people to Himself by the strangest of paths, and he knows how to balance judgments and rewards.
Does this come near the essence of what that question was looking for?
That’s an interesting parable James @jlyons.
@jlyons yes thank you for sharing these thoughts! Excellent. I’m going to come back to reread a few times to chew on it more.
@GraceHill Ok, I think I understand your question more now. Just out of curiosity, what role do you think grace has in someone coming to the knowledge of the truth? Some Scriptures that come to mind are,
2 Timothy 3:7 King James Version (KJV)
7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
John 3:3 King James Version (KJV)
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
@joncarp I guess it has everything to do with anyone ever coming to Christ. So maybe it gets into the topic of predestination a little? That if you’re chosen, that grace will find you. I don’t know that everyone seems to get the same opportunities to learn about Christ or to be primed with the right interpretations and experiences to accept Him. But maybe they do and only God can know?
@GraceHill That’s what I was thinking actually, perhaps your question might get into the doctrines
of election and predestination. William Lane Craig has these “Defenders” classes that are available on YouTube, which I find helpful. He has some classes on these doctrines, and analyzes them from different points of view. Below are a few of the lectures he has on these topics if you’re interested.
These look fascinating- thank you for sharing so I can watch!
I want to thank you for being vulnerable and honest about your feelings with us. I won’t add any additional intellectual arguments because I think our comrades did a good job. I share your feelings about wondering how deeply people dig into the underpinnings of their Christian faith. A lot of my own story is comprised of a search for answers and truth, so I guess I have an “advantage” over a lot of other people who have consumed the religion that was passed on to them by their parents/family. I don’t say that to make anyone feel bad about growing up in a Christian home or growing up in church. My intention is to say that sometimes we can become “inoculated” to the Gospel and take its truths for granted. You are not a misfit and I hope you can come to appreciate the mind that God has given you and know there are others like myself out there as well. I think it’s fair to ask questions and think deeply as long as you do not begin to question God himself-- that is when you would be elevating yourself above the One who made you, which is unacceptable.
After all, 1 Peter 3:15 says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” I believe you are truly living out this commandment and this will help you to be an effective “fisher of men.” I also want to encourage you to engage your Christian friends in conversation that helps them examine their beliefs (mostly through the Socratic method) and point them to resources that can help, like RZIM’s podcasts and Ravi Zacharias’ many books.
Again, I thank you for your openness, I am greatly encouraged for your heart for the Lord and His wisdom, and I am open to engaging with you in conversation any time if you would like. I will also be praying for you to find a community that helps you to grow in Godly wisdom so that you can serve Him and the Kingdom more effectively.