I noticed that young people are often unwilling to accept anything as true, especially when it interferes with their desire to seek happiness through an anything-goes sexuality. Often, opposition to abortion and/or homosexuality is an immediate deal-breaker. Nothing can be true if it contradicts the Sexual Revolution, including abortion and homosexuality.
Sean McDowell interviewed Abdu Murray about this problem.
SEAN MCDOWELL: Why did you write a book called “Saving Truth”? What makes you think truth needs saving?
ABDU MURRAY: Thanks for the opportunity to share about the book, Sean. The title is meant to be a double-entendre. In and of itself, truth doesn’t need saving but it does need to be saved in the sense that we’ve lost our emphasis on it as a culture. We’re in a “post-truth” society, which elevates personal preferences and feelings over facts and truth. We don’t deny that truth exists, we just subordinate it to our preferences. We think that this will lead to freedom and human dignity and flourishing. But it won’t. It will lead to chaos because truth no longer serves as the standard by which to judge human preferences and opinions. That’s why we’re seeing such vilification of “them.” Whoever disagrees with our preferences is automatically a villain, even if the truth is on their side. We need to recover our love of the truth and its primacy if we’re to escape the chaos that so laces our cultural climate. When we see that truth is the lens through which we should shape and express our preferences, we’ll see the truth that we are made in God’s image and that Jesus redeemed that image at the cross. We no longer see “us” vs. “them.” Instead, we see each other as people in need of redemption. That’s when we come to a knowledge of the saving truth – the truth that saves.
In my 20s and early 30s, I spent a lot of time reading about marriage, specifically studies on what decisions and factors were more likely to avoid divorce. This is because I wanted my future marriage to last and to have an impact. So, I would read studies on how delaying sexual activity makes the relationship more stable. And how cohabitation undermines the stability of any future marriage. And how regular church attendance improves marriage stability. I was interested in the truth. And whenever my desires for something right now (e.g. – premarital sex) conflicted with the truth in the studies, I just went along with the truth. What we’re seeing today is that people don’t care about truth when they are making decisions, especially when it comes to relationship quality and stability. Happiness is number one, and character means nothing. Somehow, things are just supposed to “work out” if you find the “right person”. Good luck getting anyone to care what the Bible says about love and marriage, if it conflicts with sexual autonomy.
Here’s a quote from agnostic Aldous Huxley that illustrates the point:
I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves… For myself, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.”
Aldous Huxley in “Ends and Means“, 1937
Before I saw this interview, I tweeted another interview with Abdu Murray posted on Bible Gateway.
What do you mean that “autonomy is confused for freedom”?
Abdu Murray: The seed for the post-truth mindset is the human desire for autonomy. We’ve confused autonomy with freedom, thinking they’re synonymous when they’re not.
Autonomy is the state of being a law unto one’s self (“autos” meaning self and “nomos” meaning law). Someone who’s autonomous is a law unto themselves and so he has no restraints whatsoever. An autonomous person can do or be whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants. That ultimately leads to total chaos because if I’m a law unto myself and another person’s “law unto themselves” conflicts with my law, who will decide who’s right? It won’t be truth, it’ll be chaos (see Judges 17:6; 21:5: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”).
But true freedom is different. It requires boundaries; specifically the boundaries of truth and facts. As Chesterton pointed out, we don’t have the freedom to draw a giraffe with a short neck. Freedom entails limits. True freedom is not the unfettered ability to do, say, or be whatever we want in any way we want. True freedom is the ability to do what we want, in accordance with what we should, based on what we are. What we are is children of the Most High. That’s exactly why Jesus says that when we know the truth, the truth will set us free.
Abdu has written a book about how to deal with this. I’m not sure right now what his approach is. It’s probably important to make some sort of defense of truth to young people, so that they understand why the boundaries help them. If they think they can break all the moral laws and that it will not close off some good outcomes to them later, then we need to correct that. We need to use evidence to show them that some decisions will increase or decrease their ability to get the best outcomes. Moreover, we somehow have to get them to accept that God, if he exists, might have something to say about their moral choices. And if God exists then they ought to care what he thinks they should be doing.
One of my best friends is a Christian woman who had an abortion after living with an atheist when she was younger. Looking back on her life, she did not have good guidance about what to look for in a man. Her mother married (and re-married) poorly, and so there was never a good role model around for her. She would often complain to me about how she was lied to by the culture. About what men to prefer. About how far to go with a man. About delaying marriage. About delaying children. About how much abortion would hurt her. About guarding her heart from men who had not demonstrated ability at husbands and father skills. When I met her, I wasn’t very impressed with her education (English! Yucky!) and her career. But she had this hatred of lies, and a desperate desire to know how the world really worked.
More than almost any of my friends, she was utterly devoted to pursuing truth. I remember finding books that I had bought for her by really advanced writers like Stephen C. Meyer absolutely covered in underlining from cover to cover. Basically, she didn’t trust her ability to make decisions because she felt she had been lied to. She wanted a true worldview, so that when she took some action X, she knew that it was likely to lead her to result Y. That’s the love of truth that we need to teach the young people. Without a true worldview, (a Christian worldview, since Christianity is true), they will always be attempting to get to outcomes that have been closed off by their own poor decision-making and rebellion against God. I wish all of you could meet someone who had been raised without good leadership and good role models, and see how much some people at least really thirst for the truth and are anxious to make good decisions that honor what is true.