by: Rev. Ed Schneider
Not that long ago I remember sitting around a table with several younger ministers I was mentoring. As it is my custom, I tend to ask several the kind of questions that require a thoughtful response as well as a quick defense. This particular occasion I was asking some tuff questions concerning an equally difficult subject matter when one of them became rather frustrated with my insistence of making each of them think for themselves. He said to me, “Come on, Reverend. Just tell us what you want us to believe so we can move on.” Another chimed saying, “Just tell us the answer already.” To their dismay, I told them that if I were to give them the answers I was in search of from them it would defeat the purpose of getting them ready for the “real world” they are going to have to serve within.
These young ministers needed to authentically understand what many of the people they will be guiding are going to discover when trying to come up with “real life” answers. These young ministers were going to have to learn that people take many differing paths to any journey of discovery….and there is no circumventing that process. This discovery, if it involves anything relating to someone’s definition of “truth” will take “as long as it takes” until they have determined for themselves what they actually believe.
It is not a simple thing to come up with a definitive truth; for those who take the journey seriously, it is not supposed to be easy. There are far too many people who have a stunted and negative view of life because they have had a severely limited view of the benefits of discovering the depth of the “God thing.” Some church-folk are happy to receive good singing, good fellowship, and good fried chicken with Sunday morning regulars. As long as somebody throws the name of Jesus in every once-in-a-while they are sure the truth has been told.
I wonder why it seems to be a difficult proposition for some people to accept even the possibility of God. These disbelieving folk are remarkably bound by their inevitable skepticism and perpetual distrust of the world around them. These same individuals generally find others who believe in God as either foolish, naïve, or complicit in the biggest hoax ever perpetrated upon humanity. On the other hand, some people-of-faith are so fixed on the concept of “their exclusive ownership of truth” they fall victim to the ticking time-bomb awaiting them as it prepares itself to explode at any minute.
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free
There are two basic components that must be grasped when trying to wade through the discovery of truth.
- The first is something called “objective reality” and
- the second is “subjective truth.”
Objective reality is fixed “predetermined” consequences of certain stimuli. A good example of this would be a person jumps off a roof and, whether they believe it or not, they are going to fall. Additionally, if one leaves their hand directly over a flame, whether they believe it or not, they will burn themselves.
Within these two examples, it doesn’t really matter what you believe because the results won’t change.
- Pragmatic truth is what works.
- What we can experience or observe is called empiricist truth.
- Rationalist truth is what can be proved through reason.
- Coherent truth is what is in harmony among many other ideas.
- Truth involving what a person “feels” is called emotional truth.
The concept of singularly definitive truth is most comforting to those who are desperately searching for it. However, understanding a singular truth is at best a fantasy in a practical sense.
By using the word “practical” I am stating that the discovery of truth is far more pedestrian and “down to earth” than one might think. Thinking that there is only one way to understand the who, what and why of God-or how to educate our children, or cooking, or spots management, or raising a puppy or painting a house-you are limiting your understanding and experiencing of truth.
Let me also say that I have personally discovered there are certain truths all of us can “choose to believe in” that will become our foundational standard of truth. This foundational standard of truth can and should become a person’s central truth our “foundational belief.”
To all of my evangelical Christian friends out there I want you to be very clear that it is next to impossible to get to the “Jesus thing” unless or until someone has clearly determined in their own mind the “God thing.” Unfortunately, Jesus becomes practically irrelevant if the “God question” has not been answered in the affirmative.
To all my Pentecostal brothers and sisters out there the same can be said for the awakening of the spiritual connection and divinely empowered “reality” of what the old folks use to call the “Holy Ghost.” Someone who is lambasted with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit concerning speaking-in-tongues or second or third blessing of sanctification is going to look at you like you’re a complete idiot because the foundational process of truth “discovery” concerning the “God thing” and the “Jesus thing” has not been honored and respected.
If folks can’t fathom there is a God in the universe then it doesn’t matter about what church you belong to or what kind of communion ritual your denomination displays. If folks can’t see honest sharing of the goodness and grace of a visible, viable and active God through you then they will reject out of hand even the notion of God. People primarily experience the “truth” of God by what they experience and what they can reason through those experiences. When those experiences reveal a truth of God that is reasonable, right and full of authenticity then life takes on a completely different level of understanding, value, purpose and truth. Once a person has uncovered, understood, accepted, personalized and finally utilized “their truth” in the daily application of life it reveals a newness of being that can only be described as profound.
Beloved, for me it means that God exists, that God created all that is known and unknown, that God specifically chose a course of action that helped to define and direct my life. For me this also means that God saw fit in the life, mission and resurrected reality of Jesus to not only demonstrate the who, what and why of God but also the who, what and why of what it should mean to be human. It means that my understanding is being enhanced and advanced every day by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It means I am now and will continue to be eternally grateful for this foundational and definitive truth in my life. I hope and pray that your truth “discovery” will bless you as much as mine continues to bless me.