Truth

Truth

This morning I received an e-mail from a guest who had worshiped at our church this past weekend. The core message of the lengthy piece was “you’re not teaching the truth”. It contained numerous bible passages to back up their perspective. The note reminded me again that we don’t all define “truth” in the same way, especially when it comes to issues of faith.

For some, the only definition of truth that satisfies is that something is factually accurate and happened in time and space. From this perspective the bible is like a newspaper or an encyclopedia. When either of these sources contains misinformation we doubt their reliability. So the stories of creation, Noah and the flood, Jonah and the big fish…all of these stories are only true if they happened in time and space, if they are factually accurate. Otherwise every part of the bible is suspect. I’ve met lots of Christians, agnostics and atheists who understand “truth” this way.

But there’s another way to define truth. It’s the truth of story, metaphor, poetry and symbol. For instance, think about the story of the little boy who cried wolf. Is that story true? According to the previous definition of truth, probably not. The story probably isn’t historically accurate. But is it true that if you sound a few too many false alarms people will no longer respond to a real alarm? Yes! So, is the story “true”? That depends upon your definition of truth. Sometimes something is true, not because it’s historically accurate but because it points to deeper, more profound truths.

So, which definition of truth is right? I think both are. I read the morning paper through the lens of the first definition, but I read the bible bi-focally. I trust both its rootedness in history and its ability to proclaim truth beyond historicity, which is why I don’t read the bible literally. I don’t believe Adam and Eve exited in time and space any more than I believe that the God revealed in Jesus Christ ever approved of genocide, human slavery or the subjugation of women (all in the bible!). But I do believe in a God who created all things good and is crazy in love with the whole, chaotic mess, including you and me.

My friend, David Lose, has written a great post that touches upon some of these same issues. You can read David’s post here.

So, how do you define truth? In what way is the bible true? Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

 

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  • v2787

    Biblical literalism has long been a scourge within Christianity. Perhaps one day more Christians will awaken to the profound, insightful truths that “story, metaphor, poetry and symbol” have to offer. All biblical literalism does is put God in a humanly-devised box, and it’s interesting how that box almost always takes the shape of the ideological bent that the literalist prefers. Truth is transcendent, not limiting.