Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? It is truly awe inspiring. When I visited several years ago, I was amazed at its vastness. I enjoyed the scenic view comfortably several feet from the ledge. I had no intention of pulling a “Wiley Coyote” and plummeting to my death (You know the scene. Wiley Coyote walks off a ledge, a long whistle sounds as he plummets, you hear a smack, and a little dust mushroom cloud pops up).
Not long after I visited the Grand Canyon, they constructed the Sky Walk Glass Bridge. It is a clear bridge that extends 70 feet over the canyon itself. You can walk off the ledge and see straight down into the canyon. This could have saved poor Wiley Coyote many a painful fall.
This is the only place where you can walk off of a cliff and stand upright. Why? Because there is something there to support you. That is completely intuitive. People don’t walk off of cliffs expecting to keep their feet firmly planted in mid-air. You only walk off a cliff if you have a death wish.
While this is intuitive in the physical world, it is not always so when it comes to ideas. People make statements and hold to ideas that are the equivalence of walking off a cliff, that is, there is nothing to support the statement that they make. These are called self-defeating statements. They are called such because they do not conform to their own standards.
Some people say things like, “There is no truth.” “All truth is relative.” “You can’t know the truth.” “There are no truths that cannot be verified by Science.” “My truth is for me, and your truth is for you.” We hear statements like this all the time. Do you see the problem with statements like this? They are completely self-defeating.
Let’s look at some other practical examples. If I were to say in fluent English, “I can’t speak a word of English” that statement self-destructs, because I spoke it in English. What about if I tried to tell you that I don’t exist? Would you buy that? Of course not! I am the one making the argument that I don’t exist. People out of existence don’t argue, they don’t talk at all.
Statements like these violate the Law of Noncontradiction, which says that something cannot be both true and not true at the same time and in the same context. You cannot escape the Law of Noncontradiction. You can’t deny the Law of Noncontradiction without actually affirming it.
So when someone says, “There is no truth.” We might ask, “Is it true that there is no truth?” If a person states, “You can’t know truth.” We can inquire, “Is it true that you can’t know truth?” What about the idea that there are no truths that cannot be verified by science? Well, science cannot verify the truth of that statement. Can truth be relative? When a person says, “My truth is mine and your truth is yours” we can simply ask if that is true for everyone. One cannot appeal to a universal truth to promote a relative idea. It self-destructs.
Norm Geisler and Frank Turek call spotting self-defeating statements such as these the “Road Runner Tactic.” Again, we are quite familiar with the Road Runner and Wiley Coyote. The Road Runner would run full speed, stop just before a cliff, Wiley Coyote would run off the cliff, realize he was supported by nothing, and then plummet to the ground. This is exactly what many people do today. They hold ideas and make statements that cannot support themselves and they plunge to the ground and fall flat.
As Christians, we believe that there is universal truth that applies to everyone. So we should seek to find out what the truth is and live by it because ideas have consequences. What we believe and the decisions we make all have consequences that reach into eternity.
Be on the lookout for self-defeating statements. Enlist the help of the Road Runner Tactic. Absolute truth can be found, it is knowable, and we can find it in God’s word.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed
What self-defeating statements have you spotted? Watch a little Oprah if you need a place to look.