Cling Lightly to Truth and Tightly to Jesus

Taylor Culver is a recent graduate of Northwestern College, interning with us this summer in Chicago.

I was born and raised in Sioux City, IA and recently graduated from college with a degree in Psychology. It is here that my journey to reconciling faith and sexuality began. As a Psychology major at a Christian college, there were many questions about faith and science that needed to be answered before full reconciliation of the two fields could take place. In these courses I began to question the likelihood of the creation account actually taking place in 6 days, and then the historicity of Adam and Eve, and so on and so forth. My literalist view of Christianity was crumbling; I was terrified, but intrigued none the less.

As I began reconciling science with religion, I also began examining other beliefs I had about the world. One evening I attended a discussion on Homosexuality and Christianity. This was the first time I heard that reconciliation between Christian identity and sexual identity was possible. So many things about my world view were being challenged and I loved it. For so long I was afraid to touch things and to think about things that were seen as possible “slippery slopes” in the Christian world. But attending college and studying abroad in Romania have helped me to experience and encounter concepts, ideas and people that I had kept at a distance before.

I am grateful for the ways in which these experiences have helped me to develop insights into my faith journey and step into greater levels of authenticity. In seeking to be open minded and allowing myself to discover and befriend God through individuals on the margins, I have begun to realize that a type of righteousness can be cultivated through these friendships. I began to see the dignity and the equality of all human beings by listening to their stories, and recognizing that mine was not the only one that was valid or correct. In these relationships, along with my academic experiences, I began to lose my firm grasp on “absolute truth.” I began to live into the quote, “Cling lightly to truth and tightly to Jesus.”

This phrase was first introduced to me by a Professor at Northwestern College. My first thoughts were scattered and irresolute. Are truth and Jesus not synonymous? As I discussed this quote with some of my dear friends, we concluded that truth in this context is merely our limited understanding of the world through our own lens of our own experiences and environment. The truth we know is not the truth everyone clings to. (I know…. How postmodern right?)

Despite the discussion concerning whether this era of relativity is helpful or harmful to religious beliefs and society, by defining truth in this way we are able to “validate and dignify and legitimatize every person’s story, journey, perspective, and experience because everyone’s story is, in fact, legitimate (Andrew Marin).” If we begin our discovery of truth about the world, by operating off of this premise (that truth, to some extent, is based on each persons perspective), then I believe it extends grace to those who disagree with us and fosters humility within ourselves to listen and learn from the so called “other.”

The spring semester’s chapel theme at Northwestern College (Iowa) was righteousness. The definition that I acquired from the many speakers was that righteousness is not something that we should always strive for individually, but more often we should strive for it collaboratively. We are the body of Christ and therefore, we should be committed to bringing about the Kingdom of God to earth; the Kingdom full of peace, love, grace and commitment to other’s lives. Righteousness comes when two opposing sides meet, when privileged and marginalized, rich and poor, gay and straight, black and white, work together and become friends, mutually helping and encouraging the other. When we are able to desire friendship with a person solely based on the other person’s identity as a human being, that is when righteousness finally begins to exist.

Chris Heuertz in his book, Friendships at the Margins describes righteousness in this way:

Often when we think of righteousness, we associate it with an individual’s behavior and his or her avoidance of worldly temptations. Instead, being righteous is by definition being concerned with what is “right.” It is also standing to name and combat the power dynamics that keep things from being right. We need to establish relationships that affirm each person’s dignity and identity and when we come into those relationships, confident that God is already at work in the other person, there is no moral obligation to remind them of their sin or save them for the cause of Christ.

So perhaps we could consider letting go of the tight grip we have around our “absolute truth”. Perhaps we could transfer the passion and commitment we have towards knowing and clinging to absolute truth, to following an example Jesus laid before us. He almost always rejects answering yes or no questions, and instead answers with a parable, a slightly ambiguous answer or even another question. Maybe Jesus is suggesting that having black and white answers is not the most important thing about being a Christian, a believer, a follower.

Jesus commits to knowing and listening to the stories of those whom “religious people” would not touch. If all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, then is it not in humanity where we should look intently to find God? Maybe truth lies in the compilation of all human life and experience. I’m not suggesting that the Bible isn’t truth. After all, the Bible is a compilation of written human experiences of God, and human beings are still experiencing God. Maybe the truth is continuing to be presented to us through the knowledge of the human experience, especially through the lives of those who have for so long been silenced and our willingness to listen to them.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • http://acrimsonletter.blogspot.com/ Jim Searing

    Great first post Taylor! Looking forward to more from you this summer!

