Tag Archives: Truth

Truth….Re-visited

(Note: This post is based on a conversation my wife and I had about something she said to somebody today. check her out and give her kudos over here: http://suburbanmonasticism.wordpress.com/ )

Here’s something I believe about Truth:

Truth is a thing. A fact. A reality. In fact, I try to avoid using the term Truth and prefer to replace it with the term Reality.

This is actually a pretty simple concept. It has only one uncomfortable and harder to deal with implication. It makes it so that truth as an idea can’t be nebulous. Truth is instead on some level a physical, non-negotiable entity. Maybe this is why an eternal deity would choose to define Himself (in part) by saying something as brazen as, “I am the Truth”

The other day I explained it to a friend of mine like this.

Imagine two people who had never met you were talking about you. Leaving your hidden neurosis aside, let’s imagine that conversation. Let’s go a step farther and say that these two people are actually arguing about what you are like. Maybe they’re having a lively debate about what you would do in a given situation. Let’s assume for the sake of simplicity that they took up truly opposing positions. There are three options.

–          The first person is right and the second person is wrong

–          The second person is right and the first person is wrong

–          They are both wrong

Missing from this list is the idea that they could both be right. Why? Because they can’t. It’s not like you’re a figment of their imaginations. They aren’t little kids trying to decide what their mutual imaginary friend is like. You’re a real person and they are talking about you. You exist. You are “true” in this sense. That means certain things about you are true and certain things are not. To say otherwise would be ridiculous.

If we want to believe that there is a God who is eternal then we have to believe that he is real in the same sense that you and I are real. Not in the same way, that’s confusing the ideas, but in the same sense. In the sense that there are things that are true about the deity and things that are not.

This is pretty old reasoning. In fact, it’s reasoning that has been used by people far more traditional than I am to “beat me over the head” for not believing what they believe is the truth about God.

Obviously I don’t approve.

“Absolute truth” is what exists regardless of how we feel about it. Like gravity, for example. On some level you really have to just live with that. Belief in an absolute truth does not however mean a belief in any one particular version of what men think that truth looks like. This is my pet peeve.

Most of the time when people are accusing others of not believing in truth they’re actually accusing them of not believing what they believe the truth is. This is a far cry from not believing in truth.  

Related, and also irritating, is confusing uncertainty with not believing in truth. Often I will answer a question like, ‘Do you believe God is ____ _____  ______?’ with something like, ‘Maybe. It’s possible.’

Let me clue you in. It’s not because I don’t think there’s an answer to your question or the answer depends on what you or I believe. It’s because I don’t know the answer to that question. Often, I think that believing you have an absolute answer to such a question is arrogant and problematic all by itself.

So remember, because it helps you be a nicer person, that when we’re talking about truth we’re not debating if it exists. (Not usually anyway) Instead, we’re arguing about what it looks like. Also worth remembering is that it’s very much like talking about a person nobody in the conversation has ever met. Being too attached to your perspective as better than everyone elses is not only ill advised, it makes you the jerk in the room.  


Searching With Our Eyes Wide Shut

I’m going to do a little bit of a double-down post here. About a month ago I posted about the way we treat truth. Here we are a month later and the same issue is still irking me. So, here goes another dose.

Most people want to be right. No, I think all people want to be right. This isn’t a problem. In fact, I’d call it a virtue. The problem arises with how we seek truth.

In our very educated society, everyone has an opinion on everything. You’d be hard pressed to find a person who has made it to adulthood without at least an inkling of what they think about any given topic. This is especially true of Christians. We have so many issues to discuss, dissect, and disagree on that we practically have to pick a side in order to be considered a good Christian. We can’t all be right, but that’s where the fun comes in.

This should take the form of seeking. You know, all that quest for truth stuff. Sadly, it doesn’t.

We say we’re searching. We call ourselves seekers. We even speak often of revelations or rhemas. Surprisingly, we almost never see people switch sides.

It would seem to me that a genuine seeker would at least occasionally come across truth that would be so powerful it would drastically change his perspective. We are all fallible humans, right? Do we really think that our perspective is so spot on to begin with that the only thing seeking more truth will do is reaffirm what we already know?

Here’s the problem: we’re not actually seeking truth.

Yeah, I said it.

It’s harsh, but it’s honest. When we research a topic, we categorically dismiss all opposing opinions as “ridiculous” or “biased” and stick only to those that are already on board with the way we see the world. True, we’ll entertain new ideas and perspectives of an issue, but only if they don’t shake the foundation of what we already believe about it. We’re not looking for truth, we’re looking for affirmation.

