What is the Foundation of Trust?

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Challenges to Objective Truth

Andrew Loke, Kevin Muriithi Ndereba & Mary Jo Sharp


Objective truth has been widely regarded as a cornerstone of rational thought and scientific inquiry. It is the idea that there are facts and principles that exist independently of our personal beliefs, biases, and opinions. Many philosophers would further explain that the notion of objective truth is related to the existence of ‘objective reality’, which refers ‘to anything that exists as it is independent of any conscious awareness of it (via perception, thought, etc.).’1 

The Christian Scriptures affirm that there is an objective reality that can be known by humans: 

  • The objective and knowable nature of God’s existence (Romans 1:18–20)
  • The objective and knowable nature of God’s moral laws (Romans 2:14–15)
  • The objective nature of Scripture (Psalm 19:7–9)
  • The objective nature of Jesus and His words (John 14:6, John 18:37) 

While the Scriptures teach that truth is the pathway to freedom, they also focus on the reality of truth as a person–Jesus Christ (John 8:32, 14:6). The foundation of trust for the Christian faith is the objective truth that ‘Christ died for our sins . . . he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3–5). For if Christ has not been raised, the Christian faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17). 

The truth claims of Christianity in particular have been challenged by various developments which will likely affect the Great Commission and the church between now and 2050.

While the Scriptures affirm an objective reality that is accessible to the human being, the regard for objective truth has sustained a long-term erosion, with some questioning its very existence. The truth claims of Christianity in particular have been challenged by various developments which will likely affect the Great Commission and the church between now and 2050. In this article, we will explore six of the challenges that have emerged in various parts of the world.

Subjectivity and Relativism

One of the main challenges to objective truth comes from the idea of subjectivity and relativism. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ‘Relativism, roughly put, is the view that truth and falsity, right and wrong, standards of reasoning, and procedures of justification are products of differing conventions and frameworks of assessment and that their authority is confined to the context giving rise to them.’2 Simply stated, this means that what is true for one person or group may not be true for another. On this view, the world offers many ‘truths’, which is complicated by the postmodern sensibilities of ‘my truth is my truth, and your truth is your truth.’ Given the emerging realities of loss of trust among institutions of authority including the church, the state and the family, the next generations in many parts of the world explore questions of truth through social media influencers and platforms, many of which challenge the concept of objective truth.3 

The problematic rejection of objective truth as a meaningful part of reality is made worse by a heightened ill-regard of philosophy, which traditionally has provided the intellectual tools which demonstrate the self-defeating nature of relativism. This ill-regard is illustrated by the statement made by the world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, ‘. . . philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.’4 This attitude towards philosophy and logic in the broader Western culture, which is based on an ignorance of the foundational importance of philosophy and logic for all academic disciplines including physics,5 has affected society’s overall ability to consider what is objectively true and how we can know it. 

In 2016, the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year was ‘post-truth.’ The article describes, ‘Post-truth is an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.’6 The American comedian Stephen Colbert popularized a related word, truthiness, as ‘the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true.’7 This idea of ‘truthiness’ precludes a thoughtful investigation of the logic of one’s beliefs, and damages the ability to recognize a good argument. The gospel of Jesus Christ is, indeed, a good argument on the problem of humankind. 

Without basic philosophical principles, Christian witness can be flawed in multiple ways. Lack of knowledge about truth and reality can result in misguided beliefs. People may not realize their reasoning is flawed and hold onto their views as absolute truths. When poor reasoning is combined with the current biblical illiteracy, the witness to the gospel is negatively affected.8

To combat poor reasoning, it is essential for pastors, teachers, and other ministry leaders to teach their congregations sound philosophical concepts that will help them understand, interpret, and engage scripture more thoughtfully. C.S. Lewis proclaimed, ‘Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy must be answered.’9 When Christians are not good thinkers, they can be ‘tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes’ (Ephesians 4:14).

