Believe It Or Not, Truth Matters: Helping Your Students See the Importance of Truth
Like it or not, we live in a world that considers it a virtue to deny the existence of truth. Our students are being indoctrinated into a postmodern worldview daily in the classroom, through music, movies, television, and even politics. There was a time when truth was sacred and valued and embraced. It was considered the independent standard by which we measured our existence within reality. Truth, however, is now under fire.
Truth has now become much more flexible and personalized. It is now taught as something intimately connected with one’s experience. Truth is what you make of it. It can be different for different people, change based on current moods and desired lifestyles. As a result, we have created a space that allows for opposing beliefs to own equal strains of truth. The only acceptable degree of truth is one of cultural relativism.
Everywhere we look there are subtle references to relativism. Think about what some of the most prominent people in media offer as pearls of wisdom to the rest of us commoners.
There's no right or wrong, success or failure. - Miley Cyrus
You know, I just do whatever feels right to me! And so that's what you're gonna get! - Bruno Mars
Have it your way - Burger King
These are just three of hundreds of examples of Hollywood personalities, politicians, sports stars, and educators, etc. expounding personalized morality and an "everyone has a piece of truth" mentality all drawn from a rejection of truth.
In one sense, this kind of thinking seems perfectly harmless. In some ways, it almost sounds utopic. Everyone gets along, and no one is ever wrong. Think of it like the movies. I am a huge Marvel movie lover. So naturally, I tend to think that movies like Captain America or Avengers are the best movies. However, you may despise Marvel movies but love romantic comedies. So in this case what is true for you and what is true for me can be entirely different, but equally true. We might disagree on movie choices, but in the end, we graciously respect each other's views. Maybe even see each other’s movies. In some cases, this poses no problems at all. How we feel about movies can be equally true for each of us. We call this subjective truth. The nature of truth revolves around or speaks to the subject. In this case, I am the subject. The nature of truth is dependent on my preference and depends entirely on whether or not I interact with the subject.
So in matters of opinion and preference subjective truth is perfectly fine. But what if I told you that sitting here next to me was a cup of coffee, then (if you were sitting across from me or in proximity to me) this statement would be considered true statements. We would say that this is not subjectively true, but objectively true. Meaning that something is true whether I agreed or disagreed with the statements. These statements have nothing to do with me, but with the objects I am describing. In other words, my statement about a black cup of coffee is true regardless if you had never seen or had a cup of coffee; true even if you had no taste buds. True, even if, based on my limited or lack of exposure to coffee, I had devised a different name and created a different purpose. The fact of the matter is that my cup of coffee would remain a cup of coffee until it is no longer a cup of coffee and no longer possess the properties that make it a cup of coffee. The cup of coffee can never be beer, water, or a Diet Pepsi. It’s a cup of coffee. Objective truth doesn’t care about my opinion, feelings, experiences, or preferences, only what matches reality.
But what happens when we start talking about things like morality, differing worldviews, and religions? What happens if I throw the Bible and Jesus into the mix? If we stick to a postmodern way of seeing the world, objective truth is tossed out with the rest of the outdated culture fads we once knew and loved. So for the Christian, when we say such outlandish things like, Jesus’ brash statement, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one gets to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6), people are outraged and Christians are reduced to exclusive unloving, unaccepting, bigots.
So how can we help our students not only understand the importance of truth but fight against the current cultural trends? Let me offer two quick, simple things you can do to help your students not only embrace truth and help dismantle relativism's firm hold on culture; but also create some space for them to champion the truth of Jesus in their culture.
Truth should be a regular topic of discussion.
Teaching apologetics to students for the better part of a decade has helped me see that some of the brightest students had a hard time accepting Jesus as the only way. Conversely, they had no issue at all looking to Jesus as a self-help guru that had one of many ways to be saved, get to heaven or the like. My lessons on truth were often met with allegations of arrogance. And if you make truth a regular part of the discussion in your youth group, you will too.
Be gracious and loving. Listen carefully to what students are saying. Ask lots of questions. Try and figure out why they think what they think. Remember, most of them have been taught to let experience and emotion be their guide in determining what it true. Regular discussions will help flush some of that out of their system and reorient them to a truth grounded in reality.
Help students understand the difference between subjective and objective truth
To do that, you'll need to provide students with some basic tools necessary for the task. They will need to learn some fundamentals. Now if you have ever tried to teach truth, or grab few books on the subject, you soon realized there is just too much to digest unless you're planning on writing a dissertation on the subject. So if nothing else, teach them one thing. Teach them the difference between subjective truth and objective truth.
I had the opportunity a year ago to teach this to multiple groups of students. Not sure how it would go over, I was greatly encouraged by the attentiveness, but willingness to dive deeper, learn more. They not only wanted to understand, but they wanted the confidence to talk to their peers about it as well. If you want your students to embrace Jesus as the way, truth, and the life; and you want them to exude the confidence and conviction necessary to make disciples in the spaces that God has placed them, then this simple lesson is a must.
We all want our students to be experts in knowing the Word and living it out. But the postmodern, relativistic culture they live in has devalued the Bible and delegitimized Jesus—filtering out so much of what we want them to learn and how God desires them to live. Teaching students the nature of truth removes that filter and allows the Word to penetrate.
It is a hard conversation, but one worth having.
Executive Director of AwanaYMSteve currently serves as the Executive Director of AwanaYM. Previously, Steve spent over a decade teaching high school theology and apologetics from Detroit to LA. Steve holds a Masters degree in Theology from Moody Theological Seminary and a Masters in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Steve is also an adjunct professor at Trinity International University. He speaks and writes on youth ministry, youth culture and apologetics. He resides in Chicago, IL with his wife and four children.
Follow Steve Kozak on Twitter: stevenmkozak
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