For Chuck Colson, Truth Was Truth

Chuck Colson (1931-2012)

The recently deceased Chuck Colson was among the first heavyweight evangelicals to speak out against the emerging church movement, in this 2006 column in Christianity Today, “Emerging Confusion“:

For evangelicalism (let alone emerging churches) to buy into that would undermine the very foundation of our faith. Theologian Donald A. Carson puts his finger precisely on the epistemological problem: Of course, truth is relational, Carson writes. But before it can be relational, it has to be understood as objective. Truth is truth. It is, in short, ultimate reality. Fortunately, Jim came to see this.

The emerging church can offer a healthy corrective if it encourages us to more winsomely draw postmodern seekers to Christ wherever we find them—including coffee houses and pubs. And yes, worship styles need to be more inviting, and the strength of relationship and community experienced. But these must not deter us from making a solid apologetic defense of the knowability of truth.

Ah, yes, “truth is truth.” The world will miss that airtight logic.

I responded to Colson’s column at Out of Ur:

In his penultimate paragraph, Colson refers to D.A. Carson, fellow critic of Emergent, who argues that objective truth precedes relational truth. Colson then weighs in with this philosophical doozy: “Truth is truth.” (Why don’t you read that again.)

You see, by saying that “truth is truth,” Colson is essentially saying…well, nothing. That’s called a “self-referential argument,” or a “circular reference” and it’s non-sensical; it doesn’t say anything, and it doesn’t mean anything. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been speaking and heard similar statements. I’ll spend a couple hours doing my best to lay out a rather intricate understanding of truth and interpretation, only to be told by an audience member that some things are “really, really true,” “true with a capital ‘T’” or my personal favorite, “true truth.”

I never met Colson, and he never responded to my writings. But, I suppose I should thank him. Colson was for emergent what John Piper’s tweet was for Rob Bell’s book.

Also, this from Slacktivist.

  • Kenton

    OUCH! The guy just died, Tony! How about a “you know, we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but I appreciated ___fill-in-blank____ about Colson.”

    I mean here was a guy who went from being a first-class @$$#01e in the Nixon White House to a guy who helped a lot of prisoners and their families cope with their trials. Doesn’t that deserve some props?

    • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

      The calculus is very, very hard in these cases. Impossible, I suppose. Given that it’s certainly a mixed bag I’m ok with people criticizing the recently deceased so as not to allow a certain group to totally rewrite a person’s legacy (positively or negatively) in the wake of their death. I think it may be an even greater sign of respect to a person to present all sides of their legacy.We have to care about people enough to tell the truth about them.

      • Chris

        “We have to care about people enough to tell the truth about them.”

        Yes, and after all, truth is truth!

    • http://ledgerlock.deviantart.com/ Lock

      At least it may be only dancing on his grave, not micturate.

  • Joel Pazmino

    Tony,

    The guy just died, don’t you think this post is a little offensive in light of that?

  • Vern Hyndman

    I loved Chuck Colson in the way I love an Uncle who is absolutely sure he’s right, but is right about something too small to matter.

    Chuck and I would probably disagree on a pile of theory, and he might call me wrong as I suggest that he may be right in too small a way… but we would agree on what it takes to love an inmate, and we’d share stories about going into prison to father the men who have never experienced a father’s love.

    If we let ourselves, we could be just as unloving as DA Carson… we could spend our time trying to prove to the world that we’re right, and we could make being right more important than being loved. It’s guys like Carson who use a ramming rod wrapped in truth that cause guys like Colson to deviate from the path of love and start tilting at the windmills of culture. Culture isn’t changed by argument, it’s changed by love.

    Tony, I sincerely wish Colson would have stuck to loving folks over trying to prove them wrong… if he had, I bet you and he would have been inseparable.

  • Charles

    Colson, and his ilk, do (did) as much harm as good. I don’t miss him.

  • Kathy

    Two “Truths.” 1) Colson was Nixon’s hatchet man and master of dirty tricks, playing a key role in the massive abuse-of-power scandal that resulted in the resignation of the President in disgrace. 2) No mortal knows his eternal fate.

  • http://www.djfick.blogspot.com Daniel J. Fick

    You stay classy, Tony…

    And, Vern, ad hominem much?