Expressive Individualism

Another challenge to objective truth is the emergence of expressive individualism in the West. Expressive individualism suggests, ‘The highest good is individual freedom, happiness, self-definition, and self-expression. Traditions, religions, received wisdom, regulations, and social ties that restrict individual freedom, happiness, self-definition, and self-expression must be reshaped, deconstructed, or destroyed.’10 This has contributed to moral relativism which is premised on moral autonomy, whereby, following R.C. Sproul’s analysis of Jean Sartre’s (1905-1980) thinking, human beings determine their own ethics and freedoms.11 In such a world where human freedom and expression is the end goal, chaos and collapse ensues in the areas of sexuality, family life, and societal fabric, just to name a few.12

The existence of an objective reality external to an individual would pose a perceived threat to personal authenticity and individual freedom, since the ability to fashion reality as one pleases is vital to ultimate autonomy. However, when wisdom or external authority is no longer valued, one becomes enslaved to their individual views. As Jesus said, ‘then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). His proclamation was, in part, to free us from ourselves. 

Confirmation Bias

‘Confirmation bias is the tendency of people’s minds to seek out information that supports the views they already hold. It also leads people to interpret evidence in ways that support their pre-existing beliefs, expectations, or hypotheses.’13 In other words, people tend to see what they want to see and interpret information in a way that supports their preconceptions. Living in a world that has been affected by the fall, we find that all of our human experience is affected by sin. Our aspirations, affections and reasoning are thus hampered from knowing the truth and living in light of the truth. As lovers of truth, Christians need to let themselves be scrutinized and examined for any such bias, learn to overcome them, and promote the intellectual virtues of justice, fair-mindedness, intellectual honesty, and humility.14

Left unacknowledged, confirmation bias hinders one’s ability to consider evidence and reason in conflict with their views. When desire conflicts with belief in God, the ability to reason about God is hindered. As confirmation bias mixes with the expressive individualism prevalent in the West, the environment developed is one of intellectual and emotional fragmentation. This circumstance can be especially difficult when a person has suffered from religious trauma. 

Rapid Spread of Misinformation

The rise of deceptive news and misinformation is another challenge to objective truth. With the proliferation of social media and the internet, it has become easier than ever to spread false information and propaganda. Christians are called to imitate the Bereans in Acts 17 who checked out the truth of Paul’s teaching. We need to be more vigilant in this current and forthcoming era with checking sources and then reasoning what is true. Otherwise, we can unintentionally add to confusion and mistrust among the public, making it difficult to witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.

The Conflict Narrative of Science and Christianity

While religion plays a prominent role in African societies, the younger generations are increasingly questioning religious claims. There are growing humanist, skeptic, and atheistic communities that are littered in various cities in the African continent in places like Lagos, Cape Town, and Nairobi. This general skepticism towards Christian truth claims is advanced by the next generations who are connected to other parts of the world because of new media,15 and is fueled by the viewpoint of scientific materialism. Within a closed-system that naturalism births, discussions of meaning, purpose and rationality are greatly hampered.16 Scientific materialism undergirds the claim that faith and science are incompatible, thereby contributing to non-religious and atheist identities among urban African youth.17

The conflict narrative of science and Christianity is also promoted in China, where it is strongly associated with Marxist ideology. The widespread perception of this conflict is further contributed by Christian leaders in Asia who have more influence on believers’ opinions about science than in the West, and who often foster a negative attitude towards mainstream science. The key to correcting the situation is through the education of future Christian leaders. Many Christian scholars have argued for the harmony of their beliefs with mainstream science, distinguishing it from scientific materialism and demonstrating the fallacy of the latter, while younger Christian leaders often recognize the importance of science and would welcome scholars who respectfully engage their beliefs and questions. Given the sheer numbers of Asian populations, training future Christian leaders in Asia is key to impacting the future global public opinion on science and Christianity.

“The rise of religious ‘nones’ has been shown to be associated with widespread
scientific education and a related agnostic way of thinking, which has led to a
‘crisis of beliefs’…”

The rise of religious ‘nones’ has been shown to be associated with widespread scientific education and a related agnostic way of thinking, which has led to a ‘crisis of beliefs’ that is of ‘epic proportions’ in Western European countries such as the UK.18 This is also affecting Asian education hubs such as Hong Kong and Singapore where the top universities in the region are located. In a forum organized by The Bible Society of Singapore titledCensus 2020, Religions and Youth’ the panelists note a significant drop in the number of Christian adherents in the age groups of 25–44, that Christianity seems to be losing the intellectuals, and that many youths are wrestling with doubts. Meanwhile, many outspoken atheists are raising sharp objections against Christian Theism on the internet, and many youths who frequently access the internet could not find the answers to these objections in their churches. This is a pity because there are numerous high quality academic publications in which these objections are answered.19 The problem is that, while many religious ‘nones’ are well educated in science, they are not well informed about academic philosophy of religion and theology publications, which are so important for understanding how science relates to Christianity. 

