Back in the ’90s, the popular FOX TV show The X-Files, followed FBI Agent Fox Moulder as he searched for answers to haunting questions about government conspiracies and other mysterious phenomena. He tracked clues, but often just went by instinct. His mantra, as he faced doubt from all corners, was, “The truth is out there.”
Two thousand years ago, Jesus, as a man walking the earth, also had plenty to say about truth: "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Although in the context of John 8, Jesus is referring specifically to knowing Him as the Son of God, there are applications to be drawn from this discovery of truth. How do we search for truth? Maybe more importantly, what is it that drives the soul of every human to know the truth?
At the core, we’re talking about the philosophical quest for knowledge (a.k.a. epistemology). As men and women bearing the image of God, we have a conscious free will, and within that will, the ability to know. Over the course of our lives, we attempt to hold onto that which is true and reject that which is false.
According to Dr. J.P. Moreland at Talbot, there are three approaches to this search for truth. First, we have Methodism. People of this view will require that a method be developed to test the accuracy of a claim. For example, in the scientific method, certain steps must be followed to make a reasoned conclusion. If there is not a method to be followed, then nothing can be known.
Then you have the skeptic. His view originated 300 years before Jesus’ birth. The skeptic concludes that he cannot know anything really. For this person, there is never enough evidence that Jesus is the Son of God. Instead, his personal experience, rooted in fear or pride, implicitly reigns as the determinant of truth. He is the perpetual critic, not willing to commit to anything.
Lastly, particularists argue that we start as beings able to know certain things without having to know how we know them. You may have heard of this as intuition. Just like a mother knows her baby’s cry means she is hungry, one can look in the face of the Holocaust and know it is evil without having to come up with a method of how one knows, although it is possible to formulate a reasoned argument to support this position.
The Methodist view confusingly spirals into an infinite regress by requiring a method in order to know which method to choose. The skeptic eventually turns on himself by criticizing his own view, resulting in a life of paralyzed despair or a web of arrogant meaninglessness. Only the particularist view can accommodate for universal human experience by accepting that some things are known a priori.
We live in a culture of relativism, arguably the consequence of modernism. Modern man says show me the facts from which I can draw reasoned conclusions. With this mindset comes the arrogance of reason and the alienation of heart. Frustrated with this estrangement, postmodern man argues there is no absolute truth because all facts depend on the “eye of the beholder.” This tolerant kiss of death results in more meaninglessness. Sounds hopeless and confusing, does it not?
These are the days in which we live. We must examine the lenses through which we see the world and make decisions about which lenses are the right ones. We must re-examine our own assumptions and presuppositions in an effort to replace them with truth. The most logical and the most consistent with human experience, particularism affords both reason and intuitive experience, but neither at the cost of the other.
So how do we do this adopt this view? According to Leanne Payne in The Healing Presence, our present day head-heart split is a new human experience. In order to repent of this schism, we must re-mythologize our hearts. We need to be aware of the messages communicated to us through the most miniscule details of the day, be they from others or from ourselves. Then we must replace the incorrect symbolic messages with those that are true.
Everything communicates a message. Whether it is American Idol implying that ultimate human value lies in sex appeal and entertaining prowess or the accommodation of same-sex partnerships implying that the homosexual lifestyle is equal to the heterosexual one, our heart is receiving a message. However, because of our current split, these messages often go unnoticed. Additionally, our “tolerance” of opposing views leaves us buried in lies, reaching for a rope of truth to pull us out.
Thank God His rope was provided in the person of Jesus Christ. The reality is we were made to live for something—that is, to be worshipers. This worship is communicated in symbolic message. When Jesus said in Luke 10, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,” Jesus emphasized that we are to center our lives around God in all areas, including the symbolic messages God uses to communicate to our hearts.
In order to know rightly, we must see reason and intuition appropriately and accept them as equally valid ways to know. Reason points to logically consistent, holy intuition. Intuition requires reason for communicating experience. As Christ said, if we hold to His teachings, we will rationally and intuitively know the truth and will be set free, set free to abundant life.
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