  • Evelyn

    As Wittgenstein said in “On Certainty” (1969) “At the core of all well-founded belief, lies belief that is unfounded.” So, I’d say that we all have to start with an assumption. Then we pretend that the assumption is “objective truth” or “objective reality” and we derive our relational truths from that. If there is no firm ground to stand on, we can’t push off and get anywhere. Simply saying that everything is relational and therefor meaningless is what I call “destructivism” which has been interpreted to be the goal of postmodern thought. However, destructivism acts like a leeching parasite on the creative acts of those of us who actually want to BE constructive and is irresponsible unless the deconstructor is willing to reconstruct what he has destroyed.

    • ME

      I buy that. Was Colson arguing that the Emerging Church doesn’t make enough assumptions? I don’t know anything about him or his arguments, but, I think that is one argument denominations could make against others if they were into throwing stones. For instance, I think the Catholic church makes too many “assumptions” (like the role of priests) and some churches don’t make enough- like Jesus not being divine.

      Personally, I think it’s ok to have friendly arguments as to just what constitutes the firm ground to push off from.

      • Evelyn

        I don’t know much about Colson either but his Wikipedia page indicates that I would classify him as “fundamentalist”, “creationist”, and “conservative”. My impression is that Colson wouldn’t admit that his assumptions were assumptions. He would claim that they are God-given truths and are part of some ultimate reality or ultimate truth. The Catholic church wouldn’t call it’s “assumptions” assumptions either. They are truths that are handed to the Pope by God. These people are unwilling to admit that they are working under a cultural paradigm that is only one of many cultural paradigms – it is not an ultimate reality.

        The emerging church seems to think it is “cool” because they’ve realized the existence of paradigms (or a system of hermeneutics) and the fact that they are malleable. We also have to accept the fact that the Christian Church is losing members so they seem to be irrelevant to society. So the Christian Church needs to change it’s paradigm if it is to survive. The emergents apply a postmodern deconstructionist agenda as an attempt to define a society which doesn’t agree with traditional Christianity and try to tear apart existing dogma so they can replace it with their more “liberal” values.

        What the emerging church doesn’t realize is that people have been looking to the Church for a paradigm under which to live their lives for as long as we have been civilized and that a paradigm is NECESSARY for adequately functioning in the world. We have no other way to structure our wills, intentions, actions, and desires. The paradigm always has to be objective, in a sense, to the person who functions under it regardless of the fact that it is a subjective thing. It has to be workable.

        Given that people need a paradigm under which to function, we have to assume that they have one. The emerging church seems to think that the paradigm is “postmodern deconstructionism” simply because society does not seem to agree with mainline Christianity. This is bulls*%t because a postmodern deconstructionist society would be unable to sustain itself. I think people have acquired motivations other than the desire to kowtow to their local church but that doesn’t mean that they are all floating around under some kind of deconstructed relational reality waiting for the emergent church to engage them in conversation. I think that they are all out working (men and women), trying to save for retirement, trying to raise their kids, and trying to enjoy some of life at the same time.

        • ME

          I wouldn’t disagree with your assessment that fundamentalist don’t admit to operating under what you call a cultural paradigm. But, I wouldn’t include the catholic church under such a strict representation and I’m certain there are many that may be classified as fundamentalist who that assessment would be unfair too. Dunno, I just get fed up with too many broad brush strokes describing groups of people in the faith. I think of us as all as one big church, warts and all. Off my rant now.

          “people have been looking to the Church for a paradigm under which to live their lives for as long as we have been civilized and that a paradigm is NECESSARY for adequately functioning in the world.”

          I strongly disagree with this line of thought and a lot of what you wrote afterwards. You could say the same stuff about a church for judaism, hunduism, islam, etc. People need a paradigm to live to and the Church will provide that. This is like the church of the “Purpose Driven Life.” Ok, fine, lead a purpose driven life, but what does that have to do with Jesus? This isn’t a group of people trying to follow Jesus. What you’ve described is a group of people trying to have a functioning society. Or as Flannery O’Connor called it, the Church without Christ.

          To put it another way- I don’t desire or need a paradigm, I don’t require a functioning society. It just happens I believe the objective truth is Jesus is Lord, creator of the universe.

          What we don’t need to be is in the business of providing paradigms to people. That’s not the task of a church, is it?