A deeper problem is with theological education, where there is still a widely held misconception that the arguments for the existence of God have been dealt a death blow by philosophers David Hume and Immanuel Kant in the 18th century. Neo-Orthodox theologians such as Karl Barth and many postmodernist theologians agree with this assessment. They are unaware that the objections by Hume and Kant have been shown to be fallacious by other philosophers.20 Contrary to popular misconceptions, Hume and Kant did not successfully rebut the arguments for the existence of God, such as the Cosmological Argument, Teleological Argument, Moral Argument, and the Argument from Miracles. These arguments have been around for millennia and, even in our present scientific period, are still being defended today in journals and monographs published by world-leading academic peer-reviewed publishers such as Oxford and Cambridge University Presses, Springer Nature, and Routledge.

While presenting the challenges, the internet also offers great potential and opportunities for disseminating the contents of these high-quality resources. Seminaries, churches, and university student ministries need to be made aware of these high quality academic resources which present the evidence and rigorous arguments (as well as detailed replies to the objections to these arguments) for the existence of God, the resurrection and deity of Jesus Christ, etc., and to be taught how to use them.

Religious Pluralism

In India, Hinduism is particularly averse to the exclusivist truth claims of Christianity. There has been a longstanding tradition of the idea of incarnation within the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism, and many Hindus would have no problem seeing Jesus along with Krishna, Buddha, and Gandhi as avatars of Vishnu (Godhead). Nevertheless, the unique and once-and-for-all character of the incarnation of Christ in Christianity is contrary to the Hindu idea of multiplicity of incarnations.21 A defense of the Ancient Jewish Monotheistic background and the historical evidence concerning the origin of divine and resurrection Christology22 is important for helping people understand the uniqueness of the Christian position.

Meanwhile, there has been a movement calling for the inculturation of the gospel in Asian terms, symbols, and spiritualities. The view of the other as a partner in inter-religious dialogue became a leading mode of encounter, and some Asian theologians have gone further and argued for viewing the Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, and/or Shintoist ancient writings as the ‘Old Testament’ for Asian Christians.23 The danger of such approaches is that it can result in confusion (since the terms, symbols and practices are closely associated with a web of pagan beliefs) and compromise. Heresies have been on the rise in Korea, China (famously illustrated by the female Christ of the Eastern Lightning Cult), and other countries in Asia.

While the Scripture affirms that some truths can be found in other religions and philosophies as a result of general revelation (Acts 14:17, 17:28), the Scripture also warns of the distortion and suppression of truth resulting in the sin of idolatry (Romans 1:18–25). ‘What is needed therefore is the development of a fully satisfactory theology of cultural and religious plurality, as opposed to one of religious pluralism, which takes seriously Christian and biblical distinctiveness on the one hand, and recognizes both evil and goodness in human cultures and religious pursuits on the other.’24 It is anticipated that apologetics will continue to play an important role for Christian communities as they seek to discern truth from error and to fulfill the Great Commission.

Within African contexts, truth is not necessarily analyzed but rather experienced through oral traditions and narratives of the community. This means that, because of close kinship ties, questioning accepted norms would bring shame to an individual. Additionally, African worldviews already have a substructure of the divine and spirit world. In such a context, many would claim belief in ‘God’ and critical engagements of some of the assumptions within African traditional religions in light of Christian trinitarianism may be uncommon, because the existence of God is taken for granted.25 The philosopher of religion John Mbiti, for instance, notes that while many convert to Christianity and Islam, they ‘come out of African religion but they don’t take off their traditional religiosity.’26 This means that the mode of Christian apologetics among African traditionalists must engage not just the intellectual ideas but be contextualized to the kinship ties that hold African societies together. However, conceptions of ‘God’ in African traditional religions as well as some cultural practices present a challenge of syncretism when it comes to the topic of objective truth.27

The majority of African contexts are founded on oral traditions whereby truth is explored and experienced through proverbs, songs, myths, and stories. This means that more analytical frameworks for testing truth claims seem foreign to a majority of Africans whose worldviews are influenced by oral traditions, respect for authority, potency of the spirit world, as well as shame and honor in the context of communality. The topic of objective truth will, therefore, be important for the church that seeks to effectively engage the rising generations of Africans who navigate the globalizing realities and challenges to the Christian faith.

