Canonicity (Talking Points for 7/22 P.M.)

Week 3
The Canon of Scripture:
We said last week that it is not good enough, in the public square of ideas, to simply assert that the Bible is the authority for life as the Word of God because it says that it is.  So we have endeavored to answer three common charges against the Bible as a way of demonstrating evidence that the Bible is indeed a unique book.
  • Claims that would question the Bible’s transmission (how it came from its original form to what it is today).
  • Claims that would question the Bible’s canonicity (why the 66 Books as we have them were accepted and why others were rejected).
  • Claims that point to the Bible’s difficulties (such as God as a moral monster, its historical and scientific issues, etc.)
Tonight we will discuss questions concerning the Bible’s canonicity, why were the 66 books included in the Bible regarded as God’s Word while others were not.  Often the charge goes along the lines that there was a great conspiracy, usually told to be around the time of Constantine, to include certain books of the Bible as being from God, and others were excluded, as a means of establishing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.  Other books, namely the Gnostic gospels, which we will discuss later, present a very different picture of Jesus.  Because of the alternate opinion, these books were banned from the Bible.  The Gnostic writings are often called the “Lost Gospels.”
Another group of books appeared in the 1611 KJV and continue to appear in Catholic versions of the Bible.  These books came between the Old and New Testaments and are known as the Apocryphal books.  They are typical Jewish writings of the period that reveal to us the history of the Jews during the time between the Testaments. So why were they excluded?
Canon – when we speak of the Canon of Scripture we are speaking of the books that belong in the Bible.  The word canon comes from the Greek word “kanon” which meant a “standard or a rule.”  From a Christian perspective, Canonicity cannot be separated from the doctrine of inspiration.  Are we sure we have God’s Words?  Do we have all that God intended for His people to know and obey?  
From a secular viewpoint the church “determined” the Canon of Scripture.  However, the proper viewpoint from the church is not that the church “determined” the Canon but “discovered” it (Geisler, 211).  The church tested the claims of inspiration of these books by certain rules.
This question of Canonicity is critical.  In essence we are asking two questions:
  1. Can we trust the books we have as The Word of God?
  2. Are there books that are the Word of God that we do not have? 
The Bible gives some examples of the importance of testing canonicity:
Deuteronomy 4:2 (ESV)
You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
Revelation 22:18–19 (ESV)
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
The Old Testament Canon
We see God establishing the importance of keeping His Word recorded, revered, and preserved, early on with the Ten Commandments.  The writings of the prophets were easily regarded as the Words of God as they clearly carry the mark of “Thus says the Lord.”
See Jeremiah 30:2
Below is a quick list of the rule or criteria for discovering the Canon:
  1. Was it something God said?
  2. Was it given by a proven prophet or an apostle?
  3. Does it contain the power of God?
  4. Was it accepted by the people of God (1 Thess. 2:13)?
  5. Did Jesus authenticate it as an inspired book?  (Often NT books will quote one another showing that other apostles regarded them as authoritative).
When were the Canons recognized?
  1. The Old Testament was formally recognized at the Council of Jamnia (A.D. 90).
  2. The New Testament was recognized as early as the Council of Athenasius (A.D. 367)
Why not the apocrypha (Grudem, 59)?
  1. They do not claim for themselves the same kind of authority as the Old Testament writings.
  2. They were not regarded as God’s Words by the Jewish people from whom they originated.
  3. They were not quoted or authenticated by Jesus as were the rest of the OT Scriptures.
  4. They contain teaching inconsistent with the Bible.
  5. They were only held as Canonical only by the Catholic Church in 1546.  Historians agree their acceptance was largely as a reaction to the Protestant Reformation.
Why not the Gnostic Gospels?
  1. They were late (300 years after the NT writers).
  2. They were fake, pseudo-graphic writings.
  3. They are totally absent of God’s voice.
  4. They were refuted by the early church.
  5. They are openly heretical.
An example from a Gnostic Gospel (The Gospel of Thomas):
These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.
