What does it mean to say Christianity is true?
by Eric Chabot
A common approach in apologetic discussions is to ask someone what would convince them Christianity is true. And if it is true, would you believe it? After all, we rely on truth every day of our lives. We want our banks, our employers, government, friends, and family to be truthful with us. And why would you want to believe something that is false? But the more I have thought about this question, I think it leads to some very important questions.
1. First of all, when you say the word ‘true’ or ‘truth’ you have to define what you mean! Whatever determines a test for truth determines one’s apologetic approach. It is quite common for the Christian or Christian apologist to defend the correspondence theory of truth. Thus, truth is what corresponds to reality. As Norman Geisler says:
“Truth is what corresponds to its referent. Truth about reality is what corresponds to the way things really are. Truth is “telling it like it is.” This correspondence applies to abstract realities as well as actual ones. There are mathematical truths. There are also truths about ideas. In each case there is a reality, and truth accurately expresses it. Falsehood, then is what does not correspond. It tells it like it is not, misrepresenting the way things are.”–Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, pgs,741-745.
Now here is the challenge: Many people aren’t asking whether Christianity corresponds to reality. Instead, they are asking if it is true because of the pragmatic benefits they see in people’s lives. This is a very popular approach. In this argument, many people say their religious beliefs have been tried and tested out in the reality of life. In other words, “Christianity works because it is true!”
This does have some merit. After all, if the Christian faith is the one true path, it should make a radical difference in the reality of life. The challenge of this argument is that in some cases, it seems Christianity doesn’t work. Christians have challenges in their families, work related issues and relationships. However, just because Christians don’t always reflect the character of Jesus and don’t always show the difference it makes, this doesn’t mean Christianity is false. It could be that the person is not under healthy teaching/discipleship or living in sin. So the pragmatic argument can be a tricky one. Everyone knows Christians have done some amazing things for the world (see here), but we also have some inconsistencies.
When we are challenging people on whether Christianity is true, sometimes the goal is to break them out of all other tests for truth (especially the pragmatic one) and get them to ask whether Christianity corresponds to reality? So our attempt to get people out of a post modern view of truth is quite challenging…