What is true… real… reliable? Each of us have our own criteria.
The most universal criteria is “It feels correct.” This is not in itself wrong. We were designed (by God) to evaluate affectively and unconsciously, every bit as much or more than cognitively and consciously. Captain Kirk is better at making decisions than Mr. Spock… or HAL. However, for our feelings to work well, they do need to be well-trained. Healthy beliefs guide our “personal culture” that interprets experience and guides behavior. As these beliefs become internalized, they become part of our values— our affective part of our thought patterns.
But, regardless, our feelings do fail us at times… so we need some good humility and feedback loops to challenge our decisions.
Probably the second most universal criteria is “ad hominem.” That term relates to an argument or reaction “directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.” But one can broaden the concept more to say:
- I accept some things to be true because a person I respect espouses it.
- I accect some things as false because a person I do not respect espouses it.
- I agree with a person because they repeat what I already believe to be true.
- I disagree with a person because they challenge what I already believe to be true.
- I trust a person because I assume their motives are in line with my own.
- I distrust a person because I assume their motives are dissonant with my own.
Both of these are understandable and very human. But they both essentially come down to a “Canonicity of Self.”
My children are into anime’ and computer games and such. They often talk about canonicity in story lines— what stories or games are considered to be canon to the created world they exist in, and what are not. What games involving Mario and Luigi (of all things) are part of an official story line, and what things were created with no formal connection to the rest. Once a canon is determined, one can analyze characters, causalities, relationships, and timelines. Without a canon that is external to the individual, there is just a pooling of opinions.
The role of Canon in one’s faith life and lived life is huge in my opinion. Reformed theologians classically embrace “Soli Scriptorum” (Scripture only… or at least Primacy of Scripture). I can see value in that. One starts from an accepted cononical scripture, and deduces theological principles.
But the other direction is at least as important. That is that Scripture, as canon, provides the criteria to test against.
Properly speaking Canonicity needs to push in both directions. Beliefs should be drawn from the whole of Scripture, and then the veracity of other truth claims.
I find it interesting that many Christians complain about post-modern thought— subjectivity (or at least inter-subjectivity) over objectivity. Yet many of these same Christians commonly utilize themselves as the standard for truth. Then they find Biblical passages to support their own opinions. That process is backwards.