Our 4 Sources of Truth

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

Christ is the truth. And yes, you post-modern readers, there is such a thing as absolute truth. And it is a person.

Compartmentalisation: a Greek man thing?

The problem we usually face is not in Christ being the way and the truth, but rather how to apply it to everyday life.

For years, I have committed myself to a selective Christendom. What do I mean by that? I had decided that the Christian way of life applies to only part of our life. I have not been as radical in this idea as some other Christians, but I did compartmentalise life.

Modern psychology will tell you that this is a man thing and that I should not worry about it. Our brains are built with a lot of drawers, and only one drawer can be open at any time. We carefully see that nothing in one drawer touches anything from another drawer. When I am fishing, I am fishing. And maybe I think about fishing while fishing. Or I actually think about nothing while fishing. Because everything else is in another drawer. Women, they say, are different. Everything in their brain is interconnected, and they love associative quantum leaps—to jump from one end of the brain to the other, leaving us men in utter confusion, as we constantly have to open and slam shut those drawers of ours to keep up.

Historians might point out that compartmentalisation is Greek thinking. To think in categories. As opposed to Hebrew thinking that is much more holistic—encompassing the whole instead of focusing on details. This has been perfected during Enlightenment, a time period that covers up what happened with a grand but misleading name. With Enlightenment, specialisation came. Divide et impera, divide and conquer, a Roman strategy to reign over people more easily, has been coined either by Machiavelli or Louis XVI, and has become a strategy for knowledge gathering and problem solving in sciences only in the last few centuries. Before that, scientists had very holistic views.

Holistic thinking: include God. In everything.

I do not care whether it is a gender thing or cultural to compartmentalise. It is deeply engrained into our imprint.

I call myself a holistic thinker. I love connecting the dots, no matter how far apart they are. I love metaphors and symbols, broad thinking, out of the box.

And still, I compartmentalise.

I don’t talk about living like a Christian on Sunday and having a work-day lifestyle during the week. I am talking about having areas in my life that I do not view through Christ’s eyes.

Want some examples? Think of the entertainer that does not see his profession as outreach to build the Kingdom, glorify God, and educate and lead into worship, but to build a following for fame.

Or more down my path: think of the computer specialist that perfectly knows that his lifestyle at the workplace is to resemble Christ, yet does not ask God for help in programming. God knows Java, and Delphi, and Python, and C++. HTML, CSS, JavaScript. OS X, Windows, Linux.

But the one thing I really struggled with is how to derive God’s will for any given situation. Because—to stay with the example—the bible does not talk about computers. And so many other things we are facing today. Even for the people in its time it did not bluntly write out all situations and circumstances and correct reactions to them. God talks in principles. And he teaches them in stories, metaphors, parables, and examples we can learn from.

A conservative way to find God’s will

Conservative approaches to finding out God’s will depend on four sources, media, or tools to find out God’s will: the bible, tradition, reason, and experience. More liberal attempts combine the first two, regarding the bible as part of tradition at most, if not as irrelevant for today. Following this definition, I proudly proclaim myself a conservative!

Obviously, all four tools need the interpretation and leading of the Holy Spirit. He was sent to lead us into all truth, to remind us of everything that Jesus taught us. He is the paidagogon that brings us to the teacher reminding us of what we learned, and back helping us with our homework. He is our comforter and companion.

I learned this the day I accepted Jesus as my saviour. I had read through the bible several times before in study hours in the catholic boarding home, and it was but a story book with some great philosophical statements and counsel to live by. But when I gave my life to Christ, it sprung alive.

One of the problems that still remained? I still read the bible through the lenses of my imprint. Culture, upbringing, experience, education. I was a man of reason—and still am, or better, am again. My mindset then: humanism. My experience: fatherless child, sent to boarding home. My culture: western, democratic, performance- and achievement-oriented. My education: university-level, when only few made it there. Snobbish, insecure, knowledge-hungry, self-dependant. A not so perfect Vulcan with the disadvantage of a human mother. Logic driven with disturbing suppressed emotions. Call me Dr. Spock.

Let’s look at the four tools we are given. If we overemphasise one, we get in trouble.

Don’t overemphasise or leave the Spirit out

German theology states that if something is not in the bible, it is forbidden. They don’t say it so blunt, of course. But we are taught that if the bible does not talk about something, it is wrong and of the devil. Why are Amish so careful to adopt the new? They have Germanic background, as they come from Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands. You can find such thinking in other cultures as well. Just look at the church’s first reaction to radio, TV, and internet—of the devil.

But the bible was given to us as guidelines, as guard railing. It is both source and judge of our understanding of God’s will, and therefore the only multi-purpose tool in our tool set. We derive God’s will from the examples and principles given in the bible, and judge our understanding from all other sources against it.

Overemphasising tradition prevents change, growth, restoration, maturing. Overemphasising reason makes us self-dependant and glorifies man over God, creation over the creator. And overemphasising experience lets us exchange truths for facts. I define a fact as temporal, while truth holds eternally. A chair is a chair until I use an axe on it. But God’s principles are true even if in fact they are not lived by at the moment. Just like us, facts can lie. Since Jesus is the truth, and God is no man that he could lie, truth can’t lie. Somewhat obvious.

If we don’t use the tools spirit led, we get in trouble. I talked about the bible already. Without the Spirit, it is a great story book. It also is in danger to become, and has become throughout history, a tool of power, abused to preserve the power of a few over many, of one race over the other, of one gender over the other, you name it. But with the Spirit, it becomes a source of life.

Tradition without the Spirit is dead works, while tradition with the Spirit is an anchor that grounds us, a springboard for future growth, a home in times of change.

Reasoning with a changed mind is to have Christ’s mind, to think like him. Experience with the Spirit becomes a well of strength, a fulfilment of the scripture: be still, my soul, and remember what great things he has done for you.

And again: it’s a relationship

It all comes back to relationship. Out of the relationship to God through his Holy Spirit I learn to use the tool set that he has given me to deepen the relationship and live a lifestyle in the favour and will of God. My experience through his eyes strengthens me. His word, both logos as well as rhema, bible and prophecy, keeps me save. Traditions anchor me. And the fact that my reasoning, my renewed mind has a place in all this gives me value in this relationship. Out of relationship to God comes encouragement as well as correction, both instrumental in changing my view and interpretation of all four tools.

This relationship makes me ready to apply the four tools to every compartment of my life. Because, why would I exclude my best friend, mentor, father, brother, saviour, husband from anything?

How about you?