A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

What Is Truth: Wrestling with Absolutism, Relativism, and Alternative Facts (Re-Release from S01E21)

December 30, 2022 Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker Season 3 Episode 12
What Is Truth: Wrestling with Absolutism, Relativism, and Alternative Facts (Re-Release from S01E21)
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
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A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
What Is Truth: Wrestling with Absolutism, Relativism, and Alternative Facts (Re-Release from S01E21)
Dec 30, 2022 Season 3 Episode 12
Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker

For New Year's, we're re-airing an episode from Season 1 in which we discuss the question "What is truth?" We think it's as timely now as it was when we first released it and probably deserves a bit more attention than it got then. We hope you enjoy re-listening or perhaps catching it for the first time. We'll be back on our regular schedule with new content on January 13.


Truth is a tricky term these days, with everyone believing their own "facts" or having their own "truths" or "alternative facts." How does a philosopher see truth? What is a healthy pastoral way to approach and pursue truth? Is there such a thing as truth at all, let alone "absolute truth," as so many Christians attest?

Our resident pastor and philosopher dive in and bring us into a really fun and healthy conversation about truth that our society would do well to engage.

The whiskey we sample in this episode is Four Roses Small Batch Select from the always stellar Four Roses Bourbon. The beverage tasting is at 1:11. To skip to the main segment, go to 5:03.

The article that Kyle quotes in the conversation about humility can be found here. The episode that is referenced that had not yet been aired at the time of this recording is S01E23: "A Philosopher and a Philosopher Ruin Your Theology: Interview with Nick Oschman."

You can find the transcript for this episode here.


Want to support us?

The best way is to subscribe to our Patreon. Annual memberships are available for a 10% discount.

If you'd rather make a one-time donation, you can contribute through our PayPal.

Other important info:

  • Rate & review us on Apple & Spotify
  • Follow us on social media at @PPWBPodcast
  • Watch & comment on YouTube
  • Email us at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

For New Year's, we're re-airing an episode from Season 1 in which we discuss the question "What is truth?" We think it's as timely now as it was when we first released it and probably deserves a bit more attention than it got then. We hope you enjoy re-listening or perhaps catching it for the first time. We'll be back on our regular schedule with new content on January 13.


Truth is a tricky term these days, with everyone believing their own "facts" or having their own "truths" or "alternative facts." How does a philosopher see truth? What is a healthy pastoral way to approach and pursue truth? Is there such a thing as truth at all, let alone "absolute truth," as so many Christians attest?

Our resident pastor and philosopher dive in and bring us into a really fun and healthy conversation about truth that our society would do well to engage.

The whiskey we sample in this episode is Four Roses Small Batch Select from the always stellar Four Roses Bourbon. The beverage tasting is at 1:11. To skip to the main segment, go to 5:03.

The article that Kyle quotes in the conversation about humility can be found here. The episode that is referenced that had not yet been aired at the time of this recording is S01E23: "A Philosopher and a Philosopher Ruin Your Theology: Interview with Nick Oschman."

You can find the transcript for this episode here.


Want to support us?

The best way is to subscribe to our Patreon. Annual memberships are available for a 10% discount.

If you'd rather make a one-time donation, you can contribute through our PayPal.

Other important info:

  • Rate & review us on Apple & Spotify
  • Follow us on social media at @PPWBPodcast
  • Watch & comment on YouTube
  • Email us at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com


NOTE: This transcript was auto-generated by an artificial intelligence and has not been reviewed by a human. Please forgive and disregard any inaccuracies, misattributions, or misspellings.

Kyle  00:02

Hello everyone, Kyle here. Happy holidays. Randy and I are taking this week off to spend some time with our families. And so for this episode, we're reaching back into our season one archives to bring you one of our favorites. And that's the conversation that we had about truth. As you can imagine, truth is as relevant a topic as ever, and we take a deep dive in this conversation into what philosophers have thought about truth, versus what pastors or theologians might think about truth, as well as what evangelical pastors could possibly mean by the phrase absolute truth. We're fond of the conversation. We hope it's valuable to you. And we hope you and your families are having a wonderful holiday season. We'll see you in two weeks with brand new content Welcome everyone, to pastor philosopher walk into a bar. We're going to be discussing something today that is pretty important to both of us and something that we've talked about having an episode on in the future and now is that time so we're both pretty excited about this. Our topic today is truth, the philosophical perspective and the pastoral perspective on truth, so it's gonna be heavy, it's gonna be nerdy. Both PVC belts, it's gonna be good time.

Randy  01:09

Fun times. Well, we have a really wonderful beverage in front of us that I love to talk about sample I've been wanting to sample this so suit today we have four roses, single batch select, this is a four roses offering retails for about 60 or 70 bucks. And it's a it's a high proof. It's a it's a I'm not gonna say hot because I haven't tried it yet. But it's, it's a high cut, what's the 52% 52% so that's on the higher end of the spectrum. And for Rosa says that they use two different mash bills and five different yeast strains to create 10 unique bourbon recipes. And of those recipes six are blended together to make this the small batch select. So it's basically just a blend of a bunch of their best stuff that they sample. And they think this is their their idea of the best they've got all right. Let's see, sir. Right. The look of it is really gorgeous. It's dark, karmically colored. It's sticking to the there's a word for this, but I don't know it, but it stinks. It's got great legs. I mean, it's sticking to the side of our glasses like nobody's business really good. I'm smelling it, which I always do first.

Elliot  02:13

You can hold it back a little further to smell this one. You don't have to get up in there.

Randy  02:18

That's that's complex, though. Then the nose of it at least. Yeah. Floral. Delicious. Spicy. Okey, well, man. I like that.

Elliot  02:29

It's not very often to get knocked back by bourbon. That's delicious.

Randy  02:33

That's really good.

Kyle  02:34

Yeah, it's nice caramel pepper.

Randy  02:37

I mean, for me, the only the main word for it is complex. I mean, we've just tried some bourbons and whiskeys that are just straightforward. couple notes. But almost single note. This is on the opposite end of that. It's a little hot so you got it. You know, exhale a little bit get ready for it, but because of the alcohol content, but man, it's there's so much going on there. Now I'm getting like apples like fall fruit, like it brings the brighter berry stuff and then some but now I'm getting that deep, dark, almost tart apple.

Kyle  03:09

Yeah, there's something fresh about it. I don't know. One of the tasting notes I read which I don't get but it was like spearmint gum.

Randy  03:18

Interesting. can't quite

Kyle  03:19

see that. She had said that. There's something I don't know. Yeah.

Randy  03:22

I love I do love though, when you know, you'll read reviews. And they'll talk about the flavor profiles and the new taste to yourself. And sometimes that helps. And then sometimes they'll say something like spearmint gum, which I can respect a person who tastes grooming gum and something and it makes but I can at least don't understand that. And but that's also fun that you can taste the same thing and taste so many different things. It's probably just the coolness of all of the alcohol evaporating like that's, I mean, booze what that is. Yeah, and many bourbons either don't like the start of it, but I'd like to finish your opposite. There's no bad experience in

Kyle  03:56

the solid all the way through. Not a long finish, but satisfying. It's

Randy  04:00

rich. It's got a kind of rich mouthfeel to it. And that depth of flavor brings

Elliot  04:06

like really deep woody flavors. So yeah, all spice and clove. Yeah, good.

Randy  04:12

finishes off with some of that glass. Yep, finishes off with some of that library leather. Nope. I feel like beer brings out some fun times. Bourbon makes things serious. Do you know what I'm talking about whiskies

Kyle  04:24

contemplative it's like

Elliot  04:26

it's like reading a book but silently like in the corner by yourself.

Randy  04:29

Well and you got to actually like start turning inward if you're gonna start naming some of these flavors and in articulate the Experience Experience Yeah. Well, friends for roses small batch select. This is one that for me 60 or 70 is like way high on what I would spend on a whiskey. This is one that I'll put on my my shelf and only bring it out for the special occasions because this is a good stuff. You said this

Elliot  04:55

one could go on my shelf my shelves are awful. You heard him say that.