1. And he said, “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.”
2. Jesus said, “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]”
3. Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.”
4. Jesus said, “The person old in days won’t hesitate to ask a little child seven days old about the place of life, and that person will live.
For many of the first will be last, and will become a single one.”
5. Jesus said, “Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you.
For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. [And there is nothing buried that will not be raised.]”
6. His disciples asked him and said to him, “Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Should we give to charity? What diet should we observe?”
Jesus said, “Don’t lie, and don’t do what you hate, because all things are disclosed before heaven. After all, there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and there is nothing covered up that will remain undisclosed.”
  1. Jesus said, “Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human.”
From the Secret Book of John
Now it happened one day when John the brother of James, the sons of Zebedee, was going up to the temple, a Pharisee named Arimanios approached him. And he said to him, “Where is your teacher, the one whom you used to follow?”
He said to him, “He returned to the place from which he came.” The Pharisee said to me, “This Nazorene deceived you (pl.) with error. [He filled [your (pl.) ears with lies], and he shut [your hearts]. He turned you (pl.) [from] the traditions of your fathers.” When I heard these things, I turned from the temple to the mountain which was a place of desert. And I grieved greatly in my heart, saying, “How was the Savior appointed? Why was he sent into the world by his father who sent him? Who is his father? And of what sort is that aeon to which we will go? He told us that the aeon is modeled on that indestructible aeon, but he did not teach us about what sort the latter is.”
3 Just then, while I was thinking these things, the heavens opened, and the whole creation below the heaven was illuminated with light [below] heaven. And the [whole] world [quak]ed.
I was afraid an[d I watch]ed. And behold a child [appeared to] me. Then [he changed himself] into the form of an old man [who had flight existing within him. [Although I was watch]ing him, I did not [understand this wonder, whether it is a [likeness] having numerous forms [in the flight—for its forms [appea]red through each oth[er—or] if it is one [likeness th]at has three aspects.
[He sa]id [to me], “John, wh[y] are you doubting and [fearful]? For you are not a stranger [to this like]ness. Do not be faint[hearted]! I am the one who dwells with [you (pl.) al]ways. I am the [Father.] I am the Mother. [I] am [the S] on. I am the one who exists for ever, undefil[ed and un]mixed.
Conclusion:
There is another side to the story of canonization that is often not shared by the critics.  It is a story that has more integrity to the process.  Though it was not void of question and controversy from time to time, it was far less sinister and the conspiracy that the Bible’s critics allege.  The 66 Books we have in the Bible have been tried, proven, and widely regarded as “thus saith the Lord.”  Other writings, often portrayed as victims of the process differ greatly from the 66 books of the Canon, nor were they accepted by the early church.
For More Info:
This is a incredibly brief and simple sketch of Canonicity.  For a more complete discussion see:
  1. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Chapter 3, The Canon of Scripture).
  2. Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict
  3. Norman Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible

How Do We Know the Bible is True (eXclusive notes week 2)

Week 2
How Do We Know the Bible is True?
Transmission of the Text
The Bible claims to be the Word of God.  Yet that statement in itself is not good enough.  In the Public Square of ideas, to simply assert the Bible’s own claim of inspiration is circular reasoning.  As an argument it does not hold weight.  If we do try to assert the Bible’s own claim of inspiration as evidence enough, we will probably be met with arguments such as:
  1. The Bible is not unique, other religious writings claim to come from God.  This would include the Quran and the Book of Mormon as examples.
  2. There were other books of the period that were not included in the Bible.  This suggests there must have been a conspiracy of truth, an agenda that the early Christians were trying to push; namely that Jesus was the Son of God.  See Tim Keller’s The Reason for God – p101 for a good portrayal of the argument
  3. We do not have the original manuscripts, so even if we were to concede the Bible as the Word of God, we cannot be sure we have the Bible as God intended it.  How do we know the text has not been seriously corrupted?
  4. The Bible was never meant to be taken literally.  This is something Christians have pressed upon it.  In essence it is Bibliolatry to regard the Bible as inspired, innerrant, and authoritative for life.
