Essentials of Apologetics - Lesson 5

Why Truth Matters (Part 1)

In this lesson, you will gain insight into the Sean's exploration of the concept of truth and its relevance to Christianity. By evaluating anecdotes, questions, and real-life examples, you will understand the multifaceted importance of truth in different aspects of life. Dr. McDowell presents three compelling reasons why truth matters: its consequences, role as a guiding compass, and its connection to freedom. The lesson introduces the correspondence theory of truth and highlights biblical references to emphasize Christianity's foundation in truth. Overall, you will come away with a comprehensive understanding of the speaker's perspective on the significance of truth in the Christian context.

Sean McDowell
Essentials of Apologetics
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Why Truth Matters (Part 1)

I. Understanding Truth in Christianity

A. Defining Truth in Christianity

B. Importance of Truth According to Jesus

C. The Role of Truth in Various Aspects of Life

II. Consequences of Truth

A. Real-life Examples of Truth Consequences

B. Truth as a Compass for Life

C. Hosea's Perspective on the Dangers of Ignoring Truth

III. Truth and Freedom

A. Truth as a Compass for Life Decisions

B. The Relationship Between Truth and Freedom

C. Differentiating True Freedom from a Misconception

IV. Belief vs. Truth

A. The Inadequacy of Belief as a Determiner of Truth

B. The Subjectivity of Belief Compared to the Objectivity of Truth

C. The Inescapable Nature of Truth

V. Defining Truth Philosophically

A. The Correspondence Theory of Truth

B. Biblical References Indicating an Understanding of Truth

C. Clarification on the Nature of Truth

VI. Confronting False Ideas in Society

A. Addressing Cultural Confusions, e.g., Gender Identity

B. Revealing Inconsistencies in Worldviews

C. Engaging in Constructive Dialogue to Challenge False Beliefs

  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of apologetics, the theological discipline of defending the Christian faith, through a personal mall encounter that highlights the importance of being prepared to provide reasoned defenses, with a focus on biblical foundations, addressing objections, and fulfilling a ministry to those with questions.
  • This second lesson on apologetics, highlights the importance of understanding worldviews, using practical exercises and examples to illustrate how our minds shape beliefs, categorizing worldviews based on their answers to fundamental questions, and exploring Christianity's unique perspective on creation, the world's problem, and the solution through Jesus.
  • This lesson explores Antony Flew's shift from atheism to recognizing Christianity's uniqueness. Dr. McDowell provides four reasons why a spiritual quest ought to begin with Christianity: testability in history, free salvation, a livable worldview, and Jesus' central role beyond religious boundaries. The lesson includes a Q&A time reviewing Islam's view on Jesus and Darwin's evolution.
  • Debunking the myth of blind faith, Sean counters with a scriptural foundation, using personal encounters and anecdotes. Examining biblical narratives, especially in Exodus and the New Testament, reveals a pattern: God provides evidence, imparts knowledge, and calls for faith and action. The story of doubting Thomas underscores that belief aligns with evidence, not against it. The lesson closes by emphasizing faith's dynamic nature, which can be fortified through evidence-based study.
  • In this session, you'll delve into the speaker's exploration of truth, gaining insights into its multifaceted importance in various life aspects. The session highlights three key reasons for the significance of truth, introduces the correspondence theory, and underlines the implicit connection between Christianity and truth, offering a comprehensive understanding of the topic.
  • You gain a deep understanding of the distinction between subjective and objective claims in this lesson, illustrated through relatable examples like ice cream preferences. Sean communicates that subjective claims rely on personal beliefs, while objective claims are based on the external world. Overall, you will develop a nuanced perspective on truth, specifically in differentiating between subjective and objective claims, with a focus on moral values.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the moral argument for the existence of God. Sean draws from a personal debate experience, emphasizing that God provides a solid foundation for moral values. Three key points are highlighted: the need for a transcendent standard for right and wrong, the role of free will in moral accountability, and the requirement for divine grounding of human value. The lesson challenges naturalistic worldviews, asserting that they fail to offer a satisfactory explanation for objective morality, ultimately suggesting that living in accordance with God's design leads to true freedom and fulfillment.
  • Explore the Christian view on the soul, diving into its significance through moral law and beauty. Analyze arguments supporting its existence, like its role in free will, using analogies. Address contemporary debates on gender and transgender issues, suggesting a dual human nature. Incorporate biblical references, evaluating flawed arguments and introducing stronger ones. Discuss practical implications for personal well-being. This lesson explores the soul's concept from a Christian standpoint.
  • Gain insights into the intricate relationship between science and faith, exploring arguments for God's existence, the concept of fine-tuning in cosmology and biology, and the conclusion that the fine-tuning of the universe and DNA's information complexity point towards a fine tuner and an author of life, offering compelling evidence for the existence of God.
