Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Truth Is Negotiable?

Surely one the biggest dangers we face as Christians today must be the mistaken belief that there is no absolute truth. We have become convinced, as our level of knowledge of our universe has increased, as our scientific capabilities have improved, that life is not as simple as it may always have seemed. We have fallen into the trap of believing that life is more complicated and that there are no longer simple and clear right or wrong answers. Truth is now negotiable and subjective.

It is easy to find examples of the extent to which truth has become negotiable and subjective. There are obvious moral examples like abortion and condoms. There are however also not so obvious examples of how we negotiate the truth or make truth subject to special circumstances, thereby actually just justifying untruth:

1.    We persistently come late for work because of the traffic. We justify this behaviour as acceptable because it is out of our control and not intentional. Yet, we make no effort to work in the hours we were late, or to offer that it be deducted from our wages. Any suggestion that being late for work may be theft, because we are not giving our employer all the time, for which he has paid us, is dismissed as ludicrous. Yet, that is the truth. We failed to give our employer the time for which he paid.

2.    We use our cell phones while driving. We justify the call as necessary for a range of reasons and we then rely on the fact that, since we have not actually been caught doing so by a traffic officer, this behaviour is not wrong. Hence, we justify the breaking of a civil law. So, we deceive ourselves into believing an untruth to be truth. However, the truth of the matter is that using a cell phone, while driving a car in South Africa, is illegal and it cannot be justified as anything else.

3.    We find a lot of money lying on the ground in a shopping centre. We justify keeping it, instead of handing it into the shopping centres security office as lost property, because we decide that they will probably just take the money for themselves anyway. So, we may as well just keep the money or maybe donate it to a charity or to a beggar that needs it. Yet, it is not ours to give or keep, no matter the circumstances which led to its discovery. The truth is that, in taking the money and using it, or giving it away as a donation, we have stolen it from its rightful owner. We have used what does not belong to us to use.

4.    We agree to write our child a sick note because he has not done his homework. We justify this action on the basis of us having punished him ourselves for not doing his homework. Therefore, it is not necessary for his good record at school to be tarnished by this failure to do his homework, or for him to face any further consequences of this failure at school. Our lie has been justified as correct based on what we believe the outcome should be for our child. The truth is that we lied and, worse still, we taught our child to lie. A lie is not and can never be, the truth. A lie is always untruth.

The dictionary defines truth as “that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.[1] The truth of the matter is that, whenever we manipulate the reality or the facts, we turn the truth into untruth – “a lie or false statement[2], and we know, deep inside, that we are doing just that. We are attempting to make untruth, truth. This is just simply not possible, try as hard as we like. Truth cannot be untruth, just as black can never be white and white can never be black. Cold can never be hot and neither can hot ever be cold. It’s quite logical really!

In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man.[3]

How will our conscience ever be able to discern what is right from what is wrong in big matters, when we are constantly dulling our conscience in small simple matters.

Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality.[4]

[1] Merriam-Webster
[2] Ibid
[4] Ibid

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