Thursday, September 08, 2005

Jump With Me, Part 3

After deconstructing our springs and frames, our trampolines and the bruises we suffer when we land on something inflexible, we've seemed to arrive at a classic question: 'What is truth?'

I grew up in your standard Christian home. Sunday School, youth choir, VBS, camp, blah, blah, blah. Good parents, good Biblical teaching. But then I went off to my first 2 years of college and took classes in psychology, anthropology, biology, philosophy, etc., with no 'Christian' professors. I was exposed to all sorts of new ideas and thoughts proposed as 'truth'. I was taught, rightly so, that Christianity was true. But I was also taught that there is no truth outside the Bible.

So now I'm faced with a dilemma: believe the truth i was learning in college or believe the Bible. I could have 'intellectual honesty' or 'truth'. Many of my friends in the same boat simply walked away from their faith.

(How many people do you know who were raised in a religious and/or Christian environment only to walk away from it in their late teens/early twenties?)

The problem was that I was experiencing truth in all sorts of new ways. And some of these ways didn't fit inside the box of my religious experience. My box was getting blown apart, and the faith I grew up with didn't have room to handle what i was being taught.

Intellectual honesty or Jesus? I was told to choose.

But it isn't really a choice, because Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." If you come across truth in any form, it isn't outside your faith as a Christian, because it comes from your God. To be a Christian is to champion truth wherever you find it. Wherever we find it, we find Christ. Sometimes it's in the Republican party. Sometimes not. Sometimes it's at Starbucks or Target. Sometimes the beach, the giggle of my toddler, or a lonely fishing trip.

Jesus doesn't point to the truth. He is the truth. He spoke it. He lived it. By His essence, He showed us Truth. When anything outside of my comfortable realm of experience reflects a nugget of truth...that's it.

I'm sure there are others of you that have had the same experiences I've had. In what unlikely places have you noticed the truth of Christ? Have there been times/places when God's truth spoke in a way you didn't expect?

Whatever is true, good, honorable, excellent, praiseworthy, beautiful...recognize it as God's story. And our story as well. Wherever you find those things, you find God.


At 1:30 PM, Blogger scott m said...

This one seemed more directed at people who had grown up within some standard evangelical expression of Christianity and encountered things that led them to question as they matured. Obviously, I can't say much about an experience like that. But I did have a couple of thoughts.

That there is no truth outside the Bible.

Is that really what we're teaching our kids? If so, that bothers me. It's not really supportable. Truth cannot be reduced to a collection of words, even inspired words. The Bible is important and contains truth. But Jesus said he was Truth. That's an entirely different statement.

Of course, from the rest of your post, you seem to, at least in part, go in that same direction. So I get the sense you were describing a starting point. It does concern me, though, that we might be setting up our kids in that same way even today.

In what unlikely places have you noticed the truth of Christ?

In the places I traveled. From the unexpected person. From the improbable turn of events. From the partial truths in other religions.

I wasn't going to a Christian church to find Christ. In fact, I had a real antipathy toward that which bore the name 'Christian' even as I embraced and explored other religions, practices, disciplines, and mysticisms. I think people in the church often miss that fact. They tend to divide people into Christians, those who just need to be told, and atheists (or some similar division). The truth is much more complex than that. A lot of people are very spiritual, but not at all Christian. And many of those actually have a developed, negative opinion of Christianity.

Fortunately, Jesus inhabits those places, even if a lot of his followers won't go there. And it was the glimpses in the unlikely places where I lived over years that finally spurred me to (just barely) begin to look for more. That's the real hurdle.

I'm not sure that makes much sense, but it's the best I can come up with. I see Jesus trying to reveal himself in every setting. There are always glimpses. And many times, if you listen to people, there is plenty of partial truth in their perspective of the world. Honor it. Acknowledge it. And share your own experience of Jesus, by associating yourself with Him and then trying to follow him by doing the things he did.

My challenge has been to see any Truth (with a capital 'T'), rather than the reverse. And that only began to happen when I realized that Truth was embodied in a person, not some specific set of facts. To use a cliche, it's not what you know, it's who you know.

At 4:14 PM, Blogger tom cottar said...

Perhaps I should have stated something differently. My statement 'That there is no truth outside the Bible' is something I was taught growing up, not something I've discovered since then. The Bible contains Truth. However, there are an infinite number of places where Truth can be found. Which, by the way, coincide with the Truth found in the Bible....sorry for the misunderstanding.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger tom cottar said...

I've edited my original post to better reflect my thoughts.

At 7:08 PM, Blogger scott m said...

Thanks! It made the evolution of your understanding over time clear. To answer your question, then, in what unlikely places have I noticed the truth of Christ? I notice it a lot more and a lot more clearly since my conversion, reconversion, return? (My conversion 'experience' is at least as difficult to pin down as Peter's.) But I think I'll try to relate a few of the glimpses I remember from before that time.

Dancing alone on a nightclub floor, losing myself in the music when two realizations dawned on me. There is no rational or useful explanation for our visceral experience of dance and music. And the experience can transcend the merely physical and emotional and become something deeply spiritual and cleansing. It pointed to something beyond 'me'.

And I realized that, for the first time in a very long time, I felt hopeful.

(I've never had the slightest problem understanding why David danced his praise to God from the gates to the top of the city.)

In unlooked for love and care in some pretty dark moments. Not by Christians, but still by people created in the image of God and who are capable of acting in amazing ways that go far beyond self-interest.

In the innocent questions of my (then) seven year old eldest son.

In the assistance of strangers unlooked for on the side of the road.

In the healing, forgiveness, and love of my then non-Christian girlfriend, fiance, and wife, Stacey.

In the faces of each of my children when they were born.

Of course, now I see all sorts of shadows of Jesus' Truth in many of the other religions. And I'm much more aware of God's pursuit and care for me than I ever was at the time. But those are some of the glimpses that stuck with me.

At 4:28 AM, Blogger scott m said...

It dawned on me overnight that perhaps many people associate 'truth' solely with a collection of 'facts' or a correct understanding of something?

While that is certainly one of the definitions of 'truth', it's not a very deep one. And it's never been the sense I got from Jesus' reference to himself as the truth. Nor do I get the impression his purpose was to provide us with a correct intellectual understanding. Rather, he offered us and continues to offer us himself. He is someone through whom we can relate to truth. But he's also the creator of everything and everyone. Glimpses of him shine through in everything. That's really what I was trying to capture in my earlier purse, but since I'm not talking about some set of facts or intellectual understanding, it was difficult to reduce to words.

And that's a danger I hadn't really considered thoroughly because it's pretty foreign to me and my experience. It's dangerous to establish something outside Jesus, even Scripture, as the sole source of all truth. Just as we struggle at times to reduce the truth we find in Christ to words, so too we can see the authors of Scripture struggle. I'm familiar with several religions of sacred writings. And that's not what we have. We have faith in a risen and living Lord. It would be horrible to turn that faith into just another religion of sacred writings.

I guess that may be one reason I don't find questions of doctrinal correctness terribly interesting. I have opinons and understandings on a lot of stuff, of course, but the core of my faith is one irreducible confession:

Jesus, the eternal Son, became flesh, fully lived a life perfectly following Abba through all the temptations and difficulties we face, died to redeem man, was buried, rose on the third day, is alive today, and will come again and reign forever one day in his fully realized kingdom.

Now there's lots of stuff in there that remains in some ways a mystery I can't fully understand. But that confession captures the bedrock. It would make little difference to me to discover I was completely wrong on a host of other things I think I understand.

I'm not really sure any of the above made much sense. But maybe some of it did.


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