To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
- John 8:31-32
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
- Romans 1:20
“The main implication of ‘man is the measure of all things’ is that belief is subjective and relative. This leads Protagoras to reject the existence of absolute definitions of truth, justice, or virtue. What is true for one person may be false for another, he claims. This relativism also applies to moral values, such as what is right and what is wrong. To Protagoras, nothing is inherently good in itself. Something is ethical, or right, only because a person or society judges it to be so.
“Protagoras was the most influential of a group of itinerant teachers of law and rhetoric that became known as the Sophists (from the Greek sophia, meaning wisdom). Socrates and Plato derided the Sophists as mere rhetoricians, but with Protagoras there was a significant step in ethics toward the view that all judgements, including moral judgements, are subjective.”
- Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained
Protagoras (490-420BC) was the ultimate trial lawyer of his day, often making the worse case the better case due to his persuasion. That would give anyone, and most modern lawyers, the idea that “truth” comes a distant second or even third and persuasion is number one and charisma might be second.
In the Perry Mason novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, Perry Mason always gets his person found not-guilty. The prosecutor claims trickery and, indeed, persuasion, while in the end Mason produces the necessary evidence, the truth, to find the true criminal. There was one exception, when Perry Mason found that his client was truly guilty, and he had to lose the case without seeming to be “throwing the case.” To Perry Mason there was something called “truth,” and he was bound by it, but Perry Mason was a fictional character of a bygone era.
Yet, in the courtroom novels of today, persuasion and tricking the jury into thinking one way or the other is the norm. Some of John Grisham’s fictional lawyers are like that, usually not the main character who is trying to do it the right way. Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller, lives out of his Lincoln and might just do anything to win his case. And there are many more. Truth does not matter; getting the result that is positive for your client matters. Protagoras would fit in nicely with the young legal eagles of today, if fictional lawyers are indeed the norm.
But you can see how a lawyer who has charisma and panache can go into a courtroom and get the jury to think that the sky is brown and the soil is really chocolate. (Please, those are falsehoods. Do not go out with a shovel thinking it will taste like chocolate.) In spite of such lawyers, that does not negate Truth, but it could in the lawyer’s mind. And that is the problem with Protagoras. And maybe with many of the people that love the post-Truth era. Socrates and Plato had good reason to distrust the Sophists, in that without truth, how can an argument be made. Otherwise, without truth, it was impossible to have intelligent conversation – just useless babbling instead It comes down to a combination of popularity with much of that in how the message is delivered rather than the message itself and enough lunacy to accept the most bizarre of ideas.
Welcome to Secular Progressivism. It is not progressive at all. It is rehashing the ideas, failed ideas, of Protagoras from 2500 years ago, give or take a few years. And I fear that the “green” people out there will not stop until we are living in caves and using rocks as our tools. And that is progress? One thing that would stop all discussion of global warming is to stop making cellphones due to all the parts contained in them that rely on creating a carbon footprint. When texting causes vehicular accidents, a large portion of society would never let cellphones disappear.
But I would like to focus on one statement in the quote: “Belief is subjective.” To someone whose job is to persuade someone to believe in a lie, they might manipulate some in believing based on what they said, but Protagoras lived about 450 years before the birth of Christianity. Protagoras would have probably hated Jesus, probably volunteering to try his case as prosecutor before Pontius Pilate. Protagoras built his career around swaying opinion and convincing people that truth was relative. He would have to rid the world of objective Truth. It would hurt the pocketbook of Protagoras. He would lose money if the court decision was based on evidence as opposed to rhetoric and charisma.
Notice how so many of the secular progressives are such smooth talkers? Does it start making sense that for secular progressivism to flourish Christianity and sanity must die?
Yet, Christianity, to the true Christian, is not subjective. In reading Lee Strobel’s book, the Case for the Real Jesus, it becomes obvious that the real Jesus is knowable through evidence. This book is not a retelling of the Case for Christ. Strobel goes into fresh arguments against the Biblical story, along with more arguments for the evidence of the resurrection. Yet, each true Christian knows that God is within them. The fruits of the Spirit are evident.
We may not all be equipped to argue our case in court. Being that God is a spirit, the evidence can be dismissed by those who have not experienced the same thing. But they are only dismissing it based on their unbelief. They can never truly prove that there is no evidence.
And as Romans 1:20 explains, through the evidence in nature, no one has an excuse to disbelieve in God. Due to their sin nature, they would rather hope that the evidence is subjective.
God is real. God is alive. And His Son, Jesus, sits at His right hand.
If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.