This lecture is based on the book “Truth in Religion” by famous philosopher Mortimer J. Adler. At the time of writing the book, he was not a Christian, but there is still a lot of value in the book for Christians who are trying to understand what religion should really be about.
About the speaker
The speaker is one of my top 3 favorite speakers of all time in Christian apologetics, Dr. Walter Bradley. (The other two are Dr. Stephen C. Meyer and Dr. Michael Strauss)
Dr. Bradley received his B.S. in Engineering Science and his Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Texas in Austin.
Dr. Bradley taught for eight years at the Colorado School of Mines before assuming a position as Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University (TAMU) in 1976.
During his 24 years at Texas A&M, Dr. Bradley served as Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University and as Director of the Polymer Technology Center, and received five College of Engineering Research Awards. He has received over $4,500,000 in research grants and has published over 140 technical articles and book chapters. He has also co-authored “The Mystery Of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories. He is a Fellow of the American Society for Materials and of the American Scientific Affiliation and serves as a consultant for many Fortune 500 companies.
You can read more about his recent research on how to use coconuts to make car parts in this article from Science Daily.
The MP3 file is here. (31 minutes + Q&A)
- what is pluralism?
- what is multiculturalism?
- what is relativism?
- some propositions are true culturally – just for certain groups in certain times (cultures)
- some proposition are true trans-culturally – true independently of what anyone wants or feels
- Mathematical truth is trans-cultural – it is true regardless of cultural fashions
- Scientific truth is trans-cultural – it is true regardless of cultural fashions
- Some truths are not like this – cooking traditions, clothing traditions and greeting traditions
- These kinds of truths are NOT trans-cultural, they vary by culture
- The question is – is religion true like math and science, or true depending on the culture
- Some people think that your religion depends on where you were born or what your family believes
- Religions make conflicting claims about the way the world really is, so they can’t all be true
- And these conflicts are at the core of the religions – who God is, how can we be related to him, etc.
- So if religions convey trans-cultural truth, then either one is true or none are true
- If they are not trying to convey trans-cultural truth, then they are not like math and science
- Let’s assume that religion is the same as trans-cultural truth
- How can we know which religion is true? 1) the laws of logic, 2) empirical testing against reality
- Logical consistency is needed to make the first cut – self-contradictory claims cannot be true
- To be true trans-culturally, a proposition must at least NOT break the law of non-contradiction
- According to Mortimer Adler’s book, only Christianity, Judaism and Islam are not self-contradictory
- All the others can be excluded on the basis of overt internal contradictions on fundamental questions
- The others that are self-contradictory can be true culturally, but not trans-culturally
- The way to proceed forward is to test the three non-contradictory religions against science and history
- One of these three may be true, or they could all be false
- We can test the three by evaluating their conflicting truth claims about the historical Jesus
- Famous skeptics have undertaken studies to undermine the historical Jesus presented in the Bible
- Lew Wallace, Simon Greenleaf and Frank Morrison assessed the evidence as atheists and became Christians
- There is a lot of opposition in culture to the idea that one religion might be true
- But if you take the claims of Jesus at face value, he claims to be the unique revelation of God to mankind
- Either he was telling the truth about that, or he was lying, or he was crazy
- So which is it?
Why don’t religious people ask if their religion is true?
People seem to be chicken these days about claiming that their religion is true. It’s easier to say that my religion is true for me, and your religion is true for you – reduce it to personal preferences. So long as everyone is sincere about what they believe, then that’s the most important thing, right?
But it is NOT TRUE that you can believe whatever you want as long as you are sincere – sincerity doesn’t mean that you can’t be mistaken. I can jump off the top of the Sears Tower and be sincere in my belief that I will float down like a feather, but that doesn’t make my belief true. If you want to have a good relationship with God, you have to know things about him, not just have sincere beliefs. You have to know whether he exists and what he is like – really. It’s not enough to have sincere beliefs that are not actually true.
I think that God’s existence and character can be assessed and known based on logic and evidence. I think that God exists independently of whether I want him to or not, and I think that his character and desires are not the same as my character and desires. And I don’t really care what my neighbors think of my disagreeing with them, my goal is not to keep silent and to just get along with them and be happier in my community.
God’s first commandment to us is not to love our neighbor – that’s number two. Number one is to love him. And how can we love him, if we don’t want to know him. And how can we love him, if we don’t tell people the truth about him when they ask us?
That message is not going to win us a lot of friends, but our job as Christians is to tell how and why God stepped into history. Jesus expects us to be his ambassadors and to carry out the task of evangelism faithfully, and to suffer with him and – if necessary – to be rejected like he was rejected.