    • Chris

      “As Wittgenstein said in “On Certainty” (1969) “At the core of all well-founded belief, lies belief that is unfounded.””

      The same could be said of the above statement. It’s self-devouring, philosophically. Is Wittgenstein’s belief about the core of all well-founded belief well-founded? If so then his belief about it is unfounded. If it is not well-founded then he doesn’t even deserve to be listened to. In effect he has said nothing either substantial or meaningful.

  • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

    Honestly, this was not meant to be an offensive post. Just a reflection on the one time that Colson and I intersected, at least in writing. He was, it seems to me, a man who knew redemption and turned his sin to good. He was also, however, a strident cultural warrior whose positions were intellectually shallow.

    • Frank

      Tony since many of your posts have the same tone it is completely disingenuous and dishonest of you to say it was not meant to be offensive. It was and the last line of your comment above supports that:

      “He was also, however, a strident cultural warrior whose positions were intellectually shallow.”

      That would be funny if it weren’t starkly true about you and a couple others here on this blog.

      • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

        It’s funny, Frank, that you find me intellectually shallow. You’ve left 454 comments on this blog in the last 6 months.

        • Frank

          And? What is your point or is this just another emergent “conversation” with no conclusion in sight?

          • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

            My point is, you seem almost obsessively consumed with the intellectually shallow conversation on this blog.

          • Kenton

            Tony Jones for the WIN!

        • Frank

          I am concerned about the lack of truth and the deception put forth as legitimate on this blog around certain important subjects. I comment when necessary or I respond if spoken too. The posts do add up it seems.

          I never said the conversation here was always intellectually shallow just some of your posts and assertions. You are a smart guy Tony with some not so smart opinions and interpretations.

          • Evelyn

            PWNED!

    • http://adammclane.com adam mclane

      I didn’t take this post as an attack. I think those who did read a lot between the lines.

  • Robert

    And this is another example of the emptiness of the emergent critique. The man provided an apt criticism of problems besetting the (now defunct) emergent movement. His life and ministry reached millIons and helped bring the Gospel to those who needed hope. Yet instead of remembering him you add an additional, unnecessary post. Just a sad statemen about the state of affairs for this group.

    • Casey

      Robert,

      Empty comments are easy to make. It makes sense to write someone off for their “shallowness,” because then one proceed to ignore the substantial arguments made in opposition. The best advice is to caricature the one you fear. After all, what intellectual would want to engage in “shallow” conversation? It is more fruitful and stately to just label them and move on.

  • http://cramercomments.blogspot.com D C Cramer

    A bit of a back-handed tribute, don’t you think? ;)

  • jay

    a bit over the top

  • dopderbeck

    So I suppose Colson’s death offers an opportunity to revisit this somewhat tiresome though important topic. Like others, though, I kind of wish we’d not make it about Colson. I disagreed with some of his theology and some of his politics and most of his posturing, but I honor and admire his work in the prisons. Until I’ve done similar good, I don’t feel competent to comment on the man.

    Now to the substance: the discussion about epistemology grows tiresome when neither “side” is really talking about the same thing. I’m pretty sure most of us would agree with Colson that the reality of the Triune God and the reality of the creation instantiated by the Triune God is simply given to us as mere human beings. Whether you agree with the fact of gravity or not, if you jump out a window, you will fall towards the ground. Even the most dogmatic relativist behaves accordingly — hence the otherwise astonishing dearth of folks jumping out of high windows and splattering themselves on the ground. And whether you agree with the claim that God in Three Persons is the creator and sustainer of all things in heaven and on earth, He is who He is, and anyone who embarks on the enterprise of Christian theology (from whatever perspective) must proceed accordingly.

    But all of this, of course, is not the same as claiming that any of us human beings can observe and describe all things precisely as they are. I can give you the formula for the physics of falling out of a window, but the formula is just an abstracted representation of such an event. The formula is “true” but not in the full and final sense of being the thing itself. And even as a formula it baldly assumes things that can’t be proven — notably that the “laws” of physics won’t change. So it is contingently true — contingent on a “reasonable” but ultimately unverifiable assumption.