With young people comprising 60 percent of the African population and with population tripling by 2050 according to the World Economic Forum, gospel clarity is vital.28 Responding to the complicated intellectual challenges within the African continent will require a strong grounding in apologetics. Such a grounding will help Christians to compassionately and truthfully critique arguments raised against Christian faith, retrieve the historical evidence for Christian faith as innate to the continent and solidly embed new Christians within a biblical worldview and framework that protects and empowers them within the volatile supernatural and spiritual realities in the great war of the cosmos. The Great Commission is needed both among the varieties of Least Reached People (LRPs) Groups, but also the growing population of young people who are identifying as non-religious. After all, the church is the pillar of truth, in a truth-denying world.


In conclusion, objective truth is facing several challenges in the modern world, such as subjectivity and relativism, expressive individualism, confirmation bias, the rapid spread of misinformation, the conflict narrative of science and Christianity, and religious pluralism. While these challenges may make it difficult to arrive at a shared understanding of truth, it is important to continue to strive for objectivity and rationality in our thinking and discourse. By acknowledging these challenges and working to overcome them, we can maintain a commitment to the pursuit of truth and knowledge.


  • Andrew Loke, Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A New Transdisciplinary Approach. (London: Routledge, 2022).
  • Andrew Loke, The Teleological and Kalām Cosmological Arguments Revisited. (Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature, 2022).
  • James Porter Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2017).
  • Jerry Walls and Trent Dougherty, Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).


