How would an advertising specialist, psychologist, Christian apologist, New Testament scholar, Old Testament Scholar and scientist answer the question, does truth exist? On Saturday, November 2, six speakers had a chance to share their unique views. If you were unable to attend this exciting and informative event, I’d like to summarize a few of my notes from the speakers.
Joe Gulsvig is the Regional Director-New England, of Ratio Christi. He holds degrees from Luther Rice Seminary (a B.A. in Religious Studies-Pastoral Ministry) and is currently pursuing an M.A. from Luther Rice in Christian Apologetics.
In his presentation, Defending Truth at the University, Joe began with a short video clip showing a college professor’s offensive posture toward the Christian perspective. The professor boldly proclaimed,
“So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable..”
Mr.Gulsvig reported that, 1 in 4 professors is an atheist or agnostic. More than half of professors have “unfavorable” feelings toward Evangelical Christians. According to surveys 6% of professors say the Bible is “the actual word of God” while 51% of professors say the Bible is “an ancient book of fables, legends, history & moral precepts.” Mr. Gulsvig also reported the results of instructor bias. Statistics show that 51% – 80% of professing born-again students lose their faith in college. Reflecting upon national findings Mr. Gulsvig observed that higher education openly promotes cynicism about truth and reason. Today, Christianity is widely rejected merely because it claims to be true! His report further detailed the modest advances of Ratio Christi on New England College and University campuses to promote good biblical apologetics. Out of 230 colleges and universities in New England not one chapter has opened. The remainder of the talk outlined ways that this ministry might be supported on college campuses to build helpful resources for students.
Dr. Duane Kellogg our next speaker turned to epistemology in his presentation, Where do You Take a Stand?
Dr. Duane Kellogg is a Staff therapist & the Director of the Renew Counseling Center. He holds degrees from Barrington College (B.A., Biblical studies and Philosophy), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.A.) and Andover-Newton Theological School (D.Min, Psychology).
According to Dr. Kellogg epistemology is the study of what you stand upon (your ‘starting point’). The word epistemology is a compound Greek word. The four ‘starting points’ include Mysticism/intuition, Rationalism/logic, Empiricism/science, Authoritative/revelation. The first three categories are man centered views while the fourth (Authoritative/revelational) is God revealed. While the birth of science or modern empiricism can be traced according to some accounts to Roger Bacon (the 13th century philosopher and advocate of the modern scientific method) Galileo is a pivotal figure catalyzing its rise during the 17th century. The combination with mathematics and rationalism began to displace revelational and mystical forms of thought. The 18th century is referred to as ‘The Enlightenment’ marking a departure from the previous ‘Dark Ages’. The great hope was that science would solve all human ills through the new instrument of reason, logic, mathematics and the empirical method. Men, it was believed were, free men from the superstitions of religion. In this new naturalistic view disturbed minds were not troubled by demons but some kind of mechanical dysfunction. Humanism was on the ascent giving birth to specialized fields of study and recasting man as an object in a mechanical material world. Psychology, anthropology, sociology, economics, and political science were split off of the new philosophical view and finally wrestled from the influences of theology. The material nature of man now had a defined origin, nature and destiny distinct from the spiritual leaving an animal with parts to be tuned. The new humanistic view was perhaps a bit too optimistic in its claim to save ‘the mechanical man’ from himself. Two world wars created a generation of doubts and arguably set the stage for the present post-modern period. Post-modernism denies that reason and logic are universally true. In many ways it is a reaction to the failure of modernity to provide the promised utopian ideal. Reason and logic are viewed with skepticism and valid within the traditions where they were developed. The individual, according to this new starting point can know what is true intuitively without the need to know things empirically. The individual gets to define truth. With respect to literature, authorial intentions and propositions are dispensed with leaving the observer to define meaning. Dr. Kellogg took questions that concerned the ‘mystical’ view which appears to have a post-modern leaning. Discussions of truth with those advocating the post-modern or even ‘mystical’ view is difficult because basic foundational definitions or accepted truths are discarded. Dr. Kellogg’s presentation helped to cast a ‘bird’s eye view’ of knowledge and ways to discern what is thought to be true.
Our next speaker was well prepared to explore the influences of advertising on truth. Alfred Pirozzoli, currently the Creative Director Pirozzoli & Williams. Al’s background includes serving as Creative Director with Mason Advertising and Executive Creative Director at STG. He has served as an associate pastor for Walnut Hill Church, Danbury, CT campus. The author of three books (Profit Assassins, The Eden Code, The Last Dig), Mr. Pirozzoli offered a unique view in his presentation, What is Truth? A Perspective from the Advertising Perspective.
Al was introduced with a somewhat troubling question. Have we made God into a brand like we do with soap, cars and pizza? Definitions were first presented to introduce basic concepts in advertising. He explained that advertising was concerned with communicating products, services, or causes with the purpose of persuading the public to respond/think in a certain way. As such ‘advertising functions on the “perception” of truth. In other words, truth is whatever the consumer is willing to, or persuaded to, believe.’ Biblical truth was first offered and rejected in the Garden of Eden. God told Adam and Eve about their true identity as the image bearers of God but the first lie told by Satan resulted in a calamity. A distortion of God’s offer was proposed (‘’did God really say…’) by the serpent that slightly – though significantly twisted the absolute truth concerning the identity of the two (‘God said…). The image bearer of God was cast anew. Ironically, Satan’s offering to the man and woman to ‘be like God’ was already in their possession as image bearers of God! After the Fall, the two sought out a covering to compensate for the lost image. The history of humanity has followed a similar course, according to Mr. Pirozolli. We have continued to seek out ‘coverings’ to compensate for our perceived inadequacies and sense of reduced value. Mr. Pirozzoli further remarked that marketers play on this ‘reduced value’ perception. The basic idea is that something external will make us whole or improved or better. Advertisers play upon the principle that ‘The material confers value to the immaterial’ yet as most discover the ‘goods’ are short-lived. Brand creation is the ‘gold standard’ in identifying value with a name. We purchase brands that have value build into the name by marketing efforts. Mr. Pirozzoli showed multiple brand products that have only a ‘perceived value’ but when compared to the less expensive, no-name brand they were just as good. In fact, branding has become the main marketing facility used to sell goods and services. Yet, he also observed that brands that we buy do not satisfy the sense of reduced value and inadequacy.
Al last turned to a question concerning branding. Have advertisers even ‘branded’ and packaged God? One writer comments “Religion has become a product just like everything else. Churches become brands because brands are quick pieces of information that people don’t have to think about but they can identify with.” . . .”Marketing and evangelism are the same thing…A product becomes a part of a user’s personality, and the users of the product become evangelizers of the product.”
Al turned back to the earlier discussion. Who are you? Do externals convey your value? Who does God say you are? Mr. Pirozzoli ended with a tour through the biblical texts that answer the question of a person’s identity from God’s perspective. Genesis 1:26-27 says we are made in His image, the very image of God. Possessing God’s ‘image’ God, we are viewed by God as “very good” but of course in great need of redemption. He asked a piercing question to reflect upon, Do we see ourselves as God’s image or perhaps something else?
In my next post, I’d like to look at our final speakers and offer some concluding thoughts.