    And God, of course, is another ballgame altogether, at least in terms of orthodox, traditional Christian theology, for God in esse is unknowable. We can speak properly of God analogically, but not directly, because part of what it means to say “God” is that what is being spoken of is transcendent, not created, and hence something we can directly describe or contain. Yet theology does give us a “grammar” for speaking well, or at least “less badly,” about God, using the time honored sources of scripture, tradition, reason and experience. And so we can speak about “truth” in theology, but this isn’t exactly the same thing as speaking about “truth” in physics; and in neither event can human beings claim the knowledge and understanding of God — a claim that would, after all, comprise the core of the sin in the Garden.

    These two complementary things — the givenness of God and of creation and the way of speaking analogically about God — strike me as so basic and so ingrained in the Christian tradition that at this point spats between fundamentalists and emergents strike as more about slogans than substance. As Professor Digory like to say, ““It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!”

  • http://www.soulcaretrellis.com Archie Honrado

    Mr. Colson’s book ” Born Again” was very influential to the Filipino’s modern Martyr, Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. conversion to Christianity. Mr. Colson helped me climb the metaphorical monastic ladder when I needed to progress in my spiritual pilgrimage. I might not be where Colson would want me to be today but as Vern Hyndmand puts it, he is like uncle and Tony, if you were at Colson’s funeral, you could hold off on anything not too honoring.

  • Pingback: Those he hated and harmed not remembering Chuck Colson fondly

  • Larry Barber

    It will be interesting to see how all the all so easily offended people defending Colson here will react when someone like Brian McClaren passes. Truth is, Colson was not kind to his enemies either before or after his conversion.

    • Jonathan

      I’ve seen a number of “progressives” say something (and once exactly) along of the lines of “Chuck Colson is dead. Good.” When you catch the D.A. Carsons or John Pipers of the world saying that about McClaren, I’ll eat my socks.

      Of course, I’m comparing pastors and scholars to internet blog commenters (not authors, just commenters [or is it commentor?]), so that really isn’t fair. Can we all just agree that, while we needn’t pretend like the deceased was wonderful, or ignore his faults, that death is sorrowful? Even the death of our enemies?

      • Jonathan

        I should clarify. I certainly don’t mean Tony, or anyone here, has been so cruel as to rejoice in the death of another human being. I’ve always found Tony’s comment section to be courteous and civilized. I suppose that’s why I keep coming back, although I often disagree. I usually like the tone of the discussions here, there are other places where I’m much less welcome. I’d like to tell Tony and all of you that I really appreciate that.

      • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

        Please read this, then post a pic of you eating your socks.

        • http://xjm716.wordpress.com/ John Mulholland

          Read it. Nowhere does it say, or even hint, “Stanley Grenz is dead. Good.”

          Keep your socks on, Jonathon.

          • Frank

            But wait I thought we could read the text and introduce or remove anything we want to support our secular opinions? Isn’t that the new improved correct Christianity?

        • Jonathan

          Yeah, I’m seeing not seeing any joy that he’s dead. The word “shock” is used a few times, and the author says “I will miss Stan Grenz” after saying “Stan was a good friend to me.” The very first sentence says the news of his death was “unbelievable and sad.” So my socks will stay uneaten.

          But I do want to emphasize that I’m not saying you can’t criticize a dead man. I’m not saying “Tony, you’re so mean for saying less-than-complementary things about Colson!” I hope my 4/23 8:33 post made that clear. I just want to make sure we’re all on board with the whole “God does not desire the death of the wicked” thing, and that we probably shouldn’t either. I’d normally just assume this sort of thing, but I’ve been rather rattled by what I’ve seen elsewhere.

  • http://authenticmission.blogspot.com Andrew Kenny

    I have read several of Colson’s books ( I love Born Again, despite the title) and never found him shallow but rather a deeply passionate, humble and intelligent man. Tony, I’m sure you know anyway, that it was the great Frances Schaeffer who popularised the ‘True truth’ phrase. Also ‘true truth’ doesn’t seem to me to be a circular reference that means nothing. For instance for evangelicals if Jesus rose from the dead, that would be ‘true truth’ and we then could trust God that we also would be raised up on the last day, as the Scripture teaches. However, if he didn’t really rise from the dead but if some believed that his memory was still alive with us and could still could give us some hope ( in the same way that people are inspired by Che: Che lives etc) and they also regarded this as being some sort of truth, but not ‘true truth’, according to Scripture we would all still be dead in our sins and no chance of being raised up with Christ. True truth is fact whereas the other is not. Certainly that’s how I understand it.

