Monopolizing the concept of truth

At the core of the debate between fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists is a problem over the definition of truth.

I am not a moral relativist by any stretch, and I do believe in such a thing as absolute truth. There are such things as facts, things which either happened or did not, and much stuff which can be proven to a scientific certainty. People such as "deconstructionists" who assert that there is no such thing as the truth sicken me.

They also sicken almost all reasonable people. So why the hell are they so often presented as the only alternative to fundamentalism? Clearly, they are not.

And why are fundamentalists so often presented as the only "Christians" in the country, or the world? I know it is easy to give the squeaky wheel the grease, but is this fair?

Fundamentalists assert that the only absolute truth is whatever particular version of it that they assert comes from God. Each particular fundamentalist group -- whether the various Christian varieties, Muslims, Hindus, etc., claims to know this as absolute fact, and they assert that their truth is written in books which were either directly inspired by God or dictated by him. The problem is that there are too many competing branches of fundamentalist truth -- and simple logic dictates that they cannot all be right. Otherwise, truth really would be a relative thing -- to be determined by the adherents of each particular philosophy thereof.

Certain fundamentalists would hate me for saying this, but the insistence by so many groups that only their group knows the truth gives ammo to the advocates of moral relativism and those in the deconstructionist camp.

Yet those who do not see religious texts as absolute truths, but see the fundamentalist assertion of truth as one form of religious opinion -- why, these people are then painted as moral relativists, and on top of that, are told that they are not "real" Christians -- even though some of them might believe in God and attend church. Predictably, this leads to name-calling.

I have tried to argue logically with fundamentalists, and gotten nowhere because of this stumbling block over the definition of truth. (An interesting analysis of this problem can be found here.) I don't even waste my time arguing with those true moral relativists (often known as "deconstructionists") who dispute the idea of truth, because there is no basis even for rational discussion. After all, if there is no truth, there is nothing to debate, and really, no reason to discuss anything. A bumpersticker I saw in Berkeley summed it up rather nicely: "WORDS ARE NOT TRUTH." (OK, fine; no words for him!)

The biggest enemies of the fundamentalists are not radical secular atheist deconstructionists. Likewise, the biggest enemies of the latter are not the fundamentalists.

These two opposites agree on the real enemy. The real enemy are ordinary "fuzzy" Christians, and ordinary, more or less secular, live-and-let-live agnostic types -- the kind of people who believe in God but don't think the Bible is literally true, or maybe believe in God but aren't completely sure of anything else. (Maybe even people who think they are atheists but aren't really sure of that!) They want these people to be afraid to speak, and they want them out of the debate.

"Christian" has become a dirty word, and the fundamentalists share the deconstructionists' delight in that fact. Sure, they'll write books and cry crocodile tears, but they love the fact that ordinary people are afraid to call themselves Christians.

Even agnostics have become afraid to state their honest belief in things like truth, or good versus evil. That is because they are told by fundamentalists that without God there is no truth, and by deconstructionists that there is no truth at all, or good and evil.

Note the ironic agreement by deconstructionists and fundamentalists:


The majority disagrees, but you'd never know it....

posted by Eric on 09.29.03 at 06:01 PM


For me, as a christian woman and a person who is unwilling and unable to shove my beliefs down people's throats, religious fundamentalism is *almost* as abhorrent as moral relativism. And you're right - the two things are not the only points in the spectrum.

Where, then, does one draw the line of belief? Each man has to answer that question his own way. For me, the similarity between the most basic tenets of most world religions is a good place to start. Good exists, evil exists. It is wrong to kill. It is wrong to steal. It is wrong to lie. Give alms to the poor. Etc., etc.

Great post. Mighty timely.

kelley   ·  September 30, 2003 8:06 PM

As someone you would probably consider a fundamentalist, I think there is an alternative, that most people have missed, in this debate.

I too get tired of people yelling back and forth over why their church is right and all the others wrong; over tiny points of doctrine, and all the semantical arguments. It's so pointless!

