This is the question that keeps theologians and apologists employed. This is also the one question you never ask unless you want to spend the next few hours being lectured. Books have been written, courses taught, seminars and sermon series presented and debates fought all around this one question, is there absolute truth? The answer is yes but it may not be the truth you embrace.
We can spend a lot of time in circular arguments.
In the quest to prove the existence of absolute truth Christ followers are taught to employ a circular argument. After a person states that they do not believe in absolute truth we are to counter with, “if there is no absolute truth then how can you say with absolute certainty that there is no absolute truth? Isn’t your statement by nature based on the existence of absolute truth?”
I love circular arguments. If you get the person confused they will never be able to articulate their point of view. It works even better if you badger them when they try to answer. Every time they open their mouth to speak say, “tell me how you can make an absolute statement while claiming there are no absolutes – tell me – no, tell me – you don’t have an answer do you?”
That’s the way to get people to want to follow Christ, badger and belittle them.
At one time I would employ circular arguing when in heated discussions (fights if I am being truthful) with my wife. I usually won but really lost. I didn’t change her opinion on the topic just her opinion about me. By badgering her on a small point and dragging her around in circles (figuratively) she would give up. I may have felt I won but really all I did was shut her down. She felt stupid because she could not effectively present her point of view and she felt overpowered because she could not out argue me. The one thing she didn’t feel was heard.
If Christ following is about relationship with Jesus and with fellow followers, what type of relationship are we presenting through circular arguments? I cannot think of Jesus ever using a circular argument on anyone. When questions were asked and point of views expressed, Jesus, who we are often told knew that the religious leaders were trying to set Him up, answered their questions. As a matter of fact, the only people using clever arguments to trap Jesus in his own assertions were the Pharisees and Sadducees.
I believe in absolute truth, but what truth is absolute?
There is only one way to be reconciled; God’s plan carried out by God’s chosen person at God’s chosen time, through the death and resurrection of His son. To those who follow Christ this is the absolute truth of all truths. After this absolute truth, finding agreement on other absolutes can be difficult. For all the people who love circular arguments to back their belief that there is absolute truth, watch out for the well-informed person who takes the position that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Circular arguments go both ways.
“So you believe in absolute truth which means there is right and wrong,” an absolute truth denier might say. “If there really is absolute truth how come some of you believe that you can drink alcohol and others say it is a sin? How come Jesus drank wine and even turned water into wine, how come Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine? Tell me how come not all of you agree on this – tell me – no tell me – you don’t have an answer do you?” Then they might say, “didn’t Jesus teach that there would be judgement on those who caused others to sin, wasn’t turning water into wine causing those who drank it to sin? Doesn’t that mean Jesus sinned and didn’t you say he was without sin – tell me – no, tell me – you don’t have an answer do you?”
This is not a post about drinking alcohol.
I am not trying to start a holy war. Baptists on the one side and Christian Reform people on the other. Please forgive me if you belong to one of these groups, I just needed two doctrinally different groups to make my point. I could have chosen Calvinism and Arminianism. You can chose your own doctrinal disagreements that can then be turned into a circular argument by the absolute truth deniers as they point out that Christ followers don’t seem to have absolutes. Then just for entertainment, you can play out the ensuing arguments in your head. Hope this post has provided hours of fun daydreams of endless circular arguments.
The real points I hope you will take away from this blog.
- Don’t use circular arguments. In your marriage or in defending your faith, live by the sword, die by the sword. There are plenty of circular arguments that can be made by highly skilled people who oppose your faith. Count on the Holy Spirit speaking through you not human arguments made by you. In the case of marriage, offering them the couch to sleep on is the winning move when combating a spouse who uses circular arguments.
- Absolute truth starts and ends with the grace offered through the cross. There will be many takes on how to live out our lives as Christ followers, not all are absolutes and not all can be applied to all circumstances. What is important is, sin is the result of rebelling against God; grace is the result of God defeating sin on the cross, everything we do must be about avoiding the first and accepting the second – now that’s an absolute!