Friday, January 18, 2008

Ye shall know the truth ...

.... and the truth shall make you free. John 8: 32.

I've been contemplating this passage for a while, given how cause-effect its said up. If one knows the truth, one is not free. So in reversing that, if someone is not free, then the person does not know the truth.

One of the concepts behind hell is that its filled with people who willingly went there, as God won't force them to go anywhere against their will. A fellow blogger once explained this mindset as that we all know what the truth is, it's just that a majority of us are willfully and willingly rejecting this truth.

Based on the quote above, is it possible to willfully reject the truth? Knowledge of truth equals freedom, and if someone is free, is there anything left in them to willfully reject the truth?

I think there are ways to superficially know the truth, and really know the truth. The superficial way is like teaching a child to say 2 + 2 =4. They know this is the truth because an adult said it was the truth. But they don't understand the concepts behind taking two things and two things, and making four. They have a superficial knowledge.

The other way is someone who fully understands the concepts behind the math. Now, someone can still willfully reject that, but I'm not sure we could say the person is making a rational choice. If it's not a rational choice, can we still say the person has knowledge of the truth?

Branted, we need context with the John quote. Chapter eight of John starts with the woman caught in adultery, and then gets into the comparison between the Pharisees and Jesus. We have Jesus announcing that he will be going his way, yet the Pharisees will try and follow and not be able to, as they are of this world, and he is not. Yet they also seem confused, as verse 27 says that they don't understand he was speaking of the Father. After Jesus saying that the truth brings freedom, the Pharisees again are shown as not understanding, and that they were never in bondage to any man. Jesus says that whoever commits a sin is the servent of sin, and if the son has made one free, then one is free.

In an interesting note, we have Jesus saying that he knows they are of Abraham's seed, and yet his word has no place in them, as he does what he's seen from his FAther, and they do what they've seen from their Father. They protest that Abraham is their Father, yet Jesus says that if they were Abraham's children, they'd do the works of Abraham. Yet he also just said they are of Abraham's seed.

They are now seeking to kill a man who has told them the truth -- so is Jesus in fact saying that they do know the truth? I'm not sure, because he seems to mean that in just describing what his words are. These are the very words that the Pharisees are not understanding, because they can't "hear" them (vs 43). He then goes and says that Pharisees are the children of the devil, and so follow their father. This very father who was a murderer from the beginning, and cannot speak truth, as "there is no truth in him." He can only speak of his lies, of which he is the father. And so when Jesus says the truth, the Pharisees don't believe him. So the Pharisees are shown as those who believe a lie as the truth, and because they see that as the truth, they in turn don't believe Jesus, as it doesn't match to "the truth." Can we then say that the Pharisees are shown as willfully rejecting what they know to be true?

So I'm not sure we can say that hell is full of people who have willfully rejected the truth, in the sense that they know, completely, it was the truth. Knowledge of truth equates to freedom. If we can really reject the truth, then do we comprehend it in the first place? In a rational fashion?

7 comments:

Yael said...

I think there are ways to superficially know the truth, and really know the truth. The superficial way is like teaching a child to say 2 + 2 =4. They know this is the truth because an adult said it was the truth. But they don't understand the concepts behind taking two things and two things, and making four. They have a superficial knowledge.

The other way is someone who fully understands the concepts behind the math. Now, someone can still willfully reject that, but I'm not sure we could say the person is making a rational choice. If it's not a rational choice, can we still say the person has knowledge of the truth?


I posted on my blog about this once. Someone says 1 + 1 = 2, I say 1 + 1 = 10. It's not that your answer is right and mine is wrong, it's that we use different numbering systems. You may consider yours to be the correct system but I see mine as more accurately reflecting reality. We'll never agree on the same answer and most in your world won't even acknowledge there can be another equally valid numbering system.

As far as Jesus and the pharisees? Shame on him is all I can say. How dare he call religious leaders children of the devil just because they would not agree with him? What in the world was the matter with him and his ego? Good grief. And we wonder why people act like they do today? They're following their leader!

In my world it's great to be a pharisee. I'll take the devil over Jesus any day! Not that it's much of a choice.....

societyvs said...

