Too Much of a Good Thing?
I sometimes feel like Christians are obsessed. It’s not like they’re obsessed with something bad exactly, but isn’t is possible that obsession is problematic regardless of whatever it is you’re obsessed with?
I’ve been a part of a number of churches and worked in numerous Christian organizations. For that matter, I’m a pastor’s kid, so I’ve been around the Christian block a number of times, and along those trips, I’ve probably spent a fair number of hours in discussions and debates over this point or that and watched far more personally and followed along in book form. But recently, I’ve begun to feel a bit exhausted by it all, and it’s made me wonder, are we Christians unhealthily obsessed with the truth?
Now, do not, please, I beg of you, do not mistake me. I am not implying that the truth is irrelevant. I am not saying that I don’t care about the truth. But sometimes, I feel like the truth very subtly becomes something other than what we intended.
I want to know the truth, and I want to live my life in accordance with the truth. Yet when I listen to Christians sometimes, I get this impression that this is the driving force of their lives in a way that it isn’t for me. There seems to be an underlying assumption that having the right truth is somehow sanctifying, that it somehow makes them holy, or even that it is salvific. Now, they’d never say that, of course, but “believe in Jesus” often does boil down to “cognitively assent to the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection as a substitutionary atonement for sin”, which sounds a lot like knowledge of a particular truth being salvific.
Part of me is tempted to get into a Greek word study on pisteuo, but I’ll spare you that.
In the last several years, I’ve become more and more convinced that truth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s necessary! It’s absolutely necessary. But a chain is necessary for a bicycle. That doesn’t mean that the bicycle is just a chain. There’s just too many other components that need to be put together. In the same way, the truth is necessary for the Christian life, but it’s a single piece, and if we become so obsessed with that one piece, I fear we might be missing out on some others. Dare we make sure the chain is clean and shiny while the tires rot away?
Dallas Willard devised the concept of VIM in Renovation of the Heart, the idea that Christian growth requires a vision, the intention, and proper means. Without the truth, we lack vision or, more likely, we have a wrong vision, and we’ll stumble and falter badly in the Christian life. Yet vision alone doesn’t get us anyplace, and if we just harp on the truth, we can end up stagnant.
The truth is that the truth is not an abstract concept. The truth is a person. “The truth shall set you free,” you might be saying. Yes, yes He will. And it’ll go a lot faster if you cooperate with Him.
When the truth is an abstract concept, you can make it a tool for ensuring that you are safe and on the right side.
When the truth is an abstract concept, you can turn it into a shield to defend against people, emotions, and situations.
When the truth is an abstract concept, you can seek it in a safe way where you are in control and detached.
When the truth is an abstract concept, you can hold it in your mind while the rest of you goes unaffected by it.
Yet when the truth is a person, He might tell you you’re on the wrong side. He might invite you to look at your emotions or engage with people. He might do things that are way beyond your control. He might ask you to delve into things that aren’t safe, aren’t comfortable, maybe even confusing and seemingly wrong.
It’s not the only pitfall out there, but this idea that the truth is of utmost importance seems like a distortion of true Christianity, of what God wants for His people. Heaven forbid that we just get stuck in our heads when we’re called into relationship with God.