Ice Cream or Insulin?
The concept of truth being knowable or even existing at all has become controversial. Some even believe that there is no truth, that truth doesn't exist. But is that true? We will consider this shortly, but before then lets consider two ways to understand truth.
Have you ever thought about Truth as being like ice cream? I know this sounds like a strange question but it will make sense shortly. You may have never given much thought to the idea of Truth before but many people regularly demonstrate confusion as to what truth really is. When considering the concept of Truth It is important to be aware of the two primary types of Truth, which we covered briefly earlier. Those two types of truth are Subjective Truth and Objective Truth. Greg Koukl (www.str.org) uses Ice Cream and Insulin to effectively illustrate the difference between Subjective Truth and Objective Truth.
Truth Never Gets Old - with Brett Kunkle
There are many people who think about truth in an ice cream kind of way. No, they don’t think truth is actually chocolate or rocky road but they think about truth in the same way as they think about a flavor of ice cream.
Let’s look at one scenario. When a person states, “Rocky road ice cream is the best”, do they believe that everyone should think Rocky Road is the best, or do they believe that it is the best for them? They don’t necessarily expect you to believe it’s the best, do they? If you do that’s fine, but if you don’t, that’s fine too. And whichever flavor you believe is the best, that person doesn't feel uncomfortable with you stating it, even if they don’t believe it is the best flavor.
Let’s look at a second scenario. What if a person claimed a particular flavor was the best and you disagreed with them. Then the person called you a sinner for not believing that flavor was the best, and that you would go to Hell because you didn't believe their flavor was the best flavor. It would be very strange for someone to do that, wouldn't it?
In the first scenario, the statement “I think this flavor is best, and you think a different flavor is best”, is an example of a subjective truth claim. It is a truth about the subject, about the person and their preference of ice cream flavor, not the ice cream itself, not about the object. In this example it is the truth about whoever is claiming that their flavor is the best. It is about their personal likes and dislikes, not about an actual property of the ice cream.
When many people look at different beliefs they look at them subjectively, like a flavor. Christianity is your belief flavor and it works for you, but they have a different belief flavor that works for them. They are happy for you whether or not your belief flavor is their belief flavor. They are fine with you having a different belief flavor. That is unless of course you insist that your belief flavor is the best flavor or the only true flavor, and then go on to tell them that if they don’t believe your belief flavor is the only true belief flavor, they will go to Hell.
The second scenario above is an example of Objective Truth. It is a truth about the object, about the ice cream itself. It is about the object the claim is about, and not the preference of the person making the claim. When we state that “Christianity is the truth”, we mean it objectively, that it is actually true for all people everywhere not just that we like it best. Many look at our claim about the truth of Christianity as a subjective truth, as an Ice Cream kind of truth, our flavor and not theirs.
Remember earlier when we looked at why some people will consider Christians intolerant because they see Christians as criticizing what others believe as true? These people think we are arrogant, that we believe our convictions are the only ones which are true, and that we insult others when we convey that their beliefs are wrong. Can you see how these people see the truth of beliefs held by persons as subjective and not objective? It is important to realize this if you are in a discussion with someone on the idea of truth, and you are both disagreeing with each other. While you both are talking about truth, they may be thinking about subjective truth, while you are thinking about objective truth.
Greg’s effective illustration for objective truth is to see it like insulin and not like ice cream. Think about one of your family having diabetes and taking insulin. What if one day they decided that they were switching from insulin to chocolate ice cream as the best treatment for diabetes because they liked the flavor? Would you have any hesitation in trying to convince them that they were wrong? Of course not. Would you think it appropriate to try to talk them out of this chocolate ice cream treatment? Of course.
You can see in this scenario that the focus is on the treatment of the diabetes, not what someone’s personal preference of treatment is. With beliefs, like medical treatments, we want to choose beliefs that work, beliefs that are true.
Greg Koukl states,
“When it comes to ice cream, we choose what we like.
