Friday, September 27, 2013

Thinking About Truth

And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
Jesus, John 8:32

I have been thinking about this for a while, the nature of truth. A few weeks ago someone linked to Facebook a blog posting in which the writer, someone unknown to me, was arguing that one of the significant problems plaguing modern humanity is our loss of a sense of objective truth. His sentiments were echoed in today’s Duluth News Tribune where the pastor of a church writes about the twisting of words, mostly by “those on the left.” Here is how this pastor thinks truth has come to be defined: Truth: The view, opinion or position held by me or the group(s) with which I associate. Truth cannot be known as an objective reality even though I fully expect you to accept this definition of truth as objective reality.
So is the most significant issue in discussing the nature of truth a distinction between a notion of objective truth as against a notion that truth is subjective and thus always relative? Without denying that there is a discussion to be had here, I have been wondering if the more interesting and significant discussion about the nature of truth is about its richness.
So here are a couple of quotes which I find intriguing.

The sadomasochistic fantasy of truth… truth, that is, as something to which we are obliged to submit
Adam Phillips, “Introduction” to The Electrified Tightrope

To love God is to rejoice in the richness of truth, to enjoy the counterpoint of the absurd and nonsensical, to engage in the conflict of ideas and the history of human argument.
Daniel Day Williams, The Spirit and Forms of Love, 300

To be sure there are some obvious and objective truths. If I leap from the tenth floor of a building, I will fall and the results will not be good. If I wake in the middle of the night and bang my toe on the bed as I head for the bathroom, it will hurt. These are truths to which we seem obliged to submit.
There are objective truths about our lives – when and where we were born, to whom we were born, where we attended school. We cannot change such things. Yet so much about our lives is richer in a way that the distinction between objective and subjective truth does not seem to capture. I experience something as beautiful. One might ask if it was beautiful in any objective way. The more interesting questions and truths about my experience may be what drew me to this object and how did my experience of it as beautiful change me. There are all kinds of ways we could discuss that, and many of those ways would contribute to understanding the truth of my experience. I would even argue that trying to understand my experience from multiple perspectives enriches my understanding. If I simply submit to one perspective, I may miss some of the richness of the truth of my experience.
I think we are more helped when we expand our vocabulary for truth, not limit our discussion to objective and subjective, objective and relative. There is a richness to the truth about our lives and our world that these terms fail to capture. That is not to say these terms are not part of the discussion of truth, only that they should not be the only ways we talk about truth.
I think there is a lot of truth to Williams’ statement that “to love God is to rejoice in the richness of truth.”

With Faith and With Feathers,