I’m pretty convinced that most of us do the same thing when we say we’re seeking God’s will. Be it in relation to a career choice, a family decision, or a discussion regarding what church we should attend, we usually walk into it with a general idea of the “right” choice and then look for affirmation. What if God doesn’t want us to make a “good” choice? What if He’s intending to show himself strong in our life through something we would consider a horrible idea? I say we ask Hosea what he thinks.

Regardless, walking into a decision with our mind already closed to certain outcomes doesn’t leave much room for God to work through that decision and seeking truth without being willing to change doesn’t yield much truth. Worse, looking for affirmation of what we already think just isn’t being Spirit-led or truth seeking. It’s just not.

If we want a life led by the Spirit of the Living God, we have to trust God. If we want to understand real truth, we have to be willing to change. People rarely find things with their eyes closed.


How Deep The Rabbit Hole Goes

“Why, oh, why didn’t I take the blue pill?” ~ Cypher, from The Matrix

Life is full of convenient truths and easy to believe lies. Sometimes the thoughts, cultures, and structures we have grown up inside of are little more than facades of varying elaboration designed to keep us from moving or thinking beyond the boundaries of what is comfortable or easy. Most of us like this fact, whether or not we realize it.

It’s easy to go with the flow. It’s safe to belong to the group. It’s rewarding to believe in and rise to the top of the system or culture that surrounds us. For these and so many other reasons, we like the facades that so often keep us penned in.

But sometimes, never often enough and yet all to often, we find ourselves having stepped outside of normal. We find ourselves asking questions like “why?”, and “really?”, and “how come?”, and then all of a sudden we find ourselves on the outside of the groups that used to define our life wondering what’s wrong with them and, more perplexing, what’s wrong with us?

You see, once we take the red pill and see the systems of our life for what they really are, there simply is no going back.

Never again can we feel fulfilled by achievements lauded by leaders of a system that we see as broken. Never again can we be excited by successes proclaimed by a culture whose priorities we no longer share. Never again will we feel that belonging that we once attained from participation and excellence in the structure we’re comfortable inside of.

It’s a disconcerting, lonely feeling to be falling down the rabbit hole.

I say all of this in reference to a couple of things, but mostly because I feel that incredible rush of falling very acutely in my life right now. It’s disconcerting, it’s lonely, and it can be infuriating at times. Just in the last two days I’ve wondered countless times why I can’t just be happy with what everyone else thinks I should be happy with. Why do I instead have to look at what I’ve been taught my whole life are positive results and think, “But that’s not right; we’re working toward the wrong goals.”?

There’s another side to this though. Up to this point I’ve talked about what the rabbit hole looks and feels like when you’re looking back at the top as you fall. You know, how it feels when you’re focused on what you left behind. There’s another end of the rabbit hole.

Turn yourself around in your free-fall and the view changes drastically. Instead of feeling farther and farther away from something valuable, you see yourself falling closer and closer to something wondrous. You see if we’re in the rabbit hole because we’re genuinely seeking, we find ourselves falling ever closer and closer to the real goal – truth.

This may feel like a lonely fall, and it might be messing with my mind to be so far outside of everything that feels normal to me, but I don’t actually regret taking the red pill when it was offered. You see, as I take this fall, this leap of faith if you will, and turn myself to look where I’m going, I see myself drawing every closer to the heart of God.

I’m good with that.


True Story

Opinion fascinates me. Not people’s opinions, they’re usually rather predictable and easy to process. Rather, the idea of opinion fascinates me.

We end arguments with, “Well, that’s my opinion.” as if this makes us at least mostly right and definitely beyond being questioned on the matter. We also have this tendency to answer questions with, “Well, it depends on your opinion.” and expect people to understand that it would make us very uncomfortable to either commit to an answer or imply that someone’s opinion is wrong.

There’s a reason for this. It’s because any other answer or ending would bring us into a discussion of truth. Truth is not a comfortable concept. We like to act like it is, but it isn’t. Even for those of us with strong definitions of truth on many given topics, it can bring on those scenarios of incredibly tangible impasse with somebody who holds as strongly to an opposing truth. I think that’s why the idea of opinion has taken such a prominent position in our culture and belief systems.

Here’s the thing about truth though – there can be only one. It’s like a cheesy science fiction movie in that way.

Recently I’ve felt bombarded by claims from different people that have discovered the “truth” about something. More often than not, when I actually examine their claims I find that instead of finding an obvious, over-arching truth, they have usually found “a truth” that may or may not make sense in the grand scheme of things but definitely supports a way of thinking they already had when they went looking for “the truth”.

Growing up in the conservative church, we called this proof-texting. We all railed against it, and we all did it. We, or the particular preacher, teacher, historian, or novelist that we loved, would find a quote that taken all by itself would make our point beautifully. We would then tout this snippet all over the place to make sure everyone knew that what we believed was true and we had proof.

