“Our first and great duty then is to bring to our studies and to our inquiries after knowledge a mind covetous of truth, that seeks after nothing else, and after that impartially, and embraces it.”
That quote from the great philosopher and educator John Locke (1632-1704) is a standard that anyone in any field should employ. Certainly, it should find its great application in a belief system that has a leader that claims to be the “truth,” (John 14:6). The word “truth” used in that passage refers to an unveiled reality lying at the basis of an appearance. It is the veritable essence of matter.
There are, according to Locke, five primary things that hinder people from seeing what is real; what is the truth. People often become swamped in a maze of distracting verbiage or denominational creeds, such as is seen in endless debate over inconsequential matters. The search for the truth is often sidetracked by an over interest in the opinions of others, which amounts to knowing the way others have been misled.
Locke also said that people often become interested in purity of language to the exclusion of meaningful prose.
Another hindering factor to the pursuit of truth can be an overemphasis on history. All too often the result is an ignorant person with a good memory.
Finally, nice questions and remote useless speculations have diverted the course of many seekers of the truth. It is inevitable that in seeking the truth one will come into contact with that which is not true, though some may say that such an absolute should itself be brought into question.
Still, when that which is encountered does not seem to make sense or harmonize with what we know of the truth, the warning flags should go up. False ideas are not to be left unchecked. If the truth is to be sought without reservation, false ideas have to be analyzed, evaluated and refuted.
William James (1842-1910) once said, “It is astonishing to see how many philosophical disputes collapse into insignificance the moment you subject them to this simple test of tracing a concrete consequence.”
When something does not have practical application, it is almost certainly not true. The follower of Christ should be the strongest advocate of an intellectual approach to seeking the truth.
It is extremely easy to get someone to react emotionally. Just a couple of words or phrases will elicit a strong emotional response from most people. However, to get people to really think is among the hardest of tasks. Some might reasonably ask where faith comes in if those that seek the truth think deeply about the effort.
Faith is one of the most intellectually challenging words found in the Bible. It means to be mentally persuaded about something. After having examined the proposition, to be in such agreement that it changes the one addressing life, and then to be so convinced that the path to the truth has been found that one’s well thought out actions are then an evidence themselves.
Those pursuing the truth will be able to give a considered, logical explanation of why they believe what they do (I Peter 3:15). The word “reason” is used in the cited passage. The essence of its definition refers to something that is intelligently expressed.
Christ used the same word to express his methodology in sharing the truth with others (John 5:24). He intimated that when the truth is expressed intelligently, people find meaning and direction for their lives. It was the emotionally distraught people that sought to silence what he said because it threatened their positions, which were based on presumption and unrealistic doctrinal creeds.
The sincere pursuit of truth is a worthy endeavor. The apologist Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) was convinced that if people followed a logical, step-by-step process, they would be led to the truth every time. Thinking deeply is something that one should be passionate about. It is the only way to properly seek the truth and in finding the truth, embrace it.
Dr. M. Hildon Guy is the President of the University of Christian Studies & Seminary in Eagle River, Alaska. (www.universityofcss.org)