I was golfing the other day with my brother and my wife’s cousin’s husband (cousin in law?). Unrelated to what I’m about to share but fairly pertinent to those who wonder, I’m terrible at golf. I don’t make enough money to be good at golf. So I golf once a year and since I set my expectations accordingly, I’m still able to have fun. I enjoy hanging out. My brother makes me laugh a lot and my wife’s cousin in law is a good guy too and fun to spend a day with.
Over the course (get it?) of our time together we touched on a variety of topics, one of them being God. I have a pretty significant God involved in golf story that I like to share as appropriate. Well this time it led us into a pretty robust and friendly conversation about the almighty.
Cousin in law is a pastor’s kid gone rogue – by his own confession he rebelled morally as a kid of the 60’s and in regards to faith, rejected the idea of God. He has since come around to theistic/pluralistic belief that God is huge and everyone is coming at him from their different angles, nobody with an exclusive truth claim.
My brother, has shown varying degrees of spiritual interest over the years but normally lands on a similar vein of there are so many religions out there, each with exclusive truth claims and so how is anyone supposed to know?
Sometimes I’m good at thinking on my feet, other times not so much. This is one of those other times. I told him that it’s illogical to then conclude that there is no such thing as truth but overall I was stymied from coming up with a game winning response to that.
As usual, my hindsight game is totally on point and so I had lots of things to say as I pondered this later that night in the shower. Not great timing, but sometimes that’s how it goes.
So here are some thoughts in answer to my cousin in law’s position and my brother’s position.
Cousin in law is basically using the Elephant argument – which is to say, God is like an elephant and we are like blind people trying to describe it. One of us grabs the trunk and says the elephant is like a snake. The other grabs a leg and says it’s like a tree etc. The problem of course is that whoever is making the argument somehow knows that the elephant is an elephant and can thus judge everyone else’s erroneous answer. You can forgive a blind man for thinking a trunk is a snake, but it’s not. Not even very much like a snake at all. So this is a clever argument which is to say that nobody knows jack but I forgive you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
My brother’s issue always kind of threw me. “So what? Am I supposed to research all of the bazillion faiths and narrow it down to one? Forget it!” My first thought is, well yeah that could be hard. My later on thought is – wait a second… Most of the world would narrow the discussion down to five main faiths. So in less than a paragraph we are already down from a staggering bazillion to 5 which, while still daunting, is a little bit easier to wrap your head around.
So where do we go from there? I suppose the next stop is to consider exclusive truth claims. See the problem when we enter into this discussion is the erroneous claim that just because there are wide perspectives, truth is unknowable. Let’s use Christianity as an example. Christianity makes a bold assertion that Jesus Christ existed in history, died on a cross and rose again on the third day. This either happened or it didn’t happen. It couldn’t just “kinda” happen. If there is no historical evidence for a rabbi named Y’shua, then Christianity goes right out the door.
If there was a Y’shua, that doesn’t mean anything yet. Is there historical evidence that this person was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by crucifixion? If so, continue down the line. Did he actually rise from the dead? Aha! If that never happened then Christianity, though it might have some nice things to say, like “don’t be selfish,” but as a faith, it’s claims would be empty. But what if I could prove to you that there is historical veracity to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus?
Islam started with a firsthand account of a vision that Muhammad allegedly had in a cave in 570 AD. There were no eyewitnesses. Hard to disprove that anything happened there, but hard to verify too.
Judaism started similarly with an encounter Moses had in private. There is no dispute among any of the other Abrahamic faiths about the origins of Judaism and the scriptures of the old testament have significant historical support as well.
I guess from here I could go into historical evidence for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but others have done a bang up job on that. I’ll refer you to some. My point is that the argument where you throw your hands in the air in frustration and then conclude that truth cannot be known or verified is a false position. I’m not sure I could have unpacked this easily on the tenth hole, but here on the 19th hole, where I have time to think about it – that’s another story.
For those interested in historical evidence for Christianity. Take a look here and here. You might also be interested in Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for Christ” or similarly, Josh McDowell’s book “More than a Carpenter.”