When it comes to diabetes, we choose what works.”
Greg also states,
“Subjective truth is neither right nor wrong.
Objective truth is either right or wrong.”
Why are beliefs important? Because Beliefs have Consequences. Remember earlier when we covered this and looked at the historical consequences of the belief systems of Christianity and Nazism that some people have lived out?
With the treatment of diabetes example above we see different consequences depending on the actual treatment someone uses, regardless of what the person thinks about any particular treatment. In just the last hundred years we have seen the consequences to the world due to the beliefs held by Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong. The consequences are that over 100 million people were killed because of the beliefs and philosophies of just these three people.
I believe that deep down most of us really want to know the truth, but when we are challenged to face up to the fact at times that we are wrong our pride gets in the way. We like living in the belief bubble we've become happy with, and we don’t like the idea of anyone disturbing our bubble. I've been guilty of this too. Just ask my wife if I've ever been resistant to change when she’s brought me to the reality of a wrong decision. There is a phrase I like which you may have heard. This phrase illustrates our wanting to keep our beliefs just the way they are:
“Don’t confuse me with the truth, I’ve already made up my mind.”
Does it make sense now why people don’t have an issue when we say, “Insulin is a treatment for diabetes”, but they do have an issue when we say, “Jesus is the only way”?
When we tell them that Jesus is the only way to eternal life, they think we’re trying to force them to accept our belief flavor as the best flavor. They are looking at the claim of Jesus being the only way as our belief flavor. They have a different belief flavor, and they don’t want us trying to get them to switch their flavor for our flavor. They have made up their mind about which belief flavor they like and they don’t want anybody challenging that belief.
It’s important to realize that when a person looks at beliefs as if they are merely flavors of ice cream to choose, that this is part of their worldview. Their belief flavor is that a person’s preference of belief is the truth, (subjective truth), and not that some beliefs are actually true for everyone (objective truth). Again, when in conversation with others it’s very important to remember this difference of understandings and even get a clarification from a person you talk with as to which understanding they mean. There are some very effective techniques for clarifying a person’s understanding of truth we will cover later on in the Tactics section.
One very effective question to get a clearer understanding of a person’s belief and the first question in the Tactics section is,
“What do you mean by that?”
If they were to say something like “All roads lead to heaven”, you could ask,”What do you mean by ‘All roads’?
Truth is Not Ice Cream audio - Greg Koukl
Look at the following statements and see if you can tell whether they are subjective truths (ice cream) or objective truths;(insulin).
2 + 2 = 4
Disneyland is better than Magic Mountain.
The 2011 Toyota Camry is ugly.
99% of U.S households have at least one TV set.
Television is more important than anything else to poor people.
Apple only allows company approved apps to be installed on iOS devices.
53% of Americans pay federal income tax.
Premarital sex is immoral.
The answers (O = objective, S = subjective):
1:O, 2:S, 3:S, 4:O, 5:S, 6:O, 7:O, 8:O, 9:O
Are you surprised to find that statements 8 and 9 are objective statements? Many students will initially answer that both are subjective. Statement 8 is easier to see as objective when we realize that God either exists or doesn’t exist, and since the statement has to do with God and not our belief about Him it is an objective statement. Statement 9 is a little more difficult in that many will answer based on how they feel about premarital sex and not consider morals to be truly objective. Similar to actual truths being objective and not subjective, morals are also objective and not subjective because right and wrong are determined by God and not our likes or dislikes. Morality will be covered more shortly. This video by Frank Turek demonstrates the concept of objective moral law, and will give you a better understanding.
Is There an Objective Moral Law?
Now think about a situation where you’re in a conversation with someone and you make the statement, “Jesus is the only way . . .” If the person responds with “I’m glad you've found something that works for you but that is your truth and I have a different truth”. Would their claim be a claim of objective truth or a subjective truth? Hint. Is their claim about Jesus, the object, or what their personal preference is, the subject?
