When it comes to religion – can everyone know truth? Can anyone? Today’s guest post is from Justin Perry. it seems like most people fall in between two extremes when it comes to the ability of human beings to know about God:
On one end (and according to most TBMs), anyone, at least in theory, can know the Church is true as long as they sincerely ask God, and as long as they aren’t too sinful.
On the other end, there are people who firmly believe that no one can know anything for certain about God. As an LDS missionary, I met a woman who would counter every testimony by saying, “you don’t really know for sure, you only think you know.” Yeah, this was pretty awkward, especially in church. Also, it was rather odd how she alone could be certain that no one else was certain.
In addition to addressing the question epistemologically, it’s also important to take into account the historical usage of the term “true”.
In the 19th century, when sailors would get their bearings on ships, they would say that their heading was “true” if it would lead them to their destination. If they found that their heading was not leading them to their destination, their heading was considered “false”.
In 19th century America, when people would debate about religion, they would often argue if certain beliefs were “true” (or if they were useful for steering your life so that you would end up in heaven). If a belief was “false”, it would not help you get into heaven and by default, it would send you to Hell.
A number of Protestant (mostly Evangelical and Fundamentalist) denominations still use the “true”/”false” classification system for religious beliefs, arguing that their doctrines were “true”, and that anyone who said anything different was teaching false doctrine.
From this perspective it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to say “the church is true” (since a church can be anything from a building to a belief system), but the statement that the gospel is true is an assertion that the Gospel will lead you on to an eternal reward.
This is why it is so common for people to say that Mormons are going to Hell. The logic is that if:
Mormons have beliefs that are not approved of God (such as the Book of Mormon or the prophetic authority of Joseph Smith) and
Their unapproved doctrine is false in the sense that it will lead them away from a heavenly reward then
Mormons are going to Hell.
The question of whether individuals or groups are capable of plotting “true” courses towards heaven (as well as the question of whether there can be more than one “true” course), are still widely debated.
I’d be interested to hear what others think. Do you believe everyone can know? Can anyone? Can you? Discuss.