What is truth? John 18:38
I’ve recently stumbled upon a quite enlightening podcast called “Unbelieveable.” It is Christian-hosted, but intentional in embracing and courteous toward atheists, agnostics and those of other faiths and, as such, cultivates a comfortable environment for interaction between guests of all kinds. It is fascinating listening to various perspectives and bases for beliefs. Overwhelmingly, it seems that, for most, faith and morals are ultimately rooted in one’s feelings—or inner inclinations. Additional reasons seem to include experiences, preferences, facts, science, reason & logic. As amazed as I am that people would be willing to stake the entirety of their lives, indeed their very souls on such uncertainties, such assumptive inclinations subject to change in a given moment, it occurs to me that that is exactly where I lived for 23 years. Though I believed in God generally, I never thought about the possibility that a REAL God might have his own agenda—his own standards for how things might work best. I simply believed what I liked, and passively dismissed what I didn’t. I was a relativist because I didn’t want any feelings hurt and succumbed to the have-it-your-way message of our culture. And I was miserable. I often felt so near happiness and yet so far at the same time. I constantly felt that true satisfaction was just at arm’s reach, but somehow the closer I got to it, the farther it suddenly seemed. Facts, logic, reason are wonderful faculties-however, they certainly fail us and while great tools for living practically, are not a plausible anchor for our souls. But when I consider the Creator of those faculties whose only failure is His ability TO fail, I begin to tremble in awe.
An absolute is the most terrifying and wonderful security we can hope for—wonderful because it provides certain boundaries, terrifying because we cannot determine those boundaries, nor can we change them. When revealed we must either fall on our faces and submit to it entirely, or live in the blissful ignorance of our self-created fantasy world which will inevitable come to an end. I contest that it is impossible to live without anxiety in a world absent of absolutes; relativism inevitably produces the exact opposite result of the very thing seeks to do—provide freedom. Freedom to choose one’s own standard for morality can never provide any real confidence—because not only could we be wrong, but every one of us has been at one point—and we’re constantly changing creatures. What I believed when I was 6 was quite different from what I believed when I was 12 and I suspect will differ still from what I will believe when I’m 40. My experiences shape my views, but to base the whole of life on the frailty of human understanding is to either live in a continual state of low level fear (which is horribly enslaving), to live in denial of that fear, or worst of all—to become numb and hardened (Eph 4:18-19) to the fear…the fear which I’d argue is a healthy and good motivation to seek one who might alleviate it (Mt 11:28)!
I am confident that God has done the most in my life when I’ve felt him the least. There is a beautiful paradox only he can produce and which defies explanation. One of the most interesting observations I’ve made in listening to the podcast is the varying responses from atheists and agnostics in terms of their expectations of God’s revelation. It’s always on their terms….which often seem to continually change. Some have stated that if they saw a miracle, they would believe going on to define what would have to constitute a sufficient miracle (sounds familiar Mt 16:1). Others have stated that if there were a documented supernatural healing, that would provide sufficient evidence. They then go on to define what constitutes “supernatural” and “documentation” claiming that videos and photos can be altered. Others have stated they didn’t know what it would take, but that if God revealed himself, they would ‘just know.’ One even stated that if God sent a certain type of bird at a certain time to a window of the hospital while a relative was healed of a disease, that would seal the deal for him, but not any other type of bird. It is both disheartening, listening to the logistical fallacy of their arguments, and encouraging as I hear the promises of scripture confirmed again and again. Jesus words ring true in every one of the said claims—that if they did not believe Moses or the prophets, they would not believe Moses and the prophets, neither will be they be convinced if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16:31). He very specifically, and with good reason commands against putting the Lord to the test (Deut 6:16) which I’m convinced has much more to do with attitude in inquiry whether he is sincerely being sought after (Deut 4:29) or whether people were simply using the intellect he graciously endowed them with to accuse him (Mt 22:15). If the Christian God is who the Christian God claims to be (including the creator of ourselves), would we not expect himself to prove himself by his own terms and we would not be most wise to submit to those terms if we seek him with any level of respect and sincerity?
What is faith without mystery and how can certainty produce hope? How and why God’s sovereignty co-exists with the free will which essential to humanity is beyond comprehension, but does in no way imply conflict in his nature or design. To the contrary, evidence and experience have proven in that every instance in which God saw it fit to harden human hearts, humans saw it fit to harden their hearts. Another perspective would be that every human who does not desire to worship the God he was built to worship has been given over to the reprobation he simply seeks all his life. Asking the question of which comes first is essentially asking to pry into the mysterious interworkings of a machine who’s functioning is so perfect and wonderful but which complexity is so far beyond understanding that an accusation against it will at best diminish any appreciation for its wonder and at worst, turn it against you. Asking God to meet us on our own terms is utter folly—it is not only folly in its lack of humility before a Holy being, but it diminishes, taints and warps our image of the sovereign character he claims to be and wants us to know! Were the secret workings of God granted to us, they would destroy the very nature of the life we were designed for; we could never have the experience of wonder or the joy of discovery. It’s his game and must be played on his terms, not only because he makes the rules, but because if you don’t, you’re playing a different game.
Truth is here! He came, he’s come, and he’s coming again (Rev 1:8)! The truth is revealed sufficiently to all (Ro 1:25) so that none is without excuse. It is not only available, but it is hanging right in front of us. More than that! It is in our hearts and in our mouths (Deut 30:14), such that it would take greater effort to spit Christ out than to ingest what he has perfectly planted in us—a heart that knows eternity, albeit a cloudy version of it. He gives sight to the blind who seek him, strength to the weak who want him, and rest for the weary to trust him. Seek him while he may be found, draw near to him for he will abundantly pardon (Isa 55:6-7), but ignore him and he will hide his face (Zech 7:13), give him lip service alone (Isa 29:13) and he who pierces all hearts (He 4:12-13) will judge all hypocrisy, insult him and he will call to account (Ro 12:14). God cannot and will not be mocked (Gal 6:7), let us guard our hearts and our motives (Ecc 5:1) while confidently approaching the throne of him who knows our each and every suffering, brokenness, and longing (He 4:15-16). The truth will bring freedom (John 8:32) to those who earnestly, humbly, and longingly seek it, but it submits to no stipulations or it would cease to be truth. It is found in a person-who is more than worthy of our every seeking with all our might until the perfect timing (Ro 5:6) in which he chooses to graciously impart the most wonderful knowledge of his character in light of which all questioning, confusion, and struggles melt into insignificance in light of his wonder.
“An ‘impersonal God’–well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth, and goodness, inside our own heads–better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all. But God himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband—that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when children who have been playing burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?” –CS Lewis