Witnessing Tips: Apologetics, Truth, and Humility
By Douglas Groothuis
Recently when I was discussing philosophy with an earnest undergraduate student, she informed me that she rejected the idea that she could know “the truth” because this would condemn everyone who disagreed with her. Since philosophers have traditionally exulted in winning arguments instead of eliminating them, I asked why she shunned victory in favor of terminal agnosticism. She explained, “If I claim to know the truth, then I must also claim that whoever disagrees with me is wrong, and that would make me intolerably arrogant.”
This student was suffering from a case of dislocated humility. Instead of being rightly humble about her ability always to know truly or infallibly, she was instead humble over the mere possibility of discovering the truth. She identified the very idea of possessing truth with pride. I suggested a shift in perspective: What if we view truth as something that might be discovered by diligent seekers? Then one who claims to know the truth need not be arrogant. She need not view herself pridefully as the owner or creator of truth, but could rather behave as a humble servant of truth who wants to make it known to others for their own good. She could thus humbly enter into dialogue over the matter by giving arguments and evidence to support her views.
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The student reluctantly admitted that she had never thought of it that way before, and said she would think more about it. I prayed she would, because until she grasps the concept of attainable truth, she will never comprehend the identity of Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This encounter highlights how crucial humility is to the Christian’s apologetic task in a world steeped in relativism. On the one hand, we must place humility in the right place. We should never misplace our humility by disparaging the only thing that will ever set anyone free — the truth itself.
The central claims of God’s revelation should be understood, explained, and defended. I thank the one true God that this journal and those involved in apologetics ministries are providing sound reasons for the faith and are challenging the critics of Christianity. On the other hand, ambitious Christian apologists often lose something indispensable in the very process of defending the indispensable. In refusing to jettison the idea of truth, we often jettison humility instead…
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