    • Taylor Culver

      Thanks Jim! It’s great to hear from you! look forward to seeing you this weekend!

  • Everett Miller

    Thank you for this post, Taylor. The perspective you presented is a perspective that I resisted for years. Finally, though, I just could not continue to discount the very real and raw experiences of other people’s lives. There are many who feel it is heretical to bring the lens of experience to the Scriptures instead of bringing only the lens of the Scriptures to experiences and then deeming those experiences as acceptable or unacceptable. I used to believe that way. But now, as I have really gotten to know people, especially gay and lesbian people, and even more specifically Christians who are also gay or lesbian, my worldview has been flipped over. Even though many Christians reject this belief and continually accuse me of capitulating to a depraved culture , I agree with you that “maybe the truth is continuing to be presented to us through the knowledge of the human experience, especially through the lives of those who have for so long been silenced and our willingness to listen to them.” Thank you again for the post and tell my old friend Andrew Marin hello for me. I plan to join you in clinging lightly to “truth” and tightly to Jesus.

    • Taylor Culver

      Everett,

      Thank you so much for your response. I appreciate your openness about where you have been and where you are now. I agree with you in that we cannot look at any text, let alone the Biblical text in an objective way. Our experiences and the people we meet will always and inevitably affect the way we interpret the world around us. For so long the world has been run by the privileged and now that the marginalized are beginning to have a greater voice, it will be interesting to see what comes of that. :) Again thanks for your comments. I will let Andrew know you said hello!

      • Annonymous

        I agree with James. The Bible was the foundation of our country. This country started out wonderful. Today our country and world for that matter are full of confusion. I would dare say that we have moved so far from ‘concrete’ Biblical truths that are clearly stated in the Bible, that we have gone in a way that God see’s as iniquity at it’s worst. The devil has very deceiving ways that can catch us off guard and try to twist and manipulate the truth that the Bible holds. The Bible is a book of truth that should never be interpreted other than by a concordance, and should be treated as old fashioned as it is. I am worried about the way Christians, “so called” today are making the Bible on their terms. The Bible is VERY clear and direct. My advice would be to find a church that has very sound doctrine and follows the KJV bible. Very hard to find but I know of a wonderful one in Sioux Falls!!! One day the ‘churches’ of God will be revealed and judged and I think many of them will be very surprised at God’s disappointment. Taylor I would be very cautious about your doctrinal views, read your Bible carefully and never underestimate God’s seemingly old-fashioned modest and HOLY views. He radiates those qualities and expects us to be like Him and to not conform to this world that loves things we are told not to love and embrace.
        With Love.

  • James Wartian

    I appreciate the post and your honesty. However, I am left confused. How can I hold truth even lightly if I don’t know what it is? I agree that in church history, we have discounted others experiences in a way that was wrong. But does someone’s experience equal truth? I have friends and family who have lived together and don’t want or plan to get married. Does that make it acceptable because they have had a good and growing experience? The logic here doesn’t hold up. Yes, we must care for and move towards everyone — as Peter says, respect everyone. Jesus did that. But the idea that Jesus avoided yes / no in most situations is a distortion. With his disciples, he was quite clear. His sermon on the mount was quite clear and even to the extreme. And Paul, Peter, James, and John are quite clear on some issues in their letters.

    Showing love and respect can include saying truth. To do otherwise on either side of the equation is not truly love.

    • Taylor Culver

      James,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns. I’m not suggesting here that there is no absolute truth. I am, however suggesting that our (humanity’s) idea of what constitutes as truth or “rightness” does seem to change the more we progress as a race. A typical example; in the US we have collaboratively decided that women and racial minorities should have the same rights as white men. So what I am suggesting is that individuals should cling lightly to what they believe to be truth now and allow for their minds to be open to listening to what others believe and think truth to be. This way individuals are able to be in dialogue with those who have differing opinions and experiences from their own. Thanks again for your response.

