Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Wavering truth cements suspicion. . .

The meme seems to be the contemporary version of the editorial cartoon and there is no shortage of them.  Some of them are pithy and some are not.  I came across one intent upon revisiting what we were told during the pandemic that was supposed to be truth and science and then ended up to be something less.  You have heard it all before, I am sure.

  • We were told the virus was from a lab leak and then not and now it appears it was.
  • We were told that the vaccine would prevent us from getting the virus and it has not.
  • We were told that masks would prevent the spread and then it was said they did not.
  • We were told that lockdowns would stop the spread and they did not.

I could continue to go down the list but this is not about the list.  What it is about is this.  When you insist that something is true and it is not, people become suspicious, even callous toward truth in general.  The pandemic added to the deep suspicion of people about the wisdom, the integrity, and the trust you can have in government, leaders, and even medicine and science.  When truth wavers, the end result is that the idea and the need for truth itself becomes suspect.  It does not matter what side you were or are on with respect to COVID and the measures we were told would protect us, we have all learned to be wary of those who seemed so confident and certain then but whose views have been repudiated in hindsight.

Now turn your attention to the Church.  We offer truth to the world but we suffer from the same wavering truth that has afflicted the pandemic.  At some point in time, some scholars or religious leaders began to say that it did not matter if things in the Bible were real or myth, whether they were historical or invented, whether they were factual or symbolic.  Scripture was not based upon nor did it convey truth in that sense.  And what happened?  People began to be suspicious about every Christian truth and put Scripture under a microscope of suspicion that scrutinized its words more than any other book.

We offer the truth of an intelligent design to a world marvelously complex and to bodies fearfully and wonderfully made.  At some point in time, some scholars or religious leaders began to say that it was all an accident of fate, a mystery of a moment and a mutation that become something new, and that we were nothing but accidents.  And what happened?  We learned to see life as disposable and our lives as only the span of our days and the goal and purpose of life to fill up those days with what made us feel good.  The once noble characterization of life as a gift and blessing from God for noble purpose gave way to a something rather cheap and easy that bore no semblance to what God intended.

We offer a pattern of life and morality to the world but we have wavered about what is right or wrong, true or false.  At some point in time, our scholars or religious leaders not only permitted but encouraged us to believe that birth control was a duty, that sex was not really connected to marriage, that marriage was not really about children, and that it was a temporary and disposable relationship.  So we forgot what Scripture said and we stopped striving to live out what it held up.  In the end, we gave up and joined the throng of those who changed the definition of male and female, the definition of marriage, the purpose of marriage, and the shape of family.  And what happened?  People no longer looked to Scripture or the clear Christian witness of the ages for guidance or for definition and simply did what was right in their own eyes.

We gather in the presence of the Holy One in order to receive His gifts and this pattern and shape of worship exists over thousands of years.  At some point in time, our scholars or religious leaders told us that there could be room for self-expression, that the liturgy was ours as much as it was God's, and that the most important values were what we found meaningful or relevant or expressive.  And what happened?  Worship is not simply a free for all but almost an unnecessary add on to spiritual lives defined by us as individuals and informed by whatever fits our whims.

The Church needs to be careful.  Every time we suggest that the truth we knew is not the truth we know now, we create a disconnect in which the whole idea of any truth is assaulted.  When we undermined the authority of Scripture, creed, and confession, we lost credibility and surrendered our integrity to the altar of expediency.  You cannot tell people one thing in God's name for generations and then change it up without Biblical warrant without assaulting the very nature of truth itself.  It is one thing to admit that we were wrong but when we say God was wrong, we leave people with nothing that endures and with only the moment on which to hold.  A wavering voice for truth is more dangerous that a strident voice which denies it.

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