  • In this exploration of miracles, the lesson shifts from discussing God's existence to questioning divine revelation, challenging skeptics to reconsider their worldview and illustrating the philosophical underpinnings of miracles, ultimately emphasizing an open-minded investigation and hinting at a compelling case for theism and Christianity with overwhelming evidence for miracles.
  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of near-death experiences (NDEs) and their potential as a compelling apologetic tool, exploring evidentiary aspects, transformative impacts, objections, and the significance of information unattainable by natural means in supporting the case for an afterlife and the soul.
  • Dr. McDowell reviews the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection and the significance of the resurrection.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insight into the historical evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus, including the crucifixion, discovery of the empty tomb by women, early and multiple accounts of Jesus's appearances, and the transformative impact on the disciples, ultimately challenging alternative explanations and asserting the resurrection as the most reasonable conclusion based on historical facts.
  • Exploring the Bible's trustworthiness through the character and copy tests, this lesson establishes the reliability of the New Testament by highlighting the writers' honesty, the disciples' willingness to endure hardships, and the exceptional proximity and quantity of early manuscripts.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a thorough understanding of the New Testament's reliability through an exploration of its extensive manuscript evidence, addressing skeptics' concerns about variations, and highlighting corroboration from external sources such as historical records and archaeology.
  • In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of the problem of evil and suffering, exploring its intellectual and emotional dimensions, drawing on personal experiences, historical perspectives, and a philosophical approach, and laying the groundwork for a more in-depth exploration in the next session.
  • In this lesson, you will learn of the logical problem of evil, exploring the philosophical challenge to God's existence posed by the coexistence of omnipotence, omnibenevolence, and evil, while examining the limitations of God's power, the compatibility of free will, and the unique Christian perspective emphasizing the redemptive nature of the incarnation and the cross in addressing the problem of evil.
  • Gain insights into responding to objections in apologetics, including addressing conflicts between a loving God and hell, defending the Bible against contradictions, clarifying misconceptions about God's stance on homosexuality, explaining the concept of the Trinity, and attributing natural evil to the brokenness of the world due to sin.
  • Gain insights into a personal and relational approach to apologetics by understanding that everyone is an apologist and theologian, as the lesson, through anecdotes, underscores the importance of discerning underlying questions, emphasizing active listening and probing inquiries to address the genuine needs and heartaches beneath surface-level queries.
  • Gain insights into effective spiritual conversations by asking four key questions: understanding beliefs, exploring reasons behind them, finding common ground, and navigating areas of disagreement, with an emphasis on listening and fostering genuine understanding.

In this day and age, it is critical that followers of Jesus know how to think clearly and biblically about their faith and how it intersects with and often contrasts with how the world thinks. These areas include one's worldview, the fact that faith is not blind, why the truth matters, why seeing design in creation points to a designer, and evidence for the soul, resurrection, and the Bible. How can God allow evil, and how do we talk with skeptics? Dr. McDowell discusses these topics and others in this easy-to-understand course on apologetics.

Why Truth Matters (Part 1)
Sean McDowell
Lesson 5
Essentials of Apologetics

So in this session, we're going to start to move more towards making a positive case that Christianity is true. But when we say Christianity is true, we've got to define what we mean by truth. You've probably heard people today say something like, "That may be true for you, but it's not true for me." Or something like, "Live your truth."

So I like to start sessions like this with one of my favorite passages you know in John 14:6 where Jesus said, I'm one of the ways, one of the truths and one possible life. Jesus didn't claim that, did he? You know there's at least a hundred verses in the New Testament where explicitly or implicitly it's claimed that Jesus is the only way to get to God. Jesus seemed to think that truth and what you and I believe about it, matters. So have you ever stopped and just thought, why does truth matter, not just in religion but in all areas of life? Why does truth even matter?

I was speaking to a group of high school students a number of years ago, giving a talk on truth and relativism, and all of the sudden, I'll never forget this high school student walked right down the middle. He came up to me, he goes, "Dr. McDowell, you just spent an hour talking about truth. Why is truth important? Why does truth matter?" I said, "Well, do you want the true answer or the false answer?" He kind of paused and looked at me and said, "I get it," and walked away. Now, if you ask why is truth important, even though you may or may not realize it, what are you already assuming is important? Truth. We all know it's important, but there are certain lies in our culture like the beach ball have pushed these truths down and sometimes they just pop back up.

