In Search of Truth

April 5-6, 1995
Veritas Forum at Indiana University

Veritas Forum
Indiana University
April 3-7, 1995

Dallas had the privilege of speaking three times at a Veritas Forum event held at Indiana University April 3-7, 1995. These talks offer a timeless exploration of the intersection between faith and reason, belief and knowledge, truth and skepticism within the academic world. The topics included:

● How to be a Morally Responsible Skeptic
● The Christian Voice in the University 
● The Relativity of Belief and the Absoluteness of Truth: The Current Crisis about Truth

These presentations serve as a testament to Dallas' role as a profound spokesperson for Christ in the university setting, challenging and expanding the perspectives of students and faculty alike on the essence of moral responsibility, the presence of Christian values in academia, and the ongoing quest for absolute truth in a world of relative beliefs.

The Veritas Forum, since its foundation in 1992, has been dedicated to creating spaces where the university community can engage in open and respectful dialogue about the ideas that shape our lives, asserting the vital compatibility of faith and reason in the pursuit of truth. These recordings from the event at Indiana University encapsulate the spirit of The Veritas Forum's mission—to encourage a thoughtful and inclusive exploration of the Christian faith in dialogue with other beliefs. 

By listening to these talks, participants are invited to join a continuing journey of discovery and dialogue, reflecting on the powerful ideas discussed by Dallas Willard and their relevance to both the academic environment and personal faith. Embrace this opportunity to delve into discussions that resonate with the core values of universities and Christianity alike, seeking truth together in a forum of open exchange and intellectual curiosity.
 

Resources

1: How to be a Morally Responsible Skeptic

Join Dallas in his illuminating talk "The Morally Responsible Skeptic," where he delves into the crucial balance between belief and disbelief in shaping our society and individual lives. He challenges the conventional wisdom that skepticism is inherently virtuous, arguing instead for the moral responsibilities that accompany both belief and disbelief. Through a thoughtful examination of the consequences of our convictions, Dallas invites us to reconsider our approach to skepticism, emphasizing the importance of rationality, responsibility, and the profound impact our beliefs have on the world around us. Discover how embracing a morally responsible skepticism can lead to a more compassionate, thoughtful, and balanced discourse in both the religious and secular spheres.

2: The Christian Voice in the University

Discover the unique advantages of being a Christian in the university setting with Dallas Willard's enlightening talk at the Veritas Forum. Delve into the transformative perspective that empowers Christians to navigate academic life with confidence and purpose. Dallas challenges the defensive posture often adopted by Christian students and faculty, inviting them to embrace their faith as a source of pride and a robust set of ideas that competes at the very heart of intellectual discourse. This discussion is not just an affirmation of Christian identity on campus but a call to excellence, service, and meaningful engagement in the broader academic community. Join us for an inspiring session that redefines the role of the Christian voice in the university, encouraging believers to lead with wisdom, love, and understanding in their pursuit of truth.

3: The Relativity of Belief and the Absoluteness of Truth: The Current Crisis about Truth

In "The Relativity of Belief and the Absoluteness of Truth," Dallas Willard delves into the critical distinctions between belief and truth, tackling the contemporary crisis surrounding the concept of truth in our intellectual and social spheres. With a compelling blend of philosophical insight and practical examples, Dallas challenges the prevailing notion of relativism, arguing for the unchanging, absolute nature of truth. He invites listeners on a thought-provoking journey, exploring how our innate understanding of truth from simple daily acts underpins our entire conception of reality and morality. This talk is an urgent call to rediscover the foundational importance of truth in an age increasingly skeptical of its absolute nature, emphasizing its pivotal role in maintaining human dignity, intellectual integrity, and societal cohesion.

How to be a Morally Responsible Skeptic

This Veritas Forum talk examines the profound implications of belief and disbelief in both religious and secular contexts. Dallas emphasizes that both believing and disbelieving carry moral responsibilities because they shape actions and have real-world consequences. He challenges the prevailing notion that skepticism and disbelief are inherently virtuous or indicative of intelligence. Instead, he advocates for a balanced approach where both beliefs and doubts are scrutinized for their rationality and truthfulness, underscoring the importance of being equally responsible for what one chooses to disbelieve as for what one chooses to believe.

Central to Dallas's argument is the idea that disbelief, especially when it is irresponsible or without thorough examination, has significantly negative effects on society. He traces the historical shift in intellectual circles that valorized disbelief and skepticism over belief, particularly highlighting how this shift has influenced attitudes towards authority, knowledge, and truth. Dallas suggests that this skepticism towards traditional forms of knowledge and authority has eroded trust in leadership and communal structures, advocating for a return to a more balanced appreciation for the value of both belief and skepticism.