There’s a problem; two problems actually. First, this never actually seemed to convince anyone who already disagreed with us. Second, genuine, honest, discerning people always see right through proof-texting. All you have to do is take a book, passage, or speech as a whole instead of in isolated snippets and all of a sudden you get a complete picture of what is being presented. More often than most will admit, doing so dismantles the “truth” that we have found.

This is because the purpose of truth is not to prove us right. The purpose of truth is to change us so that we are right. That’s the nature and definition of truth. Truth can not always be what we want it to be. Truth will always be what it is regardless of what we want.

So that brings us to a question: which is more important, to be right with our current opinion or to be right regardless of whether it fits into our opinions about how the world is?

I really do believe that truth is supposed to change people. I also believe that it never will as long as we go looking for truth to back up what we already believe. The only way truth will actually change us is if we empty ourselves of our pride before we go looking for it.

You know what’s interesting? The people who have changed profoundly because they let truth change opinions that they held near and dear are the people who have the least trouble sticking to truth as truth and don’t have to revert to an opinion. They’re also much gentler with people who still have contradicting opinions. I think it’s safe to say that evidence of the fruit of the spirit is good clue that we’re on the right track, wouldn’t you?


Of Truth and Television Sets

Think back for a minute. What is the first thing you can remember reasoning out for yourself? Let me make that a little easier. Think of a time early in your life when you can remember hearing a sermon or lecture and thinking to yourself, “No, I’m pretty sure this guy’s off his rocker.”

How is it you came to that conclusion? What previous knowledge did you have that told you with certainty that what you were now being told was without real basis and what is it that made you certain that what you already knew was more true than what you were hearing?

Yes, think about it; it’s a hard question to answer.

What I’m talking about here is a concept that has recently come to be called ” Worldview.” I don’t care much for buzzwords, especially ones that have been beaten beyond recognition by modern evangelicals, but this one somehow seems to ring true regardless of it’s over use in the last decade or so.

The idea is simple and common so I won’t dwell on it long. The basic idea is that how we see the world around us (what is good, bad, right, wrong, immaterial, of immense consequence, funny, sad, tragic, heroic, etc.) is determined by a number of factors and will change from person to person. Our own unique viewpoint and opinion is known as our Worldview.

Now before I get myself in a mess I don’t really want to be in let me state that the validity and correctness of differing worldviews is beyond the scope of this article and the patience of the author at the moment. What I’m here to discuss is how we come to possess our own distinct Worldview and why that’s important.

For those of you unaware, high-schoolers are immensely entertaining. Oh, believe me, they can be the most trying individuals I know but at the end of every day I have to look back and smile at the creative, lazy, shocking, and often downright bizarre ways in which they think.

I find it particularly interesting to see how they process new thoughts of a philosophical nature. Throughout this last school year I have tried to impart numerous nuggets of truth to them both from scripture and life lessons that I have experienced or been fortunate enough to learn from the example of a close friend.

Every time I do so it is met with a mixed reaction. This isn’t strange, it’s what I’ve always expected. Someone in the class will have to agree with me because they can see my logic. Some will agree with me because it’s the same thing they’ve been taught for years and they can’t see life any other way. Some will disagree because it completely contradicts what they see as truth. A select few will even disagree simply because I said it, but such is the life of a teacher.

What each student does with a new thought is send it through their own personal filter. This filter is what we would call a Worldview. Yet, having observed these students, I believe I have an easier way to describe this.

Each student is filtering new information through what they see as normal. There is a way the world should be, there is a way people should act, there is a way that they know is right and good to be, and there are things that they know are abnormal and absurd. This view of what is normal is how teenagers decide what facts to accept and what facts to roll their eyes at , put on the test, and then promptly try to forget.

Here’s my question though: where does that opinion of what is normal come from?

I stumbled across a fantastic quote the other day. In his book The Educated Imagination, Northrop Frye states the following:

“The Bible forms the lowest stratum in the teaching of literature. It should be taught so early and so thoroughly that it sinks straight to the bottom of the mind, where everything that comes along later can settle on it”

That’s the description of a biblical worldview if I’ve ever heard one. I love how he uses the phrase “settle on”. Whatever it is that has formed the basis and foundation of our thinking from the beginning of our remembered thought will be what our later information will “settle on”.

Which begs the question, what is our foundation built out of?

Perhaps this is a bit of a pet peeve, but this is why I strongly dislike the television’s prominent placement in most homes. Not because of horrible parents or drastic scenarios, but simply because of convenience, most children spend a nearly equal amount of time in front of a television set as they spend in a classroom, church, or both combined.