Randy  05:03

So one of the main things that I've observed in the course of our young podcast here is the way that we think about truth. And by we, I mean, me and Kyle primarily, but Elliot and I and Kyle, the way we think about truth, the way we talk about truth, how we hold that word, and that idea is quite different. And it's different in a way that I really enjoy. I really enjoy being challenged and pushed, and being forced and challenged to critically think about what I kind of take for granted. And I really enjoyed around truth because I've to be honest with you, I've been uncomfortable for a long time, with how many Christians and Christian leaders throw around this word truth, just like it's, you know, just on the tip of their tongue all the time. And like they have the corner on the market of truth. It drives me crazy, to be honest, a little bit. And as you talk about truth, Kyle, I've really enjoyed it. And you always say, we'll save this for another episode. We'll save that for another episode. Here we are. I'm excited to hear about what your idea of truth what philosophers think of when they think of the word truth in the concept and what's, what are options, what's attainable, what's just a nonsensical way to talk about it. Because again, when you hear Christians talking about truth, it's usually in regard to sexuality. Well, we, we know truth, or what, whether it's signs and creationism, we know truth or Christians will refer to the scriptures as truth, Absolute Truth, even sometimes, right? The scriptures, that's problematic for me, and I'm a pastor for crying out loud. I have I have issues with that. So I think philosophy is helpful in that, it seems like philosophers are able to take a very objective view of something like truth, you you have as few ulterior motives, much less I would say, than most Christian leaders. Can we say that orally,

Kyle  06:54

we're very intentional about making our motives clear when they're present. And yeah, building the method so that the motives are either left out, or at least the problematic aspects of them are left up, or so that they're incorporated. But in an intentional way, I'll say that,

Randy  07:09

yeah. And I would just, you know, burst your bubble a little bit, Kyle, and whatever philosophers, other other philosophers are out there listening. I mean, you can be kind of arrogant about this idea of truth. Right? Which finally, philosophers can be arrogant about a lot of things, let's be honest. But I mean, have

Kyle  07:25

you ever read Plato? I mean, Socrates was the most arrogant bastard.

Randy  07:31

I mean, just the question, have you ever read Plato is kind of arrogant, right off the bat from the jump. But do you guys know what I'm talking about? When I see how Christians toss around the word truth? Like it's kind of a weapon, or like they have the full market on that word? concept idea?

Elliot  07:50

Yeah. So as the one in the room who's studied this, the least I think, maybe if I talk more experientially, just when I think about truth, like what that what that means to me. And I realized, in knowing we were going to talk about the state of things like what is what is truth? And how do I relate to it, I realized I've had this increasingly complex relationship with truth because belief in something as true gives gives us that's what creates the platform from which you can critique or reject things other than that as untrue or false. So I guess that's one option we can we can reject them as false in this kind of active, confrontational way. And this is a lot of my context in history is around this very moralistic focus, like you said, like that we've cornered the market on truth. And this is this is ours. And so there's that or you have to be okay to just live in the, this unresolved space where I say something's true. And you say that something else is true. And we're just not going to resolve that. She guesses, okay. Sounds like the world we live in. Yeah. Or then there's this this concept of like, there's your truth. And there's my truth, we all have our truth. And I just can't really wrap my head around that it feels I like that, but it doesn't make sense to me. Yeah. So I guess where I've landed is I I've been wrong enough times. And I've been assertive about what is true enough times to get myself in trouble to where, okay, so now I'm not going to do that anymore. I still see certain things is true. But the scope of what I'm willing to actually argue about is much less because I know I've changed my mind on stuff that I used to think was really core to who I am. And so I don't know what I'm gonna believe, next week, or five years from now beyond a very narrow set of things that I would say are actually true. And even in those I'm going to be hesitant to try to impose that on anybody else, which creates conflicts in me around things, concepts, like sharing my faith or, or trying to spread the gospel in scare quotes, whatever that means. So that's, that's how I'm sitting with truth right now. I'm looking forward to hearing you guys go level down from that.

Randy  09:57

Yeah. And I mean, I feel like many, many Christians when they think of truth, and when they think of what their idea of truth is, or what they have in their hands when that they call truth, we think it's very objective. We think that this is concrete objective real. When I want to say, that's probably not true. When when there's no What do you mean by that? When there's no way of proving something outright, besides using your sacred texts, it's probably fairly subjective. And something that we do well to hold with some humility and in held loosely. But here's the pastoral side of me, I just want to, I know that we have listeners who are listening right now. And already your hackles are straight up in the air in your eyes, if you haven't turned us off yet, you're getting ready to push that button. Or you're getting ready to get real angry, and you're already judging what we say, I just want to pastorelli invite you into this conversation to listen from a place less from judgment, because you have this choice to make. Now, in this moment, you can listen from a place of being a learner, and listening. Or you can listen from a place of judgment, one of those will be very productive. And you might not change your mind. You might if you sit as a learner here and say I just want to listen to these guys, because they might know things that I don't or maybe they don't. But if you listen as a learner, you're going to actually walk out of this with integrity and with having actually listened and maybe even your position will feel even stronger to the other side. If you're listening in judgment and already poking holes and getting angry and get your butt cheeks are, are tightened. There's very, you're gonna, you're not gonna benefit from this compensation whatsoever. Sorry, sorry,

Elliot  11:38

if your hackles are straight up and your butt cheeks are tight, you're gonna be really uncomfortable. Yeah, man, just in general. This episode,

Randy  11:44

take some deep breaths. So I'm just inviting you into a place of non judgment, listening, learning. And then when you're done with this, you can think what you want to think. So Kyle, that being said, Can you give us just a cliff notes version? I know we're talking to Professor pile here. Professor Whitaker, give us a Cliff's Notes version of the philosophical pursuit of truth in the field of philosophical view of

Kyle  12:09

truth. Yeah. Okay. I do want to say that we're recording this on November 19, which just happens to be world philosophy day. So it makes me kind of happy,

Randy  12:20

like you've said that before? Like, are there numerous real philosophy? Competing? Yeah,

Kyle  12:27

I didn't even know there was a world philosophy day until today. So it made me pretty happy that we're talking about truth. There you go. So in a certain sense, truth is the whole point of philosophy. So we've talked about Socrates on previous episodes, and the pursuit of wisdom, the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of the right way to live this, this is what philosophy is all about. And so truth is the core concept in many ways, which is

Randy  12:51

interesting that's so similar to religious world,

Kyle  12:54

yeah, with with an important difference. So in religious life, usually, truth is attained through some kind of authority structure. So if I'm a religious person, part of what that means, is that my beliefs about how the world is and my beliefs about how I should be in the world and how I should treat other people is based on or derived from, or at least constrained by what my religious authority tells me. The authority might be a person might be the Pope, it might be a body of people, it might be 1000 year tradition, it might be a text, whatever it is, I'm constrained by authority. And truth is given to me by the authority in a way that I'm not free to then question it, right, the truth, truth is received if you're a religious person, or it's revealed to us the more Fiat theological language, for philosophers, truth is discovered, truth is a problem. Truth is something that we're ever in pursuit of, we're approaching it asymptotically we're never actually reaching it. But that's our goal. And truth is not the sort of thing that an authority could just pronounce on because nobody has the authority to pronounce on that. The the authorities that have pronounced on it are viewed with suspicion by philosophers, because they're humans too. And they're limited and all the same ways that the other humans are. And all of the other things you might view as an authority, like a text or a tradition that can all be questioned. We can't be certain about any of it. So truth is a pursuit. It's the point of philosophy. But simultaneously, it's the frustration of philosophy because it never never quite works out. I like to tell tell my students at the beginning of each semester, my intro philosophy students, like everybody we're going to read in this class was wrong. In fact, they were wrong about almost everything, and we know that they were wrong. Like Aristotle thought that the sun orbited the Earth and you know, the stars were like self reflecting consciousnesses and stuff like everybody else like everybody else here if history did you know and, like everybody, we read He is mistaken. But they were mistaken in fascinating ways and their methods for discerning truth. Were the best. We've not surpassed the methods, we're still tweaking some of the same methods actually including Aristotle's for them for what it's worth. So which

Randy  15:16

makes sense of why you philosophers are such slippery SLBS you're really hard to nail down and give a real answer to things?

