Sunday, May 27, 2007

Truth Too. Point? Oh no.

Start "What is truth series?" here.
This is the second post on the "What is truth?" series. The question in this post addresses sources and/or forms of truth. Here is the question:

Is truth found in facts, in metaphor, in story, in myth, in proof, in promise?

In a word, "Yes!" And then again in another word, "No."

What gets a lot of people into trouble with truth is that they choose a form through which truth has been known to emerge and limit truth to the form. I have a lot of religious experience limiting truth to facts. There is a certain logic to it. "The Bible says what it means and means what it says." This line has ended many a debate in my earlier religious life.

Now, to the credit of the powers that be, the people with enough power to utter the above words, when it comes to "Love your neighbor as you love yourself," there is little to parse. It is a fact that this is a command of God.

And yet, as we can see from the parable of "The Good Samartian," the fact was not enough for some. Some wanted a criteria for determining how a person qualified as a neighbor. Even though the very fact that one would want to ask such a question exposes the darkness of their own heart, truth in the form of fact for that person was not enough. This person needed a story in order for truth to make an impression.

The story, which had no facts in it at all (Jesus made it up and the characters were not real nor was the event), was another way in which truth could be known.

Truth was not limited to facts. Actually, in this situation, the truth was inhibited by facts. Jesus learned that in this situation, the use of fact to communicate truth was not an effective way to communicate that truth. So, what Jesus did was to communicate the exact same truth in story.

It was in story, not fact, that the truth emerged in that specific situation.

From this Biblical example, we could conclude that story is superior to fact in communicating truth. But if we did that we would be missing the point. Some people in the audience probably got it the first time when Jesus used fact, but then there were others who got it when they heard the same truth in story. Still others were probably unconvinced, and might have needed another means by which truth could be presented to them. Still others were unwilling to receive truth in any way.

The point is that fact and story had their role, but truth is not subject to either of them.

Now, to expand from there, truth can be shown in metaphor, myth, promise, beauty, science, fantasy, art, song, dance, and who knows how else? Truth is not limited to a form of communication or presentation. Truth is bigger, deeper, more complex, more simple, more perfect than any one way of presenting can contain.

We should not equate a way of knowing truth with truth itself.


Keith Brenton said...

My problem, Fajita - and I freely admit it - is that I'd like to have my truth delivered on a platter, cooked and seasoned and garnished to my liking.

I don't want to have to hunt for it, clean it, skin it, de-bone it, marinate it, cook it, prepare it and serve it - by someone else's recipe!

Just give it to me, my way!

And hurry; I'm a busy guy.

Nancy said...

When we insist that everything in the Bible is literally "true," we are actually doing a disservice to the Biblical writers who did not operate under the same definition of truth/reality as we do in the modern world. They lived in a mythological world; "myth" NOT meaning the same as "false."

Your question, "What is Truth?" is timeless, but is especially appropriate to ask as we move from a modern frame of reference to postmodern. I think this is one of the ways postmodernism might actually breathe new life into Christianity.