    I also appreciate the fact that you are generous enough to allow comments on your blog from those who may disagree with you Thanks.

    • Larry Barber

      Well, he didn’t write those books, from the Slacktivist and Frank Schaeffer:

      Colson had his “books” ghost written by Harold Fickett and other writers, some of whom like Fickett (who I worked with closely many years ago) used to complain to me almost daily about what an egomaniac Colson was to work for and how he did all he could to hide the fact that his work was written by others while rarely sharing credit.

  • Tanya

    Frank Schaefer has written very critically of Colson since his death. http://frank-schaeffer.blogspot.com/2012/04/colson-evangelical-homophobic-anti.html

    Since he was a public figure who sought to influence public opinion, I don’t have any issue with strong, pointed critque. People seem to forget that Colson’s career was not merely Watergate and prison ministry. I think it is fair and right to correct that impression.

    • Rob

      thanks for the link Tanya – Wow! Even if half of what Frank Schaefer recounts about Colson is close to the truth the man was total piece of work.

      Sadly, I don’t expect the true truth-tellers to take any notice. Evangelicals love their fantasies – whether about their heroes or their enemies. They’d be lost without them.

  • The Haggard

    So the basic principles of logic, Law of Identity and the Law on NonContradiction, say… nothing? Seriously? I don’t agree with a lot of Chuck’s body of work… nor do I agree with every word that comes from this blog. But I have learned much from both of you. Yet with ALL the things Chuck ever said about the truth and the emergent church you pick on his use of the Law of Identity? Truth IS truth. Tony Jones IS Tony Jones. I just have a different view of Tony Jones than perhaps his parents do. The problem is that you are arguing to a different part of the issue than he. How do we KNOW what is true, how do we experience it and apprehend it? Sure, I am with you. But he also is with you on that the way I read his quote. He is just emphasizing that first we take on the presupposition that the law of identity means that there is an ultimate truth… it exists. Our apprehension is uncertain and incomplete through a filter… but truth is truth. His problem is that the emergent church (in his view) emphasized the relational more than the logical. He may be wrong in that, but he is not wrong in presupposing the law of identity before he works through the epistemology of truth.

    • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

      The Haggard — but saying “Truth is Truth” or “true truth” has nothing to do with the rules of logic you mention. It’s obviously just a tautology — like saying “a fish is a fish.” What is really meant, I think, is “truth is that which corresponds to reality; and reality holds for everybody, everywhere.” Now, that more extensive claim is highly contestible, and at the very least raises really difficult and subtle metaphysical / philosophical / theological questions: not the least, is there a unitary “reality,” and if so, what is it and how can human beings know what it is; and if this “reality” involves a “God” who is truly transcendent, how can immanent, finite beings grasp anything about it? But dealing with all that is hard work — much easier to sloganize.

      These are questions humans have been pondering at least since the cave paintings in Lascaux 30,000 years ago. There are rich and subtle traditions of literature and thought about these questions, not least the tradition of the great Christian Church Fathers. Read some of these primary sources — Origen, Athanasius, Irenaeus, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Barth — and I think you’ll be amazed at the subtlety of their thought, the depths of their wrestling with these questions, and the extent to which they came up with different answers, or admitted they didn’t have the answers! For that matter, read the canonical scriptures — Job, Ecclesiastes, Romans — upon which the Fathers and contemporary thinkers like Barth drew. Can anyone read Job and Ecclesiastes and land at a tautology like “true truth?”

      At the same time, can anyone read and ponder this tradition and land on some kind of self-defeating anti-realist relativism? We don’t need slogans from either “side.” We don’t need shallow polemics. We need a return to a patient practice of faith seeking understanding.

      • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

        Weird — a whole bunch of conversation between me and S. Miller seems to have disappeared.

        • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

          Really?

    • Scot Miller

      The Hagard, I think you’re assuming too much when you claim,

      … the law of identity means there is an ultimate truth… it exists.

