Thinking Deeply about Truth 3



Thinking Deeply about Truth 3

This has been one of those blog series I began writing in order to work with various strands which I felt belonged together but I could not be sure how. I have discovered that facts are important, but they do not constrain truth, which is a far more fluid concept. This is illustrated beautifully in a fascinating long-form interview with Yuval Noah Harari that I was listening to yesterday:

Lex Fridman: “[Artificial Intelligence] can write coherently and beautifully and is therefore convincing, but it frequently gets facts wrong… Our brains love a beautiful story so much that we don’t need the facts to be correct.”

Harari: “That has been the story of politics and religion for thousands of years.”1

The conspiracy theories that Trump peddles aren’t theories at all. They are stories other people want to believe. Many people choose to believe stories told by Trump or Johnson for the same reason some people are attracted to religion. They do not need the details to be factually true, and neither do they need to trust the narrator. They believe because their chosen story teller is reciting the story they want, or feel a deep need, to hear. That is because the first feature we look for in a story is not whether it is true or false, but the tell-tale signs that confirm whether the story being told is living or dead. If any story resonates, explains and connects features of current reality it is alive.

This, it seems to me, is why churches are emptying and religious institutions are on the wane. So much of the Christian superstructure I was involved in defined ‘truth’ using Greek-influenced definitions of fundamental concepts that formed the building blocks of what became known as the Christian faith. We still train our leaders in our preferred brand of theology, and teach them to use scripture like a textbook, forgetting that the very structure of a textbook is impossible to imagine without the fundamental shifts in thinking brought to the Western world during and after the Age of Enlightenment.

Western Christians have become adept at tearing their key verses from their original contexts, and trading them like a pack of Top Trumps as if they were written yesterday, thus losing sight of the fact that the original authors had an entirely different worldview to our own and could not have intended their words to mean something they never could have envisaged.

Thankfully, this modern form of religion is an imposter. The fact is that Christ-like concepts of ‘knowing the truth’ are always relational. Jesus talked about knowing his Father and doing only what he saw his Father doing.2 The gospel writers wrote of knowing the truth, and that knowledge setting us free. Knowledge of truth thus comes to us through the knowledge of a person, just as Adam ‘knew’ his wife and a son was born as a result. Knowledge of truth transforms us. And the purpose of knowledge is not to make us proud of ourselves by means of clever theology, but to transform and liberate into fully loving human beings.3

An opinion is knowledge I have wrapped my ego around. Transformative truth cannot be described, only experienced. To know truth is always to be willing to be transformed by it.

So, for something to be true, it must be verifiable. The only certificate of authenticity required of a Christ-follower is love and good deeds.4

1 Lex Fridman interviews Yuval Noah Harari on his YouTube channel here

2 John 1:18; 5:19.

3 1 Corinthians 8:1.

4 James 2:17-26; 1 John 4:7-21.

Picture of About the Author

About the Author

Craig Millward has been a Baptist minister for over 30 years and has extensive experience of the joys and challenges of church leadership.

More Posts by Craig Millward