Truth and Lies


Truth (Photo credit: d4vidbruce)

“…the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.  Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears.  We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations.  We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought”
J F Kennedy, Yale Commencement 1962

I came across this popular Kennedy quote recently in Arthur M Schlesinger, Jr’s A Thousand Days: John F Kennedy in the White House.  Kennedy wasn’t talking about the myths of religion, but of business and politics.  However, one of the great challenges to Christian faith is the multitude of myths and half-truths to which we hold on so firmly. We are not always sure what is myth and what is truth, but we defend all with passion.  Often it is the myth, call it our interpretation of a truth, to which we hold on most firmly, and we too easily let the solid truths slip by.  (Myth, of course, means far more than simply something that is untrue, but, like Kennedy I am using “myth” in its simplistic and negative sense.)

“Love one another.” Unequivocally the clearest most certain command of Jesus to his followers, you and me included, yet one that is most often ignored in favour of less important, or less certain truths.

It was not their evangelism that Jesus told his disciples would convince the world, or their theological understanding, or even their worship.  Jesus said, “By your love for one another, the world will know….”  Yet we defend our understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit, our forms of worship, our methods of evangelism, even when such defence destroys friendship, and denies the love demanded of us all.

We spend a great deal of time and energy trying to counter those who are different from us, whether within the Christian faith, or outside of it, and spend precious little energy or effort on exploring ways to show love.  I’m not much good at love, I admit.  Love carries great risk.  Love doesn’t ask whether I will be loved in return.  Love is not concerned about being rejected, only with the opportunity to give, and to give extravagantly.  I find myself too quickly asking about the consequences: What if?  And love is stifled.  But, knowing that, recognising my weakness in the most important of commands, I would rather be less noisy about the faults of others.


Filed under Books & Movies, Grace and Law

6 responses to “Truth and Lies

  1. Great post, Ian!
    Love is risky business for all kinds of reasons.
    Jesus didn’t give us an opt out card.


  2. Hey Ian,

    I think I understand what you’re trying to say however I’m rather intrigued by what you didn’t say.

    What are three examples of “less important, or less certain truths.”

    I may have interpreted you incorrectly.


    • Hi Mark, the three I mentioned were our understanding of the Holy Spirit and his work, our forms of worship and our methods of evangelism. I could add baptism. More controversial would be homosexuality and abortion, or more correctly, our various interpretations of the right and wrong of these things.


  3. Splendid post, thank you. I’ve been concerned about these things as both a teacher of literature and a local preacher. And I realise that it runs deep to the psyche and what we glibly call consciousness (and beyond) as well as extensively, in language and idiom. I have written about the fallacy of people claiming to distinguish between ‘literal’ and ‘figurative’ meaning in the public sphere. Everything we say is in one or another way figuration, and we are in fact as a species a rich nursery bed of visionary figurations or deeply damaging figurations. What in the sphere of modernity we call ‘scientific fact’ or objectivity is nothing more than a professional set of protocols. Our faith is configured into peculiar outgrowths from the nursery bed of figuration and tradition and its protocols determine which way we set our opinions. Jesus has the last word – ‘let go’. ‘die to all that is the self’. ‘Be made new’. And then out of a surprising silence can come new sets of expression, figuration, from the healed heart that learns to feel the ‘truth’ (the presence, the absolute being and becoming) of God before seeking to express the zillion truths of men and women (of which church truths are, to a large extent, part). But it is unavoidable that we shall have to live our faith lives as contenders in the field of meaning and interpretation, translation and revision. Thus the silences are a mighty and sacred privilege too..Those who mark thousands of essays in their lives shudder at the thought of going forth to be contenders in the realm of opinion and ill-configured traditional truths, and yet this is a daily social thing.


    • Thanks Peter. Yes, I like the idea that Truth is the presence, the absolute being and becoming of God. Our truths can only ever be but pale reflections of Truth, yet we cling to them and deny the possibility of other reflections. Thanks for stopping by.


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