Kyle  15:23

Well, because we think the real answers that you can give are always partially answers. Yeah, I like that reality is complicated, you know. And insofar as truth is the thing, I mean, in some ways, one of the views we're going to discuss here is that truth just is reality. But insofar as truth is connected to how things really are, I mean, things are complicated. At the end of the day, we're animals, and we're animals that happened to have large brains through an accident of evolution, and grasping at the ultimate nature of things. It's just, it's gonna take

Randy  15:54

in just in case you there's any listeners who immediately retriggered when when Kyle said, our brains are accident of evolution. I disagree with him, too. Don't worry. I don't disagree with the evolution part. I disagree with the accident part, but we'll talk about that. We'll keep going.

Kyle  16:10

So okay, so truth is said in many ways. So that was an Aristotle joke for the philosophers listening to the podcast, Aristotle famously said that, the very same thing about being being said in many, many senses, the same thing is true for truth. So in popular discourse, popular vernacular, how this word gets used by normal people on the street, right? It can mean anything from just whatever's out there. reality itself the truth, right, it can mean something as simple as the opposite of a lie. Truth. Truth is simply an antonym for a lie. It can mean mere agreement, you and I agree about something. And I say that's true. And that's really all I mean by it is that we agreed about it, it can be accordance with some kind of principle it can be, rhetorically, this is the way it gets used by Christians a lot, is it's whatever I find to be morally significant, and opinion that I find to be morally significant, or socially significant. It's important enough to me in my community, and so I just call it truth. And that's really all it means. It's nothing deeper than that. It's not analyzed any deeper than that very often. Or, and this is the way philosophers tend to think about it. Truth is a property that's had by some cognitive state, like a belief, or it might be a property of an utterance, something that I can say. So it's a linguistic entity. Or it might be a property of a proposition, which is a thing that bears meaning, which is related to language, but also a little bit distinct. So there's all these different ways of cashing out what that means. But philosophers tend to think of truth as something cognitive, that describes ideas, either in the sense of ideas that are expressed in language, or maybe just ideas on their own. And the thought is, traditionally, that every idea that can be expressed in a sentence, like a declarative sentence, has a value of either true or false. And to have a value of true means, well, there's some options for what it could mean, okay? The classic view, Aristotle's view is that it means that that idea, or that sentence, or whatever, matches up with the world. So the classic formulation is Aristotle's, he said, to say, what is true is to say of what is that it is, and to say, of what is not that it is not. That's what it means to say something true. And so even for him truth is a property of sentences. It's a property of something that you can say. And it has to do with whether or not that sentence or that idea matches up with the world. That's the classical view. That's called correspondence. So philosophers like to talk about that theory of truth as the correspondence theory, because it's this idea that there's a world out there, and it really is a certain way. And it's independent of how we think about it. It's objective. In other words, it doesn't depend on humans. It doesn't depend on the whole consensus of rational beings. It just is the way that it is. And my representation of it in my idea, or in my sentence, or whatever, either matches up with it, or it doesn't. If it does, it corresponds, and we say that it's true.

Randy  19:29

How do we make this episode required listening for our whole stinking nation right now? Right, like, post election, one side believes one thing and the other side believes the other there's, I mean, not just about the election, just so many things in our world. There's different realities, different truths, different facts, and it's certainly nauseating. Different facts. Yeah. But that's what you

Kyle  20:00

Yeah, I remember, while that went right after that happened, I was going to class one day, and I get on the elevator in my building. And an older guy gets on the elevator with me, who turned out to be a theologian. And so in our building theology is on the third floor and philosophy is on the fourth floor, which is the top floor. And yes, I use, I remind the theologians of that every chance I get. And he saw

Randy  20:24

me hit first shall be last brother.

Kyle  20:27

That's, that's a religious idea. So he saw me hit the button for the fourth floor. So you knew I was in philosophy. He's like, so you're, you're going to philosophy? How you must be a philosophers like, yeah, he's like, so this must be an interesting time for you guys. What was the nature of truth and facts being questioned at every turn? It was right after? What's your face had had done the alternative facts thing? Right? Yeah. Yeah. Which from a philosophical perspective is absolute nonsense. I mean, it's just, it's incoherent. Right? Because a fact is just another way of describing the thing that my statement corresponds to, there's something out there that is a certain way. Now, concrete, totally open to the option that we might never know what it is. Okay. There are many influential philosophers who have taken that view. But there, there's got to be it. And it is not guaranteed to be the way that it seems to me.

Randy  21:23

So I interrupted you were talking about Aristotle? Yeah. So

Kyle  21:26

so we get this correspondence view from Aristotle, I'll just give you as quickly as I can a run through of the other major options, okay, for how philosophers think about truth. Because many people are unhappy with that correspondence view for various reasons. So another way of thinking about it is truth. Is it still a property of beliefs, or it's still a property of statements or something like that. But truth for some philosophers is simply coherence between your beliefs. So some philosophers like a guy named Willard Quine, for example, argued that humans, each individual human is like a repository for a set of beliefs. Okay, so we have all these beliefs about various things. And we can never really be certain if our beliefs match up with what's out there or not. correspondence, or at least certainty about correspondence isn't attainable. And so maybe it would be better to think of truth as the beliefs all fit together somehow. So there's like a coherent web of them. And each one kind of goes with all of the other ones. And so maybe to say that something is true just means it fits into your web in a coherent way. So that's one option. Some philosophers like that view, another option. And this one is due to my personal favorite philosopher got in Charles purse, who is the most original American philosopher. So this is called the pragmatic view. And this says that truth is the end of inquiry. It is the final opinion as purse put it, it's, it's where human inquiry is headed. So again, we're approaching it asymptotically, we never quite get there. But eventually, all the disputes are settled. Or at least that's how things have gone. So far. We couldn't we continue gathering evidence, we continue thinking through things presenting the best arguments doing, you know, all the experiments, and eventually, we come to greater and greater knowledge. So truth is simply a description of the final stage of that process, which, which will never actually be realized. But we're always moving towards it. And PERS thought that it was it was like an obligation that we try to continue moving towards it. So that's called the pragmatic view of truth. It's something ideal out there somewhere that we're headed towards, which means we we never actually possess it right now.

Randy  23:43

Yeah, very frustrating, very religious, very, however, maybe fairly healthy to consider. I

Kyle  23:48

mean, this is how science works, right? Scientists, when they're speaking carefully, won't say that their theories are true, that when they're speaking really carefully, they might not even say that we know that various things are true, even though they're so well confirmed, that they're extraordinarily unlikely to ever be overturned. They might as well be facts. Nonetheless, they don't what happens in science is you, you try to disconfirm a thing until you can't anymore, and then you just treat that as though it were true until you find good reason not to it's a very pragmatic idea. We're moving towards something but we're always open to being overturned. So those are kind of the big three, the correspondence, the coherence, and then the pragmatic. Recently, there have been a couple other kind of popular views, but they're a little more technical. I don't want to go into too much. But there's one called a semantic view, which is due to a 20th century philosopher named Alfred Tarski. And he basically made truth, a property of sentences that can be expressed in a very rigidly defined language. And so not a natural language, but a language that logicians actually invent. And so he made truth, something a kind of thing that exists within a really rigorously defined language. So his definition is very mathematical. I mean, it's, we can be certain about it within the system. But it doesn't actually have the metaphysical implications of the other views. So in some ways, it just kind of brackets out the question of what's out there. And whether or not our opinions ever actually line up with what's out there. And says, instead, let's just kind of focus in on how this language is working. And we can define truth very precisely within that. And so a lot of philosophers have liked that because it's manageable, we can use it, we can, we can do, we can make discoveries, like we can do some interesting law, logical work. And some of those discoveries have actually, like spawned computer science. So I mean, they're like, really, really significant discoveries. But it doesn't actually tell us a whole lot about like, what's out there in the world. Unless, unless you're somebody like Willard Quine, who looked at that and said, You know what, I think that actually is the metaphysics. All it means to exist is to be describable in that language. That was his view. So he

Randy  26:02

can you describe for us what, what you mean by what metaphysics means?

