Friday, December 12, 2014

Are we really Truth-Seekers as we Claim

Are we really truth-haters, as the Bible claims? God has made known His truth in every marketplace (Proverbs 1:20-32) and in everything visible (Romans 1:18-32; Psalm 19) and invisible (Rom. 2:14-15). But we have loved the darkness, which conceals the truth:

·       This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

Are we really such rebels, such enemies of the truth (Romans 8:5-8; 5:10; Psalm 14, 53)? Do some have substantial reasons to reject the Gospel? Isn’t there room for legitimate disagreements with the biblical revelation? According to the late New Age proponent, Margo Adler, there are many. She writes:

·       “Polytheism is…characterized by plurality [of choice]…and is eternally in unresolvable conflict with social monotheism [Christianity, for example, which maintains, that there is only one truth] which in its worst form is fascism and in its less destructive forms is imperialism, capitalism, feudalism and monarchy.” (Drawing Down the Moon)

·       “Christianity in absolute contrast to ancient paganism… not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends… In antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own… guardian spirit… By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feeling of natural objects.” (Quoting Lynn White)

For Adler, spirituality is not a matter of truth but of experience, choice, and what works for you. Truth is coercive and imperialistic, while paganism allows freedom of choice. Adler affirmatively quotes a “priestess” in support:

  • “It seems like a contradiction to say that I have a certain subjective truth; I have experienced the Goddess, and this is my total reality. And yet I do not believe that I have the one, true, right, and only way. Many people cannot understand how I find Her a part of my reality and accept the fact that your reality might be something else. But for me, this is in no way a contradiction, because I am aware that my reality and my conclusions are a result of my unique genetic structure, my life experience and my subjective feelings…This recognition that everyone has different experiences is a fundamental keystone to Paganism; it’s the fundamental premise that whatever is going on out there is infinitely more complex than I can ever understand. And that makes me feel very good.”
Why does incomprehensibility make the priestess “feel very good?” Truth is restrictive. If you cannot know it, you cannot be constrained by its claims. For Adler and the priestess, “my [subjective and personal] reality” trumps any other consideration. A common reality is simply not a consideration. Why not? It’s incomprehensible – “infinitely more complex than I can ever understand.”

If this is true, we are free to choose any religion or lifestyle we desire. But is reality really incomprehensible, and does this let them off the hook? How does this look in real life? A jury finds you guilty and they justify their verdict by saying:

  • Well, we found the evidence incomprehensible, but we just didn’t have a good feeling about you, and we had a better feeling about your accuser.

Would you or Adler accept such a verdict? Of course not! If the justice system operated this way, it would be more expedient to merely allow the police to arrest and punish according to their own will and feelings. However, no society can progress, find stability, and broad-based acceptance based upon feelings and will. Instead, society can only be regarded as legitimate if all are held to the same knowable moral standards.

And the jealous husband who always thinks his wife is having an affair? Should his feelings be the chief arbiter of truth? Of course not!

And revenge? It can feel so sweet! Why not take revenge if moral reality is just incomprehensible? In fact, any form of acting out is permissible if there are no knowable objective moral/spiritual truths.

Increasingly, this is becoming the “wisdom” of this age. We are advised to shut down our minds and just experience. Experiences are simply more satisfying than truth. Truth feels coercive. It places demands and moral requirements on us. Are we guilty for closing our minds to the demands of truth? Yes!

Anthropologist Karen McCarthy Brown decided that if she was going to understand voodoo, she would just have to jump in and experience it, leaving beyond her mind, her critical tools. She did just this and came to some bizarre conclusions:   

  • “Although the Iwa [spirits] who possess Alourdes [the voodoo priestess] are often called sen-yo (saints), they are not saintly types in the traditional Christian sense. For example, in stories about the soldier spirit Ogou/Saint James, he not only liberates his people but also betrays them. Ezili Danto/Mater Salvatoris, the mother, cradles and cares for her children but also sometimes lashes out at them in rage. The Voodoo spirits are not models of the well-lived life; rather, they mirror the full range of possibilities inherent in the particular slice of life over which they preside. Failure to understand this has led observers to portray the Voodoo spirits as demonic or even to conclude that Voodoo is a religion without morality—a serious misconception.” (Mama Lola; A Voodo0 Priestess in Brooklyn, 6)
Why shouldn’t spirts that “betray” and “lash out… in rage” at children be considered evil? She gives no explanation for her unreasonable conclusion. Is Brown culpable for her favorable assessment of the voodoo spirits? Were the statesmen who had fawned approvingly over Hitler guilty for giving him a clean bill-of-health? Of course!

We are responsible for what we know and also what we refuse to know. God holds us responsible for both:

  • The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
From this perspective, the priestesses are responsible, even for the truths that they had rejected. The plant manager is responsible for the deadly toxins in the workplace. The cigarette manufacturer is responsible for the effects of his cigarettes. We are also responsible for the moral truths that God has written on our hearts.

I too am “without excuse.” I thought I had been seeking God, but I wasn’t. He had to conform to my specifications. I didn’t even begin to ask about Him – who He is. Truth wasn’t even a consideration. I wanted God my way, and nothing else mattered to me.

If I had been willing to think, I might have realized that any relationship depends upon loving the other for who they truly are and not what we want them to be! However, when we reject truth, our world narrows to our own thoughts and feelings. When truth is rejected, so too is real love and relationship.

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