How Do We Know Anything is True?

There is an old joke that goes like this:

Three baseball umpires are having a bite to eat and a beer after the game was over. This is what they say to each other. The first one says, “There are balls and strikes. I call them the way they are.” The second one says, “There are balls and strikes. I call them the way I see them.” And the third one says, “There are balls and strikes and they are nothing until I call them.”

That old joke has been said to accurately perceptions of knowing what is true throughout human history when it is divided into pre-modern, modern, and postmodern categories.

The pre-modern category (“I call them the way they are.”) refers to the period of time in human history prior to the 17th century ‘enlightenment’; a period when the existence of God, and absolute truth was ‘out there’ and man could know what was true by studying God’s truth, as found in scripture. It can also refer today to those who believe in God (or a god), in some form or another, in all religions, including Christians.

The modern era (“I call them the way I see them.”) is said to have begun about 1600 or 1650 up until  recent past. Modernism, sometimes called rationalism or secular humanism—rejected the need for the existence of God and said it is possible for human beings to know truly by the use of our reason.

Postmodernism (“They are nothing until I call them.”) is a passionate reaction against confidence and reason. Fundamentally, postmodernism is saying that if there is no God up there, let’s be real about what that means – we mortals are alone here in this world. It is only us, and we are finite. For the Christian, finiteness is not a problem because of the existence of God and His revelation. However, for the postmodernist, being finite is an enormous problem. If there is nothing transcendent, nothing above us—neither God nor anything else—that understands everything, pure objective truth is not available to us. And that’s a hurdle over which no one can jump.

What we have in our postmodern environment is a culture in which ‘my’ truth is mine, and ‘yours’ is yours. If there is a larger truth anywhere, it’s based on a consensus of like minded individuals think it is. If more people believe in ‘A’ than ‘B’, then ‘A’ might be true, but we cannot know for sure. 

So What? Is it even important to understand ‘how’ truth has been perceived throughout history? Apparently it is, since there is an entire branch of philosophy dedicated to the subject – epistemology.

Epistemology (from Greek ἐπιστήμηepisteme-, “knowledge, science” + λόγος, “logos”) or theory of knowledge is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge It addresses the questions:

  • What is knowledge?
  • How is knowledge acquired?
  • What do people know?
  • How do we know what we know?

What does that mean in terms of sharing our Christian faith (and truth claims) with postmodern non-believers, and even believers? Think about it. If two people perceive truth in totally different terms, they will forever talk past each other…….wouldn’t they?

Food for thought.

3 responses to “How Do We Know Anything is True?

  1. They will talk past eachother and the DO talk past eachother. At my previous job, relative truth and relative morality were the hip thing. I guess that’s to be expected when your CEO is a pagan. I understood that when trying to discuss issues with clients…and was told…”well, that’s your truth”…


  2. Sorry, hit post comment too quickly.

    So basically, when someone does not have the truth, you can’t argue them into believing the truth because it’s foolishness to them. BUT, God can open their eyes to the truth. So we keep proclaiming the truth and pray that He would open eyes to it.


  3. Basically, that’s it, even if we are talking to a person who believes God exists in the ‘pre-modern’ fashion. It still takes God to open a heart to receive the Gospel message of Christ.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s