Lastly, Dallas stresses the importance of rationality in both belief and disbelief. He argues that a rational approach to skepticism involves taking on the burden of proof for one's disbelief, thereby engaging seriously with opposing viewpoints and evidence. This approach not only fosters a more respectful and thoughtful public discourse but also encourages individuals to critically examine their own assumptions and beliefs. By promoting a culture of reasoned skepticism and belief, Dallas aims to encourage a more thoughtful, responsible, and compassionate society.

The Christian Voice in the University

Dallas Willard's talk at the Veritas Forum, titled "The Christian Voice in the University," emphasized the advantages and opportunities that Christians have within university campuses. He argued against the defensiveness often exhibited by Christian students and faculty, encouraging them to take pride in their faith and understand their unique position to contribute positively to academic discourse and campus life.

Dallas highlighted Jesus Christ's relevance and comfort in academic settings, suggesting that Christians should see their faith not only as a personal relationship with Christ but also as a robust set of ideas that competes at the heart of life's most crucial questions. He encouraged Christians to integrate their faith into their academic and professional work, not by being defensive or combative but by excelling in their fields and serving others. 

The discussion also covered the importance of Christians understanding their purpose on campus and in life, which is to do good work, serve God and others, and not to advance themselves. This perspective, Dallas suggested, simplifies life by freeing Christians from worries about success or failure, allowing them to focus on contributing to their communities and fields of study.

Dallas addressed the issue of being labeled intolerant or politically incorrect, advising Christians to engage in loving, intelligent discourse rather than confrontation. He emphasized the value of patience, understanding, and persistence in presenting Christian beliefs, encouraging respectful and thoughtful engagement with differing viewpoints.

The talk concluded with an open discussion, where Dallas responded to questions about dealing with skepticism, confronting moral irresponsibility, and the challenge of expressing Christian beliefs in an environment that may not be receptive. Through these discussions, Dallas reiterated his central theme: Christians have significant advantages and a crucial role to play in the university, which can be fulfilled by understanding their faith deeply, living it out authentically, and engaging with others respectfully and intelligently.

The Relativity of Belief and the Absoluteness of Truth: The Current Crisis about Truth

Dallas explores the contrast between the relative nature of belief and the absolute nature of truth. He starts by addressing the current crisis around the concept of truth, particularly in the academic and intellectual realms. Dallas critiques the prevailing trend of viewing truth as relative, a perspective that has emerged not from philosophical rigor but from social and political pressures. He argues that the relativization of truth is a recent development, diverging from earlier philosophical consensus on truth's absoluteness. By referencing historical philosophical defenses of absolute truth and criticizing the shift towards relativism, Dallas highlights the dangers of abandoning the notion of objective truth. He suggests that the relativistic stance undermines human dignity and intellectual integrity, pointing out that this shift has led to an "epistemic crisis" across various professional fields, where accepted practice often supersedes the pursuit of truth.

Delving deeper, Dallas explores the concept of truth itself, asserting that everyone inherently understands what truth is through basic human competencies, like distinguishing true from false in everyday situations. He uses simple examples, such as finding one's car keys, to illustrate how we naturally engage with truth by comparing our thoughts with reality. This, Dallas argues, forms the basis of our understanding of truth from a young age and underscores its absolute nature. By examining the structure of truth and its application in various contexts, he challenges the audience to acknowledge the inherent understanding of truth that guides human interaction and competence. This section of the talk emphasizes the practical and undeniable presence of truth in daily life, arguing against the notion that truth is a complex, inaccessible concept only relevant to philosophical discourse.

Towards the conclusion, Dallas addresses the implications of rejecting absolute truth, focusing on the relationship between truth, belief, and freedom. He points out the danger of equating belief with truth, noting that beliefs can be false, and stresses the independence of truth from individual or collective belief. Dallas criticizes the societal trend of sidelining truth in favor of subjective beliefs or power dynamics, warning of the detrimental effects on personal integrity and societal cohesion. He contrasts the relentless, unchanging nature of truth with the flexibility of belief, illustrating the potential for beliefs to misalign with reality. The talk culminates in a call to recognize and respect the absoluteness of truth, underscoring its critical role in fostering genuine freedom, personal responsibility, and intellectual honesty. Dallas advocates for an engaged, thoughtful approach to truth, encouraging his audience to navigate the complexities of belief and truth with patience, humility, and a commitment to genuine understanding.