by Deana Chadwell 1/6/17
We are all, deep in our souls, disturbed by lies – even the left likes to complain about prevarications, if only at a surface level. Instinctively we know that a society cannot function without some level of trust. If we can’t trust what our doctors tell us, what our children’s teachers tell us, what our newscasters, our pastors, our statesmen tell us, how can we function? If we can’t rely on our tradespeople, our manufacturers, our storeowners, how can we carry on? Yes – buyer beware, but if commerce and government is nothing but a free-for-all, everything collapses.
These last 8 years have brought us very close to that crumbling edge. Our entire federal government, which has now engulfed the 4th estate, has turned its back on truth and we are going to have to be most diligent in returning it to its proper place.
To do that we will have to be able to discern truth from smoke and mirrors, a difficult task for beings who can only “see through a glass darkly.” I’ve been reading J. Warner Wallace’s book Cold-Case Christianity and he makes some interesting points. As a cold-case detective he has had to deal seriously with this question, so I take his analysis seriously. He points out that truth has 5 attributes that we must look for. Truth is always:
- Feasible; we can imagine anything, but we all (unless we’re completely disconnected from reality) know instinctively what is not only possible, but plausible. The small truths will always reflect the big truths – about human nature, about nature, about the supernatural. Strange things occur, yes, but there is always a down-to-earth explanation – quantum physics, without realizing it, is now showing how it might have been that Jesus could have walked on water.
- Clear. Truth is simple, uncomplicated and fairly obvious.
- Thorough. It should answer all the questions, deal with all the arguments, and cover the bases – no loose ends left to trip on.
- Logical. God is not the author of confusion. I recently was part of a discussion involving an atheist scientist who tried to wiggle out of the corner he’d painted himself into by claiming that logic was merely a human construct, which can be employed when one wants to use it. No. Truth is always logical – though logic is not always truth.
- Superior. The truth is always of highest quality.
Now, Wallace is talking here in terms of the kind of truth one has to have to convict a person of a crime. What kind of proof is that? Proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There’s that pesky term reason again.
I love, and have quoted before, I’m sure, Ravi Zacharias’ line from Jesus Among Other Gods, that if God were to come crashing down into a room full of people “in all His Michaelangeloid glory” that half the people in the room would kneel in awe and the other half would wonder who had drugged their coffee. He’s right. Proof doesn’t necessarily lead to acceptance and belief. Our sullied hearts are too hard for that.
The Pharisees of the New Testament were forever demanding signs (we modern, sophisticated people use the word proof). They wanted a demonstration that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, but after he healed the leper (the first time that had been done in all of Jewish history), after he restored sight to the blind, made the paralytic walk, and cast out demons, these “devout” men merely claimed that the miracles were done with the help of the devil and refused to see that Jesus was the Son of God. Why didn’t they accept these things, which they saw with their own eyes and which had been prophesied throughout the Old Testament, as proof?
Why didn’t the left see all the evidence stacked against Hillary as proof? Why don’t they see all the odd and questionable things in Obama’s murky past as at least cause for concern? Why don’t the NeverTrumpers see the actions Trump is taking as evidence that he means what he says? Because they blindly choose not to.
But let’s return to the courtroom approach — we also have to look at another standard for proof – the civil case standard – the preponderance of the evidence – in other words, most of what we know has to point in one direction. A reasonable person will look at Fibonacci numbers and fractals, at the complexity of the human eye, at the clockwork precision of the galaxies and conclude that the preponderance of the evidence indicates a designer rather than random chance as the explanation for all things. A reasonable person would add up all the instances of voter fraud and conclude that there’s a problem. A reasonable person would want more than some computer models to believe in global warming. Preponderance.
Does proof in a legal sense have to be scientific? Does it have to involve forensics? Or can it be a pastiche of motive, location, availability, eye-witnesses, videos, tape recordings, etc.? (Actually, even “scientific” truth is in question these days because we have to realize that science takes money, lots of money, and money can buy results. A lab coat does not guarantee honesty and fairness; it is not synonymous with integrity.)
We expend a great deal of argumentative energy demanding scientific proof for everything from Hillary’s shenanigans to the creation of the universe but, truth be told (and pardon the pun), science will not solve those conundrums because data has to be interpreted and interpretation opens the subjectivity door.
I teach college writing classes and we talk about the need for a thesis – stated or implied, and the need to back up that thesis with examples, logical arguments, or evidence. We don’t, however, talk about proof. Very little can be proven in the absolute sense of the word, and certainly not in a 10-page college paper. We can, however, stack up the evidence and at some point the scale on our side will outweigh the opposition. But even that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve persuaded anyone, because stubbornness is also part of human nature. Most of those who loved Hillary to begin with, kept loving her even after the Wikileaks material came out. Those who saw Trump as a misogynist still saw him that way long after the claims were debunked.
So my point is that as we move into this next phase of our national existence, we are going to have to work hard at this truth thing. It isn’t something we can pawn off on the scientists, the experts – whatever that means (I actually heard on the radio the other day the term “pajama experts.” Gees.) We know we can’t rely on the mainstream media and who knows which of the startup news outlets are news and which are circus sideshows? And since we’ve socially embraced all that is perverse and silly and outrageous, we’re going to have a lot of trouble sorting out the outlandish lies from the actual occurrences – remember the woman with green lipstick sitting in a bath of Cheerios?
This will require us all to think, to develop defensible values, to use those to guide our decisions about how to translate the mountains of raw data dumped on us daily into some meaningful conclusions and rational, unemotional opinions. We have our good sense to go on, the rules of logic to follow, and we have the standards of the Word of God to bounce things off of. We’ll fail from time to time, but when that happens, we’ll have to shake the cobwebs out of our brains and be more aware next time around. Truth is also vigilant.
Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com and is a writing and speech professor at Pacific Bible College in Southern Oregon.
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