When Bob graduated from high school, left home and started attending a state university, a whole new world opened up to him. The freedoms were amazing! Raised in a religious home, Bob's parents had already given him some freedoms and privileges as he'd grown older. After obtaining his driver's license, his parents allowed him to take the car to the movies with his friends and pursue his various hobbies and interests. But now that he was living on his own, he decided everything himself!
While at first it seemed liberating to decide when to go to bed, what to eat and when to hang out with friends, Bob, like most college freshmen, quickly learned that he did need sleep and a healthy diet and that he needed to spend time studying—especially if he wanted to get good grades and stay in college.
Bob also noted that a few of the new students came to college primarily to have a good time, only to find out that a mixture of no studying and nonstop partying didn't work long-term. Eventually, after failing a few classes, these students either changed their habits or dropped out of school. Fortunately, Bob didn't succumb to this trap.
Bob had always been a studious person, and he liked the subjects he was taking. Sure he stayed up a little too late on occasion, but he quickly learned to manage his schedule so he could stay on top of his classes. Managing his life on this front was an easy transition.
What he wasn't prepared for was something else—something he didn't realize before going to university. It was something that would challenge his Christianity to its very core and something that was so subtle that, at first, he didn't even realize it was happening. The philosophical idea that everyone determines his own truth was insidiously permeating Bob's new life.
While exposure to different ideas has always been a part of one's college experience, what many young people don't realize is that their understanding of absolute truth—the kind found in the Bible—is going to be strongly tested when they pursue higher education. Like an undetected computer virus worming its way through a hard drive, many young people are oblivious to the subtle influences they will receive regarding this philosophy when they go off to college.
Here's the problem. The campuses of most public universities today are smorgasbords of ideas. Every imaginable philosophy, including the craziest and most extreme, seems to be represented and peddling its values. Fresh, young, impressionable minds are the targets of those holding the most radical positions possible.
On most campuses, debate reigns supreme with the underlyi ng assumption that human beings should decide for themselves what is best for them. Whoever can argue with the cleverest reasoning is the winner. Of course, good debaters study both sides of an issue so they can argue a point either way. The result is that many people today pride themselves on being able to do the same—to see things from multiple perspectives.
Though great for debate, having flexible positions decidedly isn't good when it comes to Christianity. Isaiah 5:20 says: "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!"
While it is certainly good to listen to and understand others, the unfortunate result of the campus free-for-all of ideas is that people are often unable to discern between right and wrong, good and bad.
Furthermore, to publicly state that something is right or wrong is considered judgmental—a big taboo in today's secular world. The end result of this reasoning is that every choice is seen as equal and that people have to determine what is true for them. Ironically, this very reasoning itself is judgmental! It's also deeply flawed!
Give this some vertical thought. Can everyone and everything be right? Is it morally okay for a terrorist to kill innocent women and children because of perceived injustices? When a terrorist says he is honored to kill innocents on behalf of his concept of God, is this value system equal with biblical Christianity?
Is it morally right for a woman to kill her unborn child through an abortion because the law allows her to do so? Is it only a sin for a Christian woman to have an abortion but not a sin for a non-Christian? Is homosexuality okay for those so inclined? If two homosexuals love each other, should they be allowed to marry just like heterosexuals?
In trying to find answers to these questions, most people today have embraced the self-empowering myth that whatever they sincerely believe is true. They forget about God and His Word. After all, feelings can't be wrong, can they? Oh, but they can! If you sincerely believe that you earned an A on your midterm exam but your test is returned to you with a C, did you really earn an A? If you feel that your slice of pizza is a hamburger, is it really a hamburger?
When all one uses in making decisions are one's feelings and the human desire to give everyone freedom to make his or her own choices, the outcome is obvious. Most everyone will believe that people should make their own decisions because truth is relative. According to religious pollster George Barna, this is the majority opinion today.
Truth by feelings
In a February 2002 report titled "Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings," Barna wrote: "In two national surveys conducted by Barna Research, one among adults and one among teenagers, people were asked if they believe that there are moral absolutes that are unchanging or that moral truth is relative to the circumstances. By a 3-to-1 margin (64% vs. 22%) adults said truth is always relative to the person and their situation. The perspective was even more lopsided among teenagers, 83% of whom said moral truth depends on the circumstances, and only 6% of whom said moral truth is absolute."
Confusion about moral absolutes has been a human problem for a long time. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve ate of a tree called "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:9). Mankind, following their mistaken example of self-determination apart from God, has generally been confused about good and evil ever since.
A nationwide study of U.S. college students revealed similar thinking on campuses. The report said: "Despite their strong religious commitment, students also demonstrate a high level of religious tolerance and acceptance. For example, most students agree that 'non-religious people can lead lives that are just as moral as those of religious believers' (83%) and that 'most people can grow spiritually without being religious' (64%)" ("The Spiritual Life of College Students," Higher Education Research Institute, University of California , Los Angeles , 2003).
Just believing that you are a spiritual person and accepting all values and ideas as equal would be fine—if there were no absolute truths—if there were no God—if the universe really worked that way. But it doesn't. There is a God who really does know what is best for us, and He really wants what is best for us because He loves us.
Vertical thinkers understand that real Christians must acknowledge that God alone determines truth— which is found in the Bible. While praying to the Father, Jesus said: "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). Recognizing and practicing the eternal, absolute values of God is what sanctifies—identifies and sets apart—real Christians.
Real Christians realize that the humanistic idea that we human beings are capable of determining our own way apart from God just doesn't square with reality. It is not truth. As Jeremiah exclaimed, "O L ord , I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).
Real Christians also understand that they can be good neighbors without accepting the false ideas of others. They know that Jesus intended for Christians to be lights to others—inviting them to change their lives and become Christians too—rather than accepting or being overwhelmed by the world and its values (Matthew 5:14-16).
Now what about Bob? The Bob in this article is a composite character, and his story—that of a new student encountering the seductive idea that we all determine our own truth—is one that is repeated every year on just about every college campus.
In a sense, each of us is Bob, and we will determine how our story will end. It is also important to understand that we're all bombarded with influences to determine our own truth even when we aren't on a college campus.
The question is, will this deceptive idea overwhelm us or will we rise above it? Real Christians will recognize the myth of deciding our own truth and will instead look to God for direction. May we all so succeed! VT
Puncturing the Sincerity Myth
In a commentary, Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley, said: "The 'myth of sincerity' is especially potent when it comes to life's big questions—about God and morality. Consider abortion, for example. A few years ago, abortionist James McMahon said, 'I frankly think the soul or personage comes in when the fetus is accepted by the mother.' In other words, an unborn baby only becomes human when the mother sincerely believes he's human.
"Christian students encounter the same type of reasoning on the college campus. If a classmate sincerely believes her unborn child is human, friends will call the child a 'baby' and congratulate her. But if she doesn't, they call it a 'fetus' and encourage her to have an abortion.
"This is such an obvious fallacy. Can we really make something true just by believing it? How about a concrete example? If you sincerely believe your onion rings are French fries, do they become French fries? If you sincerely believe that you're a frog, do you become a frog? You might leap in the air, but you will not be a frog.
"When it comes to concrete, familiar objects, no one falls for the sincerity myth. We all know there's an objective reality that exists on its own, despite what we may believe about it—and no matter how sincere we are. If we accept the idea of objective truth when dealing with trivial questions, then logically we have to accept it when dealing with big questions about God and morality as well" (BreakPoint with Charles Colson, Commentary #040816, Aug. 16, 2004, "Academic Fables and Myths: Does Believing Make It So?").