  5. The Bible says some things that are both historically and scientifically unreliable as well as culturally outlandish.  We cannot take it seriously in “learned” circles, much less regard it as coming from God.  This argument would include things like miracles, the idea of Hell, that certain moral lifestyle choices are sinful (i.e. homosexuality), that it demoralizes women, or that it portrays a God who is harsh toward humanity.
These claims generally fit into three categories:
  • Claims that would question the Bible’s transmission (how it came from its original form to what it is today).
  • Claims that would question the Bible’s canonicity (why the 66 Books as we have them were accepted and why others were rejected).
  • Claims that point to the Bible’s difficulties (such as God as a moral monster, its historical and scientific issues, etc.)
Before we begin to address these issues, let’s simply take notice of the Bible’s uniqueness.  The Bible is unique (McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, beginning page 4):
  1. In its continuity
    1. Written over a 1,500 year span
    2. Written by more than 40 authors from all walks of life
    3. Written in different places
    4. Written at different eras of history
    5. Written on three different continents (Africa, Asia, Europe)
    6. Written in three languages
    7. Written in a wide variety of styles
    8. Yet presents a single unfolding story
    9. Ultimately focuses on a single character
  2. In its survival
    1. Written at a time in which the writing materials were extremely perishable
    2. “More early manuscripts than any ten pieces of ancient literature combined.”
    3. Attested bibliographically by more ancient books than any other work.
    4. Meticulous attention was given to it by ancient scribes highly trained in coping and preservation.
    5. The Bible has been banned, burned, and its readers persecuted more than any other book.
    6. The Bible has been subjected to more criticism and scrutiny by scholars than any other book.
  3. In its influence – no other book has so shaped history, its civilizations, and cultures (art and literature) like the Bible.  We could also add that no book has so impacted individual lives like the Bible.
We can assert, at the very least, that we are talking about a book like no other religious writing that claims to come from God.  Therefore when we try to put it on par with other works as mere literature or works of antiquity, we are making gross understatements.  While it is also true that other books claim to have been inspired by God, none of them compare with the uniqueness of the Bible.  
Two prominent examples would be the Quran and the Book of Mormon.  The Quran was written by Muhammad who claimed to get revelation from God over the span of 32 years beginning in about 610 A.D., some 580 years after Christ.  The Book of Mormon claims to be a translation of golden tablets found by Joseph Smith.  Smith claimed that the tablets were written with Egyptian Hieroglyphics and quoted the KJV 1611 Bible.  It should also be noted, no one ever saw the tablets but Joseph Smith.  It is easy to see that the Bible is truly unique.  It is not like other writings ancient and/or religious.
Having mentioned some evidences of the Bible’s uniqueness, now let’s begin to deal with claims that would attack the Bible’s transmission.  Even if one conceded that the Bible is unique and that it may have been the Word of God, how can we be certain that the form we have it in today is the Word of God?  The Quran claims that the Bible is a Holy Book, but that it has been seriously corrupted.  Many scholars believe that the text as we have it is seriously compromised.  It may contain the Word of God, but as a whole we cannot claim that it is the Word of God.  Scholars of this opinion engage in a discipline known as Textual Criticism.  The task of Textual Criticism is to try to uncover the original form of the text as compared to what we have today.  
In general then, we can say that there are two legs to this argument:
  1. That the scribes were cavalier and unreliable.
  2. That as a result the text has been so corrupted that the original text is forever lost.
The Old Testament Manuscripts
  • We do not have any original manuscripts of the Old Testament.
  • By Jewish custom they were probably destroyed out of respect for a sacred writing that was deteriorating.  They were often written on animal skin and buried once they reached a certain point of decay.  
  • There would have been another purging of the texts about the 5th century B.C. as “pointings” were added to the Hebrew consonants to form vowel sounds.  Most of the texts without the “pointings” would have been destroyed.
  • The great extent of manuscripts we have date to about the 10th Century B.C., about 1,000 years before Christ.