So really I don't need to prove that truth is important. I just need to reveal to you that you live your life in a certain way that you know truth matters. So if we know it matters in all these other areas, shouldn't it matter as much, if not more, when it comes to the big questions of life? The apostle Paul certainly thought it did.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:10, he says, "With all deception of wickedness for those who perish because they did not receive the love of truth so as to be saved." Paul says people perish for eternity because they don't love truth. If I asked those of you in this room or any of those of you watching, do you love truth, every single hand would go up. But I got to be honest with you, and I hate to say this, I'm not convinced that most people really love truth.

It's easy to say you love truth when it costs you nothing, but when your reputation, when your life is on the line, you know if people really love truth or not. You know if people care about truth when it costs them something. So let's take a step back and ask the question, why is truth really important? Why does it matter? Well, for one obvious reason is that truth has consequences. Truth has consequences.

My uncle is a retired pastor from the northeast and he told me a story one time about a distant cousin of mine I never met. He said, Sean, this cousin of yours was deaf. He couldn't hear at all and he'd go walking on the train tracks same time out near where he lived, kind of in the back forest area every day. It was a daily walk for him. He went walking one morning, same time, same place, but it never occurred to him that they would change the times that the train came. He's walking along believing that he was safe, thinking it was true that the train would not come, but they switched the times and he couldn't hear the warning, train couldn't stop in time, struck and hit your cousin, and he died, largely because of false information.

Now, that's a pretty dramatic story, but it makes the point that truth has consequences. I was reading a story some time ago about some teenagers who thought it was funny to go pull up some stop signs at an intersection so people went rolling through, thinking and believing that they were safe and didn't need to stop, and it led to some disastrous accidents.

Friends, truth has consequences. If you have a headache in the morning and you just not quite adjusted, you pick up a bottle and you think it says Tylenol, but it says rat poison, consequences. Truth has consequences in the big things, but also in the small things, right? Have you ever just thought about how much you live your life based on what you think is true? Okay, so what time is that class? Where is that class?

Moment by moment, we're actually making decisions based on what we think is true. The wrong exit has consequences. That's in part why Hosea, the minor prophet, said, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." If you don't love truth and follow truth, you'll wreck your health. If you don't love and follow truth, you'll wreck your finances. If you don't love and follow truth in a relationship, you will wreck that relationship. Truth has consequences.

Second, I'm going to ask everybody here to do this. Just close your eyes and those of you watching, do the same thing. Close your eyes and point the direction you think is north. Point the direction you think is north. Now, keep your hands pointed. You got to guess. Now with your hands pointed, open up your eyes and look around. We've pretty much got somebody pointing every conceivable direction. You can put your hands down.

I don't know what direction north is. I am severely, directionally challenged. I get lost even using my smartphone, I kid you not. I just get distracted. Now, I'll tell you, north is not straight up. Every time, at least one person points straight up, every time I've done this. Now, if you're trying to where we live, get up to Oregon and you have it backwards, you might end up down in San Diego or down in Mexico, but what might you have to help you know what direction north is? A compass or the app on your smartphone.

You see, truth is like a compass for life. When we know what is true, we know what direction we should go. That's the power of truth. It acts like a compass, not just in terms of our physical direction, but in terms of all of life. A number of years ago, my mom, she's given me permission to share the story, was setting up a new email account that she had and one of the first instructions said, close all the windows. My mom, my own flesh of blood, got up from her chair, walked around the house and actually closed all the windows in the house.

Now you're chuckling because maybe you've done the same thing, probably not. You're laughing because you know that there's something true about a computer or at least an email system. It's been designed to function a certain way, and when the screen says close all the windows, it doesn't mean the physical windows in your house. It's conveying a different idea. And when we don't understand that truth, embarrassment, frustration, anger. But when you know that truth, you, in a sense know how an email or a computer system should operate. This is the power of truth. In fact, what's so interesting is the first thing the Bible tells us is in the beginning, God... created. We are told that God is a creator before we're told that God is holy, before we're told that God is just, loving, righteous, merciful.

The first thing we're explicitly told about God is that God is a creator. When things are created, there's a purpose built into them. There's a truth about them. There's a truth about a smartphone, there's a truth about a computer, and it's only when we know that truth according to the maker and the designer and use it according to the way it's meant to be used, that we're set free. So I think one of the biggest lies that we're tempted to believe today is about the nature of freedom. The freedom is doing whatever I want, without restraint. As long as I want it and I feel like it, doing so is free. Friends, that is not freedom, that's slavery. You cannot have freedom apart from truth. You cannot have freedom apart from truth.

