The Fact Value Dichotomy is the idea that truth can only be known through empirical science, i.e. observed or experienced. Value judgments, on the other hand, are subjective and therefore, matters of opinion or personal preference. Many of us were trained to think this way from birth. Our lives have been divided into organized, distinctive departments or compartments. Most consider Monday the beginning of the week containing compartment number one, school. Evenings are for dinner and homework; Friday and Saturday nights are for time spent with friends. And, Sunday, the last day of the week (actually the first) is for church, where we conform to a different standard of behavior. We cannot have religious discussions at school because those are related to value preferences and are reserved for the Sunday compartment. Someone at school may not share my values, and the school compartment requires tolerance of others views and values. Being raised this way has corrupted our thinking and we fail to understand that the Lord Jesus Christ has domain over every area of our lives.
So, when we stand for truth, for example, that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman for life, we are told to keep our value judgments in the church compartment and out of the public square compartment. Because many of us lack the training or confidence to stand on the authority of God’s Word, we are silenced; even believing that our opponent has raised a reasonable objection, i.e. tolerance. In our silence, our opponents gain confidence and become more vocal. Their movement gains ground while Christians submit to what Chuck Colson described as the spiral of silence.
As much as opponents of Biblical Christianity want to remove the value discussion from the public square, the reality is, none of us can live this way. One set of values will simply be replaced by another. In our example above, the values of a biblical marriage are replaced by values of tolerance and equality, even though the latter values are fluid and difficult to define. We replace values rooted in the truth of God’s Word and His natural law, with the relativistic changing whims of man’s ideas.
Many times our opponents want us to make our arguments on neutral ground. In other words, make a case for your arguments without the exclusive truth claims of the Bible and natural law. But as Ken Ham argues in his book The Lie, there is no neutral ground. Once a Christian steps onto the “so called” neutral ground of human reasoning, he has lost the argument; he has been silenced. Michael Miller argues that we have only two choices: either questions about the nature of humanity and the common good are settled on the basis of truth (God’s Word), or they are settled on the basis of power.
Christians cannot allow values to be separated from what we observe or experience. Doing so enslaves us to “the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind” Ephesians 2:3. We must stand upon the truth of God’s word “…and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…” 1 Peter 3:15.
(Colson C. , 2011)
(Ham, 1987, 2012)
(Colson C. W., 2011)
Colson, C. (2011, 11 2). Break the Spiral of Silence (Part 1). Retrieved 2 23, 2013, from the Chuck Colsen Center for Christian Worldview: http://www.colsoncenter.org/twominutewarning/entry/33/18133
Colson, C. W. (2011). Doing the Right Thing Participant’s Guide, Special Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Ham, K. (1987, 2012). The Lie. Green Forest: Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group, Inc.
Putnam, H. (2002). The collapse of the fact/value dichotomy and other essays. In H. Putnam, The collapse of the fact/value dichotomy and other essays. President and Fellows of Harvard College.