  • It is however, widely recognized that Jewish scribes were the elite of ancient copyists.  They were meticulously trained and saw their task as deeply sacred.
  • The manuscripts we do have were gathered from three continents (Africa, Asia, Europe).
  • Much of the copying process took place during eras of Jewish dispersion.  There was no central location of copying.
  • Despite the dispersion of the Jews, the accuracy of the manuscripts in agreement is staggering.  One scholar, observing the accuracy of the transmission of proper names (which are often butchered in ancient copying to the point they are lost or unrecognizable) said that the mathematical probability of the agreement happening by chance over three continents for such a great amount of time is 1:750,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (McDowell, 71).
  • To further substantiate the accuracy the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and recovered in Qumran between 1946 and 1956.  The texts predated any manuscript we had by more than 1,000 years.
  • The Dead Sea scrolls proved to be more than 95% identical to the existing manuscripts.  The other 5% were variations that can be considered slips of the pen or variations of spelling.  These variations do not vary the message in the slightest.
The evidence for the accuracy of the Old Testament texts, in their transmission, is indeed staggering.  When compared to other ancient texts we can say with confidence that no other books compare in accuracy of their transmission.
The New Testament Manuscripts
  • “The New Testament is the most frequently copied and widely circulated books of antiquity.” – F. E. Peters (McDowell, 34).
  • We must understand that in the way information was gathered, transmitted, and distributed “an original” was not as important to the ancients as it seems to be to us.  Important documents were revered not so much in their preservation as they were in their multiplication.
  • There are @5,600 New Testament Greek manuscripts.  We should note that none of these are complete copies of the NT, but are pieces and fragments of NT books.
  • There are over 10,000 Latin copies and 9,300 other early versions.
  • This gives us more than 25,000 ancient copies of the New Testament in various languages from various places.
  • Homer’s Iliad is the second most copied work of antiquity.  We have only 643 manuscripts the oldest dating to the 13th century.
  • THE NUMBER OF MANUSCRIPTS DOES NOT CONFUSE THE ARGUMENT.  INSTEAD, THE SHEER NUMBER MAKES IT POSSIBLE TO RECONSTRUCT THE ORIGINALS WITH “VIRTUALLY COMPLETE ACCURACY (Geisler, General Introduction to the Bible, 386).  
  • What we can say about the New Testament is that it was copied:
    • Early – we have manuscripts that date to the 2nd century
    • Often – we have more than 5,600 Greek manuscripts
    • Widespread – the manuscripts, like the Old Testament come from three continents and give evidence the NT was widely circulated.
  • We have quotations of every part of the New Testament as early as the first century.  We have extensive quotes of the books of the New Testament by 2nd and 3rd generation Christian leaders.  This is important because it helps us to see that the texts not only existed, but it shows us that they existed as we have them.  This will also become an important point as we examine canonicity.
  • When compared with the stories of how ancient texts were treated and copied, the survival of the New Testament is nothing short of miraculous.  (Read Stephen Grenblatt’s The Swerve for a good background in the transmission of ancient writings).
In Comparison (McDowell, 38):
Author
Book
Date Written
Earliest Copies
Time Gap
Number of Copies
Homer
Illiad
800 B.C.
c. 400 B.C.
400 yrs
643
Herodutus
History
480-425 B.C.
c. AD 900
1350 yrs
8
Thucydides
History
460-400 B.C.
c. AD 900
1,300 yrs
8
Plato
400 B.C.
c. A.D. 900
1,300 yrs
7
Demosthenes
300 B.C. 
c. A.D. 1100
1,400 yrs
200
Caesar
Gallic Wars
100-44 B.C.
c. A.D. 900
1,000 yrs
10
Livy
History of Rome
59 B.C. – A.D. 17
4th century partial, whole 10th century
400 yrs (partial) 1,000 yrs (whole)
1 partial
19 copies
Tacitus
Annals
A.D. 100
c. A.D. 1100
c. 1,000 yrs
20
Pliny Secundus
Natural History
A.D. 61-113
c. A.D. 850
c. 750 yrs.
