The Truth Holds Us
by Tom Gilson
In a world of religious and ideological divisions, hardly anything evokes more anger than saying, “I know the truth.” It’s tolerated in mathematics and science, though even scientists are wary of it, knowing how often the “truths” of one age are later corrected or replaced. In morality and religion, though, it’s downright offensive. Relativism reigns. Though we don’t mind if others have opinions, if someone says, “My beliefs are the truth,” for many people that’s downright offensive.
Thus, we evangelical Christians stand in a socially awkward position. We claim to know the truth. We believe this truth is unique and applies to all people for all time. We believe that the truth is so tied together with Jesus Christ that he could claim, “I am the truth.”
Of course we know we are bucking cultural currents when we say this. We have heard people say we are arrogant. But it is not as it appears. To say, “I know the truth,” may seem to be claiming superiority, but in fact it is a position of humility. We believe the truth is not something we create or build for ourselves, it is a reality to be discovered, that holds whether we like it or not. Christians do not own the truth; we submit to it. Our position before truth is humility.
C.S. Lewis, possibly the most articulate spokesperson for Christianity in the 20th century, illustrates this well. A firm atheist, he was at Oxford when he decided to study the evidence regarding God. It led him in a direction he did not choose:
“You must picture me alone in [my] room… night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet… That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me… I gave in and admitted that God was God and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”
There was no arrogance in that. There was “giving in and admitting.” He submitted to something greater than himself.
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Contrast that with the idea that we can all choose our own truths. Is that not a bold stance to adopt? Is that not spitting in the face of reality? Is that not tantamount to, “Hey, Reality, step aside. It’s up to me to decide what’s true and what isn’t!” Who’s being arrogant here?
Christians know that we are constrained by reality. Though we don’t always put it this way, we don’t really believe that ”we hold the truth.” We believe the truth holds us…
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