We live in an age when truth has become increasingly subjective and perspectival. What is truth for me may not be truth for you. As a result, the whole notion of absolute truth has died, and, in terms of the conventional definition, there is no more truth; all that is left is varying points of view. Not that this is entirely new. Over a generation ago, apologist Francis Schaeffer lamented the very same phenomenon he perceived already in his day and felt compelled to coin the term “true truth” (as if there were false truth!) to affirm emphatically that truth still existed. That truth, Schaeffer maintained, is grounded in the one God who “is there and is not silent,” having revealed himself in the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins and came back to life again. The Christian gospel thus gives meaning to our lives and puts them into proper perspective. More recently, authors Albert Mohler, Kevin Vanhoozer, J. P. Moreland, and myself have asked, Whatever Happened to Truth? (Crossway), and sought to answer the question in similar terms as Schaeffer did, albeit in a postmodern context in which truth has been even further marginalized.
Not every college student is an intellectual, and there will be some, perhaps even many, who are unperturbed by such deep philosophical and theological questions. Yet whether you are plagued by intellectual doubts or are happy in your faith, truth matters. It always does. Only truth can give you confidence that your faith is worth having. If there is no truth, there is no falsehood, and all things are relative. And if there is no truth, diversity reigns supreme. Michael Kruger and I have explored the implications of this state of affairs in our book The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity. In this book, we explore the thesis that Christianity is not grounded in Israel’s faith in Yahweh, climaxing in the coming of Jesus Christ who in turn is the centerpiece of the Christian gospel, but rather one of many Christianities (in the plural) that existed in the first few centuries of the Christian era. What you and I today call “Christianity,” scholars such as Bart Ehrman, head of the religion department at UNC-Chapel Hill, contend is merely the version of Christianity that prevailed in the power struggles of the early church. Not only is truth perspectival, but the gospel is, too! Yet because history is written by the winners, the truth (i.e., the diversity of early Christianity) has been suppressed by the early Christians, and so we need sharp intellects such as Ehrman to expose the conspiracy of those heavy-handed proponents of their version of the truth!
What is more, not only does diversity reign in our day, rightly understood diversity reigned at the inception of Christianity as well. And if so – if all truth is perspectival and subjective – the only heresy that remains is orthodoxy. Quite a reversal! The proponents of orthodox Christianity have now become the last remaining heretics, and once they have been eliminated, diversity will reign supreme and without any fear of contradiction. As D. A. Carson points out, this “new tolerance” is increasingly vying to replace the conventional notion of tolerance in the public square and at our universities. No longer are we merely called to respect the viewpoints of others and accept every person’s right to hold whichever view they choose, we are now called to affirm that each viewpoint is as legitimate and according to truth as any other – because truth, “true truth” as Francis Schaeffer called it, of course no longer exists! This also means that God, the God of the Bible, has been relegated to the sidelines, and a new god has been enthroned – the god of diversity. If you are a college student, have you seen signs of this development taking place at your university?
But all is not lost. Truth matters. It always does. God will not go away quietly. He is still there, and he is not silent. Jesus Christ will come again, and he will reign. Christians, take heart. The god of diversity is an inadequate substitute for the God of history, the God of Scripture, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Discover, or rediscover, this God in your Bible, and embrace him as the true God, the one and only God, and watch him work in your life and in the lives of others around you. Our God reigns, and one day all the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.
Andreas J. Kӧstenberger is founder of Biblical Foundations™, senior research professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and author or co-author of numerous books, including Truth Matters and Truth in a Culture of Doubt.