7
New Testament
a.D. 50-100
114 – fragment
200 books
250 most of NT
325 complete NT
+50 yrs
100 yrs
150 yrs
225 yrs
5,366
In Conclusion we can say:
  1. The Bible meets greater tests of scrutiny than any other ancient book.
  2. We have more evidence for the accuracy of transmission of the Bible than any other book.
  3. The historical allegations that ancient copyists were unreliable may be true in some contexts, but they become pure historical fabrications when applied to the process applied to the transmission of Scripture.
  4. The loss of the originals does not cause us to doubt our faith.  Instead we see the marvelous process of transmission gives us greater faith that what we have is reliable.  It is easier to construct the originals from the numbers of manuscripts than it would be to believe that one surviving manuscript was the original.

What is Truth? (eXclusive)


What is Truth? from Brian Branam on Vimeo.

Introduction:

Christianity makes some audacious, exclusive claims.  What we mean by exclusive is that according to the Bible, Christianity positions itself so that it cannot possibly be inclusive of other ideologies or ways to God.  Christianity claims that the Bible is God’s revealed Word and as such it is ultimate truth.  Jesus claims Himself as the only way to God (John 14:6).  Christianity approaches un-believers by telling them that they are sinful and condemned but can be redeemed by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior.
The response of modern culture is to see Christianity as a narrow minded, almost hate filled religion that refuses to play fair on the platform of modern ideas.  In short, the public square regards Christianity as a way of thinking that is short-sighted, uneducated, naive, and ignorant.
This series is designed to investigate these exclusive claims and to also engage them in the public square of ideas.  In this series we are going to investigate three claims:
  1. How do we know the Bible is true?
  2. Why do we say Jesus is the only way to God? (or even that He is God)
  3. What gives us the right to call anyone sinful and say they need to be saved?
Let’s begin by investigating the first exclusive claim.  How do we know the Bible is true?
What does the Bible Claim About Itself?
2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV)  
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
  1. The Bible claims to be the Word of God.
  2. As God’s Word, logically then we would say that to disobey the Bible is to disobey God.
  3. The Bible’s claims about itself give no room for other religious writings to be considered as ultimate truth (this does not mean that other religious writings do not contain truthful statements.)  It also claims moral superiority in that those who choose lifestyles contradictory to Biblical teaching are sinful.  As such, we understand that the Bible not only claims to be truth for its adherents, but also for those who reject it as well. 
Yet, before we dig into the exclusive claims of the Bible, we must investigate a paramount word, often overlooked in the argument.  What is truth?  If we are to say that the Bible is true, what do we mean by “true?”  

Definitions:
Truth:
  1. That which is. 
  2. The actual state of a matter.
  3. Telling it like it is.
  4. That which corresponds with reality.
Absolute Truth:
  1. A truth that is the same for all people, at all time, in all places.  
  2. Also called “objective truth.”
Subjective Truth:
  1. Truth that is determined internally by a subject or person.
  2. Most often truth is a matter of perspective
  3. Also called “relative truth.”
Redefining Truth in Post-Modernism
What is Post-Modernism?
Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific or objective efforts to explain reality. In essence, it is based on the position that reality is not mirrored in human understanding of it, but is rather constructed as the mind tries to understand its own personal reality. (wikipedia)
The movie The Matrix was post-modernism on film.  It portrayed the world as we know it , and what were thought to be its absolute truths and physical laws, as a fabricated reality.    
Post-modern view of truth:
  1. There is no such thing as absolute truth.
  2. Truth is relative.
  3. All truths are equally valid.
This ideology completely undercuts the gospel:
John 8:31–32 (ESV)
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
In this system there are two presuppositions and one cultural value that becomes prevalent.
