By Kevin Mannoia
Lately I’ve been taken with the vast difference in outlook that results from how we view truth. Now, before you dismiss these thoughts as so ethereal as to be of no use, please hang in there for a moment.
In the 20th century evangelical mind, truth and Christian faith seemed to be largely a set of propositions and precepts that could be studied, learned, and adopted intellectually. Of course there was a commensurate effect in the emotions and the heart of a person that caused them to be “saved.” But subliminally folks sort of assumed that if you were a Christian you “believed” these certain precepts – or rather that if you believed these precepts, then you were a Christian. Later in the century that presumption came to be associated with certain social positions. If you were a Christian you “believed” a certain way about a certain issue. Truth became a proposition that needed to be accepted.
But Jesus said “I am the way, the truth….” While there are things about Jesus that are propositional, He is inherently a person, not a proposition. His claim that our pathway to God is through Him has vast implications on our quest for holiness.
You see, when someone lays out a proposition for you to know, you engage it primarily with your mind in an analytical, rational fashion and even a critical eye. But when a person stands before you to be known, you engage in a mostly relational fashion. Instead of analyzing that person, you open yourself to them; you long to spend time with them; you commune with them; all to the end that you know them. I suspect that you would feel pretty defensive if someone sought to know you primarily by analyzing, scrutinizing, or examining you in a purely rational way.
Further, for the person who understands the truth of their faith as mostly propositional, any new learning becomes a challenge because now they have to adjust their rational conclusions to accommodate a change. For the person who understands the truth as a person, new learning and scholarship becomes discovery.
I guess that’s why some folks who are happy to have a nice and tidy system of theology and beliefs get really angry if someone comes along with a new idea that challenges their ordered thinking. I guess that’s also why some other folks love to get to know people who think differently about God. When there is evidence of Christ-likeness in them, what a joy it is to know them as people and discover their passion and love for God. It makes me more fully human. It makes me more like Christ.
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