Does anyone ever get caught up in the murky quagmire called, truth is wutever I say it is and all truths are equally valid? I’ve written about this quite a bit, the interplay between subjective truth and objective reality.
I grew up in that quagmire, trying to find the truth, a bit like peeling the layers off an onion or perhaps like being one of those Russian dolls you open and there’s just another one inside and another and another…….
I did not realize at the time that these struggles were really preparing me for the culture we now live in, for such a time as this. A time where the social fabric of our world says things like, “That guy self identifies as a sea lion, IB. You need to respect his choices. Everybody’s truth is valid.” True story, I once met sea lion boy. I did not think the people praising him and encouraging him to have more body modification were being loving.
So, I get it. In a culture where news is whatever we say it is, where people are whatever they self identify as, a culture that is a chaotic mess of, “all truths are equal and valid,” there’s this real urge to flee back to the safety of objective truth. Absolute truth. We need some agreed upon boundaries in our world or else we start to feel like we’re just free falling through space. Like Alice, plunging down a rabbit hole.
Where has my solid ground gone? It’s a little scary. Also, worrisome, because if you go walk face first into a wall, you’re going to hurt yourself. Objective reality is going to slam you in the head. I’m not trying to be disrespectful of your little truths, I’m just saying that the wall is real enough and rather unforgiving.
I’ve really struggled to raise kids in this wutever world. Someday you can find a nice man and have a family. Actually mom, these days family is wutever we say it is. It could be 3 moms or two dads with a paid surrogate, or a single parent, or polyandrous goddess cult. At which point about all you can do is say, yes I suppose it “could” be true, but is it wise?
Are all truths equal and valid or are some truths simply better than others? They are not all equal. People don’t like to hear that these days. They want to believe all choices are valid and nothing in the world can be superior to anything else. If some choices are bad, it makes the bad choice people feel bad. Well shoot, we all make bad choices sometimes. I’d actually call that “normal.” What isn’t normal is expecting the whole world to accept all your choices as “good.”
So, in response to all this chaos there can be this real urge to flee back to the safety of objective truth, absolute truth, to stamp our feet on the ground and claim something solid as our territory, as the ground beneath our feet. I have to speak out against that reactionary stance, especially in faith. We need to respond rather than to react.
This pastor I’m kind of fond of calls responsibility, respond-ability. Our ability to respond. When we have to ability to respond, we aren’t reacting to our circumstances. The problem with reacting is that it’s usually tinged with anxiety, fear, and wants a backlash, it wants to yell, all truth is totally objective and reality based.
But is that really true? Is it factual? Bit of a word salad here, but is it true that all truth is totally objective, logical, reality based, and existing outside of us? I say no, and I think in faith we need to be very careful of reacting in this way. There is a ditch on that side of the road too. I am concerned about us over correcting, reacting and winding up in the other ditch. That other ditch is no better than the one we are already heading for, because it too is filled with falsehoods.
It’s a bit weird to be a Christian trying to speak-up in favor of subjective truth in a wutever world. I have to however, and I believe this is actually biblical. We are called to embrace the paradox. Also, if the world of wutever makes you want to tear your hair out, you can take comfort in the fact that the bible is already on it, that God’s got this thing.
Henry Ford once said, “Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you’re right.” That is two contradictory truths existing at the same time. Your reality, your truth is going to be shaped by which belief you decide to embrace, which choice you make.
The same is true with our faith. Accept Jesus as Lord, as Savior, and you will have a Savior and all the joy He brings. Or refuse to believe, reject Him and you will not have a Savior. That simple. Two subjective truths true at the same time. They both will be the parameter that is going to define your reality.
There is plenty of well-reasoned, objective, factual truth that supports the existence of God, that supports the decision to give your life to Christ. However, all that objective truth and factual evidence becomes completely irrelevant to your life, if you don’t make a subjective choice to believe.
In the bible Jesus says, “who do you say I am?” He also says, “believe.” He does not say rationalize, seek objective truth, use your own reason, he simply says “believe.” In fact, believe as a child believes. Children are not well-known for their own ability to reason. Pilate also says, “what is truth?” Well, when you are a dictator with a lot of power, even objective truth can become whatever you say it is going to be. Jesus was unfairly tortured and put death, that is objectively true. That however, is not the whole truth.
One reason why I always stress this point is because objective truth can fail you. You can have the rug pulled out from under you. Anyone who has ever had their world come crashing down around them, knows this. Everything you thought was true, turns out to have been a lie. It’s a very disconcerting place to be.
Objective truth can fail you. It’s not that it isn’t a valid form of truth, it’s that our faith is way bigger than that, far more powerful, and totally steadfast. Our God is far more powerful than our own understanding of objective reality or absolute truth. He is the Rock that anchors our soul. He is the Truth that we can place our trust in. When subjective reality fails you, when objective reality fails you, when reality itself fails you, there is the Rock, the Cornerstone who anchors our soul. We are actually firmly tethered to Him. Everything else can fall away, including our own ability to reason, our own ability to identify objective truth, and yet He still stands.
The bible tells us God is love, not that God is objective truth. Although you could make a good argument for, “objective truth is whatever God says it is.” Just the same, the bible tells us God is love. Love conquered all is now seated in victory at the right hand of the Father.
Love never fails. Our own understanding can fail, our own perceptions of objective reality can fail, but love never does. Love will come chasing after you even in a quagmire of heroin addiction, even in the confusion of dementia, or in the throes of mental illness. Our own grasp of objective reality can slip away, but we still do not slip out of our Father’s hands.
Love never fails, but the distress some of us old guard experience looking at sea lion boy is also love, love tinged with wisdom and desire to protect people from face planting up against that hard wall of objective reality. One problem with a culture that is busy rejecting all forms of authority, is that it often also plugs its ears to all wisdom, and so those of us who have been around the block a few times, dread the day we’re going to have to scrape you off that wall.
On the bright side, I do know this Great Physician. He’s really good at healing face plants….