Of course it’s true!
“Because we all gravitate to the information we want to believe is true, this creates a set of circumstances in which the truth gets easily lost.”
That is a quote from conservative commentator John Zeigler from an article he wrote explaining why so many conservatives had been able to convince themselves before the last election that Romney was going to “win handily.” While I am done talking about the election I continue to feel that the quote has meaning for us all and, as you might expect, always consider it in matters of my faith.
This Sunday the adult Sunday School class at my church will begin discussion on Mark Dever’s book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. In this book, which has been around for several years, Dever gives the nine factors that he believes are fundamental to church health. Our aim will be to discuss the various marks, share our thoughts on them, and apply them to ourselves and our church in something of a diagnostic way. If past discussions among this group are any indicator, we will cheerfully end without coming to lock-step agreement on how to understand and apply this teaching. And all I can say is praise the Lord!
There are some who see unity in the Spirit as a call to have 100% agreement 100% of the time. They see lack of agreement as a sign that something is wrong, perhaps even that someone is not listening to the Spirit. But the reality is that we need to hear from, listen with respect to, and even be open to being convinced by, those with whom we might differ. The above quote puts a finger on the reason. I have, as does everyone else, a natural tendency to want to believe some things are true and to read facts, and yes even the Bible, in a way that supports the truth I want.
If we look across the Christian world we will see a myriad of issues on which Christians differ. Predestination. Baptism. Speaking in tongues. Divine healing. The role of women. The end times. The list could go on and on. Each side in all these debates can site experts and leaders who teach their point. Each side has Bible verses and teaching that proves that point. Each side is confident that they have done an exhaustive systematic review of the Bible in reaching their conclusions. Even expositional preaching, the foundational “mark” of Dever’s book, finds different people “exposing” different truths.
I am not a relativist. I don’t believe in different truths for different people. I am not afraid to have opinions about what is a correct understanding of these issues and others. But I also have to admit that I am as likely as anyone else to fall victim to the warning in the quote above. For years I understood Christian growth as a process of being more and more certain about more and more things. While I was never under the illusion that perfect understanding was possible I was sure that increased understanding was not only possible but sure to happen.
But the opposite has been true. The more I read the Word the more I feel that the “exposing” I do in my reading of it is more likely to expose my own ignorance than certain truth. What fends off despair is the body of Christ. Sunday I expect to fail to reach 100% accord with my fellow class members. I also expect that we will leave the class friends. And I hope that I will leave the class having been challenged in my thinking by someone who differs with me but loves God as much.