"Knowledge of truth equates to freedom. If we can really reject the truth, then do we comprehend it in the first place? In a rational fashion?" (OSS)

Interesting discussion. I have also been pondering this idea of 'freedom' - which I am guessing is not being bound to something as a 'slave to it'.

I think the idea of rejecting truth is possible. I can write a multitude of examples but one only need know that freedom is the point of the above passage - and truth is a pathway of sorts.

It's like someone knowing they are an addict to a drug. They can choose to deal with that problem or very well remain in their problem - worsening their situation. How does the drug addict actually get free? One would have to know the problem - or the reality/truth of the scenario - and then be provided options to free themselves.

So in some cases - one can know the truth and deny it. Actually, I would say this is not that an odd a human problem. We can get into rationality of decision making processes but who truly decides what is rational? I think that does fall upon the person with the issues to deal with and whether they 'seek' answers to the problem. Rationality is a strange thing - in defense of absurdity I would say people do have choices to make and can very well work towards freedom - but they have to want that also.

So even if 2+2=4 - of this none of us truly debate - but what if someone just decides not to see that or does not want to understand the equation? I think people have choice to learn also - and just because someone cannot understand the question does not mean they are exempt from learning more about it. If this were the case, is not anything excusable? Murder, rape, torture, etc...all someone has to do is claim ignorance to the ideas they were presented prior to their actions? They didn't understand basically. I think there is that deep end to consider also in this idea.

As for the idea the truth sets you free - I think it is quite true. I know in my life the more I sought to learn the better I treated others and the more I respected various views of living. Truth not only frees you from limiting yourself but it also makes you more free to express yourself. It's quite an in depth idea that I won't do justice to in one sitting but here is my best example.

A person seeks to build a house so he goes to town seeking directions on how to do so. He approaches a banker, a welder, and a carpenter. Now each of them offer their advice on how to go about this endeavor - but who's advice will be credible? I almost think of the truth in that regards. Truth is not only meant to be learned but used - and some things are not going to be as accurate as other opinions. It's a fast example mind you in which I try to sound like I can write a parable - but I am trying.

OneSmallStep said...

Yael,

**It's not that your answer is right and mine is wrong, it's that we use different numbering systems.**

Yeah, the whole foundation would just be off, and it would be impossible to reach an agreement. So someone who says that 1 + 1 = 10 is not willfully rejecting the truth. They can't see "the truth" due to the foundation.

The gospel of John is an interesting one. There's always something jarring about going from the Synoptics to John, because it's like two different people. In many ways, if the person in John was named "Bob" instead of "Jesus," I'm not sure we'd realize it's suppose to be the same person as in the Synoptics.

Society,

**It's like someone knowing they are an addict to a drug. They can choose to deal with that problem or very well remain in their problem - worsening their situation. How does the drug addict actually get free?**

Part of the issue here, though, is that the addict is not making an abstract choice. The very addiction is working against the addict, so while the addict may yearn to be free, there's another compulsion that could be stronger.

**So even if 2+2=4 - of this none of us truly debate - but what if someone just decides not to see that or does not want to understand the equation?**

Well, then we get back to rationality. I often see this in terms of people choose hell, God doesn't send them there. However, let's take suicice. Regardless of how rational is defined, we don't tend to see that as a healthy, rational choice. We feel that if the person were "thinking straight," the suicide would not actually occur. So we'd step in to prevent the suicide, knowing that the person isn't seeing "the truth" clearly, and we must help the person do so. So I would see rejecting God as a form of "suicide." In which case, the person wasn't in full control of his/her reason.

**If this were the case, is not anything excusable? Murder, rape, torture, etc...all someone has to do is claim ignorance to the ideas they were presented prior to their actions? They didn't understand basically.**

There's a difference, though, between claiming and proving. If someone murders another and then the claim is that the murderer didn't understand why it was immoral, the murderer must prove that. I think this is where the temporary insanity plea gets so much play in courts (or at least in Law and Order. Pulled "right from the headlines ;)

**advice on how to go about this endeavor - but who's advice will be credible? I almost think of the truth in that regards.**

It can really only be filtered through a finite mind/perspective. We each have a "lens" and thus are limited by that lens.

societyvs said...

