Faces on Faith: What is truth?
In our culture we value tolerance and we value truth and sometimes those values come into conflict. Several years ago a professor did a little experiment. He asked a question of his students that had a definitive right answer. He then deceptively reported to the class that 97 out of 100 had answered a certain way, which happened to be absolutely the wrong answer.
Three students then were faced with the dilemma of believing they had answered correctly, but feeling the pressure that 97 percent could not be wrong and they certainly did not want to be argumentative in the class. Even though totally wrong in their answer, two of the three changed their answer to go along with what the professor had reported. Tolerance trumped truth.
In many ways the issue of tolerance and truth becomes even more complicated when it comes to matters of faith. While much of our faith is based on absolute facts, a good deal of our truth finds itself grounded in experience and belief. Regardless of the origin of our truth, it still is truth to us, and when that truth collides with what another considers to be truth, passions can become strong.
Jesus was one of the most tolerant, loving, gracious persons to every walk this planet, but he said to the woman at the well, “You worship what you do not know.” (John 4:22). He went on to tell her that God was looking for worshippers who worshipped in Spirit and in truth.
From his own lips He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6). He said that if a person abided in his word, they would know the truth and the truth would set them free. (John 8:32). Jesus lived and believed truths He considered worth dying for.
The founding fathers of this nation believed in truth.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Certain truths have served as guiding stars for America.
Maybe what we’ve done is made the pursuit of tolerance king, when a quest for truth might be the nobler course. Even with passions running high, can’t we have meaningful conversations that perhaps move us all closer to the real truth of a matter? Is agreeing to disagree really the best outcome we can achieve? Those two students who changed their right and truthful answer to the wrong answer for the sake of peace lost something in the exchange.
In our current politically energized culture, with passions regarding the economy, morality, faith and justice running high, I’d rather we have heated conversations then no conversations at all. With respect and integrity, it seems far better for us all to speak the truth in love, rather than to simply imply that everyone is right and all truth is relative: Not tolerance over truth, but truth with tolerance.
-Dr. Daryl Donovan, Senior Pastor Sanibel Community Church