Kyle  26:06

metaphysics is simply the question of what's out there, what what is being what actually is what actually exists. And so Quine was notoriously reductionist about everything he wanted to get rid of as much as possible. And so for him, only a couple of things exist. And so his notion of truth is very deflationary in the sense of we're trying to get rid of as much stuff as possible. And then that's actually the last. The last notion of truth I wanted to mention is the deflationary theory, which has various parts, but a lot of people are just kind of suspicious about whether it's even meaningful to say that anything is true. So some people want to say, for example, that if I say the sentence, it's raining outside, and then I say that another sentence, it's true that it's raining outside. For a lot of philosophers, I haven't said anything different. Those sentences have exactly the same semantic content, they mean the exact same thing I can get rid of, or deflate the whole truth part altogether. So for some philosophers, truth isn't actually meaningful. It's just redundant. That's a rather less we

Randy  27:12

live in a time like we do today, where people do say things that aren't true in both ways, right? Yeah. So you

Kyle  27:19

can definitely say things according to this view, that are unverifiable, or that are proven to be out of sync with what is when you try to verify it, it's difficult to describe the view without using words like true and false. But they still want to say that if you say a thing is true, in addition to just stating the thing, you haven't actually said anything additional. So philosophers like that would think it would be kinda odd to aim at or seek after, quote, unquote, truth as a as a goal. Because truth is just like this kind of unclear way of speaking, that isn't really necessary. That's not doing any additional work.

Randy  27:56

That sounds like a party guests that I would kind of want to stay with.

Kyle  27:59

Yeah, these would not be fun people to talk to you at parties. But I mean, it's quite a sizable group of philosopher. This takes that view. And then I'll just mention one more, and I promise I'm done. So there's also another favorite philosopher of mind, Friedrich Nietzsche. And Nietzsche was what's called a prospective list. And so he's famous for saying, like little quippy things like, there is no truth, there are only perspectives. And sometimes he's misinterpreted to be a kind of relativist. But that's not really what he meant. What he meant was, I think what he meant was these kind of notoriously hard to pin down on this, if you want to, because we're all kind of limited by our own perspectives, and our own social locations and our own drives and desires and motives and everything. If you really want to get as big a picture of the world as possible, you could say as accurate a picture as possible. But that kind of presupposes some things. If you want to get a little bit outside of your perspective, the only way to do it, is to take up other perspectives to dialogue with others as much as you can. And so it's kind of like if you had a partially drawn map on semi transparent paper. And then you had another layer of semi transparent paper that had a different part of the map on it, and then another layer, and then another, and then another, and you overlay them all together, you could get a picture of the whole map. And so each each individual represents only, you know, a partial perspective on the world. And so, adding together all the perspectives will get you a better picture than you could get on your own. But he also thought there's nothing outside the perspectives. So so looking for round two, the whole thing or a God's eye view is just not possible. There's nothing outside. Yeah.

Randy  29:36

I mean, I feel incense, a lot of truth and common sense in that Nietzschean kind of way of thinking there is no truth only perspectives. It seems a little cynic like overly sound, certainly. But yeah, it also reminds me there's a contemporary philosopher named Pete Rollins out of Ireland who now lives in the US, but he has he actually has these workshops in numerous offerings, whether it's a dinner, or it's called atheism for Lent, or whether there's numerous ways in which he's trying to, I'm trying to think of the right word that he or the word that he uses, it's decentering practices. So as spiritual leaders would talk about centering practices, it's good to, you know, sit here in have some centering prayer happen and calm your soul and your inner man. Pete Rollins says, I want to dissenter, I want to have some decentering practices, because we can't really know what we believe unless we hear from someone who has a different perspective than us, who will have dinners where they'll invite somebody who has the opposite view of them. And then your only job is to listen. And that person who has the opposite view will tell them everything that they believe about this thing. And they'll tell them, tell this group, how I see you and how I think about the way you think and the way you believe in your you're not allowed to talk, the only thing you're able to do is ask questions. And then you do this from a number of different perspectives, a number of different topics. And at the end of it, I think it's like 12 weeks or something, you kind of reflect together as a group and talk about what you learned. And really just by saying, you can't really know what you believe, and you can't really stand on something. Unless you've heard the opposite perspectives and different perspectives. Yeah, it's sounds very challenging to me, but it sounds very healthy and just healthy.

Kyle  31:20

Yeah. And we should have him on the podcast. I think that would be interesting. I think we will Yeah, he's a big fan of Nietzsche. So that's probably where he's getting that. So he's involved in what's called the death of God, movement or death of non theology, which is straight from Nietzsche, Nietzsche is most famous for his proclamation that God is dead, which is doesn't mean what you think it means. No, no, various philosophers have described being informed having their faith and formed by Nietzsche in a healthy way I would be in that group of people. Nietzsche certainly was no Christian, he was no fan to no friend to Christianity. But his critiques of religion, and particularly the religious perspective on truth is helpful can be very helpful. So I just said a lot of stuff about truth. There's a lot going on there, the upshot, okay, here is my, what I think the upshot is for our audience anyway, philosophers don't know what truth is. And we're the group of people most interested in, in in the world, at least as interested in it as religious people have ever been, and where the group of people and this might sound arrogant, but we're the group of people most capable of figuring it out. We've literally spent 1000s of years on the sounds. I mean, I say that because we're the group of people that's trained specifically to deal with questions like that. And we have reached nothing even close to a consensus. So there, there are pockets of people who take all the views that I just described, there are pockets of people who try to create create hybrids out of them. Personally, I subscribe to a pragmatic view, I think that's a good way to go. But there are problems with all of these. And in many cases, thinking, trying to get clear logically on what truth is often leads you into paradox. So they're very famous paradoxes that philosophers and logicians who work on truth, try to sort out and it's very hard. So the upshot for me is, we don't know what truth is. Ergo, you don't know what? Like, humans don't know what your truth is. That's kind of the bottom line. For philosophers now. Now, let me say this much, okay, and then I'll turn it back over. There's nothing whatsoever wrong with believing that you are correct, about how you see the world. In fact, it would be weird not to, like to have a belief implies usually there are exceptions, but usually, to have a belief implies that you think the world is a certain way. Yeah, you think it's true? Yeah. Everybody thinks their perspective is correct. Everybody thinks their beliefs are true. And that's perfectly natural, and good. That's as it should be. And people ought to defend their views. And you ought not to give up a belief if you don't have good reason to do. So every philosopher I know would agree with that. It's just that no one has ownership of the concept. And no one can actually explicate the concept in a way that's convincing to other smart people

Randy  34:13

in when the church is, you know, got some real eggs on its face, or when the church has thought something is true so strongly that they're willing to burn people at the stake, because they have a different perspective and

Kyle  34:28

understand why they thought that right. If your idea of truth is that this is a thing that we received from God. So it's, it's almost you can think of it as a kind of humility, I think it would be a warped sense of humility. It's not it's not a humility that I would recommend as a virtue. But I mean, burning someone at the stake or condemning someone or you know, excommunicating someone or whatever, was, in a way, an expression of humility in the sense of who am I to say what is true? The tradition has give In this to me, and by the lights of the tradition, you're outside of it. And the tradition has also told me what to do about that. It's a kind of obedience, it's, it's an obedience that a philosopher would never see the virtue in. But from a religious perspective, you can kind of understand the perspective.