Presuppositions:
  1. Truth is created by the individual or his community.  The reason you believe what you do is because of how you were raised or the era of your lifespan.  Given that you were raised in another culture or at another time, your beliefs may be drastically different.  While it may be true that one’s life may be very different if raised in a different culture, we are going to argue is that it still does not change truth!  One may have a very different set of beliefs, but beliefs are not truths.
  2. The standard of truth is what one believes.  Something is true when and if it is accepted as true. 
In this system, the cultural value becomes tolerance.
  • Essentially the need to seek and test truth is futile and in a sense counterproductive, perhaps even dangerous.  To test one truth against another is insinuating superiority and only leads to divisiveness and prejudice.
  • Every individual’s truth claims should be regarded as equal.  There is no hierarchy of truth or belief.  I should accept your beliefs as being true for you, you should accept my beliefs as being true for me.  I should not condemn you and you should not condemn me.
  • For the sake of the community we should foster harmony by making tolerance the supreme virtue.
  • The ideology is expressed marvelously in the coexist bumper sticker.
Let us revisit our definition of truth:
Truth:
  1. That which is. 
  2. The actual state of a matter.
  3. Telling it like it is.
  4. That which corresponds with reality.
It is important for us to hold a “correspondence” view of truth because it asks us to do the most common sense thing, simply look around and see what is true.  How do the “truth” claims of post-modernism correspond to reality?
The Intolerance of Tolerance
The Manhattan Declaration is a petition created by prominent Christian leaders to help define some core moral issues of the Christian conscience.  The website states that it is a, “4,700-word declaration speaks in defense of the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty. It issues a clarion call to Christians to adhere firmly to their convictions in these three areas.”
In 2010 Apple pulled the Manhattan Declaration App from its app store after being pressured by pro-gay, lesbian, and transsexual groups.  Apple was criticized for pulling the app and stated that their decision was in compliance with their marketplace policies.  
A statement from the Manhattan Declaration, citing Apple’s statements reads, “Apple is telling us that the apps’ content is considered “likely to expose a group to harm” and “to be objectionable and potentially harmful to others.” Inasmuch as the Manhattan Declaration simply reaffirms the moral teachings of our Christian faith on the sanctity of human life, marriage and sexual morality, and religious freedom and the rights of conscience, Apple’s statement amounts to the charge that our faith is “potentially harmful to others.”
Similar stories are occurring in every venue of life from banking to politics (See D.A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance).  Christian groups are being excluded because they are considered intolerant and regarded as dangerous in the public square.  
It is true that Christianity makes exclusive claims.  Morally it is exclusive.  It condemns homosexuality as a valid lifestyle.  By its simple demand of Jesus as God and Savior it excludes all other ways to salvation.  All other religions are false views of God and deceitful paths to salvation.  By claiming its sacred writings are inspired by God it rejects all other writings as inferior and less than the truth.  
So if Christianity is to be excluded, we ask a simple question, is relative truth better?  Is it better for society to say that tolerance is the truth?
So in observing this “reality” what is the truth of these positions?
Self-Defeating Statements
One way to test a “truth” is to see if it can meet its own standards.  Let’s examine several statements of post-modernism’s view of truth:
  1. There is no such thing as absolute truth.  (This is an absolute statement.)
  2. Truth is relative.  (This too is an absolute statement.)
  3. All truths are equally valid.  (This is also an absolute statement that does not tolerate nor give validity to the statement, “All truths are not equally valid.”)
We can easily demonstrate the futility of the premise that all truth claims are equal by stating that “all truth claims are not equal.”  If we say that “all truth claims are equal” then the statement that “all truth claims are not equal” cannot possibly be equal.  
We can also demonstrate the futility of the tolerance view as well as the subjectivity view by saying, “We exist” or “We do not exist.”  Both of these statements cannot be equally true and neither of these statements depends on any subjective verification.  If you do not agree, you are verifiably nuts.  This tells us then that there is truth that is absolute or objective, true for all people at all times.
