I’m not sure how many people actually read these blog posts. The last one that I wrote felt like I was sort of just throwing lofty musings about some moderately relatable topic out into the ether. I guess that’s probably how people who write greeting cards for Hallmark feel. You write something vaguely uplifting, insightful or comedic and just hope it sticks:
I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of truth. It seems like an important thing to think about relative to other things. I often find myself lamenting the apparent apathy and indifference that our current culture seems to have for the concept of truth. It feels like everywhere you turn the reality of any moment is obscured by a whole host of people looking to co-opt that situation in effort to infuse their own particular narrative or agenda. In each incidence, It seems as if the interested parties are each giving you a different version of the story and one can’t help but feel that every perspective is tainted by an ulterior motivation. Whether it be the most recent public tragedy, natural disaster or political mishap, one finds themselves reassembling reality from a frankensteined version of the truth.
From my perspective the current problem is that we have come to think of truth as merely a commodity to be acquired or won. The acquisition of truth is like a competition of sorts. We hope to score “truth points” in effort to end up victorious over our opponent. Who is our opponent you may ask? It’s you know “those people”. Those people that are always wrong about everything. Those people who profoundly disagree with us at every turn. That Democrat or that Republican. That Socialist or that Capitalist. That Protestant or that Catholic. If only they knew how wrong they were.
“The facts are clearly on our side.”
So often truth is not viewed as a higher understanding of objective reality that one must strive for, rather it’s seen as a club to bludgeon our adversary with. We think of truth as a trophy to win, as a contest to conquer. Objectivity, it seems, is a thing of the past. “True” and “False” are simply constructs for those that are naive enough to believe in them. In “truthball” all that matters is what team you’re on and how your team is currently performing in the never ending struggle to win the current cultural moment.
As one might guess, this way of thinking is quite insidious and dangerously problematic. Call it the infectious roots of a postmodern and neo-marxist philosophy, our society has readily subjected truth to power. The pursuit of truth is only vital insofar as it serves to forward the objectives of whatever tribal identity we lay claim to. As the notorious French philosopher Derrida would articulate it, we generate an interpretation of reality that serves to give us the best position in our given social hierarchy. Life in essence can be watered down to a never ending battle to exert dominance over the “other” and truth is just a socially constructed weapon in the fight.
Scripture, as always, calls us to a radically different perspective. Jesus says “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).” Additionally, John says that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).” Jesus explicitly states “I am the way the truth and the life (John 14:16).” We see clearly that truth is not a commodity, a trophy or some sort of point system in our corrupt power struggles, rather truth is a person: Jesus. He is the ultimate physical manifestation of truth. Lest we get confused about the nature of truth, It is not something to be compartmentalized or made to do our bidding.
This is something that I find difficult to grapple with as Christian. We attest to follow the ultimate, inerrant, exclusive truth in Jesus Christ, a notion that is hard not to feel deeply empowered by. It seems like a guaranteed victory. In the game of truthball Jesus would be like Barry Bonds playing in a tee ball tournament: ultimate domination. If the goal were to win, surely the “Christian team” would be a force to be reckoned with.
Fortunately, the Bible doesn’t permit us to engage in this struggle for dominance. Paul counters this idea directly by saying “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph 2:8-9).” The truth that we acknowledge through Christ cannot be weaponized against even those that most vehemently oppose us. Additionally the New Testament asserts that “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matt 23: 11-12).” Our commonplace understandings of power and dominance are turned on their heads.
As Christians, we should simultaneously seek truth relentlessly while being ever mindful of the trap that is found in an identity-based power struggle. My prayer for the Church, The Nashville Fellows, and myself is that we may find joy in sharing this truth with others and refuse to engage in the cultural struggle for power. May we collectively take on the identity of Christ in equal parts truthfulness and humility.