      You don’t have to accept the idea of an “ultimate truth” to accept the laws of identity and noncontradiction. The laws of identity and noncontradiction are really tautologies, and tautologies which help us use language and logic and mathematics in a helpful way, but they don’t really tell us anything interesting about anything else. To say “Truth is truth” doesn’t tell us anything at all about “truth” or the nature of truth or anything else about reality. It tells us that in any logically conceivable universe, the space-marker that we label “truth” needs to be used in the same way whenever we talk about it. So I’m not sure that championing the law of noncontradiction or identity is really doing what Colson apparently wanted it to do, which is to somehow undermine an understanding of “truth” advanced in postmodernism and somehow accepted by the emergent church.

      • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

        And the law of identity in fact establishes that “truth is truth” is a tautology….

      • http://getoutfromunderit.blogspot.com Andy

        Not to derail, but I busted out a Ctrl-F for “Scot Miller” just to find the comments that I was hoping and praying you would’ve left. Thumbs up, as always.

      • The haggard

        If the law of identity told us nothing, we would ignore it. Collision says clearly in the quote that truth is relational but that we have to start with the law of identity, that there IS a truth that is ultimate, or it would be not-truth. He would admit, intellectually if not emotionally, that he too sees truth through a filter. But the law does tell us that the search is worth it and that assuming that truth is not universally identified as the truth makes the search meaningless and void. No, he didn’t agree with the emergent church, but he had no lack of wisdom, just as Tony has no lack of wisdom… Other than the both men are human, flawed, and in need of Revelation and Grace. I am pretty sure the atonement works for even those things I hold in error… His grace is sufficient even when I am an idiot. Yes, I know I just opened my self up to crude jesting and insult.

        • Scot Miller

          The haggard — I think you misunderstand what the law of identity does.

          What do the following claims have in common? (1) “Truth is truth.” (2) “Unicorns are unicorns.” (3) “Harry Potter is Harry Potter.” (4) “Tony Jones is Tony Jones.”

          They are all tautologies. Do they tell us anything about the nature or existence of truth or unicorns or Harry Potter? No. But tautologies are useful rules of thought (or logic or language)). Tautologies tell us more about how we think or how we use language to think and communicate than they do about any extra-mental features of the universe.

          Do they require some ontological commitment to “ultimate reality”? No. It is possible that the subject of the tautology is some extra-mental feature of the universe (“Tony Jones”), but it’s also possible that it makes reference to something fictional (“unicorns,” “Harry Potter”). Tautologies are necessarily true; indeed, it is impossible to think that tautologies are false (without collapsing into contradiction). Unfortunately, tautologies are only trivially true if you want to know something about “how reality really is,” since tautologies tell us nothing about extra-mental (or extra-linguistic) reality.

          So it is untrue to say, “If the law of identity told us nothing, we would ignore it.” First, it tells us a lot about how language works and how thinking works and how rational discourse works. Secondly, if we ignore tautologies (and I include the laws of identity, non-contradiction, and the excluded middle), we abandon rationality… which is fine, but you can’t really expect anyone to understand you, since rationality is intrinsically interpersonal or social.

          It may turn out that there us some Ultimate Truth (whatever that is), and it may be that human consciousness can grasp Ultimate Truth without any distortion; however, Colson can’t establish such a belief by saying “Truth is truth.” At least on this point, Colson did not demonstrate much wisdom.

          • dopderbeck

            Scot — good comment, but at the same time, there is a grain of validity what Colson et al. were trying to do with statements like “truth is truth,” which was in part to argue against thoroughgoing relativism, which as I think you agree would be irrational as well as belied by experience. Again, anyone who falls out of an upper-story window will learn that his or her personal beliefs about the solidity of the ground below are irrelevant to the reality of gravity. It is what it is (a much hipper and more ironic way to say it).

            Of course, a slogan like “truth is truth” is also used in silly and inappropriate ways, including (a) suggesting that finite human beings can fully grasp ultimate reality; (b) suggesting that the speaker has in fact grasped everything really important and that any disagreement is a denial of “truth”; (c) suggesting that “truth” is conveyed only in propositional logic; or (d) suggesting that human social structures never construct objective truths. All of that is just rationalism, which is at least a theological error.

          • The Haggard

            He isn’t trying to establish the fact of “truth” – he is trying to establish that the search is valid. That there is a starting point that is valid. That the search is relational but that the reality is ultimate. The tautology succeeds in that assertion. Now, he then might (might) claim to know that truth, but not by simply saying “truth is truth,” because he was not an idiot. Nor is anyone reading these posts! I still think the main issue here is the POV and the “trick pony” of where one focuses one’s argument, or starting place for discussion.

