Dr. Denison defined the first quake as the rejection of objective truth. The denial is evident in popular mantras such as “perception is reality,” “true for you, but not for me,” and the mantra popularized by Oprah Winfrey, “live your truth.” According to George Barna’s recent survey of Millennials, 56% reject the idea of absolute truth, and 22% were not sure how to answer. This goes a long way in explaining much of the confusion in our society, for if you reject the truth, you have no foundation for understanding the world. To begin our discussion, let’s first look at what truth is?
What is Truth?
According to the Lexham Theological Workbook, “Truth refers to what is real, trustworthy, dependable, genuine, or valid. It carries the sense of real-world dependability and genuine disclosure—showing things as they really are.” Truth is not constructed or invented by man but describes “what is real.” Various beliefs may be the result of human invention, but “truth” originates with a personal and moral God who makes Himself known.
Scripture can provide us with a biblical understanding of truth, such as:
- Accurate and trustworthy witnesses (Prov. 12:17; 1 John 2:21)
- Lying is the opposite of truth (Jer. 9:3; Gen. 42:16)
- The people of God are to speak truth to one another (Zech. 8:16; Eph. 4:25)
- Jesus stresses the authority and certainty of His message in saying, “I tell you the truth” (Luke 9:27 HCSB; Luke 4:24; John 16:7)
- Characteristic of God (Isa. 65:16; John 14:6, 16:13)
Looking at these select passages, the most common meaning of biblical words refers to statements accurately reflecting facts and that truth is an attribute of God. We can also gather that the opposite of the truth would be a lie, deception, or fiction. Leading to an important question, if there is no truth, then is there such thing as a lie? More importantly, can “what is real” be known?
For the 56% that responded to the Barna survey, I suppose they would answer no. However, Scripture is clear, the truth can be known, and God has revealed it to us. For me, the clearest example of an eternal, unchanging, objective truth is found in math. The sum of 2+2 is 4. It has always equaled 4, it equals 4 as you read these words, and it will continue to equal 4 for the rest of eternity. The sum is an eternal, unchanging, objective truth that does not depend on culture, language, or social constructs. It is a transcendent objective fact, either right or wrong.
Postmodern Rejection of Truth
According to postmodernism, there is no true understanding of reality, only stories we tell ourselves. This idea of individual narratives has roots in Emmanuel Kant’s understanding that everything in reality is filtered through our senses. So, we only know what we sense, and this is just our perception of reality. Due to this, nothing can truly be known. Friedrich Nietzsche took this further with the understanding that if we are just matter, then the universe is meaningless. As a result of Kant and Nietzsche, reason does not exist. We do not know reality; we create reality. Douglas Groothuis described postmodernism another way in his 2000 Themelios article, “truth is simply what we, as individuals and as communities, make it to be—and nothing more.” Simplifying reality down to individual stories is dangerous. As Groothuis continues, “academics in philosophy, history, psychology, law, sociology, anthropology, and even theology have abandoned the classical and commonsensical view of truth” and “have instead embraced a concept of truth that undermines any sense of absolute, objective, and universal verity.”
The rejection of truth impacts every area of life, including politics, art, law, and history. If the idea of objective truth falls, then politics becomes nothing but image manipulation and power-mongering. Social consensus and the duties of citizenship become irrelevant and impossible. As we currently see in our communities, various factions—differentiated by race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation—are grasping for power by claiming unimpeachable authority based on hidden cultural knowledge (sometimes referred to as Ethnic Gnosticism). Groothuis provides examples, like “‘it’s a black thing; you wouldn’t understand,’ or ‘It’s a woman’s thing; men just don’t get it.” Further, if the law is not grounded in a moral truth that transcends any criminal code, it becomes a set of flexible and arbitrary edicts open to personal interpretation. Groothuis also highlights that if no objective facts can be discerned from the past, then “history becomes a tool for special interest groups who rewrite the past on the basis of their predilections.” This is eerily insightful when contrasting the revisionist history of the New York Times 1619 Project.
When reasonable debate no longer seeks knowledge of truth, then all that remains are schemes for power and personal preferences.
Rejection of Biblical Morality
What is left when people reject truth? You have the illusion of creating your own reality. As Oprah encourages her followers, “Sometimes it takes doing the things that people say you’re not supposed to be doing to find out what’s true for you.” However, this notion of “true for you” has led many to lead a false life in rebellion against their Creator. People resist the truth, and Jesus implied this when He stated, “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me” (John 8:45 HCSB). When individuals stop seeking to understand what is real, they choose the lie (Rom. 1:25; 2 Tim. 3:8; 4:4; Titus 1:14).
If postmodernism has made truth relative, then the foundation for morality has become relative. As Dr. Denison said, “Sexual truth is what I say it is,” or “my body, my choice,” from abortion, euthanasia, and gender. Biblical morality is grounded in God’s eternal and unchanging standards for His creation (Psalm 102:25-27). When society accepts no universal truth, it has denied the foundation for understanding God’s moral standards. This rejection of moral standards is the second quake that has triggered the coming cultural tsunami.
See all posts in The Coming Cultural Tsunami series here.
 Jim Denison, “The Coming Tsunami,” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, September 7, 2021, video of lecture, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUEo4up1y6E&t=270s.
 George Barna, New Insights into the Generation of Growing Influence: Millennials in America (Glendale: Cultural Research Center, 2021), 47.
 Lexham Theological Wordbook, s.v. “Truth.”
 Douglas Groothuis, “The Biblical View of Truth Challenges Postmodernist Truth Decay,” Themelios 26, no. 1 (2000): 20.
 Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Truth.”
 Nathan Schlueter, “Nietzsche: The Crisis of Reason,” Introduction to Western Philosophy, Hillsdale College, 2021, video of lecture, https://online.hillsdale.edu/courses/introduction-to-western-philosophy.
 Groothuis, “The Biblical View of Truth Challenges Postmodernist Truth Decay,” 12.
 Ibid, 12–13.
 Ibid, 16.
 “Oprah on How to Start Living Your Truth—One ‘Small Yet Mighty Action’ at a Time,” Oprah Daily, February 6, 2022, https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/relationships-love/a38989598/oprah-living-your-truth-intention/.
 Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Truth.”
 Denison, “The Coming Tsunami.”