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David Otten: Yes, Virginia, there is truth

By David Otten
Contributing writer
updated: 12/6/2020 3:25 PM

Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.

Joel Biermann in his book "Wholly Citizen" devotes a chapter to James C. Edwards' (professor of philosophy at Furman University) views on how Western Civilization conceives of religion. Edwards divides religious history into four parts:

• The age of gods, represented by Moses.

• The age of the great philosophers of Greece. This continues to Rene Descartes (father of modern philosophy) in the 17th century.

• The age of modernity or reason. Descartes' skepticism about what was real drove him to the conclusion that he could only establish his own existence. "I doubt, therefore I am." Truth is established on bases of one's own self not something outside of man, i.e. the Bible. This brings us to today.

• The age of transvalued values. The philosophical hero is Fredrick Nietzsche, the German philosopher who inspired Hitler and was possibly the foremost atheist. His contribution to this story is called "Nihilism."

Nihilism says there is nothing at all we can be certain of. Everything people call truth is merely a value based on personal feelings. There are no real truths people fight and die for, only fleeting values like dust in the wind. Your own life has value if you can find value in it, but the value is not real because it is you and you alone that gives it value. There is no absolute truth, and this thinking is becoming more normal each passing day. Edwards calls this "normal nihilism."

As Western thinking stresses individualism to the point that the truth about a person's gender cannot be establish by objective evidence but only the feelings of an individual, I would agree with Edwards' assessment of modern thinking. Devout Muslims, Jews and Christians are viewed as oddities, just folks arguing over Chevys, Fords, and Dodges. How do we as Christians respond? No matter how hard we try, we cannot turn back time.

Christians must not try to seek "relevance" with the world. Christ did not come to find a compromise with the world. If he were relevant, they would not have crucified him. As Christians, our mission is not to introduce a "Christian workout video" or "Christian principles" on how to invest in the stock market. The bold task we have is to stubbornly insist that the only way to find real meaning is in the reality of Christ. The Scriptures are our foundation of truth. Human reason and logic, traditions of men, or the fantasy of the individual does not trump the truth of God's word. Furthermore, the church is not one of the characters in the world's story, but the "world" is a character in God's story and His story is the only story that counts.

In this endeavor we use the same tools that God's people have always used, the Word of God and holy acts commanded by God. Arrogance and self-righteousness must be left out. We bless those who curse us. People will seek signs and wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified.

• David Otten is pastor of Faith Lutheran church in Eldorado.