      Taylor

      • James Wartian

        That is true up to a point. I would suggest, though, that the more specific the Bible is about a point, the more we should be slow to move away from that truth. For example, the Bible is very clear that adultery is wrong. The example you give is one that is at least one major step removed, especially when you have clear verses that say things like there is no difference between Jew or Greek (racial), or male and female in Christ,

        Has the Bible been misunderstood? Yes. Has it been misused? Yes. But in this case, God’s plan for male and female is very explicit. So unless you move away from the authority and accuracy of Scripture, then what the Bible teaches about same sex relationships is pretty clear.

      • Caitlyn Dafni

        Taylor,

        First of all, thank you for the opportunity to have a real conversation! I strongly agree with James’ thoughts and appreciate your response as well. It is a beautiful thing to see “the dignity and the equality of all human beings by listening to their stories…” It is all about love, as Jesus made clear. However, I would disagree with the conclusion that we should look to humanity to find God.

        To cling lightly to truth and tightly to Jesus is still a complete oxymoron to me, as He is Truth. We cannot separate the two without denying that Jesus is everything good and true. With your response to James, I noticed your definition of ‘truth’ here is more like ‘worldview’ or ‘perspective’, which is significantly different than ‘truth’. I think it really, really matters how we state this concept; to keep your heart open and learn from others’ experiences, while still fully clinging to Jesus and what He says is good and right and not conforming to the world. There are plenty of people in the world who “cling to the truth” that Jesus is not God. I will still love this person and dialogue, but their perspective cannot be considered truth to someone who knows Truth Himself.

        One of the statements in the article that most concerned me is about losing your grip on absolute truth. Absolute truth is not knowing everything that is true. There are plenty of details of life that aren’t made clear in the Bible. However I do believe people must believe in a few basic absolutes wholeheartedly in order to be a Christian [Jesus, our Creator God, gave Himself to save us, etc.]. If someone is lacking a grip of absolute truth, I would highly, highly recommend asking Jesus to reveal Himself. Because He is absolute truth [and He's not dead].

        And this is why I must cling tightly to truth:
        “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
        2 Timothy 4:1-4

        With Love,
        Caitlyn

        • Taylor Culver

          Hey Caitlyn,
          Thanks for your response! I think there is just a little bit of a misunderstanding here….
          I think it is important to know that I do believe that Scripture is the Word of God. But I do not believe that it is the exact words of God. (in other words I do not think that we can interpret scripture literally or objectively) I think that the Bible is a compilation of stories and perspectives of who God is and how he has interacted with the world and that He is still doing that, it is just not recorded in the Bible.

          That does not mean that the things that are said in the Bible are not true, it just means that there are other things that assist us in deriving truth from the Bible without us knowing (Ex- where we were born, what we were raised to believe, who we surround ourselves with). So we all interpret scripture and life differently because we have different perspectives and experiences.
          However,
          I still believe that Jesus was and is the Son of God and everything else that is written in the creeds. I would die for them. He is still the capital T truth, BUT I think there are some topics in the Christian and secular worlds that need constant re-evaluation and deserve critical thought and a step out of our own perspective. That way we can hear the stories of other brothers and sisters created in the image of God. So our understanding of truth is limited. Therefore, absolute truth cannot necessarily be known by human beings.

          I am not suggesting here that there is no absolute truth and that Jesus isn’t truth. I do believe though, that often times our interpretation of what Jesus is suggesting as truth is misinterpreted. Therefore, we might be ‘defining truth for him’, when in reality it may not be the truth he is suggesting at all. I am also suggesting that our (humanity’s) idea of what constitutes as truth or “rightness” does seem to change (as stated before) the more we progress as a race. A typical example; in the US-we have collaboratively decided that women and racial minorities should have the same rights as white men. This is something that was previously thought to be condemned by the Bible and now we see that our interpretation of scripture was off.
          So what I am suggesting is that individuals should cling lightly to what they believe to be truth now and allow for their minds to be open to listening to what others believe and think truth to be. In this sense we may be able to see, hear, and accept a truth that we did not see before.

          Also, individuals are able to be in dialogue with those who have differing opinions and experiences from their own. Jesus does, after all suggest that all the Law and the Prophets hang on the most important commandment— to love. And I think loving someone suggests that we validate and legitimatize everyone’s story and experience. (This does not mean we accept everything that they do, but we must understand where they are coming from and hear them out before we condemn. It is also important to recognize and examine the fruit that comes from condemnation or acceptance.) Thanks again for your response. I hope we can meet up soon! :)


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