Clarity, Uncertainty, and the Truth

The Truth Is Out There

I have always believed this statement, long before the X-Files put it into our shared cultural lexicon. There is Truth out there. Philosophers debate whether it is empirical, constructed, relative, pragmatic, or a hundred combinations and variations of any or all of those.

The biggest problem problem with truth is that we can’t proclaim something the Truth because we feel it is, or because we think something else implies it, or just because we want to. We have to have reasoning and proof to back it up.

Faith comes into the picture when we take the plunge to throw our lot in with the reasoning and proof that we believe points to the Truth. But at the end of the day, it is only by Faith that we can believe anything to be true. Even if you believe in Science, you have to have faith that what you see in the results of your experiment is true and not just some colossal coincidence or even a practical joke by some advanced alien race.

But even though there is always an aspect of faith that goes along with any belief in truth, at the end of the day, if you call something “true” it had better not be false.

Let’s say you work at a certain store that sells self-assembled furniture packages. One day you see your manager putting together a shelving unit for display. He makes it look easy – putting it together in no time without even looking at the directions.

Later that day, a couple comes in to the store and is interested in buying the shelving unit. They are concerned that it looks complex and they wonder if they will be able to handle the installation. You assure them that the instructions are clear and that they can easily handle  it themselves, because if your manager can handle it, anyone can.

When they get home, however, they run into instructions like this:


No real directions and all the words are in a foreign language. And on top if that, there are several steps where they basically have to choose what they want to do out of several options. There is no clear path on how to make the shelves even if they could read them.

The problem is that you did not know that the manager can read the language in the instructions. You also did not know that the manager just winged it through the different options and basically created his own version of the shelves based on personal preferences. You just told a lie to the people that asked because you did not know or care to recognize the true complexities of the product. You said it was clear, but that is actually a lie.

You see, the Bible is not a clear set of instructions originally written in English. It is a set of ancient writings in various ancient languages that don’t always translate into English that well (and aren’t always that clear even in the original languages). Many translators have come along and decided to translate certain passages into English in a  way that makes them seem easy and clear, but what you don’t realize is that they may have just picked their translation because it was easiest… or maybe even because it fits their personal feelings on the subject.

This is why understanding the latest research on the translation of Biblical words is so vital and important. You may be believing something that is a lie and not know it. But I hear Christians all the time saying “I will never listen to all these crazy arguments about how words are supposed to be translated. We already know most of what we need to know.”

What this basically means is: “I may be believing a complete lie based on a bad translation, but I don’t care. I like what I believe and I’m going to stick with it no matter what.”

So many of the issues that we see churches fighting over seem to revolve around parts of the Bible that are – to be completely honest – very unclear in the original text. The role of women, the definition of marriage, the age of the earth, and the role of politics are all very vague concepts as written in the Bible. Anyone that says these are “clear” is believing a lie. An honest way of explaining our beliefs on some of these issues would be more like this: “No one is totally sure exactly what the Bible is saying on these issues, but what makes the most sense to me as being the possible truth is ____. But if you disagree, I see where your side could be just as possibly valid, and I respect your right to have a differing conclusion on these issues.”

But I am pretty sure hell will freeze over before we see that become the main way to disagree on Facebook.

metamodern-faith-avatarI get that many people are uncomfortable with the ambiguity that comes with knowing the truth about translation difficulties. But to remain in the dark about these issues is to run the risk of believing a lie about something.

Is that really a risk any of us should take?

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