So, with their response where do we go? We must go to the foundation of everything. That foundation of everything is absolute truth. As a Christian you may be thinking, “Isn’t God the foundation of everything?”, and you would be right. God is the foundation of everything. Consider though John 14:6.
John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus claimed to be The Truth, not just a truth. He is Ultimate Truth, so when you point to Truth as the foundation for everything you are actually pointing to God as that foundation.
With objective truth we can evaluate beliefs and teachings as to their truthfulness. Whichever belief proves to be objectively true, any beliefs that contradict that true belief are automatically false. If there is one God, the teachings of many Gods, no God, God is All, and any other contradictory beliefs about God are automatically false. If there is no God, then the teaching of One God, many gods, and God is All are automatically false. The same is true for any of the other options about the truth of God(s) existence or non-existence. This is the same with most areas of knowledge.
Think about most math problems. All the given answers can be false but only one answer can be true. And whichever answer is true, the other answers are automatically false.
Can You Pass the Objective / Subjective Truth Test?
This aspect of the truthfulness of something is called,
The Law of Non-Contradiction:
The Law of Non-Contradiction:
The Law of Non-Contradiction states that
“Contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. As an example the two propositions ‘A is B’ and ‘A is not B’ are mutually exclusive.”
Ravi Zacharias illustrates this law very effectively in this YouTube video:
Law of Non-Contradiction
It’s important to realize that this is the law of Non-Contradiction and not the theory of Non-Contradiction. This means that it is proven and not just a theory, and this law applies to the world regardless of our acceptance of it.
Considering the law of non-contradiction, when there is a scenario where there are multiple possible contradictory answers you will find that while all the answers given can be false only one answer can be true. Again, math is a great example of this: 2+2=4, not 57, -5, 273, or any other number. Whichever answer is true, anything contracting that true answer is automatically false. One way to think about truth is that it is exclusive and intolerant. It will not allow for a wrong answer and it will not tolerate a wrong answer.
Think about the importance of truth. Remember, if there is no truth you can’t know anything with any certainty. If you can’t know anything with certainly, you can't know for sure that there is a God, or that Jesus is God, or that He is the only way of salvation. And again, if someone says there is no truth, then their statement can’t be true either. Truth is proven to exist through this statement.
John 14:6 states that “Jesus is the truth”.
Once again, some professors will state “There is no Truth”. Do you see the subtle ramifications of this statement? If there is no Truth, Jesus can't be the Truth. This means that the verse John 14:6 is false and that the Bible has errors. If the Bible has errors then it can't be from a God who knows everything. When students hear a professor state, “There is no truth”, most don't think the professors statement through to its logical conclusion. Again, if there is no truth then nothing can be known with any certainty. And if nothing can be known with any certainty, then the professor’s claim that there is no truth can't be known with any certainty either. Anyone making this statement can’t have it both ways. They can’t try to convince you that their statement is true while also stating that there is no truth.
Knowing this reality about objective truth and the Law of Non-Contradiction we can be confident that objective truth exists. Since objective truth exists we can be confident in being able to evaluate beliefs and claims as to their truthfulness. As such, we can evaluate the truthfulness about beliefs and teachings about God, Allah, the Bible, the Quran, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, etc.
When you consider objective truth, any truth is true no matter its popularity and whether somebody really wants it to be true. And it is true whether or not it is believed, regardless of how sincerely or strongly. And similarly, whatever is false is false regardless of our desire that it be true, whether or not we believe it is false, and regardless of how sincerely or strongly our belief.
We've already looked at sincerity, (magic and driving), and desire (Deal or no Deal), as not having any bearing on truth. What about confidence?
The Super Bowl is a good example of individuals exhibiting great confidence in a future outcome. I think we can reasonably conclude that the majority of the people who watch the Super Bowl really believe (or at least hope) one of the two teams will win. What they believe or want doesn't change the truth of the outcome of the game, no matter how strongly they believe it or want it. Ultimately, only one team will win and in up to 50% of the fans will be wrong.
