Can’t we all just get along? The problem with pursuing Truth! Worldviews #2

Can’t we all just get along? The problem with pursuing Truth! Worldviews #2 January 15, 2023

I left off last time by asking: What sort of things influence our worldview? The answer is that almost everything affects our worldview. Of course, this starts with our life experiences, as well as the things we were taught when we were young. But, as I will note below, there are other factors also.

Now, if life experiences play a role, then you might think that the older we are the more refined our worldview is—after all, I know some people who have had A LOT of experiences.

The reality, however, is that often the older we are the less willing we are to change our minds. Though we might suppose that this is because older persons (note how I did not say “we”?) have spent a lifetime accumulating knowledge that they believe has helped them discern truth from falsehood, and right from wrong.

The fact is, however, that this is not always the case. What we often do is filter information in accordance with our preconceived beliefs. Information that we agree with reinforces our opinions. Information that we do not agree with we discard.

In other words, our life experiences are often NOT objectively evaluated so as to help us refine our convictions. This does not mean that they have no value. They do. Some experiences most certainly cause us to reevaluate things. But some don’t.

Listening to only one side of the argument

As we move further into the depths of the technological revolution and the digital age, we have become more and more accustomed to only listen to the sources with which we already agree. Civil discussions in which we hear the “other” are less and less available.

Unfortunately, many suppose that “their” sources present both sides. But we need to be honest. They rarely present them adequately.

The problem is that when we only look at the evidences that support our convictions, we will rarely have the opportunity to challenge our beliefs.

I must say that this is the height of arrogance.

Walk a mile in my shoes!

It is critical that we learn to look at things from the perspective of the other. And the people who are best suited to present the perspectives of others are the others themselves. What I mean is this.

Suppose you take a course on religion. And, let’s say the professor is a Hindu. The question becomes: is she going to present Islam well? And what if the professor is an atheist, are they going to adequately represent Christianity?

Now, we might hope that they do. After all, I don’t intend to suggest that they all have ill motives. But the fact remains that those who will best represent the position of the “other” are the “others” themselves.

If someone wants to know what Christianity is about I would prefer that a Christian make the presentation as opposed to a well-intentioned atheist.

Now, I might add, it is best to find someone on the “other” side who has spent years studying, practicing, and processing their position.

If I want to learn about Islam, I might talk with a Muslim. If I really want to learn about Islam though, I might also talk with a Muslim cleric. In fact, since Islam is diverse, I might want to talk to a variety of Muslims and a variety of clerics.

Now, you might say, “that is too much work. I don’t have the time for all of that.” And that is my point. Until we take the time, and we need a lot of it, we should be careful about assuming that I understand Islam for example.

This means that when I speak about Islam, I should humbly acknowledge that I am not a Muslim. And that Islam is a complex religion. And that I don’t know everything there is to know about Islam.

Listen well

It is also critical that we listen well. When we meet with Muslims, read Muslim writings, and watch Muslim videos, we must honestly listen to them. After all, I would want an atheist to hear me well when I explain what Christianity is about.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that listening well is fundamental to loving our neighbor!

A word of caution

When I say, as I did in my last post, that Christians should be the most open-minded of all people, and when I give examples of what that might look like, as I have done in this post, I am not suggesting that we should be so open-minded that we accept all beliefs with love and charity.

We should not be naïve. The fact is that there are some who hold to dangerous beliefs. Hitler alone should remind that us that beliefs can be dangerous.

The troublesome pursuit of truth

There is, of course, a significant problem in making the pursuit of truth our goal. Namely, that there are consequences. Far more than I can address here, but here a few with which to begin.

For one, it means that we may have to admit we were wrong.

NB: I was wrong one time and since I had never been wrong before I didn’t know what to do. So I asked my friend, who was a Raiders fan for help. He knew exactly what to do.

The fact is that admitting we were wrong is not easy. Especially, if it means doing so in front of that crazy uncle. The last thing we want to do is to inflate his ego.

Second, we may have to change our ways. This is just as hard. You see, one of the controlling factors for why we believe what we believe is that we like it! We have framed a way of living around it.

For example, it was commonly argued during the period of American slavery that people of color were inferior: maybe even subhuman. Millions of dollars and countless “scientific” studies were undertaken to prove that people of color were less human or even less than human.

Why? Because it would be easier to justify slavery. As a result, many refused to even consider evidence that proved that people of color were just as human as everyone else. And they bought the bogus “scientific” evidences that were propagated.

Not only was it easier to justify the inhumane treatment of other human beings, but we must recognize that there were major financial benefits of slavery. Free labor (non-wage-earning laborers) is critical to a booming economy. Much of the US, but especially the South, was dependent on slave labor. Freeing the slaves would leave the slave owners, many of whom lived quite comfortably, unable to maintain their current levels of wealth and comfort.

Third, and this is related to the second point, learning the truth may entail major social implications. Maybe everyone at your work or school has certain political beliefs. It is simply easier for you to go along with the crowd.

Fourth, and this is also related to the second point, learning the truth may be a problem when it comes to our wealth, comforts, and pleasure. This is one reason why I believe that the American church is in a dangerous place. Like it or not, we have great wealth, which brings great comfort, and much pleasure.

Is there truth?

Have you heard the expression: “You do you”? I know I have heard it in a marketing campaign somewhere. The sentiment is more and more a sign of the times.

And, though it is becoming more and more commonplace for people to suggest that there is no such thing as truth, the answer is simple: there is truth because it is undeniable. Let me explain.

The statement that “there is no truth” is presented as a truth claim. In other words, if someone were to make this claim, the response would be, “is that true?” If they say “yes,” then they are contradicting themselves. After all, if “there is no truth,” then one cannot say that the statement is true.

This means that when we assert “there is truth,” one cannot reply “no, there is no truth.” Consequently, the assertion that there is truth cannot be denied.

How do we know what is true?

This is a question that will exceed the space I have here. But a few notes are appropriate.

Many Christians will assert that we know what is true from the Bible. And, although I agree, I would prefer to say that it comes from God/Christ. At the same time, as a biblical scholar I would also like to issue a caution.

The fact is that most Christians do not agree on much of what the Bible says. Sure there is much that we agree on. But it is not as much as is commonly believed.

Thus, the challenge is for us to discern what the Bible means.

In sum, the journey for truth is a lifelong pursuit for which we will never arrive at our destination this side of the new creation. In fact, the thing about gaining knowledge is that the more we know the more we realize how little we actually know.

What then forms the foundations of a Christian worldview? This will be the continuing subject of these posts.

 

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About Rob Dalrymple
Rob Dalrymple is married to his wife Toni and is the father of four fabulous children, and two grandchildren. He has been teaching and pastoring for over 33 years at colleges, seminaries, and the local church. He has a PhD in biblical interpretation. He is the author of four books (including Follow the Lamb: A Guide to Reading, Understanding, and Applying the Book of Revelation & Understanding the New Testament and the End Times: Why it Matters) as well as numerous articles and other publications. He is currently completing a commentary on the book of Revelation titled, “Revelation: a Love story” (Cascade Books, pending 2024). You can read more about the author here.

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