The pursuit of truth
If formal education and vast experience should teach us anything, it should be that we really don’t know or understand very much. In a world that is desperate for answers but seems unclear on how to find them, it may be that the closest we can come to any type of common ground with anyone else is in how enthusiastically we pursue the truth.
The great Christian apologist Francis A. Schaeffer once said that the key to coming to any conclusion about anything is to follow logical steps. Schaeffer said that if someone was to take logical steps in their pursuit of the truth, they would find that for which they had been searching. The problem, said Schaeffer, was that most people won’t follow as far logically as they should; they deviate somewhere along the process, usually because they have encountered a fact that has made them uncomfortable or has challenged what they supposed to be true.
The pursuit of the truth clarifies, refutes or refines what could be called denominational creeds. Such creeds have done almost nothing to bring about unity or consensus on important points or questions. The result, especially regarding the Bible, has been a backward formula for a pursuit of the truth. It is backward because the interpretation is wide, while the application of sound principles for better daily living is narrow.
It should be narrow interpretation, wide application. When those moments of periodic and often rare enlightenment do occur they must be taken beyond the study, sanctuary or classroom. Personal experience is the last step in the learning process. Without application of what has been learned the truth will only remain a theory.
Essayist G.K. Chesterton said that solving the mysteries of life is not so much self-surrender or even self-discovery, as it is self-forgetfulness. That can be quite challenging in a world that places such a high emphasis on self-esteem as an end to itself, when the real issue may be setting personal issues aside long enough to learn about self-control. It is that moment that helps us understand that the greatest inhibiting factor in our search for the truth may be asking too much and giving too little.
The Old Testament book of Zechariah (chapter 8) offers a five-fold viewpoint of what it means to discover the truth and then be able to apply it in day-to-day circumstances. The first is how we live from day to day and how that best positions us for the fullest discovery of the truth (what works).
The second is a type of intersection between the truth and what is right. Our pursuit of the truth will not leave us out of position in our quest for clarity.
Thirdly, the pursuit of the truth is going to bring us into contact with the best company; people that want to know how to live a more effective life of purpose and direction.
Fourth, pursuing the truth will teach volumes about how to treat other people. We must discipline ourselves to take people where they are and to do so with understanding. We will quickly come to realize that in one way or another, everyone we meet will have something to contribute to our pursuit of the truth.
Finally, Zechariah tells us that we should “love the truth,” (Zech. 8:19).
Galileo said, “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” That might be adapted to say that the point is to want to discover them, even if they will then require radical change in our lives. If one really loves the truth the necessary adjustments to faulty ideas and concepts will be made.
The greatest blessings always come the way of those that pursue, find and apply the truth without reservation. Any religious movement or creed, if it is serious about helping its proponents find their place in the world, will advocate the truth as being logical and sensible and fully applicable by those that are also logical and sensible.
Dr. M. Hildon Guy is President of the University of Christian Studies and Seminary in Eagle River, Alaska. (www.universityofcss.org)