Since the dawn of recorded history, the nature of truth has vexed philosophers and laymen alike. Many have asserted its singularity, some have emphasized its subjectivity, and others still have denied its existence.

On Tuesday night, the Yale Christian Union hosted renowned authors and Christian apologists Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray in Battell Chapel to discuss the topic of truth in an open forum entitled “The Quest for Meaning in a Post-Truth Culture.” The two evangelists spoke in front of hundreds of students, professors, families and community members, many of whom share Zacharias and Murray’s Christian faith.

At the event, Murray said most people in the modern world have abandoned searching for absolute truth and instead contented themselves with relative truths.

“Without fixed points of reference, we have immersed ourselves in a post-truth world … that elevates feelings and preferences over facts and truths,” he explained.

Zacharias and Murray work closely together: Murray is the North American director for the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, an organization that seeks to challenge modern culture by presenting the “truth” of Christianity. The two gave separate talks before holding a joint Q&A session.

“We have confused freedom and autonomy,” Murray said to open the forum. “When you are autonomous, you aren’t free; you are a law unto yourself. … Freedom has necessary boundaries.”

Zacharias, who most recently spoke at Yale in 2015, discussed moral relativism, claiming that modernity challenges absolute understandings of truth. Later, he discussed his work abroad, particularly, his work preaching in Vietnam.

Two event coordinators, Chelsea Samora ’18, co-president of the Yale Christian Union, and Max Graham ’18, vice president of outreach for the organization, said they hoped the forum would allow attendees to reflect on larger questions about the way they derive value in their lives. Both said they found meaning through Christianity after “shaky” attempts to do so in other ways.

“[There are] a lot of questions both philosophical and life-wise that students are seeking answers to, and we hope that this conference can provide one answer,” Somora said. “They both came from different faith backgrounds and are now at the same place as Christians.”

Graham noted his concern that “[there is a] general sentiment among college students and professors and in society that there are no objective values.” He said he hoped to discuss what he sees as the logical consequence of moral relativism: a society with “no values at all.”

Attendees were offered copies of Zacharias’s book “Jesus Among Secular Gods: The Countercultural Claims of Christ.” The book, co-authored by Zacharias and Vince Vitale, centers on the role of faith in explaining “why” the world is the way it is, as distinct from reason and science, which explain “how” the world functions.

One attendee, post-graduate medical student Rofina Johnkennedy, said she went to the forum because she is interested in the concept of truth.

“[I want to discuss] what we believe about truth and how that idea applies to our everyday lives,” Johnkennedy said. “I’m hoping to see some dialogue about how people are perceiving truth in the modern world.”

The Yale Christian Union is led by six undergraduates and five ministry fellows.

Niki Anderson | niki.anderson@yale.edu

 

Correction, Oct. 11:  A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that the event took place in Woolsey Hall. In fact, it took place in Battell Chapel.