Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. “- John 8:31-36
Jesus responded… “I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. – John 18:37-38
Yesterday evening over dinner with friends the conversation turned to the subject of truth. We came at it from several angles, but our discussion always seemed to lead to the same place.
One illustration featured “Bob,” a member of our friends’ extended family (and I think most of us have a “Bob” somewhere in our family). Bob is seemingly unable to participate in a conversation without forcing an argument, fueled by his consummate need to be right. He sends food back at restaurants, bullies people into expressing opinions so he can point out how wrong they are, and routinely disputes every observation, fact, and point of view. His tragic obsession with being right trumps listening, learning, understanding, and – ultimately – relationships. Every proven fact he nails down seems to move him further away from truth.
JOURNALISM: When I was a columnist for The Tampa Tribune, I also wrote articles featuring interesting people. I interviewed over 300 preachers, and published another 500-plus stories introducing a wide range of people to the community. I’d sit down with my notes and a digital tape-recorder, and we’d talk. I typically had ten key questions, but the conversations lasted anywhere from 45-minutes to a couple of hours.
Then I’d have 750 words to represent a life.
One 80-year-old had led such a remarkable life we talked for three solid hours. More than 85% or the recording was his voice, and every sentence sounded to me like a “keeper.” When I wrote my article I summarized, I skipped, I paraphrased, and even the “direct quotes” I used were mostly consolidations. Of my 750 words, almost 700 were arranged in sentences you would never find if you listened to the 180-minutes of recording.
But my story was true.
“Derek, you nailed it!” The man told me when the story came out in the paper. “That’s my life exactly! You captured who I am better than I could have told you. I don’t think you left anything out.”
“Factually,” and from the point of view of the “literalist,” my article was not in any way an accurate rendering of the interview. However, what I wrote was a hundred times more “true” than a transcript of the entire three-hour recording.
TRUTH TRUMPS FACT: I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Truth is a lot bigger, a lot deeper, and more far-reaching than mere facts. Fact is, exclusively literalist readings of books such as the Bible often miss truth by a mile, and one of the fundamental problems with Fundamentalism, and the doctrine of inerrancy, is myopia, and a chronic inability (or unwillingness) to see the wood for the trees.
My friend Grady pointed to the New Testament account of “The Good Samaritan.” Did the story actually happen, as told by Jesus? Likely not. Or “The Prodigal Son;” had things played out exactly the way Jesus relayed them? Of course not – they were parables. Yet both passages of scripture are one-hundred percent true.
When Jesus talks about being set free from slavery (John 8:31-36), I believe the great teacher’s words can certainly apply to the strictures of literalism and fundamentalism. Truth sets us free, and Jesus IS the truth; “I am the way, the truth, and the life” – John 14:6.
There’s a lot more to say about this, but we’re out of space for this morning. But something is happening at my house this week that I believe will help. I’ll share more anon.
By the way, I just hit the “edit” button for this blog, and it said “No errors were found in this post.” 🙂