Elliot  35:18

So if I, if I'm someone with faith, and I believe that I know something of God, or even heard something directly from God, is that where I should be stopping? Or do I layer on this supreme human philosophical wisdom that makes it so that you can say There is none who knows truth? And I guess as someone of faith, which lens am I supposed to look through?

Kyle  35:47

Yeah, I mean, my recommendation, and it's simply that because you got to do what you got to do, right? I mean, you're responsible for your shepherding your own beliefs. But I would say test yourself to see how sure you are to see how confident you are? Do you really know that? And there are ways of testing yourself, and the easiest way is to ask other people. And we can we can work together to find out if you're actually sure about that. And I bet, give us a few minutes or maybe a few hours, and I bet I could get you to doubt it. But if I can't, if that fails, if we go through the process, and you don't doubt it at the end of the day, you're absolutely sure about it assures you're of anything, then who are we to say? That that's not the case?

Randy  36:27

Yeah, I think at the very least it just, we do well to be more careful with the word truth. As Christians as religious people. Yeah,

Kyle  36:35

yeah. You get no argument for me there. So let's flip this around. So I just gave you that. Probably annoyingly nerdy take. philosophers think about this. What's it like from your perspective? So how do you think about truth? How do you communicate the idea of truth and your position as a pastor?

Randy  36:52

Yeah, it's interesting, you're gonna get a different take from me than you would many, many other past Christian pastors, because I grew up in that world that felt like we knew what truth was, and we have, we've cornered the market on truth. And that's in regards to End Times theology and eschatology. It's in regards to sexuality. It's in regards to who's in and who's out. It's in regards to science and creationism. That's in regards to everything, right. But it's been a long time since I've thought like that. I got quickly weirded out even before I was a pastor, by the way that Christians used the word truth. So willy nilly. And so in such a weaponized fashion, I would say, I got very skeptical of it pretty early on. And now I'm just not one of those pastors that you'd hear talking about truth a lot. And I, some people don't like me for it. Some people probably have left our church because of it. And some, you know, I just had this conversation literally a couple of weeks ago, person who is considering leaving our church. And he's, his first question was, Do you believe in absolute truth? Oh, here we go. All right, second conversation. And he asked the question, because he doesn't hear me talk about absolute truth so much. And so maybe that means that Pastor Randy doesn't believe it. And very few people call me Pastor Randy, by the way, the Reverend

Kyle  38:09

I bet there's a Venn diagram of the people that do and the people that use the phrase absolute truth.

Randy  38:14

Yeah, sure, sure. Sure. Well, no, most of the people who think use the phrase absolute truth are pretty questionable about whether I'm qualified to be a pastor or not. In what I told him was, you know, I probably believe in absolute truth, but it's not the Scriptures. And, and he didn't love that. But so I'll go to where I think truth lies, and then kind of unpack it from there. But when I talk about truth, I'm talking about a person. And I know that freaks you philosophers out. But that's just, that's just my take, and where I am right now, where I've been for a while. And what I'm most comfortable with, I'm uncomfortable with talking about anything is absolute truth, unless you're talking about the person of Christ. And then I can say, truth is found in Christ. And I can say that because a everything that I've seen or heard from Christ in the Christian scriptures, resonates in such a dynamic way in me in such a deep way, that that is elevated above anything at both in the scriptures and anything that I've heard, the person of Christ is something and someone who continues to make sense of things and to make sense of reality. And I feel like the further I get away from the person of Christ, the further the more unraveled, I get, in the closer and closer and more connected I am to this person of Christ both in my thought life and my soul in my devotional life, the more centered and real I feel, the more grounded in reality I feel. And I think the most inspired portions of the scriptures by far are the ones that speak to Jesus as truth. Ones like John one, where talks about the divine Logos, the divine Word of God, that was before We're all things and all things were created through this word through Jesus. And John even says, we received the law through Moses, but we received grace and truth through Jesus. Now that I mean, most of us just walk right by that. But do you realize what John is saying when he said that? He's saying that we didn't get the truth from Moses, right? Like the the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures weren't the this fullest embodiment of truth. He says, we didn't get truth until we got Jesus. That's profound. And then I fast forward to Colossians one where the apostle Paul said, that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. So the Apostle Paul got something he got that, like this God that we believe in, that we put our faith and trust in and are giving ourselves to, he's invisible. She's invisible, this divine life is invisible, we, that's why it's called faith, we can't know. But we have this human one, who we believe was fully divine and fully human. And this one named Jesus, the Christ is the fullest expression of the divine life that we will ever have in this life. And that when if we've seen Jesus, we've seen God. And so that just tells me, that's the one thing I can have confidence in and talking about truth that truth is a Person and Jesus even said it himself for crying out loud. He said, I'm the way and I'm the truth, and I'm the life. I am the truth. I'm very comfortable with that statement. Because it's so complex, but yet, it's so simple. You're not able to reduce truth down into a formulaic system of bullet points, you're actually have to observe and become a disciple of and give yourself to a person. And you have to listen. And you have to lay aside your judgments and your preconceived notions about what reality is what truth is, and you just become a learner of this one who defied the religious leaders of his day, who was killed by the religious leaders of his day, who was killed by the Empire, the greatest empire that was in the world at that point, and yet, it has become the most followed and respected person who's ever walked Planet Earth that we know of. So that's my perspective on truth. And I get very uncomfortable if we go somewhere outside of that. I get Yeah, I just I can't stomach those conversations that makes truth out to be something that it's not. And I know, again, philosophers, I know that you're saying, Well, that's what you're doing. When you're talking about Jesus's truth. That's fine. We can disagree. But that person that life is where I found the most truth of anything and anyone.

Elliot  42:36

It seems like one thing you're both sharing is, there's this idea of some external thing that we won't attain, or no, and we can't, we can't say that we've got it. No, it's It's outside of us. And we journey towards it continually.

Randy  42:52

Yeah, if if truth is a Person, as in Christ, and by Christ, I mean, I'm a Trinitarian. Christian. So I believe in Father, Son, and Spirit, I believe in this relational God, this relational divine life that together they represent and make up who is God. And I believe that that divine life is the ground of being of all reality. And so when I talk about truth as a person, that's what I'm talking about that that the ground of being of raw reality, actually has been revealed in a person who is Jesus Christ, and I'll never I'll spend my life journeying towards truth, whose name is Jesus? Yeah.

Kyle  43:27

Yeah. For all I said about those perspectives on truth from, you know, different philosophers. I think everything you said, could be consistent with most of those theories. So for a correspondence interest example, I mean, the thing that's out there that our statements are trying to correspond to, might be Jesus. It might be what Kahn called the thing in itself and the new mental world, it might be what Perce called the he had another name for it.

Elliot  43:56

I can't think in itself is that I Am that I Am.

Kyle  43:59

I mean, we could interpret it that way. So the kind of Yeah, can't explicitly had God in mind, because he wanted to make the case that humans weren't capable of knowledge of God. We weren't capable of knowledge of many things. But God is one of the things because God is understood in classical philosophy as the source of being God is the primordial existing thing from which all other things spring. And we are limited by our own cognitive filters, and we just can't access that. That was his view.