Os Guinness wrote a book on truth and he said, "Look, you can remove a tiger from the zoo, but don't remove stripes from the tiger. Having stripes is in part what it means to be a tiger. You can remove a camel from the zoo, but don't remove it from its hump. Having a hump is part of the nature of being a camel." We have to ask what something is made for and what's true about it before we know how we should treat it and we should interact with it and what its purpose is. You see, freedom involves knowing what is true according to our design and following it. Freedom is having the capacity to do what is right.

By the way, Satan is the father of what? Lies. Jesus is the truth. One of the ways apologetics has shifted over the past 10, 20, 50 years is you used to not have to give a case for truth, you used to not have this talk. So my father first wrote Evidence That Demands a Verdict in 1972, laying out the case that Jesus is God, Bible is truth, resurrection.

There were no chapters talking about what truth is, how we follow it and how we know it. Why? Because the assumption was there's such a thing as truth. Truth acts like a compass in our lies and we need to follow it, sacrifice for it. Truth will set us free. In the more recent updates, we included multiple chapters on truth because of so much confusion people have about the nature of truth. One reason truth matters is because truth has consequences. Second, because truth brings freedom, and that's in part why Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." Lies bring slavery. Truth brings relational, physical and spiritual freedom. Truth is like a compass for life.

The third reason truth matters is because believing is not enough. Believing is not enough. What do I mean by this? Nothing is true because you believe it. Nothing is true because you believe it. Don't believe me. Do you know how many times I believed I was 6'9" and in the NBA? I'm only 6'7.5". Not even close, 5'9" on a good day. Nothing's true because you believe it. Look, I believe there's a million dollars in my wallet. Doesn't matter how much I believe that. Even if there were, our great state of California would probably take most of it anyways. Nothing is true because we believe it, but because truth has consequences and because truth is necessary for freedom, it matters that we have true beliefs. By the way, you ever heard somebody say live your truth? You can't live your truth. You can live your beliefs, but you can't live your truth. You can have your own beliefs but not your own truth. Belief is relative to an individual.

Truth is outside of the individual and its objective. So think when we stop for a moment and just reflect. It's pretty clear that truth matters, but one thing we haven't done is actually define what we mean by truth. So let's take a moment and stop and be clear on what we mean by truth. Now, philosophers use a fancy term of what's called the correspondence theory of truth. It's basically the idea a statement is true if it matches up with reality or a belief is true or an idea is true if it corresponds to reality. So you have a belief, you have reality, and if they correspond, your beliefs are true, and if they don't, your beliefs are false or not true. So if I told you I drove here from where I live and it only took me eight minutes because I drove here, and by the way, I live in San Juan Capistrano, which for those of you watching, it is about 20 minutes from where this church is at.

I drove here in eight minutes 'cause I drove in my new red Lamborghini. And you go walking outside and you see this, my statement just might be what? Okay, just humor me. Just might be true. If you walk outside and you see this, my statement might be? False. Why? Because I described it as red. In reality, it's yellow. If you see this outside, which is the kind of car I used to drive... Now, some of you were chuckling at this. I gave this talk to a group of junior high-ers and a kid goes, "Ah, haha, you drive a Ford." I was like, "What do you drive?"

My statement would be really false because it's not close to a Lamborghini. I've actually played this game with my kids when I tried to teach them truth. I say, so you have a word, and then you have the object, and if you have a correspondence between the word that is Wolverine, that is Batman and that is Spider-Man, then you have truth. So truth is when a belief matches up... Is that smoke coming up? No, I'm just kidding. What'd some of you do in this room when I said that? You turned and you looked.

Verified truth.

Exactly. Now, sometimes I do hesitate to use this example in California with fires, given our history, but you understand the point. You look back and sense there's no smoke. Don't worry. My statement was what? It was false. If there actually were my statement would've been true. This is what we mean by truth.

We have ideas, we hold beliefs and then we go see if the world is the way we've taken it to be. If it is, it's true. If not, it's false. Now, where does the Bible define truth this way, you might be thinking. The answer is, it doesn't. Actually, Nehemiah 6:4, no, I'm kidding. I should have said Hezekiah 6:4 to see if you were really paying attention. Say that with students, they start flipping there, it takes them five minutes like, "Oh wait, there is no Book of Hezekiah." Y'all are too smart for that. The Bible doesn't define truth explicitly. This is more of a Greek way of thinking than Hebrew way of thinking. But my question is, does the Bible assume this understanding of truth? The answer is it does, it does. What's the ninth commandment? Thou shalt not lie. What's a lie? It's not a misrepresentation of the truth.

