Finding Truth in a post Truth World.
We are increasingly living in a world where the word truth has started to lose some of its meaning. President Donald Trump of the United States of America has coined the phrase fake news and applies it as he sees fit. Newspapers everywhere are only covering stories that will sell more newspapers. Reporters, are reporting stories increasingly from their own perspective and agenda’s.
So to get a balanced view of what is going on in the world we need to read news from multiple sources. Often, news stories go unreported because of some ideological or political agenda.
Papua New Guinea would be a great example of a place where we hardly ever find a story of any kind in the mainstream media. Yet, if one speaks to anyone who travels frequently to New Guinea we find that there is a whole world of issues that we are totally in the dark about.
Today, it is more important than ever for us to seek the truth and then apply it to our lives.
I wonder how many people know exactly how many towers came down in New York on 9/11. Generally, most people that I have asked that question say that 2 towers fell on that day. Somehow, the images of the twin towers falling in on themselves on 9/11 has imprinted itself onto people's consciousness and that has become their truth.
It is interesting, in fact there were 3 towers that came down on that fateful day and yet there are many people who for one reason or another fervently believe there were only 2.
Tower 7 of the world trade Centre was a 47 story steel building that also came down on 9/11. There are conspiracy theories that abound about this particular tower and how it came to collapsed but for my purposes here it is important only for us to realise that it did in fact come down.
This highlights, that even those who follow the news closely are quite often missing pieces of vital information. How then do we find the truth in this post truth world?
There are many religions in the world who claim to have "the" truth. Even within Christianity there are many different denominations who claim to be holders and guardians of the truth. Each have different traditions and rites that they claim to be the true expression of the Christian faith and worship. Tradition can hold as much authority as scripture.
Each denomination differs theologically on topics such as communion, baptism, predestination/freewill and the second coming of Jesus. On one hand the Roman Catholic Church says that the wine is transubstantiated during communion into the actual blood of Christ. That is, a physical change takes place in the substance of the wine. Whereas most Protestant churches say that what is taking place is a symbolic act of remembrance where the worshipper upon receiving the wine encounters our Lord in an existential way.
Likewise, the different Christian denominations hold different theological understandings of baptism. Baptists amongst others say that one must be baptised by full immersion and then only after attaining an age where the individual concerned has made their own personal choice and declared their own commitment to Jesus Christ.
How can all of these different denominations within the Christian church, who hold so varying theological ideas about the sacraments be correct. Surely, they can’t all be correct. Does it mean that if someone follows one denominations practice of the sacraments over another's that they are disobeying our Lord’s teaching.
Are they condemning themselves to an eternity in hell? Are those who are teaching a particular way of performing the sacraments leading others to eternal damnation?
Where in fact does the Truth lie?
Jesus tells his disciples several times about the coming of the Spirit of Truth.
John 14:16-17. “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you”.
John 16:12-13. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth;"
This is the difficult part for those who do not seek the truth and only listen to what others say or teach. They are missing large parts of what the Bible has to teach us. By relying on others to do the hard work of reading and examining scripture we not only fail to grasp a complete perspective of scripture, we fail to allow the Spirit of Truth to guide us.
Of course, Jesus is talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit. If we fully allow the Holy Spirit in become part of our lives we are better prepared to discover where the truth lies.
How often, have we sat in a church service, listened intently to the Pastor/Priest deliver a message or homily and then gone home and investigated the passage in question for ourselves?
If we take what is being said from the pulpit at face value without examining what is being shared we are more than likely going to come away with an incomplete or false understanding of what it was all about.
Jesus tells us, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits”(Matthew 7:15-16).
He also, tells us that by allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us we will find the truth (John 16:13). It will only be when we truly seek the truth with the aid of the Holy Spirit and prayerfully before God that we will understand the true meaning behind any biblical message.
What then do we make of all of the differing theological views regarding how Christians should lead there lives and practice their faith when there is such diversity amongst the Christian denominations.
One of the wonderful things about God is that he loves diversity and has provided for his people many diverse styles of worship. I am not talking here about universalism (all ways lead to God) but rather I am talking about distilling the Christian faith into some indissoluble (unchangeable) facts.
1. Jesus was the son of God (both wholly human and wholly God; One part of the Trinity).
2. The only way to Salvation is by faith through Jesus Christ. (There is nothing that we can do to earn or deserve it).
3. Jesus was born through a miraculous virgin birth.
4. He was crucified, died on the cross and was buried.
5. He conquered death and rose again on the 3rd day as he had foretold.
6. He did it all for me (and you) that we might have eternal life and a relationship with God.
The early church distilled these points into what is known as the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
*Catholic here means "universal". The term Catholic (usually written with uppercase C in English) was first used to describe the Christian Church in the early 2nd century to emphasize its universal scope. In the context of Christian ecclesiology, See Wikapedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_(term)
If we keep sight of these 6 basic facts then we are unlikely to become lost in amongst the noise of deeper theological discussion. Thus, with the aid of the spirit of truth and prayerful meditation we can grow into fully mature Christians.
Then and only then will the truth set us free (John 8:32. "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”)