Randy  44:32

Reminds me of the way you talked about an alien selmak way of describing God or a case for God. Right? Yeah, God's

Kyle  44:39

the necessarily existing thing or the self existent thing or whatever. And from our perspective, I mean, what's the difference between saying that that's Jesus or the Christ? Or saying that that's, I don't know, the one if you take take the view of Plotinus or if you're a Buddhist, it's the the universe circuits the eternal flux or whatever I mean, all those descriptions are semantically equivalent from the perspective of a correspondence theorists. So it's an article of faith to say that it's Jesus. But a lot of philosophers are fine with that. Yeah, we're, if you're a pragmatist about truth, like I am, then, you know, to say that Jesus is the truth. And in a kind of, I don't know, really general sense might mean something like, we're gradually as a human race or as a race of rational beings, maybe bigger than humanity, we're gradually heading towards a perspective of the world, where Jesus's nature will be more and more realized, or at least our understanding of the world will get closer and closer to that kind of nature. I'm okay with that. I personally, when I read that part, and John, about Jesus being the Way, the Truth and the Life I interpreted ethically, I don't think that Jesus was trying to make a metaphysical statement to or I don't think John was trying to make a metaphysical statement to satisfy the Greek philosophers, but he's, he's the way for me to become fully human. He's the life for me as a human. And he's the truth and the sense of, he's the thing that I should aim all of my religious beliefs that and all of the things that I believe about how I should treat other people I interpreted and kind of ethical sense, but but I don't think it's necessarily doing damage to the text or to the Christian view, to treat it as more than that. And many Christian philosophers have said that, whatever reality is, it's, it's Christ. It's in ways that we don't understand it's mysterious, but he's the primordial thing.

Randy  46:41

And it's fun to me that on this journey towards truth, because that's what I would, that's how I would describe a real religious journey. And particularly for me, a Christian journey, is a journey towards truth. So I'm journeying towards that which is real am journeying towards that, which is the foundational reality of the cosmos of existence. But while I do that, I feel like the closer I get, the more I don't know. Yeah. And that's super fun. To me. That's, you know, this idea of wonder and mystery. I feel like the further we go on this journey towards truth, if we do it in a humble and, you know, authentic kind of way, ironically, the more we understand how much we don't understand, and how far from that foundational ground of reality that is the divine life that is Christ, which just thrills me. I actually love that that's, that's a spiritual journey that I can say yes, and amen to is one that is open to wonder. journeying towards truth in the the further you go, the more that you realize you don't know.

Kyle  47:45

Yeah. So was your friend happy with any of that when you explained? Well,

Randy  47:51

no, I mean, that conversation went the way a lot of these conversations go, is I just asked a lot of questions. Because Jesus, if if, if you take Jesus out of the scriptures, it's easier to have a formulaic form of Christianity, right? But because of Jesus, we can we have to get comfortable with all sorts of nuance. And so that conversation went like because of the Absolute Truth foundation, then it went to, do you think there's a clear cut way to get into heaven or to have eternal life? You know, and I was like, Well, I'm not qualified to give that answer. But the one who is walked in planet earth and gave a number of different ways, seemingly to have life to have access to that life. Sometimes it looked like faith and belief. Sometimes it looked like caring for the least of these. Sometimes it looks like you would do all sorts of things in Jesus name. And still he would save Depart from me for I never knew you. And so I think just using Jesus words, actually, the red letters in the Bible is just it's hard to get around in these conversations. You have to build a Christ list theology in some ways to come to these hard, fast truth to be totally honest, if I'm just going to be that that was offensive. Well, what I just said, but so

Kyle  49:02

Wow. So thoroughly biblical theology would entail for you a crisis theology.

Randy  49:08

I didn't say biblical well, but

Kyle  49:10

that's where they're getting it from. Right. I mean, the truth, I would say, the Bible says, which is obvious? Yes,

Randy  49:15

I would say many modern Protestant Christians have a shockingly small amount of Jesus in their functional theology. Let me say that, yeah. And I would say most of their theology is based on the apostle Paul, who would disagree with most of their theology. But when you bring up Jesus to a lot of Protestant Christians, you're actually challenging their, their theology because they formulated a theology that's very formulaic, and very, you know, A plus B equals C, and it's just Jesus breaks those categories. Jesus comes along and brings the gray in, and he brings even more gray when you get more uncomfortable with it. It's why the religious people killed Jesus.

Kyle  49:53

Yeah, I mean, it's almost like God is a person and not a mathematical theorem.

Randy  49:58

Absolutely. Absolutely, this could be so much more simple, right like this, this Christian journey could be just so cut and dry. And so many American Christians would love it. If it was, you know, because we turn the Bible into a manual or to a textbook and turn all our theology into formulas. And that's just Jesus comes along and disappoints you at every turn if you have that viewpoint, it's why we can't really focus too much on Jesus if that's the way we want to thank.

Elliot  50:27

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Kyle  51:03

So what do you think Christians mean when they use that phrase Absolute Truth, I've never quite got my head around that. I mean, I used to be super into apologetics. And we throw that phrase around all the time. But I'm not. To this day, I'm still not really clear what we meant by

Randy  51:17

like when I when I think about sexuality is when when it kind of crystallizes for me. And I think when you when they say absolute truth, they mean something that cannot be argued with something that is from God is true eternally. And it doesn't matter what cultural context you find yourself in, it doesn't matter what science or logic say, This is absolute truth. And it's, that's the end of the conversation. So if I have a son or a daughter who's gay, I know absolute truth and absolute truth says I've got to fix them, or I know absolute truth and absolute truth means that experience is wrong. And we got to figure them out. We got to psychoanalyze and, you know, Jesus eyes them. Because Absolute Truth is very clear. Absolute Truth allows for no wiggle room. Would you? Is that about right? When it comes to absolute truth? What we mean?

Elliot  52:06

Yeah, it's the opposite of the relativistic like, yeah, yes, you believe what you want, I believe that I want and won't be okay. It's like now that these but these things you must, yep. They're true. Whether or not you see them as true. Exactly.

Kyle  52:20

Oh, I guess I'm trying to get clear on what the absolute part adds to it. So it just sounds redundant to me If so, if a thing is true, totally true. So what does it mean? I mean, it's the absolute part is, as you said, can't be argued with? Surely they mean, shouldn't be argued with? Or do they really mean?

Elliot  52:37

To which you say, Watch me.

Kyle  52:39

Like, if you go outside occasionally, and talk to people, you would hopefully not take the view that there's no

Randy  52:46

limit? Let me I'm trying to get inside the head of my friend who I'm talking about this conversation from several weeks ago. And I think he would say, there are things in I know, he would say, there are things in the Christian faith and in the church that we can disagree about the non essentials, if you will. And that's okay, we can actually still be friends and fellowship as Christian brothers and sisters and disagree on those things. But there is absolute truth, there are the essentials that cannot be compromised. That cannot be we cannot be wishy washy about, we cannot allow for disagreement about because if we disagree, those things are absolutely true. And there is no wiggle room there, then we have to break fellowship, then we have to say you're not a Christian anymore, then we have to say, You're wrong, because this is absolute truth.

Kyle  53:32

But I mean, but again, what they mean by that must be functionally, what I think is true. Well, there's a lot of question.

Randy  53:41

Well, what they think isn't doesn't matter to them. What the Scriptures say is what matters. There are a lot of

Elliot  53:46

things I think are true. But the absolute truths, if I'm taking on this mindset are the things on which I cannot tolerate your disagreement and still see you within the camp that I'm in.

Kyle  53:58

So just the most important ones. Yeah, sure. Okay, so absolute truth means the things I think are most important,

Elliot  54:04

and like getting uncomfortable, like I have to defend this.

Kyle  54:07

No, no, no, I'm just trying to get clear.

Randy  54:10

I mean, it's an idea that I guess I used to hold, I just don't remember. I'm just trying to the things that we cannot these people think the things that we cannot compromise on the things that if our culture tells us, some person has their own truth, and you have your own truth,

Kyle  54:25

but hold on to the wrong. So if, if it's that's a consequential consequentialist thing, which means if the justification for this being the absolute truth is that if I don't treat it that way, then really terrible stuff will happen, then that's not truth. We're not talking about truth anymore, right? Because now it's playing. Now that depends on what I do. And so it's just not truth anymore. So it can't be what they mean cannot be, at least as far as I can understand that. This is something that if we don't treat it as true, then terrible things will have happen? Because then it its its nature as truth somehow depends on me or its importance depends on me that would that wouldn't make any sense. So to say that something is, quote unquote, absolute truth has to mean something else. And as the clearest I can see on it is that it means what I or my community says is most important.

