Monday, June 2, 2008

Truth and truth

I recall in my youth feeling a compulsion to learn the Truth. Being young, I saw truth as an entity, a self-existent thing which defined and gave order to the world I faced as a child. The Truth (with a capital T) existed outside of the world. It was incorruptible, and always true.

Lacking a religious upbringing, my Truth occupied the place of God. I was just a child, and unable to think through what my compulsion caused me to believe. What I find fascinating at this later point in my life is how perceptive I was. The equation of God with Truth may be found in Judeo-Christian literature.

Later in life (though still in my youth) I comprehended the limits of my ability to accumulate knowledge. I was on a quest to find Truth, yet knowledge alone could not be the path. I had not the resources within myself to accumulate enough knowledge to verify the Truth. I little realize how quixotic this quest actually was.

Most probably I was compelled to this quest by my childhood insecurities, a strong intellect, and an appetite for knowledge. I longed for a world that was clearly defined, safe, and secure. However, I was perceptive enough to see beyond the security and safety of my family. I recognized that the world was large, confusing, and quite unsafe.

It was my good fortune to have a solid family in which to wrestle with these insecurities. There was moral consistency in my early experience, a model that developed into a strong sense of the value of integrity. Unfortunately, I seem to have been born with a romantic and idealistic nature. I expected the real world to reflect my internal concepts of Truth and integrity.

As I became an adult, I sought reasons to hold onto my childish longing for Truth. No longer able to rely simply on the acquisition of knowledge, I entered into a spiritual quest. I thought to examine and practice the many religions of the world. How, I was not sure. Yet I intended to try.

Reality intervened. In those days there was a protracted war, and to feed the need for bodies the government could then draft soldiers. Since quixotic spiritual quests are notoriously bad careers, and I faced the probability of being drafted, I joined the Army. Not your usual path for a pilgrim, but one that seemed right.

I selected Hinduism as my first sample. I read the Bhagavad Gita (ref.) and began practicing Yoga. I recognized the difficulty of creating my own path to the knowledge that I was seeking, and was often frustrated by the lack of guidance. I was quite unsure of my way, but was compelled to try.

During this time I was exposed to a Christian. Lawrence Lee Clark lived his Christian beliefs as no other person I had met. He was challenging and compelling. I began examining the Christian faith, as it was one of the systems of belief I had purposed to examine. Unlike my self-styled Hinduism, here I had a guide.

I was eventually converted to the faith, accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour. I accepted the Christian God as the One True God. I continued my studies in that belief.

The Christian faith does not have only one presence on earth. Though the faith is in One God, the expression of that faith is quite varied. I adopted the belief that God would guide my quest, recognizing that exhausting all of the knowledge of the various expressions of Christian faith would exhaust me. Better to trust God to guide me.

At this present point in my learning, I would contend that Truth is the Divine perspective. It is how God sees creation and the things within that creation. A thing is true to the degree that it agrees with the Divine perspective. This sounds quite simple. I don’t think it really is.

How does one get the Divine perspective? In the Christian system of belief the source of the Divine perspective is the Bible. However, the Bible is not exhaustive. It does not contain all knowledge. It is the revelation of God, but it is limited. It is what God has elected to reveal of Himself. It is true, but not all truth.

Our perception is limited, and so our knowledge of truth will necessarily be limited. Yet truth can be known, at least in part. A dilemma, and not the only one in contemplating the relationship of man and God. As in all areas where our limitations as finite beings come into play in such things, I believe we depend on the grace of God to carry us through.

How, then, does this reflect on truth and integrity in our daily lives? My testimony here simply reflects the value I place on truth. I do not perceive it to be malleable, a thing to be bent and stretched to suit my purposes. I have integrity when I am consistent with the things I believe to be true. My integrity is diminished when I deviate from my own truth.

Note I say “my own truth.” Not the Truth. My truth necessarily deviates from Truth, due to my finite limitations and my own moral inconsistency. This lack on my part, this inability to bring my truth into line with Truth, is the gap overcome by grace. God is adequate where I am not.

I am content with that.

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