One of us must be wrong, at bare minimum. Maybe we both are. But one thing that we can never say is that we’re both right.
I want to continue to pursue this concept of pluralism. Triggered by a comment made last week: “They may not believe in Jesus, but they love God and serve God with all of their hearts. They love God. You love God. How can you say one is wrong and the other is right?”
This kind of comment is so common and, on the surface, so reasonable, that to question it immediately brands you as some kind of religious fanatic, someone so blinded by his narrow-minded convictions that he has no tolerance for other’s beliefs.
Now here is the hitch in the new pluralism. Tolerance used to mean that everyone has a right to their beliefs. It doesn’t mean that anymore, because all of these Christians who are considered intolerant still believe, as far as I can tell, that everyone has a legitimate right to his own beliefs.
No, the new pluralism demands that you must not say that anyone else’s belief is inferior or, worse yet, flatly mistaken. To say someone is wrong is to be intolerant, to be close-minded and provincial, to be extreme and is impossible to reason with.
How can I say one person’s view is wrong and the other is right? Very easily. Precisely because reason and rationality demand it. Here’s what I mean.
I’m praying to God who is Jesus. They’re praying to God who isn’t Jesus. God can’t be Jesus and not be Jesus at the same time. therefore, we both can’t be praying to, loving, or worshiping God. One of us must be wrong, at bare minimum. Maybe we both are. But one thing that we can never say is that we’re both right, that we’re both worshiping God.
This underscores the irrationality of this kind of pluralism, an irrationality that is based, I think, on an errant understanding of what it means for something to be true.
To many, the concept of truth is deep, esoteric and indefinable. Let me give you a definition in one syllables. It’s from Aristotle, I think. If you say “It is,” and it is, or “It is not,” and it is not, then you speak truth. If you say “It is,” and it is not, or “It is not,” and it is, then you don’t speak truth. This is called correspondence, in other words, a thing is true if and only if it actually corresponds to what is really there. Truth, therefore is not determined by opinion or belief. Believing something to be so doesn’t make it so. It is not true merely to me. It might be true to me and still entirely false.
By the way, in saying this I am making what I’d consider a critical distinction between fantasy and reality. When someone starts talking about what God is to them, they’re talking about their fantasy. I’m not really interested in fantasy; I want to know what truly is.
This is so fundamental it should go completely without saying, but nowadays our thinking is so befuddled and cock-eyed about fundamental issues that people can merely voice their beliefs and think it ends the discussion. If believing something makes it true, then there’s nothing more to talk about. And persistence in the issue violates pluralism because you’re implying that your view is better than someone else’s.
But because another’s beliefs may differ doesn’t need to mean that discussion is at a standstill. Beliefs may be equally valid in that they are consciously held by sincere people, but they can’t be equally true if they are contrary beliefs.
How do we get past the impasse? How do we determine whose view is the right one/ The same way men and women of sound mind and judgment have done for thousands of years: with reason and revelation.
If everyone’s opinion was equally true, there would be no point to the art of persuasion. I’d have no place in the marketplace of ideas trying to reason with people, if all beliefs were equally true, and neither would you. There would be no meaningful discourse to have on issues. We’d all just state our opinions and beliefs, nod, smile, and then go home, none the wiser.
The reason that we discuss, debate, banter about is that some beliefs are better than others, in other words they’re more worthy of belief, they are more sensible, they are more sound, more credible, more noble, more moral, more right, more true.
Therefore, those with bad beliefs (that is, unsound beliefs) are not merely different, they are wrong; and we should not be squeamish about that kind of language.
Friends, I’m not trying to persuade you of a particular religious point of view; I’m trying to get you to think of ultimate issues and ultimate questions in a particular way.
Why is this important? If a person is persuaded that belief doesn’t make something true, then maybe he will employ himself in finding out what is true , not merely in waste time fabricating opinion.
At least, that’s the way I see it.