Friday, May 18, 2012

On Being Wrong, Truth and the Umbilicus Urbis

We Are Wrong
Are you aware of the things you are mistaken about-- this very moment? 
Can you clearly identify which “truths” you currently hold that are incorrect? Please make a list of them in your mind.

If you did indeed list them and are aware of these areas you are wrong, why do you still believe them? If you didn’t make a list, it is because you are like almost everyone today. You either don’t think you are wrong in what you believe or you are not yet aware of where you are wrong.
It’s a very strange thought to know that you have a blind spot somewhere in what you believe and you don’t know where it is or how big. ...Scary.
Most Christians’ consciences were formed by their parents and teachers, and we glide through life without realizing that those who taught us right and wrong were imperfect and most likely taught us imperfectly. We could be believing something to be wrong that isn’t and something to be right that is, in actuality, a sin in God’s eyes. 
(I know most of you are thinking: “The Bible is inerrant and I go there, so my beliefs are true because I get them from scripture.” For a moment, though, take away scripture. We are dealing with the human heart all by itself--without the influence of the Bible--not yet, anyway.)
We have a general sense about what is right and wrong (the natural law). For example, we know stealing is wrong, we know adultery is wrong, we know lying is wrong. However, if you were to accidentally place a pencil in your pocket at work and then find it at home, is it stealing if you don’t take it back? What if a spouse is being very verbally abusive, can a person divorce them even if they are not unfaithful? Is it a sin to feel deep resentment against your parents if you are still act respectfully to them? What about taking the Lord’s name in vain? If someone sighed, “Oh Lord!” is that taking His name in vain? What about female pastors? Watching really funny but questionable television?

God knows the answer to these questions--there is an exact right answer.
We often think we have the answers because we intelligently, reasonably, (with the Holy Spirit) judge the matter. It’s hard to admit though, that often we are just assuming our opinion is from the Lord.
Christians do not have an infallible internal mechanism that always alert us when we get these nuanced moral dilemmas wrong. 

I am Not Wrong!
Even humbly admitting we are imperfect, somehow most Christians live with certainty that they know what is true. On major denominational beliefs, we will panic if someone we know to be smart and godly disagrees with our interpretation of truth. When confronted with different or opposing interpretations, often our natural defenses inform us that the person has not studied like we have, is perhaps less spiritually mature or not as close to Christ. They, possibly, do not have the Holy Spirit because of a cherished sin in their lives or they are not as sincere as we are. In really judgmental moments, we might even accuse the person of twisting truth for an evil goal.
But if all that protective armor is pierced and we find we might be incorrect, often Christians will retreat back into the idea that truth is relative or it doesn’t really matter or it is unknowable. Anything but see the frightening truth that we are wrong.

Okay, I’m Wrong. What’s the Big Deal?
For Christians, being doctrinally wrong isn’t like the embarrassment of getting a “D” on a spelling test or reading a map inaccurately. Being deceived isn’t an “oopsie” nor is it just prideful to want to get theology correct. To us, getting our faith and moral compass in the right direction is about arriving in heaven rather than hell.
Most Christians believe being theologically wrong is dangerous. And it is frightening when we realize that we cannot trust our spiritual instincts, our feelings or judgements.

So then, if we know we do not possess perfect theology and we are not able to precisely identify where we are wrong at any given minute. Why do we, as Christians, live as if we are correct in our theology?
God Knows We’re Wrong

None of this comes as a shock to God. He didn’t abandon us to a do-it-yourself morality. He didn’t implant perfect theology into us and we grow into it with prayer and study. And as many times as we write and say the contrary, we really do have a deep apprehension that there is a theology test to get into heaven. There are some, even if few, essentials of faith.
God created mankind with a sense of wonder. We innately grasp that we don’t know it all and we have to go outside ourselves to search for truth. We are to be students, not formulators or judges of truth. Within our hearts truth does not spring! It originates outside ourselves in Him. Sin has caused us to struggle and search for wisdom.
Humans will never educate themselves enough, sincerely pray enough, or even be filled with the Holy Spirit enough to be infallible in their beliefs. 
To Err is Human
Many Christians are thinking, “Hey I have the Bible and the Holy Spirit; that is all I need.” However, even then you know deep down inside that your beliefs develop over time and that at any given point your theology is imperfect.
To live with the stifling confinement that we know all truth or will discover all truth via our own hearts and minds (or even our personal Biblical interpretation) is not really faith. And it really is a burdensome responsibility that we were never meant to carry. God is truth and He sends it to us so we don’t have to figure it out.
Umbilicus Urbis

Imagine, for a moment if you will, a fountain flowing deep and wide. This fountain is truth and you may come freely and drink from her. It doesn’t matter your age, your IQ, your amount of faith, your education, your spiritual maturity... nothing. The only thing you need is obedience to Christ. What if truth were really that simple?

What if Christ gave us a place where we could go to get guaranteed, absolute truth? Wouldn’t that just be lovely? No more arguments, debates. We would be absolutely unified in our hearts, minds and faith. A Christian Utopia of peace and tranquility (on the theological battlefield anyway.) So... simple. We could then spend our time doing the will of God and loving our neighbor instead of always having to discover anew what truth is.

That would be so.... so... like God. This place of truth would have to have the Bible, of course. Then they would have to have the right interpretation of the Bible, they would have to be filled with the Holy Spirit and not be dependent upon one person’s opinion. Maybe they wouldn’t have to be perfect, only guard the perfect truth. Yes, that’s it--they would be perfect guardians of God’s truth. Man, that would be so exquisite. Imagine if it were a church, an ancient church, that goes back all the way to Christ and His Apostles....

Boy, some people who hold independence and rights as highest values wouldn’t like it at all. They wouldn’t like to submit to someone or something else for truth. It would certainly get attacked both without and within by dark, satanic forces.

Thanks to Kathryn Schulz, “On Being Wrong.” 

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