It's an intentional misrepresentation of the truth. You can't have a lie unless there's what? Truth. You can have truth without somebody telling a lie. But to say somebody should not tell a lie is to assume there's such a thing as truth, and that truth is telling it like it actually is, actually representing reality. By the way, as we talked about earlier, Christianity is rooted in truth. 1 Corinthians 15, "If Jesus has not risen, our faith is in vain and it's worthless and we are to be pitied." So in a sense, what we've done is we've brought clarity to the nature of truth in the way we all use it.

Now ironically, some people say, "Well, that's not the right version of truth. This is the right version of truth." But you know what's ironic about doing so, if you say that view is not true, this view is true, you would be using the correspondence theory of truth to say the correspondence theory of truth doesn't match up with the reality. This theory of truth matches up with the reality, which is a way of saying the correspondence theory of truth is actually the accurate view of truth.

If you didn't understand that one, that one was free. It's inescapable, in other words. We all speak and talk and exist as if there's such a thing as true and such a thing as false. Now, we're going to come back in our next session and clarify a little bit more why people seem to shift what they mean by truth. When they move from math and science and history to moral and religious claims. This is going to be vital. But before we do so, any questions about this specific talk that would help clarify what we mean by the nature of truth?

What if you were trying to tell someone that this is red or this is yellow? How can you know a hundred percent that this thing is red and this thing's yellow?

Okay, so the question is how do you know one thing is red and one thing is yellow? How do you know 100%? Here's the answer. You don't have to know things 100%. Get out of your mind the idea that demonstrating and knowing something requires 100%. Is that the standard in a court of law? No, it's beyond a reasonable doubt. In fact, in certain civil cases it's even a lower standard. So we'll put people in prison. We even put people to death without 100% certainty. Now, how we know things in different disciplines is different. So how you know something in certain fields of science is by having a hypothesis, repeating it, testing the hypothesis. You can't do that in history. But how we know things is by looking at written events, artifacts, things from the past and assessing them. How we know things in psychology is different than how we know things in theology.

So how do you know if something is red and yellow is we would in some cases call just pointing towards something, as an example. That's red and that's yellow. So that's what you would have to do. Now this raises further questions about people that are colorblind like me, but we don't have to get completely sidetracked by that. In many cases you just point towards something and people can see it directly. So we're going to talk about this when we get to the moral argument, for example. If somebody says, "Yeah, I don't think torturing babies for fun is wrong." That person doesn't need an argument. That person needs a therapist. There's certain things we just know and we can see them directly. And I would say in the case of color, that would be an example of doing so, even if someone like myself is colorblind.


How do we confront truth to a large group in society with this absolute, no absolute transgenderism, men having periods and babies and breastfeeding? It seems like it's going with technology exponentially now. So [inaudible 00:21:27] people with crazy minds.

Yeah... Let me jump in. This is a great question. So how do we confront or challenge clearly false ideas within our culture? Now notice something. What I've been doing is defining what truth is, how we know truth, how we discover truth, how we proclaim truth, assumes there's such a thing as truth. So when it comes to certain confusions in our culture, for example, you referred to kind of the gender issue that's taking place in our culture.

Here's what I know. I know that people who hold these false beliefs are made in God's image and they live in God's world. So I want to bring to the surface what they already know but don't realize they're suppressing the truth. So a small example of this, my son sent me this image not long ago. He goes, "Dad, look at this shirt." I forget the exact wording that said gender is on a spectrum. It's not a binary. I'm like, "That's interesting." Then he sent me another text. He said, "It comes in male and female sizes."

That's great.

That's interesting, right? There was a case of a woman who was white and she claimed to be Black. Many of the story of Rachel Dolezal, she actually taught an African-American studies, and I believe was the head of a certain organization that was advancing the interests of colored people to that effect. And it came out that she was white, and some of her arguments were, "I was born this way. I've always identified this way. This is who I am." In other words, my feelings trump biology.

My question is, if feelings trump biology when it comes to transgender and my feelings decide who I am and my body doesn't matter, then why can't a white person be Black? Either biology matters or it doesn't matter, and if biology doesn't matter, I can be seven years old, I can be 6'5", and I could be any race that I want, but I'm not seven, not 6'5", and you know I'm white. So if biology matters in this case, why doesn't it matter when it comes to the question of gender? All I'm trying to do is bring to the surface inconsistencies in this person's worldview. So those will bubble through at certain times. I want to jump on that and say, wait a minute, you seem to say biology matters here, but it doesn't matter over there. That strikes me as inconsistent. What am I missing? That's how I approach these things. That's a great question.