Do You Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right?

Tomorrow I’ll be a guest at a discussion on campus about “whether others have to be wrong for us to be right.” In essence it will be about matters like convictions, Evangelicalism and pluralism. It is part of the “Big Questions” series sponsored by the Center for Faith and Vocation.

I for one am a critical realist, and really find it disappointing when someone says that all views are equal. That, to my thinking, simply shows that the person who says it doesn’t care very much about the topic. I prefer people who have convictions and believe there are views that correspond more or less closely to an actual “truth” or reality, but who also have the humility to realize that their own perception may not match up as closely as they would like it to.

I don’t think that most who are in the mainline to progressive part of the religious spectrum are necessarily less “evangelical”. I think that most conservatives and liberals are “evangelical” about those convictions that they consider important.

Nor are all matters equal. Some questions posed in the natural sciences have right or wrong answers about which we can be as certain as it is possible to be. Some matters in history are really rather certain. When it comes to values and convictions, the Golden Rule may well not be susceptible to scientific or historical “proof”, but that need not mean we should loosen our grip on it. Other matters – symbolic language we use to talk about God, for instance – may be appropriately considered “highly uncertain” from many of those same perspectives, but that may not undermine the importance of the symbol as a guide to live by. In addition to the question of whether there is such a thing a “truth”, it is important to recognize that there are not only different kinds of truth, but also differing degrees of certainty within each category.

I will, of course, blog about the event at some point, once it is over. By the way, tonight I finished watching Vantage Point (hence the image), and am trying to think of ways to use it as an illustration…

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  • Angie Van De Merwe

    Convictions are personal, so one can be right and another can also be right. But, it is not a matter, really of “rightness”…it is a matter of what seems most important. The priorities in a person’s life are their convictions. And the type of religion one adheres to is an important dimension to convcition. Religious convictions can sometimes be more than personal convictions, but are convictions because they maintain group identity. Then, it is a matter of how important the group is to a person. Convictions are not about truth, but about understanding and perception, interpretation of the world. We do not have acess to truth, only physical reality as understood by our senses, perceived by our brains, interpreted by our minds and responded to in our emotions, thinking and behavior.

  • Diremirth

    I actually thought the use of the image from “Vantage Point” was incredibly appropriate. That film dealt entirely with multiple perspectives on one event. It’s near perfect representation of the many different ways people feel on the one topic of religion/faith/God/etc. Couple that with the question of your post, “Do you have to be wrong for me to be right?” and the image is still appropriate. I am right merely from my own perspective? Do I have to know all of the different perspectives to get the whole picture, therefore being right? It’s certainly an interesting question…