There is milk in the refrigerator vs. There is no milk in the refrigerator.  If these statements are equally true then there must be milk in and not in the refrigerator at the same time.  Thus when the atheist claims, “There is no God” and the theist claims, “There is a God” these statements cannot be equally truth.  This defies logic – a thing cannot be A and non-A at the same time.  Someone is right.
Think about the statement, “What’s true for you may not be true for me.”  – do you mean that as true for yourself or must it also be true for everyone?
Statement:  You should not question someone’s religious beliefs. (goes back to the idea of post-modernism that we should not investigate the superiority of a truth – which is a statement that is narrow, judgmental, and intolerant)
Evaluating the cultural value and statement that, “We should accept all religions.”:
  1. The statement is an exclusive, intolerant religious belief – it asserts non-pluralistic beliefs are wrong.
  2. The statement is an absolute moral position.   Why shouldn’t we question religious beliefs?  Who has the moral authority to tell us this is wrong?  Who sets the standard?  Why should we allow you to impose this idea on us?
  3. The statement is tolerant only of those who agree.
  4. The statement is a judgmental – in prohibiting that it is false to judge other religions one is casting judgment.
  5. The statement is dishonest because as a statement it is not ready to accept every expression of religion – such as those who are terrorists in name of god or those who would sacrifice children.  Should we really not judge child sacrifice as a false cultural or religious value?  It also fails to be honest that not every religious idea should be accepted.
To avoid these difficulties, an old philosophical position has found new favor again, agnosticism:
Agnosticism is a position that simply says we are without knowledge, or we can’t know.  But that position in itself does not correspond to reality in that it too is self defeating.
How do you know, you can’t know?
So here is what we find about the nature of truth (Geisler 38):
  1. Truth is discovered not invented.
    1. Truth is not belief!
    2. Let’s be sure that we are not caught in the trap of equating the two.
    3. It is at this point that we see the mistake of post modern presupposition.  What they should be saying is “belief” instead of truth.  Belief may correspond to truth, but it is not truth.  As such the presuppositions of post-modernism are easily defeated.
      1. Truth is created by the individual or his community.  The reason you believe what you do is because of how you were raised or the era of your lifespan.  Given that you were raised in another culture or at another time, your beliefs may be drastically different.  Again, one may have culturally conditioned beliefs, but beliefs do not change the truth.
      2. The standard of truth is what one believes.  Something is true when and if it is accepted as true.  In essence, relative truth is a statement on belief, not truth.
  1. Truth is transcultural – it is true for all people, in all places, at all times.
  2. Truth is unchanging even though out beliefs about truth may change.  People once believed the earth was flat.  The truth about the earth did not change, it was always round, but out belief about the earth did change.
  3. Beliefs cannot change a fact, no matter how strongly they are held.  One may insist that the earth is flat, or that the earth is the center of the solar system, but this does not change reality.
  4. Truth is not affected by the attitude of the one professing it.  An arrogant person does not make the truth he professes false, nor does a misguided person who claims to follow Christ change who CHrist is.
  5. All truths are absolute truths.  
Conclusion:
A common parable to demonstrate the viability of relative truth over absolute truth is the story of the blind men feeling the elephant.  The parable commonly goes like this:
The problem with the parable is that it denies one perspective.  There is a storyteller who is objective, who knows the truth.  The storyteller knows all the men are blind.  The storyteller also knows the truth about the elephant.  The storyteller also recognizes that if the blind could only see, they would know for certain what the elephant is like.
Our problem is not that we can’t know the truth.  Our problem is that we are blind and we don’t want the truth.
According to John 3 we resist truth and prefer darkness.  Biblical truths make moral demands of our lives.  If a person does not want to comply morally or spiritually to Biblical demands it is much easier to regard them as invalid.  Once again, this is a statement of belief, not truth.  In post-modern culture, the posture towards Christian exclusivity becomes even more clear, they will absolutely not be tolerated.  As such post-modernism as a “truth claim” does not correspond to a workable reality.  It defeats itself.
Source Material:
D.A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance
Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict
Josh McDowell, Beyond Belief to Convictions
Norman Geisler, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist