Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV).
“Today not only in philosophy but in politics, government, and individual morality, our generation sees solutions in terms of synthesis and not absolutes. When this happens, truth, as people have always thought of truth, has died” (Francis Schaeffer).
There is one thing everyone on earth seeks: truth. It starts in childhood, when little ones develop reasoning ability. Some say this happens at 6 or 7 years of age. For other children, it’s younger, the first time, for example, they may look up at the sky and wonder what’s on the other side of the blue dome. Or perhaps when a loved one dies and they ask “Where did ______ go?” or “Why did ________ have to die?…Will I die?”
Kids are pretty smart, if we give them a chance.
However, one big problem is that we don’t always know how to answer a child’s first foray into intellectual curiosity because grown-ups don’t come with all the answers. Indeed, each of us seeks our entire life for one truth or another.
If we were lucky in our own youth we had parents who explored the answers with us–and if we grew up after the old-fashioned philosophy that “children are to be seen and not heard” that put a stranglehold on curiosity and youthful inquiry. But still, many children do not have such guidance.
There are many reasons for a lack of knowledge of truth nowadays, of course, whether one is a child or an adult. It is often a mystery as to how to go in search of it, as well.
For one thing, there are all kinds of truths in every arena of inquiry, particularly since the advent of “situational ethics,” which is often at odds with moral absolutism. To use the vernacular, “It it feels good, do it,” and there is the notion that each of us gets to invent our own “truth wheel,” as it were.
For another thing, this one in the world of politics, the “Political Correctness” movement has put another kind of stranglehold on intellectual curiosity and higher level thinking by demanding lock-step adherence to radical leftist-think in social and political “discourse.”
I put discourse in parentheses because this mind-imprisonment has gradually devolved into fear and violence.
For yet another reason, there are plenty of “truth-hawkers” who would like the power and money that comes with amassing followers as well as passing the hat.
Note: Christians follow an odd kind of “truth leader,” then, the prophets for profit might think, as referenced in the verse cited, above, Who did not come for the material gain. In fact, He said this:
As they were walking along the road, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests,but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” (Luke 9:57-58, Berean Study Bible)*
Back to the secular realm for one more reason it’s hard to get at truth, what Francis Schaeffer, also cited above, calls “synthesis”.
What does he mean?
In short, the Hegelian dialectic can be summed up thus:
- two extreme views on a topic are discussed, or perhaps two very opposite contenders for an office emerge,
- the stake holders come to a compromise which is the third view, or less extremist person, who seems to be better.
However, when it comes to politics, often the outcome, the synthesis, is pre-determined because as long as people think they can compromise (or negotiate, appease, or argue) their way out of either extreme they feel safer from both, but in the meantime, the dialectic is a way to slowly, gradually, water down right/wrong; absolute/situational standards and ethics until, as Schaeffer puts it, “truth dies.”
This is, however, another critical component of discernment these days, as many modern translations have succumbed to the fear and force of the PC movement by erasing, for example, the miracles, the absolutes, even the “binary gender” nature of God’s creation.
Many translations have also been crafted via a method of compromise, aka synthesis, based on modern thinking, philosophies, and politics.
Fortunately, we have much help.
A blogger named Helen, for example, who writes at https://grainofwheatblog.wordpress.com has posted an article about her own quest to find a reliable version of the Bible that, in part, prompted this post. Discerning a trustworthy version is, of course, a formidable task considering all of the good, better, best–as well as misleading and false–versions out there.
Helen relates common concerns and questions people have when they begin this process as well as her own search for answers, which covers elements of how to proceed and what things to consider.
And I believe her article is very timely.
While reading it, I realized this would be a natural third essay on my current topic of the necessity of using discernment as we move forward in this new era of both spiritual and temporal realities that many believe to be an immediate forerunner to the second return of Christ at the end of the so-called seven-year Tribulation period.
According to Bible scholars, many signs of the time are aligning. (See here for just one commentary on this.)
But at the very least, it is a time to be awake, aware, and alert not only physically and mentally, but spiritually as well, as our real enemy seems to be ratcheting up global chaos and violence at an exponential rate.
It also occurred to me to share how I go about my own process of attempting to get at the “truest” version of a given verse or word I use in my own posts. It is one of many good avenues of discerning the truth embedded in the Scriptures, but perhaps one that might be helpful for the reader. The following was also my contribution to Helen’s comments section, edited for this post and describes my process:
When I study or cite Scriptures on my blog, I use several versions, mostly NIV, but for greatest accuracy when I reference them in a blog post, here is my go-to referencing technique that brings me as close to original language meaning as I can get, not being an actual Bible scholar:
1. I locate and read a verse of interest in the Interlinear Bible which is easy to do online at https://biblehub.com/interlinear/ (remembering that Hebrew reads from right to left),
2. I scan the verse for the specific word I am focusing on,
3. I click on the word in the Hebrew or the Greek,
4. I scan the verses in which the word is used for the specific nuance of meaning in the verse I am citing.
From there, I select a Bible version that most accurately reflects the nuance. I also often define specific words as I write using this same method.
I may read the several commentaries also available for a given verse as well. Matthew Henry is my all time favorite for the beauty of his literary style, but others are also of use.
I have a sister who has been a Hebrew student for several years, so she can take me further in that language, particularly when it comes to the meaning of, say, paleo-Hebrew in which the metaphor embedded in one of the oldest alphabets used in the Bible helps to further unpack more specific levels of meaning.
I wrote about just one of the letters, the first letter, or aleph, as depicted in the paleo alphabet, which resembles an ox head (). The image opens up much to glean and learn about Jesus (Who is also revealed as the Alpha–as well as the Omega) in the context of this verse:
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30 NASB).
And one more verse, actually an entire chapter in Proverbs, serves as both a guide and an encouragement to all of us as we engage in the critical “art of discernment” in this unique and increasingly dangerous era.
Incidentally, and here is another go-to for me in gleaning guidance for each day, I would encourage you, if you are interested, to read at least the chapter in the book of Proverbs that matches the day’s date.
For example, this is July 2nd, and the following is chapter 2 (New International Version [NIV] of the Bible–note: I also recommend studying with older versions of Bibles, say, 1970s and earlier, as they are not as likely to be infected with PC language and ideas):
Moral Benefits of Wisdom1 My son, if you accept my wordsand store up my commands within you,2 turning your ear to wisdomand applying your heart to understanding—3 indeed, if you call out for insightand cry aloud for understanding,4 and if you look for it as for silverand search for it as for hidden treasure,5 then you will understand the fear of the Lordand find the knowledge of God.6 For the Lord gives wisdom;from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.7 He holds success in store for the upright,he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,8 for he guards the course of the justand protects the way of his faithful ones.9 Then you will understand what is right and justand fair—every good path.10 For wisdom will enter your heart,and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.11 Discretion will protect you,and understanding will guard you.12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,from men whose words are perverse,13 who have left the straight pathsto walk in dark ways,14 who delight in doing wrongand rejoice in the perverseness of evil,15 whose paths are crookedand who are devious in their ways.16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,from the wayward woman with her seductive words,17 who has left the partner of her youthand ignored the covenant she made before God.18 Surely her house leads down to deathand her paths to the spirits of the dead.19 None who go to her returnor attain the paths of life.20 Thus you will walk in the ways of the goodand keep to the paths of the righteous.21 For the upright will live in the land,and the blameless will remain in it;22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land,and the unfaithful will be torn from it.
Carry on in Christ.
*For the real reason Jesus came to earth, read here.
Images from Wiki Media Commons