“Do you believe in subjective or objective truth?” was addressed on January 23, 2013 on the “Ankerberg Minute with Dr. John Ankerberg.” Dr. Ankerberg answered well.
A recent study of American 18 to 23 year olds reveals that one of the major themes of this age group is that they live in a culture where truth is considered subjective rather than objective. In the words of the study, there is no context for real dialogue about truth. And truth’s impact on our life choices.
How does this cultural mindset compare with Scripture? Well, first, Scripture declares objective truth on many occasions. Jesus Himself proclaimed to be the way, truth, and life. While there are some areas for disagreement there are many moral issues where the Bible has clearly spoken.
Whether popular or not, our calling is to present and defend the truth of God to those in our culture.
Dr. Ankerberg is right on! Truth is objective. Truth impacts life choices. There should also be a context for real dialogue about truth which many of us in the church today, like Dr. Ankerberg, attempt to foster. Popular Christians like Ankerberg engage culture presenting unpopular objective truths and morality.
The younger generation Ankerberg references are often influenced by the church’s claims of objective truth by the perception that said truth is often subjectively carried out.
For example, Kenda Creasy Dean writes about how American Christian teens view God in Almost Christian. One example from Dean’s book:
In the view of American teenagers, God is more object than subject, an Idea but not a companion. The problem does not seem to be that churches are teaching young people badly, but that we are doing an exceedingly good job of teaching youth what we really believe: namely, that Christianity is not a big deal, that God requires little, and the church is a helpful social institution filled with nice people focused primarily on “folks like us”—which, of course, begs the question of whether we are really the church at all. 1
Ankerberg’s short answer about the importance of objective truth is that it impacts our lives. He rightly claims that the Bible speaks clearly on “many moral issues.” Dean’s contention based on extensive research of American Christian teenagers is that the church is very good at showing teens that we don’t take Christianity too seriously.
My understanding is that for those younger men and women to take the Bible’s objective truth more seriously the church must demonstrate those truths as consistently as possible. Doctrine and moral positions must be more than lip-service. The objective truth of Christianity may be better demonstrated through admission of sin, repentance, seeking and giving forgiveness demonstrating how the gospel works out in the life of Christians.
A few days prior to the above “Ankerberg Minute” on January 21, 2013, James White published “An Open Letter to Dr. John Ankerberg.” In that open letter, White demonstrates that Ankerberg is unwilling to admit there is a context to dialogue about the truth of many of Ergun Caner’s claims about himself.
In the context of the younger generation, Caner has spoken to many youth groups over the years. He has spoken about objective truth while dismissing an objective dialogue about the evidence that shows many claims about himself to be false.
White’s open letter was motivated by the fact that Ankerberg recently promoted Ergun Caner (and his brother Emir) on his radio show as a guest. Ankerberg defended his decision with his own open letter - Why I Invited Emir Caner and Ergun Caner to The John Ankerberg Show. Ankerberg cites the conclusion of biased sources for Caner rather than examining the evidence himself to show whether or not Caner lied.
White also quotes one of Ankerberg’s ministry assistants defending Caner as follows.
Ergun Caner did not lie, while he was speaking he mistakenly misstated the facts. (He was not trying to deceive anyone, he just did not remember correctly.) Have you ever said something and realized later that it was wrong? It doesn’t mean that you are a liar, it means you forgot the information. When you realize that the amount of public speaking that Ergun has done, it would be easy to make a few statements and realize later that you were mistaken.
This is not actually a defense of Caner, but a few excuses for the differing stories. The problem is that there is extensive legal documentation, video, audio, and text of Dr. Caner’s words over the years. It seems a person who does a lot of public speaking would be more consistent when sharing information about their life. A few small details wrong here and there, sure.
But the 12 examples of falsehoods Dr. White noted are not small. The examples below have not been objectively refuted, but subjectively brushed aside.
1) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner was born in Istanbul, Turkey, as he claimed.
2) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner always lived in “majority Muslim countries” as he repeatedly told audiences during sermons.
3) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner studied jihad in a madrassa in Istanbul.
4) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner studied jihad in a madrassa in Beirut.
5) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner studied jihad in a madrassa in Cairo.
6) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner is able to speak Arabic.
7) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner has debated imams in mosques in Arabic (as his own website advertised).
8) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner has engaged in more than sixty debates (he claimed in 2006 75 such debates) with Muslim leaders.
9) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner’s father was surrounded by “caliphs” when he died (there are no caliphs today).
10) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner’s father brought multiple wives with him to America.
11) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner came to the United States in 1978 or 1979 (as his biography on the Liberty website claimed until 2010).
12) It is a falsehood that Ergun Caner learned English by watching US television programs in Turkey.
Dr. Ankerberg’s whole ministry is based on promoting and defending the objective truth of the Christian worldview. He can press on with the Christian worldview because it is objectively true and defensible. Yet, that truth must also be practically demonstrable because as he stated it has an “impact on our life choices.”
As Ankerberg seeks to encourage a context where there is real dialogue about truth, he might consider beginning in his own house with Ergun Caner. Objectively examining the evidence against Caner would help his audience objectively see that he, a Christian, practices what he preaches.
I certainly agree with Ankerberg when he said, “Whether popular or not, our calling is to present and defend the truth of God to those in our culture.” I just wish he agreed, too.
For what it’s worth…
- Dean, Kenda Creasy (2010-06-12). Almost Christian : What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church (Kindle Locations 234-238). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. ↩