Perfect Chaos

The Blog of Author Steven Colborne

Objectivity in Religion

I am overjoyed that a Christian friend has taken an interest in my book Discovering the Qur’an (thank you, Susan!). The book was written largely for this purpose – to encourage others, especially those from a Christian background, to read the Qur’an.

In today’s article, I wanted to write a little about different perspectives, especially theological perspectives, and how I make sense of them philosophically.

I believe understanding is a work of God in our minds and bodies. As we read or hear something, God works in us to give us a certain understanding. Depending on the will of God, teaching that we are exposed to will resonate with us either as truth or falsehood.

As a point of philosophy, words do not contain meaning intrinsically. The experience of understanding is rather embodied thought and feeling impressions. You can examine this experience for yourself as you read this article.

My main argument is that different theological perspectives can resonate in us as truth, even if they contradict one another. So when I read the Qur’an it might appeal to me as truth, and the same could apply when I read the New Testament.

I believe it’s a sign of spiritual maturity to be able to understand why a particular teaching appeals to someone as truth, and at the same time to hold onto one’s own beliefs. When we understand that truth has this subjective element, faith in a particular religion becomes more about choice.

Things are complicated somewhat by the idea of objective truth. For example, the crucifixion of Jesus must have either happened as a historical event, as Christians believe, or not, as Muslims believe. I either have two arms and two legs, or I don’t. These are arguably matters of objective truth.

A problem arises when we try to apply the reality of objective truth to matters of religion, because (to continue my example) there is no video recording of Jesus on the cross. How, then, can we be sure he was crucified?

The obvious answer is that this is where faith comes into play. The trouble with this argument, however, is that once we make faith a determiner of truth, we can believe absolutely anything. Faith becomes entirely subjective.

I believe the only way to clear things up is to appeal to objectivity. This could be as simple as praying to God to reveal what is objectively true (He may or may not do so). Or we might engage in interfaith dialogue with the aim of deepening our understanding of historical evidence so we can be deeply convinced about truth assertions.

God has created the idea of evidence, but should it be applied to religion? I see no reason why not.

A further complication is that faith is often considered virtuous. So we read in the Bible that Abraham believed God, and that this belief was reckoned to him as righteousness. But the point to make here is that this was not a display of blind faith from Abraham, but rather obedience to the voice of God, which I suppose was an objective reality to Abraham – he fully believed he heard from God and so he responded.

In conclusion, God has created in human beings the desire for certainty. That’s why theological debates get so heated. Different opposing perspectives can resonate in us as truth, and while this makes religion a subjective matter, there are also objective realities than should inform our faith. Deepening our understanding of these objective realities by seeking sound evidence could bring us closer to objective truth and therefore strengthen our faith in a particular religious worldview.

I’m sorry this post has so many imperfections. I’m typing on a smartphone and I’m far from perfect myself. If the article made you think the subject matter through, that’s wonderful. Please feel free to comment below with anything you’d like to add.

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2 responses to “Objectivity in Religion”

  1. Steven,
    You bring out an interesting point about the contradictions between various scriptures. When you say, “ Different opposing perspectives can resonate in us as truth . . .” perhaps, this is a truth in itself.
    The Sufi master and poet, Jelaluddin Rumi said, “God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites so that you will have two wings to fly, not one.”
    All the best, RahimGee

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beautiful, thank you!


Steven Colborne

About Me

Hello, I’m Steven and I’m a philosopher and author based in London. My main purpose as a writer is to encourage discussion about God. I write about a wide variety of subjects related to philosophical theology, including divine sovereignty, the nature of God, suffering, interfaith dialogue and more. My mantra: Truth heals.

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