Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Calling Pontius Pilate ...

I've pondering Christianity and it's relation to truth. Pulling from memory, there are quite a few Bible verses dealing with truth.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life."

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth."

"God be true, even if every man is a liar."

"I have come into this world to bear witness to the truth -- Everyone who is of the truth shall listen to my voice."

Or that Satan is a deceiver, seeking to lure people away from God with lies and so forth.

Ergo, Christianity is very concerned with the nature of truth. So how far does this concern go? Is is a universal truth, or is just truth in terms of the Christian tenants? How well are Christians able to discern truth, compared to non-Christians? Overall, I would say they're no better, and no worse.

I'm thinking of stories I've read about de-converting Christians, who said that they spent years in the church as an atheist, in order to preserve the peace in their family, or because they couldn't confess that they were atheists. And not one Christian noticed at all. There wasn't any special discernment of the truth here.

I'm thinking of me personally, and how if I told my evangelical friends that I had confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and started going to church and essentially acting the way a Christian should -- if I came across as sincere enough, they'd never know the truth. There would be no special discernment.

I'm thinking of really renowned Christian leaders, who rant against certain lifestyles, and then it turns out that the same Christian leaders in fact participate in those lifestyles. Christians found out about that the same way everyone else did -- through the lifestyle partners coming forward. There was no special discernment.

I'm thinking of the Catholic church and the child rapes, and how when the victims first starting coming forward, the Catholic congregations rushed to defend the priests against such "lies." Again, the truth wasn't uncovered until the victims came forward, and papers started appearing about how the Church was complicate in covering up the rapes. There was no special discernment.

In each of these situations, the truth came out because someone came forward, or someone confessed to something. There was no special nudging from the Holy Spirit, no special access to the one source of Truth, or anything like that. Christians discover what the truth is the same way other people did.

Now, perhaps a counterargument to this could be that in terms of God and Truth, that only deals with the nature of personal salvation, or the nature of God, or something like that. But if God is a God of Truth, why wouldn't He be concerned with all Truth, period? Why wouldn't He give His followers some sort of special insight that non-Christians lack? If God is that focused on the truth ... why are Christians discovering the truth through the same methods that non-Christians must employ?

16 comments:

Sarge said...

Is there the truth, and also: The Truth as it were? "The Truth" is the state where facts really don't signify and are as substantial as fog. They are seen, especially if contrary to "The Truth" as testers of it that prove it and winnow out the "weak in faith". The "unworthy". Or so it seems to me if I am, uh, "truthful".

"The Devil" is the "Father of Lies", yet to Adam & Eve the "Ultimate Truth" (god) lies to Adam and Eve when he tells them what will happen if they eat The Fruit. The serpent ("Father of Lies") tells them the truth...not The Truth.
I always thought that somewhat odd, and have been given many very, well, novel, explanations which make no sense at all.

atimetorend said...

I have heard from Christians that, we see God in nature, that we experience his love through the people around us, that we hear his voice through the bible, and from the people around us. So maybe God speaks about child rape through the victims. Or he would speak to your evangelical friends through your own confession and honesty.

I don't think that, it seems a cop out, just like you describe the lack of discernment of truth. Those ideas play more into the argument of divine hidenness than of a God speaking clearly to his creation.

Sarge said...

Truth, as well as just plain ol' "truth", is kind of a slippery sort of thing, to mix a bunch of metaphores.

My father used to sit me down and with grave expression and honest head-nods would tell me, "You can never be harmed if you tell the truth..." and would prose on for some time about
Truth and honesty".

I find myself wondering ("...as I Wander..." ;-))if there were not a loop of some sort installed in people.

Several years ago I coached some kids in music, great kids, and their mom was a great one, too. She was accomplished, loveey, and every bit as nice inside as out. She had the two older kids (teenagers) and a boy of eight.
She was very proud that she had never raised a hand to any of her children, that she dealt with them from a position of reason and courtesy.
She would talk to the little guy, tell him about "honesty" and "the truth". She used the same intonation, gestures, and even facial expressions as my father, sure as I hope to shit in your mess kit! I'm serious, and I know she never clapped eyes on the man in either of their lives.

When the lad was still eight (many yeras ago), we all met in the mall just before xmas, just ran into each other and were talking, and another woman came up.
My friend introduced everyone, this was her boss.

Alas for my friend, she had not instructed the little guy on tempering truth with circumspection or tact.
This laddy-buck cocked his head to the side, narrowed an eye, and said to this woman,
"Do you REALLY stab people in the back"?

I heard wails and hoots remeniscent of a steam boat screaming it's death cry, it they were my friend and the dear boy. She in distress and outrage, he in just distress. His gentle mother had snatched him up and was dusting his jacket with a vigor which was quite astonishing.

His sister says he's grown up to be quite a cynic. His brother tells me that he has never forgotten what he heard from "authority" about how truth/honesty can have nothing but salutory results, and his experience to the contrary.

His attitude toward authority is said to be appalling. I's say it's just healthy, for he is said to be quite scrupulous himself. "Trust issues", as they say today.

societyvs said...

"How well are Christians able to discern truth, compared to non-Christians? Overall, I would say they're no better, and no worse" (OSS)

In general I agree, Christians cannot discern something quicker than most anyone else. However, with some of the moral guidlines in Christianity (a paradigm) - I have warned many people about the result of their behavior...life does have consequences and they appear after a while. I find I am quicker to the punch than many of the people surrounding that person on 'common sense' solutions.

But what is the truth anyways? Let's look at those examples - the word's meaning changes time to time.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life."

