Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Who Do You Believe?

Who Do You Believe?

by Bryan J. Neva, Sr.

We're all bombarded with too much information!  There's 24/7 news, information, commentary, and entertainment on television, the Internet, radio, and smart phones.  Newspapers and other periodicals offer even more salacious details, rumors, and photos we didn't get from the other sources.  Finally, there are millions of books out there on just about any subject we can imagine.  

So who do we believe as a trusted source of information when so much of what we read and hear is contradictory?  One week we are told to eat more meat and protein, the next to eat more fruits, grains, and vegetables.  One week we are told to drink a glass of red wine every day, the next to drink none at all.  One week we are told something or other is good for you, the next that something or other is bad for you depending on which expert is talking.

When I was a teenager in the 1970s, all the climatologist were predicting global cooling; today all the climatologist are predicting global warming. When I was a young man in the 1980s, it was socially acceptable to demean certain social or ethnic groups; today it's not.  When I was starting a family in the 1990s people were not very environmentally conscience; today they are.  But still, who do you believe?  

For starters, our parents didn't raise us to be fools!  They're our first teachers.  They taught us right from wrong and helped us to form our paradigms on life.  And if we were blessed to have been raised in a faith tradition, our place of worship also helped teach us right from wrong.  

In school, our teachers taught us reading and writing, language and speech, history, sociology, psychology, cultures, economics, government, mathematics, and science.  And then they helped us make sense of all this information by teaching us critical thinking skills and the scientific method.

So with our God given ability to naturally reason, why do so many people believe lies and live unrighteous lives?  It may simply be ignorance of the truth or a warped perception of reality.  You can't hardly blame someone's misguided beliefs if they were raised poorly or if they had a poor education can you?  But still, none of us had perfect childhoods or an education.  This is the nature versus nurture argument.

Something else to consider is that man is a social animal and most of us like to go along to get along.  So if a society condones or condemns certain things, people will generally go along with it.  Consider what happened in Germany in the 1930s and 40s.  Very few people had the courage to stand up against Hitler and the Nazi party.  Or consider North Korea today.  The society has become cult-like in their unquestioned devotion to their leader.  

The archenemies of the great Greek philosophers Socrates and Plato were the Sophists.  Socrates and Plato both believed that absolute truth can be known and discovered, whereas the Sophist believed that truth is relative. This is what we call moral relativism today, and it's the hallmark of secular-progressive thinking that has become so widespread.

Webster's defines truth as the true or actual state of a matter; conformity with fact, reality, actuality, or existence; a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, observation, or the like (such as scientific or mathematical truths). 

Beyond simply collecting and analyzing information, we need a compass or guide to help us sort through how we should act in response to all the information we're bombarded with.  For many of us, our faith supplies that moral or ethical compass or GPS.  It shows us exactly where we are and the direction we should follow to reach our goals.

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.  If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me!" (John 8:12, 31, 32; 14:6).  And during Jesus' trial before the Roman Governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?"  Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king, and for this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is committed to the truth listens to me!"  Then Pilate said to him sardonically, "What is truth?" (John 18:37, 38). 

"What is truth?" seems like a simple enough question, but the answer is not so simple at all when we're bombarded with so much information. Philosophers, scientist, and great thinkers throughout the ages have debated this very question.  And institutions of higher learning have dedicated themselves to discovering and discerning the truth in all its varied forms.  The late Pope John Paul II in 1993 publish an encyclical letter called "The Splendor of Truth" (in Latin Veritatis Splendor) where he asserted that absolute truth is knowable by everyone and in any culture writing, "in the depth of [man's] heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and thirst to attain full knowledge of it."

Throughout our history, mankind, by our very nature, has been drawn to the truth despite being deluded by lies, superstitions, misconceptions, misunderstandings, prejudices, and the like.

But truth can be a demanding task master.  Living a life of truth can be a hard, rocky, and difficult road to follow.  Falsehood is easy.  But committing ourselves to the truth can cost us a lot.  It can mean the difference between worldly success or failure, fame or obscurity, fortune or poverty, pleasure or pain, reward or sacrifice, life or death.

So why live by the truth if living a lie is so much easier and rewarding? That's the sixty-four-thousand dollar question!  But it's probably why so few of us actively pursue and live by the truth. Being bombarded with so much information, we can believe almost anything.  As the old saying goes, if you don't believe in something, then you'll fall for anything.

As for me, I believe that being committed to the truth is its own reward, and being a follower of Jesus Christ, the source and embodiment of all truth, gives us someone we can believe in.

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