"We each have a "lens" and thus are limited by that lens." (OSS)

That is true - but I also think it is each person's responsibility to expand that scope of the 'lens' - and that can't be excused away.

For example, all these Conservative Christian people and their theology - well I used to agree with them once upon a time (1993-1997) because it 'felt right' and I was told 'it was right'. However, jump to this day in age (2008) and we see very clearly I don't quite agree on all the things they think anymore - their theologies. I could of kept my 'lens' limited - but who's fault is that - mine or theirs?

So some of this idea about 'truth setting us free' is our responsibility and no one else's. The drug addict point is basically to say 'who can free them'? I think only they know that answer. And hearing a truth sometimes helps us move closer to a better answer.

I remember my mom told me something one time that stuck with me 'you're mean and that's who you are'. I was 16 and it stung like nothing I ever heard - but it stung because she was right/truthful in some regards. I think after that day the thought kind of pushed me to deal with my anger issues - and I start to find out - I am angry because of my perspective on life. The change only occured because I became responsible for my actions - and in this instance - some truth set me on the path to freedom. I still get slightly angry but never to harm another individual.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

Doesn't responsibility also entail an ability to understand that responsibility? For instance, in the example you gave with what your mother said. It seems the only reason why it worked, or struck a chord, is because you were in a place where the truth could sink in. You felt, on some level, that she was correct, and you wanted to know why. But what if, while it was true, you didn't realize that truth, and continued on in the pattern? There's a difference between hearing a truth, and comprehending the truth -- letting the truth register.

It is the person's responsiblity to expand the lens --but in many ways, only when the person is ready. If the person tries to expand too soon, the person could end up in a worse place than before. One of the things my mother warns me about in debating theology with my conservative friends is that they can't afford to have a "crack" in their worldview. It would be devestating to them. She speaks from experience on this, and so is warning me that they have to realize such things on their own time, not a time at which I force upon them.

We may, though, be using "truth" in different ways here. There was my suicide example, but another way would be -- well, you know in history how the "barbarians" would come and destroy the libraries and such? They had no way of comprehending what it was they were destroying. Even if someone told them it was knowledge and a precious work of art, and the books were valuable -- the barbarians would "hear" that truth, but it wouldn't register, because they had no frame of reference. If they did have a frame of reference, and reallyreally understood the value of books ... could the barbarians have still sacked the libraries?

Now, yes, they could, if we throw another scenario into this. The barbarians fully comprehend the knowledge, but also believe that the knowledge must be destroyed, as the knowledge is dangerous. So they sack the library anyway. Yet if they feel the knowledge is dangerous, have they truly comprehended the "truth" of knowledge? Or is their lens still too restrictive?

Mystical Seeker said...

If we can really reject the truth, then do we comprehend it in the first place?

Good question. I think that in many cases, the answer is no. This does illustrate the point of why the doctrine of hell is so dreadfully wrong. People should not be condemned for rejecting beliefs that they did not consider true in the first place. It can hardly be "willful" disobedience if you don't even agree on what the facts are.

As far as Jesus and the pharisees? Shame on him is all I can say. How dare he call religious leaders children of the devil just because they would not agree with him? What in the world was the matter with him and his ego?

My guess is that this isn't Jesus speaking, but the author of the Gospel who was projecting backwards onto Jesus the sorts of intense battles taking place late in the first century over the future of Judaism, between those who followed Jesus and those who followed the pharisaic path. The Gospel of John was not a very credible record of the words of Jesus in any case.

OneSmallStep said...

Mystical,

**People should not be condemned for rejecting beliefs that they did not consider true in the first place. It can hardly be "willful" disobedience if you don't even agree on what the facts are.**

Hear, hear. If there is an afterlife, and I'm face to face with God and find out that certain views I have are wrong ... well, I'd say I'd change them. Except if one of those views is eternal torment, I'm not sure I could change that, because I find torture horrific. Even if the person is the most evil person I've ever known ... torture is something that person would do. If I consider myself moral, I should be better than torture.