One of our son's previous teachers bet $1600 on a team in the 2013 Super Bowl! Considering that he bet $1600, how confident do you think he was that his team would win? If you had $1600 would you bet it all on a team if you weren't fully confident they would win? He was so confident in his choice before the game started that he was willing to bet $1600 dollars on the outcome. What was the outcome? His team lost and he lost $1600! Do you think he would have made the bet if he had any thought that his team would lose? How did confidence work out for him?
With the 2014 Super Bowl, the owner of a furniture company was so convinced that the Denver Broncos would beat the Seattle Seahawks that he held a promotion. The requirement to qualify for the promotion was to spending $6,000 or more on furniture and having it delivered before game day. If the Seahawks won your furniture purchase would be paid for by the store. What happened? The Denver Broncos lost the Super Bowl and the promotion he ran ended up costing him 7 million dollars!
Texas Furniture Store Owner Loses $7 Million In Super Bowl Bet
Think about the Earth. According to history books, before 1492 it was believed with great confidence and by most people that the Earth was flat. What was the belief about the Earth after 1492? Eventually almost everyone now believes the Earth is spherical. Was the earth flat before 1492 because people believed it was flat and then in 1492, because of Columbus, the Earth became spherical because people changed their belief, or was it always a sphere? Did it matter that at one time almost the entire world believed the Earth was flat? No. So you see, truth is not based upon the number of people or percentage who believe in something or how confident they are in their belief.
It is my understanding that there are over 20 religious volumes which claim to be inspired by God. According to the Law of Non Contradiction if the existence of God can be proven and one of these volumes proves to be from God then any other book contradictory to that proven volume is automatically not from God.
Let’s consider the Bible and some of the consequences if it is true. The Bible speaks of the person Jesus Christ. It indicates that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the debt for the sin we have committed, and He did this so that everyone might have the opportunity to receive eternal life. The Bible also indicates that none of us can do anything to be worthy of receiving this gift he offers.
Isaiah 64:6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags”.
If everything we try to do is described as filthy rags then we can have no hope in anything we do, but only in one who actually has the qualifications and ability to pay the debt we owe. Our only hope is to accept Christ's payment for our sin, (which we don't deserve and can’t earn), so that we can receive God’s gift of eternal life. If the Bible is true, we have no choice but to make a decision about this person Jesus Christ, about His claims to divinity, and about His claims to be able to take away sin. Can you see that if we choose not to choose we have still made a choice? Not choosing is actually making a choice to reject his gift. So the question is, “Is the Bible true?”
Think again about the idea of tolerance, the idea that what everyone believes as true is true (subjective), even where one person’s belief contradicts another person’s belief. If what everyone believes as true is true then what about the different beliefs in God? What about those who don't believe in God? Is God’s existence based upon how strongly someone does or doesn't believe in His existence? If so, God would exist for those who believe He exists and not exist for those who believe He doesn't exist. He would both exist and not exist at the same time. You see the obvious contradiction here. Only one of these two beliefs can be objectively true. Oh, and a person living like God doesn't exist is not the same (subjective) as God truly not existing (objective).
God exists or doesn't exist, because He does or doesn't exist (objective), not because people choose to believe or not believe in His existence (subjective). So you see, truth is not based on the strength of a person’s belief.
Is Truth Knowable? - Frank Turek
Does Truth Exist - Is It Knowable? - Pt. 1
Sites on Truth:
Truth or Consequences - Greg Koukl
Why the Correspondence Theory of Truth is Superior
The Usual Suspects- Responses to "Notable" Skeptics
Thinking Clearly - Greg Koukl - 4 part series
This is a great comprehensive series on thinking clearly and logically!
A Basic Logic Primer
Counter Culture Night - Truth or Tragedy?
Counter Culture Night - Truth or Tragedy Q&A
The Nature of Truth
Next Page: God's Existance