This is about what Jesus was teaching to his disciples...the truth was what he taught (also could double as being 'honest').

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Truth here is a state of understanding Jesus' teachings - comprehension...like enlightenment (as in free via knowledge).

"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth."

Truth here seems to represent 'sincerity' or 'honesty'.

"I have come into this world to bear witness to the truth -- Everyone who is of the truth shall listen to my voice."

Truth, again, seems to be what Jesus is teaching (based on what he is teaching); and teaching about God more or less.

So it is hard to pinpoint what is meant by truth as a 'generic' meaning - since it seems to be used to take on at least 3 meanings:

(1) the teachings about God as delivered by Jesus

(2) Honesty/Sincerity

(3) Enlightenment

I don't think truth neccesarily means we will have some super-intuition (although we will have some insightful tools to work with).

Lorena said...

Well said OSS. And let's not forget that, according to the gospels, Jesus did promise to give The Holy Spirit to lead them to ALL TRUTH.

But, in my experience, the worse people at discerning truth are the Holy Spirit flag waivers, the Pentecostals.

Again, in my experience, those folks believe anything or anyone that mentions the name of Jesus. They're so easy to con.

Once I went to a service where the guest speaker was an expert at laughter. Yeah, laughter as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The idiot kept saying stuff that wasn't even funny, but the congregation knew that they were supposed to laugh, and they did the entire service.

Temaskian said...

After your post, it's clear to me that 'truth' is just a term to let Christians think they have an edge on everyone else.

OneSmallStep said...

Sarge,

I've experienced the same confusion. For the serpent did say that they'd become like gods, knowing good and evil. And after eating, God said that they had become like gods, knowing good and evil. It's not as clear-cut as Christian sermons would make it seem.

**he has never forgotten what he heard from "authority" about how truth/honesty can have nothing but salutory results, and his experience to the contrary.**

Which is a shame, but in some ways, I wonder if there's any way around this. It takes time for kids to be able to grasp the difference between telling a lie, and simply refraining from mentioning what is the truth. However, based on his cynicism, I wonder if his mother explained that he didn't do anything wrong, or if she implied that he did?

OneSmallStep said...

Atimetorend,

I'd have difficulties with those explanations as well. For if God speaks through the victims, why do so many of His followers not hear? Why isn't there something within His followers that give them a better understanding? It's almost like the Christian is confessing that God isn't as prominent as they're always proclaiming.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

The problem I have is that these verses, and the very nature of how truth is relayed by God, isn't treated as simply providing a moral paradigm that helps one determine the truth. It's treated as something special, or extra. Some sort of special power that resides in the believer, that gives them something a non-believer doesn't have. A moral paradigm is something a non-believer can also use to become more insightful.

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

What you're describing is the same thing I witnessed during the eight years of President Bush. It didn't matter what he said or did, he could be trusted because of his theological beliefs. His statements weren't evaluated based on their own merits, they were evaluated based on who was making the statements. Truth no longer stands on it's own, it's filtered through theology.

Grace said...

Oh, One, I've read the same thing, but quite honestly find it extremely difficult to believe that someone would not discern for years that something is up with a close family member spiritually, and have no clue.

I'm talking about a child, or a parent.. here.

I think there are deeper issues, and problems in these relationships than a change in spiritual conviction.

ethinethin said...

Grace...
but quite honestly find it extremely difficult to believe that someone would not discern for years that something is up with a close family member spiritually, and have no clue.

It happens, whether you have difficulty believing it or not. It also happens in clergy -- did you not read the report by Daniel Dennett about non-believing clergy? Or did you simply think those guys were exceptions? They continued to preach and lead their churches despite a lack of belief and no-one was the wiser (or else why would they still be preachers?). It's really easy to fake being a Christian if you are an ex-Christian.

Sarge said...

The boy had no doubt whatsoever that he had, in some way erred. A reaction like that would occasion at least a "Hmmmm...something is UP here, and I seem to have done it".

She also told him that there was no question that shouldn't be asked.

Like I said, she neglected to introduce tact and circumspection into the mix.

There is a Slavic saying, "Always tell the truth, but keep one foot in the stirrup".

Sometimes it is HOW the truth is used.
On one occasion when I was a kid, my father (a very skilled interrogator and investigator) had occasion to know that I was looking him in the eye and telling him the absolute, unshakeable truth...and at the same time telling a lie that was so black and horrible that it was a wonder my tongue didn't fall out and poison anything that touched it.

Grace said...

Ethinethin,

I can understand how this might happen with a clergy member. Some of these churches are huge, and people don't necessarily have an intimate, and deeply personal relationship with their clergy.

I can only say that when my kids were younger, they only needed to look at me, and I could intuitively know that something was troubling them.

It's hard for me to imagine being married to someone,in any kind of truly genuine, intimate relationship, and having no sense at all that there were changes going on spiritually.

Truly, I don't want to cast judgment here, but I think there's a lot more than "meets the eye," to some of these stories.

I am still skeptical.

Grace said...

"Always tell the truth, but keep one foot in the stirrup."

Sarge, LOL

OneSmallStep said...

Grace,

Two points.

A) These are the stories of others, and you're coming across as interpreting it through your own lens. And there is a huge difference between sensing something when a child is young, and sensing something when the child is older and better at hiding things. And it sounds like there's a huge difference between how you'd interact with a family member who became an atheist, and someone within a fundamental family or society. They can lose everything if they don't convincingly portray the Christian.

2) Your comment also serves to reinforce my point. The discernment of truth in your situation is dependent upon the knowledge gained of the other person, and the passing of years betraying the changes -- there's no "extra" thing aiding the remaining Christian.