Randy  55:20

Well, yeah, and what they think is absolutely true or absolute truth is the grounds for human flourishing, they would say, the reason that our world is the way it is, is because the world is relativistic and hates absolute truth. If we had absolute truth, we'd have strong nuclear families. If our world believed in absolute truth, we would have a flourishing economy and freedom would be what would it was meant to be if we had absolute truth, we wouldn't have all these people coming out as transgender and gender confusion and all that stuff. Because we've gone so far in this relativistic, you know, truth hating culture that we live in, that we've got what we deserve.

Kyle  56:02

Sure, yeah. But even even there, those things are evidence to you of people having given up on truth, because you have an idea of what human flourishing looks like. And you're getting that idea from somewhere, you're either getting it from something external to your faith, in which case, you're in the same boat as the rest of us, you're just a hypocrite about it. Or you're getting it from the Bible, in which case your view is circular. Or you're getting it from your tradition with which is still just a circular. So in what do you mean by circular? It's kind of like when when somebody says, You should believe the Bible, and I say why? And they said, because the Bible says, so. If I if, I mean, if I think that not grasping Absolute Truth will lead you to unhappiness or will prevent your flourishing as a human being. But my notion of Absolute Truth is derived from my own opinions, or the tradition, the tradition of which I'm apart. And I say, Well, why is that the correct notion of human flourishing? And the answer is because the tradition says it like you can't give a demonstrable, yeah, justification for

Randy  57:10

it's basically, in my world, I equate that to being a fan. It's like sports, I would say a person would ask me, who's the best? A kid would ask me who's the best football team? And I'd be like, the Packers, it'd be like, why are the Packers the best? I could give them all sorts of reasons why we because we have these amazing quarterbacks and, you know, tradition, and we do things right. But at the end of the day, why are the Packers the best team? Because of the Packers? What does that mean? They're just the Packers, they're the best.

Kyle  57:37

Yeah, and I guess that's what confuses me about the whole phrase, and why we spent so much time on it now, is that, I mean, I'm fine with sticking to traditions. And you know, this is how we think about things. And we have our coherent system. And it makes sense to us. It's internally consistent, and we think it provides a good path to flourishing. And if you disagree, then you're just not part of our system. But that's fine. But like, adding the Absolute Truth, part two, it makes it sound like you think it's bigger than your system, which makes it sound like you think it's demonstrable, which means you should be able to demonstrate or somebody should be able to demonstrate it. So it just reduces back to like, when you dig into it, it just reduces back to this is what our group said.

Elliot  58:17

Any of our listeners, you could explain this to us better than we're seeming to be able to grasp but should just email us because I think I tried to look back on on Google Trends, they only go back as far as 2004. But it looks like absolute truth has, like it kind of it peaked sometime before that, because it was already trending down. That's as far back as they go. But my guess is that it was the the Christian response to post modernism. As a movement, you've got post modernism that comes in and starts to talk about things like okay, multiple truths. And so then and then there's this, this response on the part of Christianity where you have to, well, no, there's not multiple truths there. But but there are absolutes. These are these are things that that would be my guess I'd love

Randy  58:55

to hear if and I school. I mean, this is, you know, I condemn cynicism, but I'm pretty cynical. I want to say this is part of the reason why we see so many people walking away from from the faith from from Christianity is because we're obsessed with little weird, you know, cult, like, ideas like absolute truth like that. We just don't have to obsess over that and talk about it ad nauseam. Because there it's just not helping us. I would say, let me ask you this, Kyle, as someone who grew up in the church, and you said, you know, in the very beginning of his podcasts that you grew up as a fundamentalist in many ways. And as someone who was passionate about apologetics up until you know, inside of this last decade, which is the ultimate irony, I think, and as somebody who is still identifies as a Christ follower, how would you recommend that we who identify as Christians because I sure hope there's some non Christians in some atheists and some other faiths listening, but how would you recommend that we Christians think and talk about truth?

Kyle  59:58

Do it less

Randy  1:00:01

Okay, there's a good start.

Kyle  1:00:05

I mean, listen to experts, people that know what they're talking about don't take a concept that's extensively exhaustively studied in some other area, and then like CO opt it and claim ownership of it, like give it a kind of parochial definition and then insist that that'd be the definition for everyone else. It's, it's not a way to like win friends and influence people. You know what I mean? I don't know like, for maybe it's my apologetics days jaded me for the whole, the whole Christian use of the concept. But what we meant by it back then was the ability to clobber somebody in an argument, that's what truth was to, to vindicate your position. And I don't see that as a Christian idea anymore. In fact, I see it as a sinful idea. More often than not, I'd like to see less emphasis on truth and more emphasis on love personally, not that there's not room for robustness and truth within Christianity. I think there is, but I think maybe the church would be well served by spending a generation or so just trying to put truth on the backburner for a while. Focus on love a bit more. I mean, if you think reality is one thing, then and you think that thing is love, and you think that thing is true, then either one should get you there. So let's just focus on love a bit and see where we end up with the truth. I mean, that would be my hope for the church. But I don't know. For me the the focus of the Christian life should be on being as faithful and as loving as possible. And I think both faith and love have a kind of rocky relationship with truth in the way that it's often practiced in the church, and has been practiced. And and I don't just mean evangelicals, either. I mean, Orthodoxy in general. I mean, the idea that religious people have ownership of understanding reality, that seems to me in tension with both faith and love, which are supposed to be humble things. I don't see a lot of humility in that sense of ownership, even if we think as any good Catholic would, that truth is a gift of God somehow. Nonetheless, I'm still a fallible human who's trying to interpret it the best I can, alongside other fallible humans who don't see it the way that I do so.

Randy  1:02:24

Yep. And just in case, there's any wonderful Christians who are again, getting a little angsty right now, I'm just gonna encourage you, keeping in mind what you just heard from Kyle, stop your car, stop cutting your grass, whatever you're doing. And on your phone, go turn to First Corinthians 13. And read that through and then see what you think.

Kyle  1:02:49

Yeah, I don't see Paul talking that much about being being able to, I don't know, vindicate your view he I mean, he definitely argues a lot. Okay, so to be fair, he definitely, like, likes to win arguments, but it's definitely all in the service of getting people to love each other better, to be more faithful. So I don't know, I think I just want to advocate for more humility and less confidence that we possess the truth, it's okay to think that you know, what's correct, it's okay to try to convince other people about it if you do so, in an honest way. And in a way that preserves the dignity of the other person, which a lot of times we don't, but to think that you possess that it's your, your thing. That's yep, that's a problem.

Randy  1:03:30

Yeah. So this is getting at something that an idea and a concept that I think, you know, I'm I'm quite certain you introduce me to that I'm really, really a huge fan of now, which is this idea of epistemic humility. epistemic being like how we know what we know, right? Being humble about what we know, epistemic humility, I think Christians would do very well to acquaint ourselves with this idea of epistemic humility. So Kyle, can you can you just unpack just a little bit more again, for us the concept of epistemic humility, and why it might be a virtue in in this day and age.

Kyle  1:04:03

Yeah, I mean, it's it's regular humility applied to what you know. So regular legality is a virtue, you're putting the interests of others ahead of your own, but you're also not denying or downplaying or deprecating your own interests, you're simply focused on the good of others. That's your fundamental orientation. And now apply that to knowledge. Well, I'm, I'm focused on learning from others. I'm focused on building something together with a community of people because I think we're better together than we are as individuals. So in a way, it's just the opposite of overconfidence. It's the opposite of going it alone, being sort of a lone crusader and figuring things out. So actually, I wrote a blog a little while ago, where I talked a little bit about this. So I give a description

Randy  1:04:50

of very, like, early 2000s. I know right?

