Truth In Mendacity

Man is a very confused creature. Merely consider the vast multitude of worldviews and religions, and how humanity understands reality in nearly every imaginable way.

Flip open a textbook of comparative religion. Turn the pages of a philosopher’s journal. Journey down the corridors of history. What belief does man not hold? It is all there, an immense churning pot of ideas, each competing against the other, each pointing their finger, shouting, “You are wrong! That is not how the world is.”

With all their ideas gripped firmly in hand, humanity forms itself into groups and constructs complicated arguments in favor of their positions, nuancing their viewpoints with care and fervor. Entire volumes are written. Volumes are then written about the volumes. Soon the library is stuffed full, books stacked precariously up to the ceiling. Look there! In the corner of that temple! In the corner of that college! There he sits, a man hunched over his sacred text, glasses clinging for dear life to the end of his nose. He’s pondering. Writing. Studying. His idea is taking shape. He is so sure now. He has found a fresh authority with a fresh insight. It is all so clear… all so clear… he has the truth…

Michel de Montaigne is surely right when he said, “Man is certainly stark mad: he cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen.”

But here’s the dirty little secret. While the ideas of man are indeed vast and complicated and held with great conviction, they cannot all be right. In fact, it is far bleaker than that. Not only are they not all correct, but nearly every last one of them is wrong. To the degree that they contradict one another, to the degree that they fail to accurately describe reality as it really is, they infallibly demonstrate how great the majority is in error.

It is a frightening observation. Terrifying, really. Stand in a room with three people. One says there is but one God. Another says there is no God. Still yet another says that there are many gods. They cannot all be right. Two out of the three views are wrong. They have to be.

Now expand the picture. Toss into the room all the religions and philosophies of humanity. How many are wrong, ultimately? Very nearly all of them! It is inevitable. It is the logical outworking of the situation. And it is both sad and scary.

Now suppose you’re standing on the precipice of all these contradictory worldviews, looking out over the throng of beliefs, feeling sick over the situation. So much confusion… So many people wrong… What can one say in this face of this? Is truth elusive? It would seem so given the state of mankind, given what is so patently obvious.

But wait! That is just it. What is patently obvious here?

Isn’t it plain that the truth must account for this fact? Isn’t it evident that man is prone towards forming all kinds of false worldviews? False religions? Empty ideologies?

Stand again on the precipice. Look out over humanity. If the vast majority of people harbor false beliefs about life’s most basic questions, then wouldn’t the true worldview say something about this dire condition? Wouldn’t it acknowledge it, account for it, and provide some kind of explanation of the phenomenon?

As Christians we have a powerful argument here. Man is nearly stark mad. He creates gods by the dozens. Confusion certainly abounds, frighteningly so. And yet, if Christianity is true, then this state of affairs would follow quite naturally. The world would look like what we see.

So when the Scriptures speak of mankind as being spiritually handicapped (1 Cor 2:14), hostile towards God (Romans 8:7-8), darkened in its understanding (Ephesians 4:17-18), averse to accepting the truth (Romans 1:18ff), blind, lost and foolish, it provides an honest, if not blunt appraisal of what modern man so often fails to appreciate. Man is mendacious to the core.

Interestingly, Christianity asserts that the mendacity of mankind tells a tale. For where error is seen in such horrible abundance, there one will also see how fallen and confused sinful humanity truly is, which serves to illuminate one of the most basic tenets of biblical Christianity: The fallenness of man.

So if perchance you’re a student waist deep in all the conflicting and frustrating viewpoints of mankind, or if you’re someone who continues to feel the weight of the world’s confusion, don’t lose heart. Don’t let it overwhelm you with doubt. Yes, it can all be overwhelming and cause one to wonder if everything is a joke. But it isn’t. Remember the words of Christ when He said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” (Matthew 7:13)

In a nutshell, remember:

Given the multiplicity of conflicting viewpoints,
And therefore the necessity of pervasive error,
The truth must be able to account for the extreme blindness of men.

5 Comments

  1. kristy mapp July 3, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    You have no idea how badly I needed to read this today – right this moment. As I listened to a minister preach while riding my bike I became increasingly angry at his neglect of God’s glory. I came home and asked my husband to talk me off this ledge. I want so badly for all to see that it is for God’s glory that I even exist!! Is it wrong for me to want to scream this at the top of my lungs to other Christians?? Thank you for confirming that I’m not crazy, but that the truth in God’s word is what holds me together, and what I must hold to… I have no other choice because I was created for this.

    • Austin Brown July 4, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

      I’m so very happy to hear it was an encouragement. I can’t tell you, Kristy, how many times over the years I’ve felt the bitter pain of conflicting viewpoints. So many different voices! And when it comes from those who claim the name of Christ, the pain is only amplified. You’re not crazy :-) You are zealous for God’s glory. And that is good.

      A passage that serves as a good reminder of this theme would be Ephesians 4:11-16. Oh, that the we would all attain to a pure unity of faith!

  2. Nick July 5, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    Very good post. One thing I’m still trying to find a good response for is the statement that many pantheists put forward that basically says, “Each religion or worldview touches one aspect or part of God” and often tell the story of the elephant being touched by multiple people. How do we offer a good response to that sort of thinking? From a logic standpoint, I agree not all these can be true since they contradict and contain mutually exclusive beliefs, etc. But we believe paradoxes exist in other areas of life, so the pantheist may simply say this is just one of those paradoxes that we can never fully comprehend. How do we reconcile this?

    • Austin Brown July 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

      Hi Nick! Good question!

      Yeah, the elephant analogy is an old one. One of the crucial failures of the elephant analogy is that it assumes it knows there is an elephant. How does it know? This is a profound assertion. They claim to be able to know about ultimate reality. But how? Just because there are religions that say they know? Moreover, how do they know what aspect of what religion says something right about the elephant? Again, it either proceeds in a pick-and-choose fashion or it must claim it doesn’t know, which spirals down, ultimately, to agnosticism.

      Consider this:

      -There are a bunch of world religions.
      -These world religions contradict one another.
      -Given such diversity, we think there is an “elephant” beyond all of these conceptions.

      Not exactly the most persuasive position, is it? It’s just another assertion among the group that needs grounded.

      And you’re right about the paradox element. Someone could certainly claim it is all a mystery. But that’s the case with anything. Credulity has its limits, after all. And the truth must be able to escape from the grasp of agnosticism. Christianity, as opposed to many of these eastern ways of thinking actually makes historical claims. It presents itself as a cogent and coherent system of truth that has objective measurements. I have no idea what someone could say about the elephant… So I might as well tell them that there is actually a unicorn that made their elephant.

      Does that help?

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  1. Truth in Mendacity - July 4, 2014

    […] is a letter carrier is and a deacon in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). This article first appeared on Gentle Reformation and is used with […]

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