Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Question American Culture Is Frightened Of

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Downtown Monroe

My career teaching logic at the college level is finished. My final semester was this past winter. I will miss parts of it.

My favorite teaching point was this. I loved watching the students, as I said something every logic text affirms: A statement [proposition; belief] is a sentence that claims a certain state of affairs obtains.

Or, saying the same thing in a different way: A statement is a sentence that is either true or false.

And then adding: If a statement is true, it is true for everyone; if a statement is false, it is false for everyone.

This is not about "absolute truth" (which forms a kind of redundancy for me). It is simply about truth.

Many students are confused by this. Some resist it. Some think I am trying to slip something by them. Most don't know why they fell odd about it.

This describes our American culture: most people feel odd about truth, but don't know why. Media newsreaders get outraged, or at least have puzzled looks on their faces, when Christians  make truth claims. Yet, all the time, they make statements that express their beliefs, which beliefs are claimed to be either true or false. Like, e.g., Today is June 17, 2017. Or, Abraham Lincoln was America's sixteenth President. Or, Tomorrow is Father's Day. Or, June 17 is not America's Independence Day. Or, Today is Father's Day (which is false today, but will be true tomorrow).

Robert P. George (Princeton) writes that "to speak of truth frightens some people today. They evidently believe that people who claim to know the truth about anything—and especially about moral matters—are fundamentalists and potential totalitarians." (George, Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism, Kindle Locations 1462-1463)

But all the while these people who are frightened about claims to truth are themselves making countless claims to truth. George writes:

"As Amherst professor Hadley Arkes has patiently explained, those on the other side of the great debates over social issues such as abortion and marriage make truth claims—moral truth claims—all the time. They assert their positions with no less confidence and no more doubt than one finds in the advocacy of pro-lifers and defenders of conjugal marriage. They proclaim that women have a fundamental right to abortion. They maintain that “love makes a family” and make other strong and controversial moral claims." (Ib., Kindle Locations 1463-1467)

What's going on here? Surely George is correct in saying that "the question, then, is not whether there are truths about such things as the morality of abortion and the nature of marriage; the question in each case is, what is true?" Ib., (Kindle Locations 1467-1468)

That is the question American culture is frightened of,  cannot escape, is ignorant of, and refuses to address.

My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Aug/Sept 2017)