  • Tracey

    Just really sad to see Chuck go what an amazing man and what an amazing ministry! He loved Jesus and he took that love to the most vunerable in our society. He preached for Justice and Restoration we could all take more than a leaf out of his book. I’m getting really sick of christians being so citical and condescending to their fellow follower of Christ. It might just be an old fashioned notion but where is the respect for our spiritual elders.

    • Carl

      Amen, Tracey.

  • Greg D

    Colson, even though I admire his life’s testimony and still consider him by brother in Christ, was by definition… a fundamentalist. I find it ironic that he was in agreement with Carson (a neo-Reformed) regarding the Emerging Church. The fundamentalists of Colson’s era are gradually dying out… only to be replaced by today’s neo-Reformed camp.

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    Ok I read the Franky Schaeffer piece — yowch, what a maniacal rant! “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” is a vast right-wing conspiracy? Really? Did any of you grow up in fundamentalist-evangelical churches that preached Catholicism was the Great End Times Deception and that all Catholics were going to Hell? Were you fed “Chick Tracts” in Sunday School, with cartoons of all the Catholics falling into the pit of fire? Do you have any idea how extraordinary is the ecumenical movement over the past 25 or so years between Protestants of various strips (including evangelicals) and Catholics?

    I didn’t agree with much of Colson’s politics and I’m not particularly a fan of Robert George either — but how about a little discernment and perspective folks?

    • http://xjm716.wordpress.com/ John Mulholland

      “how about a little discernment and perspective folks?”

      Hardly hallmarks of the emergent movement.

  • Carl

    What a surprise, Tony has a tasteless post. This is getting rather redundant.

  • Carl

    In case anyone didn’t already realize this, ALL arguments are ultimately self-referential and circular. EVERYONE appeals to a higher authority. Tony appeals to his intellectual “genius,” Carson and Colson to God’s Word.

    • Jordan

      Their interpretation of it, which relies on their own genius.

  • http://getoutfromunderit.blogspot.com Andy

    Colson was a public liar and a charlatan who did consistent disservice to the gospel he claimed to promote. The man used deception and marginalization for political goals while stepping on the backs of the faithful of whom he so glibly took advantage.

    Paraphrasing something that a commenter on Slacktivist said, we should mourn not only Colson’s death, but his life.

  • tom c.

    Coulson’s remark on truth reminds me of deflationary approaches to understanding truth. (See: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-deflationary/ for more.)

    Of course, references to “true truth” and the like boggle the mind, but deflationists would show in a fairly straightforward way the emptiness of such expressions. For what it’s worth, Paul Horwich’s book “Truth” (1998) is a good resource on these sorts of matters.

  • Pingback: Stanley Fish on Defending a Sacred Text

  • Judson Taylor

    Ouch, ouch, ouch. He just died. Makes you look petty or bitter. I know that isn’t the case. There is truth in what you say here and there was truth in some of the things he said. But this post is just not good. Sorry for saying. Love you.

  • David

    Before you critique logic you should understand it. “Truth is truth” is a redundant statement but it is not a formal argument, as it conveys no inference. Neither is it a circular argument, which seeks to prove its conclusion by appealing to a claim that depends on the truth of the conclusion. There must be some equivalent of “because” in the proposition, as in “The house is white because it is white.” “Truth is truth” could be a rhetorical tautology (a needless repetition as in “three sided triangle”) but it need not be one. Given the proper socio-historical context (see Toulmin etc.), it can have cognitive meaning. For example, suppose a man buys a diamond ring for his wife, only to be told by an expert that it is cubic zirconia. Upon returning the ring, he is told by the manager, “Cubic zirconia are diamonds,” to which the man responds, “Diamonds are diamonds. I want a diamond diamond.” Those statements have cognitive meaning. In an open letter to Colson, Brian MacLaren did much the same thing when he said “Sometimes, we use truth to mean ‘what’s out there,’ or ‘what’s really, really, real.’” This statement had meaning just as Colson and Carson’s. Logic belongs to the dark side of foundationalism and Aristotelian thinking, but if you are going to use the dark side’s force, you should understand it first.


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