Thursday, April 13, 2006

Truth: To Be Right

When I was about seven years old, I got into an argument (one of many) with my younger brother about what day of the week it was. I was older and smarter, I thought, and he should know that. I argued and insisted, until I turned red and sweaty, that it was Wednesday. He eventually fetched the ultimate authority, our mother, who affirmed that it was, indeed, Tuesday. I cried and was mad and humiliated.

Happily, I grew out of that tendency to be so sure of myself. Some adults are always right. Or at least they think they are. And they are pretty sure of it. The fact of being right can become sort of an obsession, so that the obsessed one can’t face the idea of even the vague possibility of being wrong. Why are we so driven to be right?

I believe the inner need to be right was hard-wired in us by God when he first scooped up a handful of dirt to make a man. This drive makes us want and need to find truth. Because we are made that way, we recognize his truth when he reveals it to us—we know that it is truth.

God also pre-programmed us to need love. It’s deeply connected to our need to find truth, this desperate hunger to love and be loved, to see our lives through the beauty of love. We can’t live without love and function at all.

We seek the beauty of truth and love. God is all loveliness and love and truth, and he made us seekers so that we would yearn for him. He is love, in his nature and in his word; his love is truth; in truth is great beauty. John Keats said in “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” (Remember, most English teachers are poetry nuts.) He was right, but he didn’t take that thought far enough. It’s an unending circle—love, beauty, truth.

Truth is revealed to us by the Spirit of God, when we seek to be taught by him. When his Spirit lives in us, we have a sense of discernment so that we can recognize truth when he reveals it. But if his Spirit is not in us, we don’t see it: it goes right over our heads, and we settle for untruth and half-truth. And we often bind our lives to ideas that are not truth. We may even get to point where we would argue that it is Wednesday, when in fact, it is Tuesday.

The Bible says in First Corinthians 2:12-14,

We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

. . . what God has freely given us—love, grace, acceptance, forgiveness—that’s the beautiful truth.

Keats, John. “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. 2. Ed. M. H.
Abrams, et al. New York: Norton, 2000. 851-53.

1 comment:

ts said...

that's a very profound idea ... that humans are hard-wired to seek the truth!

i just watched the passion again last night, it being good friday and all. your post reminds me of the part where pontius pilate asks, "que es veritas?" he asks his wife to tell him what she believes, but she answers that if he cannot discern the truth himself, no one can tell him. it all sounds kind of gnostic, but as you've pointed out in your post, there is a real need to have the truth revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

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