What kind of truths can be said to be objectively true?
(These Bite-Size Replies are responses to “Quick Shots,” brief Christian responses to atheist challenges. The introduction to this series is here.)
Challenge to the Christian: There are no objective truths.
Christian response #1: Subjective truth claims are grounded in individuals and their opinions, while objective truth claims are grounded in (and tested against) reality. Dismissing objective truth—what causes disease, how fire can be mishandled, or 1 + 1 = 2—would lead to a dangerous society.
Objective truth isn’t the issue. Yes, it exists. The interesting question is whether objective moral truth exists. Christianity claims to be the gatekeeper to objective moral truth, but this bold claim is made without evidence. We can use the definition of objective morality from Christian apologist William Lane Craig: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.” No, objective moral truth isn’t merely strongly felt or universally agreed-to morals.
Objective moral truths? The burden is on the Christian to show that moral values grounded outside of people exist. And these moral truths are useless unless they’re reliably accessible by everyone.
These objective moral truths should be obvious, so where are they? Not only do Christians disagree among themselves on abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception, euthanasia, and every other current moral debate, but modern Christians disagree with the Bible on God’s support for slavery, his demand for genocide, and more.
Objective moral truths? The burden is on the Christian to show that moral values grounded outside of people exist. And these moral truths are useless unless they’re reliably accessible by everyone. [Click to tweet]Christian response #2: “If there are no objective truths, then the statement, ‘There are no objective truths,’ can’t be objectively true.”
People interested in the truth respond to the strongest formulation of their opponent’s argument. Instead of straw-manning their argument (erecting an intentionally weak version and then knocking it over), a more honest approach is the reverse. Before you rebut an argument, improve it to be so clear and effective that your opponent would be satisfied using it themselves.
The gambit used in this Christian response attempts to get an argument dismissed on a technicality rather than face it, but the gambit fails. It’s easy to change “There are no objective [moral] truths” to “I see no objective moral truths; please show that they exist” or something similar. With a moment’s effort, we’ve changed a statement that self-destructs into a challenge that puts a central claim of Christianity in the crosshairs.
Change “There are no objective moral truths” to “I see no objective moral truths; show that they exist.” With a moment’s effort, we’ve changed a statement that self-destructs into a challenge that puts a central claim of Christianity in the crosshairs. [Click to tweet]
(The Quick Shot I’m replying to is here.)
Continue to BSR 2: Jesus Is a Copycat Savior
For further reading:
- God ♥ Genocide
- Yes, Biblical Slavery Was the Same as American Slavery
- Christian Cowardice and the Suicide Tactic
- How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Gatekeeper: “That’s impossible.
No one has ever seen the great wizard.”
Dorothy: “Then how do you know he exists?”
Image from Federico Pitto, CC license