Kyle  1:04:53

Yeah. I give a description in there of an epistemic ly humble person that I just want to read for you is if that's okay. So a couple of paragraphs. So I say the systemically humble person will know both her own limitations and her strengths, how important it is to rely on others for what she knows, she'll be focused on learning from experts and on making a genuine contribution rather than appearing to make a contribution. So recognize that her own opinions are not obviously true, and will understand that disagreement itself is evidence of this, she will be quick to say I don't know, when she doesn't know, she wants to come to the pressure to pretend that she knows, or to excuse her ignorance by redirecting attention to all the things that she does know. And moreover, she will readily change her mind when presented with new evidence which tips the scales in another direction, and she won't pretend that she didn't change her mind, or pay lip service to the pernicious idea that changing one's mind is a defect. When dealing with others who believe differently, she will remember what it's like to hold a different view. And we'll try to be grateful for those people who listened to her and helped her then she will keep in mind that people often have bad introductions to ideas, and will try to find out how they understand what's at stake, before launching a counter attack, the humble person will present her opinions when it is appropriate to present them, such as when people ask, or when she is an expert, or when she can highlight a point made by someone else that went unnoticed, or when she's aware of being able to articulate an important point clearly. And and this is important, she will present her opinions with her level of confidence. So I believe this, but I'm not certain about it for the following reasons. And she'll know when not to have an opinion, and will be comfortable saying I don't have enough information to take a position on that. And finally, I say this is the end of it. She will make her arguments and assertions, unapologetically, without condescension, but also without pretense, or embarrassment, because I think part of humility is having an accurate self understanding. I know my limits, but also know my strengths. And I don't try to present them as anything other than what they are.

Randy  1:06:57

Yeah. All that sounds fantastic, but makes for a really bad preacher. People like certainty.

Kyle  1:07:05

You're joking. We could really dig into that.

Elliot  1:07:09


Kyle  1:07:12

Yeah. So we we've already recorded an episode with another philosopher where we kind of dive into this a bit, and we haven't released it yet at the time of this recording. But this is important. I mean, there is a sense in which evangelizing or not even just evangelizing but exhorting people to faith, which is part of the job of the pastor, I don't want to say that it can't be done humbly, I think it can. And I think you you model that pretty well, usually. But it lends itself to overconfidence, you kind of have to, I remember. So I used to back when I was doing my apologetic stuff, I would go and speak places, sometimes about that stuff. And a buddy of mine, who was kind of my mentor also really into that has given me some advice on how to do it one time. And he said, when you walk into a room, you decide the room is yours, and you own it, you own the audience. And then when you walk out of the room, you give them back. And you have to like very intentionally do that. And so I kind of trained myself to do that. And it's really easy to forget the second part. And I think pastors are in a hard position because they have to speak in a way that's exhorting and upbuilding. But they also have to speak in a way that's humble. And that doesn't lead on that they know more than they do. And that's, that's a hard road to walk or just I don't think everybody should do

Randy  1:08:37

that. Is it possible Kyle to have real faith in something in the divine while holding that faith with epistemic humility? What does you described a lot within, you know, quoting your blog post, but what what does that look like? Where have you seen it in person? In what does it look like? What's the flavors?

Kyle  1:09:00

Yeah, it's definitely possible. I mean, I think you successfully do it most of the time. I think I've been actually blessed to be surrounded by people who are a lot better at faith than I am for most of my life. And I've seen really good examples of humility. Like CS Lewis said, when when you're around a humble person, you probably don't really remember it probably didn't stick in your brain very well, because they were probably just good conversationalist. They probably just were interested in you. I've definitely seen a lot of really great examples of that. I mean, I think it just, it just looks like presenting your confidence and presenting your doubt, transparently. And not never pretending. I mean, pretense is the opposite of humility. So anybody can do that. You can do it about anything. I can I can pretend to know more than I do about theories of truth. I can pretend to know more than I do about how to be a faithful Christian

Randy  1:09:59

man. I think that's what you just said. They're talking about what being confident about what you believe and being honest about what you doubt. I think that's why this conversation, one of the reasons why this conversation has gotten so difficult and so needed in the church is because of this, what we've talked about before the idol of certainty in the church, that it's for any Christian, to have doubts, or uncertainty about something, as it goes with their faith, journey, theology, what have you. That's a scary and dirty place to be, you're not allowed to do that in a lot of the church. I mean, our church, you are allowed to do that. But I remember talking to someone who is from our church network. And I talked about how I'm going through, we're going through Ecclesiastes at this point, and we're talking about doubt and uncertainty and faith crises and giving space for that. And he was blown away, that we would be talking about this, you know, he was he lives in the Bible Belt, where it's especially, you know, profane to admit any doubt or uncertainty. But the Church has replaced I think much of the Christian Church has replaced Faith with certainty. And really, we can't get it through our heads that those are opposing concepts, that one doesn't match with the other. It's just not the fact in the apostle Paul, let's go back to the apostle Paul, maybe someone who were on the other side of this conversation would like to quote more than anybody, the apostle Paul didn't say, certainty, in the reality of Christ will save you. The apostle Paul said faith and even in the Greek translation, its faithfulness to the way of Christ is what saves you, if anything does. And that's just diametrically opposed to this idea of being certain of not having any doubt of knowing why. How did we get to this place where we replaced faith and belief with certainty and knowing in by knowing I mean, a very silly sense of knowing.

Kyle  1:11:56

Yeah, that's a question for historian, I think we could do a whole episode on that we should definitely probably have one on the podcast. I mean, I think the answer whatever it is be pretty frustrating. I mean, in my experience with the Holy Spirit, certainty, or even confidence about propositions, has really never been even part of the interaction. It's the Holy Spirit has only ever led me away from that if I if I'm Frank, and so I have a hard time. And I know that this is really good Catholic friends that I respect a great deal. And I have friends who are parts of other traditions, who would take a similar view as the one I'm about to critique. But I have a really hard time thinking that orthodoxy was the result of the leading of the Holy Spirit that, that battening down the hatches about what's true, was, was the result of following God. That's a huge thing to say, and probably not a very humble thing to say, because I'm one little guy in this long tradition of Christians trying their best. And I think most of those people were probably trying their best, and they were sincere, and I'm sure they heard from the Holy Spirit, but in my interactions, and that's all I can speak to. That's just not what she does. She leads me to serving people, particularly people in my sphere. And I'd like to be a fly on the wall in some of those Ecumenical Councils, just to see how often if ever the point was raised, is this actually what we should be doing? And is this in service of particular people that we can name? Again, that's a question for his story. And maybe it was,

Randy  1:13:42

yep, yep. So friends, if you're still with us, if particularly you friends who were getting a little bit insecure, and you know, angry during the beginning of this, if you're still hanging with us, if you're still here, I just want to say, maybe that same spirit that Kyle was just speaking to is offering us an invitation, out of a prideful religion that's built on pretense, and into a never ending journey towards truth that will never fully wrap our hands around in our heads around in our hearts and our spirits around. But we're never going to stop journeying towards truth, we're never going to stop journeying towards that which is real. We're never going to stop journeying towards Christ, and it's going to be the best, most beautiful journey that we could ever go on. It's going to be painful. It's going to be, you know, there's going to be grief in it. There's going to be disappointment along the way. But the whole time, even in our grief, we're going to be invited into truth, even in our pain. And even in our wrestling's even in our longings, we're going to find truth there because we're going to find Christ in those places. And so maybe we're just being invited into a different way of holding and looking at in walking with our faith. That is a lot more appealing to both yourself when it comes down to it and to the people around you, and actually seems a little bit more Christ like in the way we find it in the gospels

Elliot  1:15:19

Thanks for spending this time with us. We really hope that you're enjoying these conversations as much as we are. And if you are, help us get the word out. Before you close your podcast app, leave a rating or review that helps new listeners find us maybe for the first time. If you'd like to share the episode you just heard with a friend or a family member. You can find those links on our social media pages. You can also find us over on Patreon at patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher. Thanks again for listening. Until next time, this has been A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar.

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