  1. Dwayne H. Mulder, ‘Objectivity,’ The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed May 30, 2023. iep.utm.edu.
  2. Maria Baghramian and J. Adam Carter, ‘Relativism,’ The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Accessed May 30, 2023. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2022/entries/relativism/. 
  3. Kevin Muriithi Ndereba, ‘Apologetics in a Digital Age: Incarnating the Gospel for African Next Gens,’ Global Missiology, Vol 18, No 4 (2021): 24-32.
  4. Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design (New York: Bantam Books, 2010), 5. 
  5. Andrew Loke, The Teleological and Kalam Cosmological Arguments Revisited (Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature, 2022), chapter 1.
  6. ‘Word of the Year,’ Oxford Languages. Accessed May 30, 2023. https://languages.oup.com/word-of-the-year/2016/.
  7. ‘Word of the Year,’ Oxford Languages, 2023.
  8. Some recent statistics on discipleship and doubt:
  9. C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: Harper Collins, 1980), 59.
  10. Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church (Chicago, Moody Press, 2016), 17. As quoted in Trevin Wax, ‘Expressive Individualism: What Is It?’ Accessed May 30, 2023. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/expressive-individualism-what-is-it/.
  11. R. C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped our World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), 179.
  12. In the Kenyan context, there have been various appeals to the conservative sexual ethics that undergird Kenya’s constitution. The appeals have been targeted towards Article 162 of the constitution, and fueled by LGBTIQAA+ rights and advocacy groups with significant funding from Western organisations. Within the church context, several African Church communions have distanced themselves from their global counterparts in terms of progressive sexual ethics on the basis of biblical sexual ethics.
  13. ‘Confirmation Bias,’ Ethics Unwrapped. Accessed May 30, 2023. https://ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu/glossary/confirmation-bias. 
  14. Ray Yeo, forthcoming, ‘Christian Higher Education in a Healthy Secularism: Repositioning Secularism, Faith, and Christian Education for Mutual Flourishing,’ in Who Is My Neighbour? Christian Higher Education in a Secular Age, edited by Joy Demoskoff and Matthew Zantingh (unpublished).
  15. Kevin Muriithi Ndereba, ‘Emerging Apologetics Themes in Contemporary African Youth Ministry: A Kenyan Perspective,’ Stellenbosch Theological Journal vol. 8, no. 2 (2022): 1-18.
  16. Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sanford, Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories that Shape our Lives (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 111-116.
  17. Kevin Muriithi Ndereba, ‘Faith, Science, and Nonreligious Identity Formation Among Male Kenyan Youth,’ Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 58, no. 1 (2023): 45-63.
  18. Shaun Henson, ‘What makes a quantum physics belief believable? Many-worlds among six impossible things before breakfast,’ Zygon (2023) https://doi.org/10.1111/zygo.12872, page 19.
  19. See, for example, David Baggett and Jerry Walls, God and Cosmos: Moral Truth and Human Meaning (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016); Lewis, Geraint and Luke Barnes, A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.); Andrew Loke, Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A New Transdisciplinary Approach (London: Routledge, 2020). Open access, free download here: https://www.academia.edu/42985421/Investigating_the_Resurrection_of_Jesus_Christ; Andrew Loke, The Teleological and Kalam Cosmological Arguments Revisited (Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature, 2022); Andrew Loke, The Origin of Humanity and Evolution: Science and Scripture in Conversation (London: T & T Clark, 2022); Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.); Walls, Jerry and Trent Dougherty, Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).
  20. See, for example, Richard Swinburne, ‘Why Hume and Kant were mistaken in rejecting natural theology,’ in T. Bucheim et al ed., Gottesbeweise als Herausforderung fur die Moderne Vernunft, Mohr Siebeck, 2012: https://users.ox.ac.uk/~orie0087/pdf_files/Papers%20from%20Philosophical%20Journals/Swinburne_2012-hume-kant.pdf ) and William Lane Craig, ‘Kant’s First Antinomy and the Beginning of the Universe,’ Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung, 33 (1979): 553–567.
  21. M. Thangaraj, “Religious Pluralism, Dialogue and Asian Christian Responses,” in S. Kim (Ed.), Christian Theology in Asia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 171-172.
  22. Andrew Loke, The Origins of Divine Christology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017); Loke, Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  23. Thangaraj, 2008, 161-165.
  24. H. Yung, “Mission and evangelism: Evangelical and Pentecostal theologies in Asia,” in S. Kim (Ed.), Christian Theology in Asia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 267.
  25. Kevin Muriithi Ndereba, “Analysing African Traditional Gods Through a Trinitarian Apologetic,” African Theological Journal for Church and Society 3, no. 2 (2022): 72-89.
  26. Cited in Laurenti Magesa, African Religion: The Moral Traditions of Abundant Life (Nairobi: Pauline Publications Africa), 17.
  27. Kevin Muriithi Ndereba, “The Supremacy of Jesus Christ: A Theological response to the Resurgence of Mbũri cia Kiama,” African Theological Journal for Church and Society 2, no. 2 (2021): 40-57.
  28. World Economic Forum, “The Children’s Continent: Keeping up with Africa’s Growth,” Jan 13, 2020. Accessed on June 2, 2023. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/the-children-s-continent/?DAG=3&gclid=CjwKCAjwpuajBhBpEiwA_ZtfhbrDnB-2AC9ytRhFifhnXxywM3xVNmzD_SCxnjpMcMBop_tyT3tzQxoCec4QAvD_BwE.

Authors' Bios

Andrew Loke

Dr Andrew Loke is Associate Professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Hong Kong Baptist University. He has authored multiple books published by world-leading academic publishers in the fields of theology, philosophy, biblical studies, and science and religion, and leads the Hong Kong Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Kevin Muriithi Ndereba

Dr Kevin Muriithi Ndereba is Lecturer and Head of Department, Department of History, Mission, Religion and Practical Theology at St. Paul’s University, Kenya and is Research Fellow in Practical Theology and Missiology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He speaks and has published widely on apologetics, youth ministry and practical theology. He leads Apologetics Kenya.

Mary Jo Sharp

Mary Jo Sharp is an Assistant Professor of Apologetics at Houston Christian University in Texas, focusing on philosophy of religion, the problem of evil, and apologetics and evangelism. She is an international speaker and author on apologetics, published with Kregel Publications, B&H Publications, Lifeway, and Zondervan.Her ministry is Confident Christianity Apologetics Ministry.