People get all involved in what they believe, defending their opinion, that they forget one important item: God probably has an opinion too. Heck I'll bet He would love to share it with us, if only we would stop arguing and start asking, as He has instructed us to do.

Scripture says,"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and ubraideth not, and it shall be given him." It also says, "...ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you." Sounds like God is wanting us to ask him, not open up the scriptures to our own private interpretations, as Paul says we ought not.

It would seem to me that if there is one God, and He has instructed us to ask, then He wants to share His opinion with us and open to us the mysteries of heaven.

We know from scripture that God is not the author of confusion, so it would seem contradictory for Him to have multiple religions teaching different doctrines.

If He truly is the author of peace, then He would provide for His children a religion of peace and happiness. He would outline His plan for us, and instuct us on where we have come from, why we are here and what we can expect after this life. He would provide for us modern day prophets, that would be His authority on earth, to help us discern the right from the wrong, just as he has always done for His children since the creation. He would make sure that our spiritual and temporal needs are looked after by providing an organized church that would be capable, and willing, of administering to the less fortunate and spiritually weak. He would teach us all sound doctrine through scripture and the words of the prophets, and then invite us to ask Him if it be true, so as not to encourage arguments over points of doctrine. We would be individually accountable for our sins and be required to repent constantly so that we could become more like Christ in His perfectness. He would make sure that everything was provided for our spiritual growth, and then give us the choice to use what He has given us. He would love us like the loving Father that He is, and not like a dictator.

In my mind,heart and soul, I believe that there is such a church on the earth today. I believe that the God of Heaven, and His Son, Jesus Christ, restored the fullness of the gospel to the earth, in preparation for the second coming. They chose a young man to raise up as their modern day prophet, to restore the truths that had been clearly known and taught in the ancient church after the resurrection and ascention of the savior.

This man prophet was Joseph Smith. The church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In this church is found the fullness of the gospel. The best part about it is you don't have to argue with me or take my word for it.

I would encourage any who read this to seek out missionaries from the church and ask them to teach you what we believe to be the truth. They will not try to force it on you. They will not argue points of doctrine with you. They will carry the Holy Spirit with them and teach by it. When they have instructed you sufficiently, they will invite you to pray and ask God if what they have taught you is true.

James in the New Testament taught us how we should ask the Lord for our answer. He said,"But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord."

Amos taught,"Surely the Lord God will do nothing save He reveal His secret unto His servants the propets." To me this scripture means that God will instruct His prophets to write the things that He does among the children of men.

The missionaries will share with you a book called The Book of Mormon. It contains the writings of prophets that lived here on the American continent. They were lead here by the Lord right before the first fall of Jerusalem in 600B.C. Here they established a great people that endured in varies states of righteousness and sin for many centuries. The words of the prophets that were among them are recorded in the Book of Mormon.

The last prophet to write in The Book of Mormon was a man named Moroni. He was one of the last of his nation to survive a great war that wiped out his people. They had become very wicked in spite of the teachings of Moroni and his father, Mormon. In his closing remarks in The Book of Mormon, Moroni give us a promise that expounds on the words of James in the Bible. After you have read The Book of Mormon, Moroni says,"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."

So, Moroni asks everyone, everywhere, to ask God if The Book of Mormon is true. He asks this because if The Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, because throught Joseph Smith the Lord brought forth the Book of Mormon. If Joseph Smith is a prophet, then he was commanded by God, and instructed as to how, to restore the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth and reestablish the true church of God. If this is true, then The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is God's church here on the earth, wherein all the truth's that God has revealed to man can be found. Also, the church is the Lord's tool for taking His gospel to all the earth, prior to the second coming of Christ; and the church is His tool for providing for the temporal and spiritual needs of His people and for instucting them in how to have peace and happiness in their lives.

I know that God lives and that He has provided a way for us to know His will through prayer. I hope that all who read this will take up my challenge and seek out missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and listen to what they have to say. And then with Moroni, I would ask you to pray to the God of Heaven and earth and ask Him if what they have said is true. He will provide the answer through the Holy Ghost, as He has promised.

jobiusa   ·  May 12, 2004 1:31 PM

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