Now I’m no Luddite, and I do enjoy a good crime show from time to time, but that method of child raising creates problems. My argument is not against the television as an evil entity. Nor is my argument really against the modern marvel of entertainment at all, really. My argument is in to what extent we’re letting it influence the next generation’s view of what is normal.

Follow along here a minute. A child has been watching television from a young age. Granted, most of it is the harmless lack of substance found on Sesame Street or inside the decidedly over-funded classroom Barney lives in, but unfortunately there tends to be great amounts of time spent in these or similar places.

Fast-forward the very short amount of time it takes for the child to understand the embodiment of western laziness we call the remote and now they’re cooking. Any channel without parental control applied to it is suddenly within reach of the family couch. Again, I’d like to point out that this isn’t inherently negligent parenting. Parents are, after all, concerned with what channels their grade-schoolers have access to and that’s good. The problem is the thought process, not what we can actually see during prime time.

The process continues on the same average scale for several years until we have a high-schooler who is “trusted” to make wise decisions and has free access to the television, and rightly so. This is what they’ve been trained for. The problem isn’t the free access, the problem is the years of conditioning leading up to that access.

What we have by this point is a young adult of fifteen to eighteen years of age who’s opinion of what is normal is largely influenced by that many years of staring at pop culture. Pop culture is pop culture, and I know there’s not much we can do about that, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that what is viewed as normal by pop culture is generally a very different thing than what is considered normal, let alone healthy, from a biblical standpoint.

I know I’m holding the torch rather close to a sacred cow right now, but hear me out. How do we expect these young people to respond when we present them with the counter-cultural reality that is Christ? Even though most of these kids claim to follow Christ, when you boil it down, what that actually means is influenced far more by the culture they’ve grown up in than what they see in scripture. Scripture itself is interpreted through what they see as normal in the culture they’ve grown up watching.

For a basic example, just look at forgiveness.

“And if he (your brother) trespass against the seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee saying, ‘I repent’, thou shalt forgive him.” ~ Luke 17:4

Granted, this isn’t an easy thing to do. I would personally rank it right near the top of the “hardest verses to follow” list. To have trouble living this out is more than understandable, it’s expected. What should also be expected though is that anyone following Christ recognize that this verse should be followed.

Most of my students argue that the concept presented in this verse couldn’t possible be right and ignore it. Why? Because it’s not normal. It’s not a part of how they see the world running. It’s absurd to them and they reject it as untrue because as they see it the world shouldn’t run that way. If someone keeps hurting you, you shouldn’t forgive them, you should protect yourself from them.This is what they’ve been brought up to see as normal.

How so?

Have you ever seen a cop show? How about a mafia movie? Let’s look closer to reality, do you ever watch the news? All of these portray retaliation and tough justice as a commendable or even heroic things. If you’re not protecting yourself you’re weak. If you’re not avenging those you care about you’re a coward. If you’re not pushing to see those who have hurt you punished, you’re asking to have it happen to you again.

The same goes for so many other things. The Bible says that we are to keep ourselves pure; but when the young generation has been told by television for years that unless you are sexually active there’s something wrong with you, do we really expect them to live pure lives? I guess that would depend on what influenced them enough to be considered normal.

The worst of it from where I sit at the back of the classroom is that I teach at a Christian School. These kids, most of them anyway, pay lip service to the concepts of scripture. Yet, when push comes to shove or they enter into a discussion, you can easily see that their view of normal is far closer to that of culture and thus their actual actions come out indistinguishable from the world that raised them.

It’s not just the TV, I know it’s not. The television set is just so obvious and easy to pick on. The reality is that there are hundreds of thing influencing us every day, persuading us to think their way, and so many of them are aimed at children and the younger generation.

This is a hard concept. It’s not one with an easy fix. Removing outside influences won’t do the trick, that just makes it harder when the poor kids finally get outside the home. Becoming legalistic will only drive them farther away from the truth we want to share with them. Preaching at them will only bounce words off their filter, amplifying the problem we already have.

So what’s the bottom line? How do we fix this?

I haven’t got a clue.

That’s right, I don’t know. Honestly, I’m still working through a filter that probably has flaws of its own. The only thing I know to do is take this, apply it to my own life, and beg God to lead me ever closer to Him so that what I see as normal is what God sees as normal.

Maybe that’s the only real fix. As we grow closer to God and let him mold us to be more like Christ our perspective will mold to fit. Maybe that’s what the next generation needs. I would wager though that they won’t have a reason to let God change them until they see that change in us.

Lord, give me the patience to see each student as a work in progress and not a finished product. Help me to ever seek to grow closer to you and let your will and your truth guide my life and what I see as right. Above all, never let me stop growing, striving, and learning where it is I see things wrong.