Chapter from my video series “From Below to Above”
This is the era of the closed bubbles. There are all kinds of interest groups and subcultures that live in their own bubble, their own little universe. In those bubbles each group has its own opinion, its own truth, its own way of making sense of reality. Can we in such a world still talk about an absolute truth, a truth that is true outside the bubbles and holds true for all these bubbles at the same time?
We now live in an era in which people say to each other: “Nice to hear your truth, but I’ve got mine that works for me.” Absolute truth, however, is absolutely true irrespective of arguments for this or that, irrespective of taste or preference. Absolute truth is what it is. If we want to speak about God, it seems necessary to speak such absolute truth for God is Truth. If we want to say meaningful things about God they have to be true. Both believers and unbelievers often fall short when it comes to this.
Our postmodern world has brought great changes for the idea of absolute truth. In the days of the Enlightenment and the modern era that ensued there was tremendous confidence in human reason and capability. Human reason was thought to have access to absolute truth. It was supposed to be able to solve all problems humanity faced. With the scientific revolution, proceeding seemingly without any obstruction, on its side, the future seemed bright. While scientific progress has continued unabated, even to this day, the problems have accumulated instead of being solved. Apart from our inability to find answers to fundamental human questions, we have also discovered that our knowledge and our conception of truth are deeply linked to culture, language, time, character, and preferences. What we call true today is outdated tomorrow or exposed as a biased one-sidedness. Is truth not often an instrument to wield power of another? Is it perhaps not better to withdraw into the safe bubble of your own truth in order to mind your own business and to leave the other bubbles to their own truth?
It is upon Christians, however, to speak about God and with that about absolute truth. As Christians we have to be careful when doing so. When Christians speak about the absolute truth of God—namely, that God has revealed Godself in Jesus—they have to realize at the same time that they are but human. People are not God, even when they speak about or on behalf of God. Christians can therefore never claim absolute truth. They can only point to it. They may do so in the form of a witness about their own encounter with God in Christ. Or they may attempt to do so in the form of a more technical argumentation called apologetics. But it will always remain a human speaking that only points into the direction of God’s truth. For God is above and we are below. We do not have access to above other than what God has revealed of Godself in Jesus Christ. Such an attitude is important in our postmodern era, because Christians all too often are perceived as those people who try to pop the bubble of others without realizing they live in one themselves.
Christians may hope that their speaking about God will do justice to God, that this relative speaking from below will create room in the heart of the hearer so that the absolute truth of God may break through. Absolute truth exists, but always outside of ourselves. Inside us it only exists as an encounter with the living God through Jesus. We can only make this truth our own in faith and surrender to Jesus. We can only testify to this truth, but do not possess it. Only in this way may we function as pointers to this truth in the hope that our truth does justice to the truth of God. We do this in humility because we live in our own bubble with its own boundaries. All these bubbles, including our own, wait to be popped. Popped from above. This is the way in which this series addresses matters concerning God, Jesus, and the Bible.