Monday, April 04, 2005

How's your truth-metre?

Sometimes I wish I had a truth-metre – some contraption that worked like a smoke detector and beeped every time truth was in the air. I want to know truth, but I’m not always sure I’m good enough at recognizing it. Sometimes, as I grow into myself, I come to the conclusion that something that I once believed was truth is really an untruth disguised.

I’ve been challenged with this ever since that faith-shaking moment in front of that wall of books. So many of those books seemed like disguises simply muddying the truth instead of clarifying it.

We’re all trying to figure it out. I’m not alone. All those people who’ve written diatribes and commentaries and lengthy theology textbooks – they’re no different from me. Some of them THINK they have truth-metres, but no one has a corner on truth. Not even the pope had it ALL right (of course I mean no disrespect for the dead). We all see through a “mirror dimly”.

These thoughts have been with me as I worked my way through Generous Orthodoxy. I LOVE this book, and so much of it resonates with me. I want to say “YES! YES! YES!” I want to believe THIS is truth. But can I be sure?

I used this quote when I spoke in church on Sunday… "I must add, though, that I don't believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts." I knew it was provocative, but I felt I had to say what was in my heart. If anything, my experience in Africa convinced me that spreading God’s kingdom is not necessarily about converting people to OUR version of the truth, but letting God’s truth find its way into THEIR version of it. There are, after all, so many things that they seem to understand better than us – how to live in community, how to demonstrate compassion and friendship.

Well, it seems I picked just the passage that has gotten Brian McLaren (the author) into all kinds of trouble (it happened last month, but I just stumbled on it AFTER I used the quote). Apparently the Kentucky Baptist Convention withdrew its invitation to Brian McLaren to speak at its Evangelism Conference because they didn’t like that particular section of the book.

So, I can’t help but wonder – what IS the truth? I’m still convinced that McLaren is onto something, but obviously the southern Baptists think their truth-metre is working just fine and his is faulty.

And all the while, I can’t help but wonder if God is shaking his head and wondering why his people can’t figure out how to get along and just get on with building his kingdom. What gives me hope is that that’s just what McLaren is proposing – that we find some way of setting aside all the trappings of religion and work together. He contends that following Jesus means rising ABOVE what we have defined as Christianity in our own contexts.

According to the media reports, McLaren was quite gracious about the whole thing. I’m SO glad, because THAT’S the way I think Jesus would have asked him to react. He lived out Matthew 10:14… “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.”

Until God finds some way of convincing me otherwise, my faulty truth-metre still continues to point in the same direction McLaren’s points in.


Gina said...


I don't feel your truth metre is off one bit.

I have found that people are not Christians because they know the Bible by heart, or because they attend Church every Sunday.

It is about how you act. Do you show compassion to those less fortunate than you? Do you treat the least of those as your brothers? As Jesus instructed us to do?

Quite the few "Christians" I know would fail that test completely.

But, it is hard to find that moral balance, but I think as long as that person is truly trying, that is all that God can ask. No matter what your "official" religion.

By the way, I am what they call a "lapsed" Catholic. I don't agree with some of the fundamental teachings of the Church, and I wrestle with the fact that I would feel like I would just be picking and choosing which aspects of the faith to follow. But, I think for my son, we will probably begin attending Church soon, as he gets older we will just have to keep an open dialogue.

Sorry, this has turned into a very long diatribe!

I had visited your blog before, but Blogger wouldn't let me comment. But, I'm here now, and you might have a tough time getting me to shut up!


thebloke said...

The more I think about these things, the more I am convinced that Truth is just within the domain of facts. That has always been the problem with the Pharisees and other legalists. What Jesus taught when He said "I am the Truth" is that truth must always be seen within the context of relationship. It is not factual, it is relational. This concept also resonates with His saying that "You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free".

Anonymous said...

The truth metre we all need is the Word of God. The truth metre is not 'what Southern Baptists say' or 'what I feel or want to believe is true'. There is no possiblity for a finite knower (you/me) to know ANY truth unless it is revealed by an omniscient mind. Maclaren asks us to believe him and his thinking as a truth metre for our lives; a shaky reed indeed. The Bible says, 'Your Word is truth.'Psalm 119

Blessings to all, Jim