Disclaimer- In the typical style of “Tuesdays with Morris”, this will be a rant. I make no apologies!
This week, after a friend showed me a book he received anonymously, I have been thinking about the way we throw around the word “truth” within Christian circles.
We confidently label various statements and positions as “the truth”. We use the word “truth” to establish our authority on whatever topic we happen to be dealing with. We quote a verse of Scripture, make an opinion based statement, and say “that’s the truth”. However, in reality, most of our statements and positions that we label as “true” are simply an interpretation of what we believe to be true.
Visit your favorite Christian bookstore (online or a local store) and search for books that have “truth” in the title. You will most likely be overwhelmed. Now, look at the contents of the books. Many of the authors will disagree with one another on what “truth” is.
I mean, authors like John Piper and Mark Driscoll are going to have extremely different ideas of “truth” than Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, and Rob Bell. Of course, McLaren, Jones, and Bell are very careful with the word “truth”. And, all of them would disagree with Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen.
So, what is “truth”? In our pluralistic society, truth is largely relative. What is true for me, may not be true for you. Truth is extremely hard to define.
Now, some will say, “Jason, you are a pastor. Therefore, you should believe in absolute truth.” My response would most likely be, “Well, maybe. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure this journey I’m on is called faith…not ‘absolute truth’. I mean, so much of what I believe to be true is heavily debated…even within my own theological tradition. So, yes, there are certain things I believe to be ‘true’. Yet, at the same time, I’m honest enough to say, ‘I could be wrong.'”
Whenever I hear the phrase “absolute truth”, I remember a conference breakout session led by Tony Jones. He was talking about truth and asked the question, “What is absolute truth?” Someone in the audience replied, “Something that cannot be debated.” Jones built on that and asked, “So, what are some of the absolute truths within Christianity.” People began to share things they believe to be absolutely true…And, Jones challenged us to think. Someone said, “The virgin birth.” Jones replied, “Okay. But, you defined absolute truth as something that can’t be debated…and we’ve been debating that for years. What else is absolutely true?” The crowd quickly quieted down.
I guess, when I see books with titles like “The Truth About Marriage”, I feel like the books should either have the word truth in quotation marks or include a disclaimer that explains that what the author labels as “truth” is simply his or her interpretation of what they believe to be true.
So, how do we handle things when what we believe to true differs from others who also claim to be followers of Jesus?
Can we just agree to disagree? Do we have to be “right” all the time? Can we realize that most of the things we claim to be “the truth” are minor issues in the grand scope of what it means to be faithful in our relationship with God and one another?
What do you believe to be “true”? Any chance you could be wrong?