Relationships and Truth: a Response.

Я. Barker writes in http://frozenclocks.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/truth-and-personal-relationships/ that men and women approach the search for truth differently, and that women are reluctant to leave their communities even when they know truth is elsewhere and that community is valued over truth, relationships over truth, to which I respond:

You seem to mock the status of relationship in life, but life is relationship.  It begins through the relationship of father & mother, then the primary is mother-child.  If a baby does not have relationship with others, the babe does not thrive and may even die.  Relationship is how we learn when we are young, only beginning to learn on our own.  Love and community are a kind of truth, and the lack of them reveals where truth is not practiced, in the life of the family, in the life of the church.  It should be no surprise then that the relationships are difficult to break from, since they operate in one kind of truth.

Growing up in a family that was completely dis-functional and lacking the element of love, I will tell you that the pursuit of truth on my father’s part is a pathetic thing, as far as I’m concerned.  For truth must affect how we live or it is worthless.  If our faith, our trust and our belief does not change us, can it be truth at all?  Yet truth itself does not change. Gravity does not cease to function because I believe or do not.  The earth’s shape does not change because I believe it is round or flat, yet my understanding of the truth ought to change how I live.  Believing the earth to be round, the explorer’s were then free to sail away and try to find another route to India.  The earth was no less round when they did not believe it to be so, and if, believing it to be round but failing to act upon it, never explored, human history would be very different.

The primary relationship we must have is with God Almighty, the Eternal, God his Son, Jesus Christ and God the Spirit, our comforter, for God is both Love and Truth.  When we have that relationship settled, when we begin to follow after that relationship, when we are after worshipping in Spirit and in Truth, it becomes easier to leave one’s community to follow truth.

I would suggest that should a church body have no warmth, and no community, no loving relationships and does not welcome the stranger, that though they have every item of doctrine correctly whittled into their doorpost, though they speak it aloud morning, noon and night, that the truth is not in them.  Truth must be alive.  It is not a dead, academic thing.  I will run screaming from a church with no love, no warmth and no community.

Truth is both an objective thing and an active thing.  Truth changes that which it touches or it has not touched there at all, or so it seems to me.  If a body of believers has truth and no love, they must be lacking in The Truth, The Life, The Way.  If they lack mercy, though they preach the tenants of mercy day after day, it is a dead thing in them and no truth at all.

If the relationships are fouled, can truth be realized?  Can it be understood?  Acted upon?  And if certain truths are best seen in relationships and community, is it a surprise then that community is difficult to give up?

I have accepted that should I come to accept the claims of orthodoxy, that my course of action will be reluctantly clear, for I believe truth is important, and I will accept reluctantly the incense, the icons, the church that for some reason found its source of all art and music in Byzantium and has remained in stasis ever after.  I do not know if I could ever accept a church anywhere at any time that did not have love and community and relationship as part of the fabric of it’s being.  This may not be all truth, but it is a portion of it.

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2 thoughts on “Relationships and Truth: a Response.

  1. Thanks for your very thoughtful input. I’m happy that we can engage this question together.

    I’m very sympathetic to the view that “truth must affect how we live or it is worthless” and that “my understanding of the truth ought to change how I live.” I am Christian. I believe that Christ has revealed what everything is about: Him. He tells us what is true about the life, existence, reality. He Himself reveals the truth about it all, namely that it is all about Him, His cosmic saving act of fallen creation.If this truth does not change us toward the better, then that is the point? Your point is well taken.

    However, truth is not the only thing that can change us. Falsity can change us too. Indeed, this is the problem with the ways of the world, which lead us astray. Take an example: “If it feels good, do it.” College students in my university (and elsewhere) are desperate for relationships. The kind of partying they engage in, which expresses the worldly sentiment above, is capable of changing us…just not necessarily for the better. Take another example: “The point of life is to be happy.” That’s not true. The point of life, rather, is to seek union with God. Yet, people are constantly setting “happiness” as their ultimate life’s goal. They are misguided. As a result, they fall into idolatry or self-delusion, and not having sought God, they risk condemnation. I can multiply examples. One more: “There is no God” changes people. It certainly changed the hearts of dictators, enough so to lead people like Stalin to torture and massacre scores of Christians.

    Surprisingly, false beliefs may be capable of changing us for the good. Suppose the doctor said that, tragically, due to his disease, your beloved will die in about two months. This belief radically changes you. You become more sensitive, more loving, more caring, etc. You may even learn to appreciate the irreducible goodness to life in deeper ways you could not have, thereby affecting your relationship to others around you. However, it may turn out that, as it happens sometimes, your beloved was able to live *a lot* longer than that, many extra years. Your false belief changed you for the better.

    My point is that change is not a litmus test for truth. The world offers relationships galore. People enter into relationships all the time, sometimes in ways consistent with truth — the revelation of life and existence according to the Christian faith — and sometimes in a way inconsistent with truth. Mormons and Scientologists, Free Masons and liberal (atheistic) Episcopalians — all of these have deep and fulfilling communities; meaningful and loving relationships can be found in these groups. Yes, even the early Christians that followed the heretical teachings of Arian — families and friends — had all the warmth and fuzziness anybody would want. The one thing, however, that mislead them was this: they distorted the authentic revelation of God to man. If you distort truth, you obfuscate the path to salvation and thus lead people spiritually astray.

    There is nothing wrong with relationships or communities. They are a result of our human nature made in the image of God. The Trinity exists in the mutual love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Naturally, we gravitate to community. But with many good things, sin has a way of making a perversion out of them. Jesus Christ Himself sternly and explicitly warned about the potential idolatry of family, the arguably closest and most intimate unit of relationships; “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37; Lk. 14:25-26).

    In our day and age, we simply confuse and conflate the value of personal relationships with truth. Truth, as you intimate, is objective. But some people seems to identify whatever is satisfying their subjective need for acceptance and belonging with objective truth. This is dangerous. For all we know, the Heaven’s Gate cult offered a sense of group inclusion. This is an extreme case, but it illustrates an important point: We have to be much more vigilant of what we consider truth. For all we know, we may simply be convinced of the truth of what our community says merely because they have effectively appealed to our innate nature, by extended their arms to us, and so motivating us to give them the benefit of the doubt in whatever they believe.

    I fear that certain people are far more interested in meeting their “earthly cares” by entering into some relationship or community than exercising vigilance about objective truth. My original post aimed to comment briefly on what I think has happened in our day and age, that (1) people are willing to remain in their communities at the expense of truth, and that (2) they would even claim that the beliefs of their community are true mostly because of the sense of belonging, loyalty, and familiarity they have with it. This is an example of what social psychologists refer to as ‘in-group’ dynamics. Our culture and society has become to utterly individualistic and fragmented that, in our desire for meaningful relationships, we practically equate such relationships with “truth.” This I think is a temptations that must be resisted. And systematically so. Conflating truth with personal relationships only exacerbates the problem.

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