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A thing I’ve noticed about many of the online debates lately is that people who make truth claims are often derided on the basis of their supposed affiliation with a school of thought: “you’re saying that because you’re a liberal, or a conservative or a vegan or lived at this particular point in history” …or whatever.

This approach has been called historicism, which posits that any truth claim must be judged in the context (for instance, the culture or a particular time in history) it was made in. 

Is this wise? The actual truth of the statement is not discussed; its validity is judged on the basis of what group or time the speaker belongs to, and the veracity of a particular claim is accepted or dismissed without rigorous examination.

Another less than beneficial result is that it tends to stereotype people in the discussions and promotes prejudging of motive. If what I say brands me a conservative then there is a tendency to assume all the other supposed evils of that view are are part of me as well. This discourages productive debate, steering the discussion away from issues and tending towards personal attacks. It promotes the sort of fractured discourse we see in modern politics.

This came up in a discussion I was having the other day. We were discussing the origin of moral truth and a pretty forthright statement made in a video I had reposted. The speaker’s statements were impugned on the basis that “he assumed the supremacy of the Judeo-Christian worldview” and were dismissed (if I understood my friend correctly) accordingly. The speaker was derided as narrow, bigoted, and hopelessly behind the times.

Of course the speaker assumed that supremacy. So do I: I could hardly call myself a Christian if I didn’t believe it was actually true. But Historicism assumes all truth claims are equal (by all being merely products of a particular view), a logical impossibility if there is such a thing as actual truth. It fits hand in glove with postmodern thought, and I think it’s quite useless if someone is trying to judge between truth claims.

And we must judge, for even the historicist is making a truth claim. A person with an intellectually rigorous outlook can’t sit on the fence; that many do reflects an uncritical acceptance of a prevailing (and I would suggest dishonest) intellectual climate.

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Critical Thinking

Critical thought is usually associated with skeptical viewpoint. I tend to think of it more as reasoning your way through to the bottom of a issue to find out what’s really true.

There’s sort of an irony to the idea that many consider critical thought (they called themselves “rationalists” and “freethinkers” a century ago) as a thing used to debunk religious superstition; but I’ve found it cuts both ways. Many are not willing to look past what passes for our modern, materialist wisdom.

CS Lewis (and others like him) helped me here. He was able to demonstrate the tremendous rational coherence of Christian faith and debunked many of the shallow arguments trotted out against it.

I have found that Christians don’t have to be afraid of the hard questions. In fact, atheists and agnostics have to jump through a lot more mental hoops to justify their belief systems than their believing counterparts do.

But Christians do need to be critical thinkers. We need to examine our own assumptions if we are to have a robust faith; and we can certainly question the assumptions of our critics (and they assume a great deal more than is perhaps fair or reasonable). We don’t have to park our brains at the door when we become Christians.

Read the Bible deeply and on a regular basis; and read history, science and philosophy as well. Know what you believe and why it matters: and then live it out in the world. That is the kind of faith that can change the world.

Heaven

“There is nothing in Heaven that the mercenary soul can desire”. CS Lewis

Is it selfish to desire Heaven? I think not, and a moment’s thought makes this plain. Let’s unpack it. A few quick thoughts:

a) God is love.

b) If you think about it, the nature of love is to look outwards, to the other. The Father loves the Son; the Son honours the Father. The Holy Spirit exalts all. God sends His Son for us; Jesus lays aside His glory, is born in a barn and is killed on a cross. He puts us first.

c) This self-abandonment, so evident in the Trinity, is essential to the nature of love. A letting go of ourselves is not so much a requirement as a structural necessity if we are to know God as our Redeemer and Friend. We can’t see Him when our own lives block the light; when God commands love, He invites us to the kind of self abandonment that has always existed in the Trinity.

The culture of Heaven is love and is therefore essentially other-centred. Nobody there seeks their own advancement since they are focused completely on living for and glorifying God.

When Jesus said there was no greater love than the laying down of one’s life for another, He illustrated this and then demonstrated His total commitment to us on the cross. If that’s the kind of love we must have to dwell in Heaven, it’s not hard to imagine there are many who wouldn’t like it there. Those who do desire it already display God’s work on their hearts.

Verb or Noun?

A simple truth, elegantly expressed.

Mitch Teemley

Some things can be both a verb and a noun (fish, call, ride). But I only know of one thing that must be a verb before it can be a noun: Love.

this-beautiful-random-act-of-kindness-was-photographed-give-this-awesome-guy-a-like-for-caring

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Who’s the greatest?

Jesus said the greatest among us would be the servants of all.

The world expected (and expects) God to come in power; but He came in weakness, to serve, love, and sacrifice.
The natural tendency is to gloat when we win over those who oppose us. But God wants servants, humble, wanting to heal the world and love our enemies. To show grace to those who don’t deserve it; to love and weep and hurt with others – just as He did for us.
The FOUNDATION of our service to God isn’t flashy: what wins people over is love without an agenda. We must certainly speak the truth, but without real sacrificial love it will never stick. Such love is demonstrated and proven in the difficult, awkward, weak places –  in spite of the problems. It’s found in abandon and submission and trust that God is really there, and from there to overflow into the lives of others.

…By not trying to be.

 

When someone is trying to be popular, they’ll try very hard to understand the latest trends, to ingratiate themselves to others, and will become unpopular bores in the end. It’s only when they start to look outside themselves that they become interesting to others.

 

A similar principle happens in the pursuit of happiness. When we make this our goal, we’re focused on what we want; we’re turned inwards, and the harder we try, the more it eludes us. “Looking for love in all the wrong places”, we may drug ourselves with possessions, adrenaline sports, sex, alcohol, or partying, but we’re really just running from our own emptiness.

 

So what’s the secret of being happy?

 

Look outside yourself. Love God first, and then love to others as valuable because they are made in His image. Take humility and service as first principles; don’t do them because they will make you feel good about yourself (they won’t always do that), but because reaching out to others in love is right. Make your life about this, rather than your own satisfaction, and you’ll find everything else thrown in.

 

And you’ll notice (not when you’re looking for it, but when you look back) that the texture of your life starts to take on joy; a deep, soul satisfying thing of which happiness is merely the froth of – for you will have found what you were made for.