Why Truth Matters Most: An Apologetic for Truth-Seeking In Postmodern Times -- By: Douglas Groothuis

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 47:3 (Sep 2004)
Article: Why Truth Matters Most: An Apologetic for Truth-Seeking In Postmodern Times
Author: Douglas Groothuis

Why Truth Matters Most:
An Apologetic for Truth-Seeking In Postmodern Times

Douglas Groothuis

[Douglas Groothuis is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary, P.O. Box 100,000, Denver, CO 80250–0100.]

The word “truth” is a staple in our language and in every language. One cannot imagine a human language lacking the concept of truth. Such a language would never inform anyone of anything: it would lack any intellectual access to reality. No language qua language could be so constrained (although some political and celebrity “discourse” comes close). The idea of truth is part of the intellectual oxygen that we breathe. Whenever we state an opinion, defend or critique an argument, ask a question, or investigate one kind of assertion or another, we presuppose the concept of truth—even if we do not directly state the word, even if we deny that truth is real or knowable.

The notion of truth haunts us, ferreting out our shabby thinking, our lame excuses, our willful ignorance, and our unfair attacks on the views of others, both the living and the dead. Conversely, when our own ideas are misrepresented or our personal character falsely maligned, we object by appealing to something firm and hard that should settle the issue—the truth. In these cases, we sense that something is wrong—not with the truth itself, but with its inept handlers. Truth seems to stand over us as a kind of silent referee, arms folded confidently, ears open, eyes staring intently and authoritatively into everything and missing nothing. Even when an important truth seems out of reach on vital matters, we yearn for it and lament its invisibility, as we yearn for a long-lost friend or the parent we never knew. Yet when the truth unmasks and convicts us, and we refuse to return its gaze, we would rather banish it in favor of our own self-serving and protective version of reality.

Nevertheless, a variety of postmodernist philosophies and postmodern social conditions have tended to undermine the notions that objective truth exists in the first place. Truth has been dissolved into language games, ethnicity, and other contingent social arrangements. It is constructed, not discovered. Rather than elaborate on these truth-eroding acids,1 this paper develops a general apologetic for the significance and value of both objective truth and truth seeking. Many works of Christian apologetics assume that unbelievers want to know the truth, but have simply failed to avail themselves of good

arguments to that end. While good arguments are indispensable, they are not sufficient because the unbeliever may never seriously c...

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