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The Challenge of Truth

October 30, 20236 min read

The Challenge of Truth

As a gag, IT professionals in 2011 pinned an advertisement on the wall of their office for one of the hottest business desktop computers on the 1980s market: a Tandy 5000 MC Professional System:  “Our most powerful computer ever!” the ad bragged.   And for only $8,499 it came with 2 MB RAM (with 16 MB capacity) and an eye-popping “lightening fast 20 MHz” processor!

Of course, outdated smart phones move a hundred times faster and carry thousands of times for information than did that “lightening fast” Tandy 5000.  Information is growing so fast that Windows XP (remember that?) had more information than was used in the Apollo 13 launch.

No question, we’re awash in more information than we can dream of.  One can humbly ask, though: How much of it matters?  How much of it is truth?  Or—how much of it is truth that matters to us, to how we are to live, to act, and to understand the purpose of our lives, which are so often permeated with pain?

So What?

Most people have seen T-shirts with a drawing of the Milky Way and an arrow pointing to a spot that says, “You are here.”  Maybe that tells us where we are, but not why we are or, even more importantly—why it even matters that we are.

Centuries ago the German philosopher Immanuel Kant said that all the important questions of life could be boiled down to just three: “What can I know? What ought I do? For what may I hope?”

Good questions.  But where are their answers?

A magazine ran a powerful first-person account by the father of his infant’s struggle and then death from a rare brain cancer.  In the end, as far as the father was concerned, all that remained were questions with no answers and, worse, no hope for any.

“Isabel’s suffering and death,” he wrote, “did nothing for her, or us, or the world.”

Ever hear of “Wild Bill” Donovan?  He was a Medal of Honor winner, a prestigious lawyer, and founder during World War Two of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), the precursor to CIA.  Few people ever accomplished in one life what Wild Bill did in his.  As he got older, however, he was seen standing in his fancy New York apartment and muttering over and over, “What have I done with my life?”

A fair enough question, is it not?  And though “Wild Bill” could decipher the most intricate and secret Nazi and Japanese messages, he couldn’t answer this one basic question.

As humans, we have the ability to ask questions, not just about how far the sun is from the earth, or who wrote The Sound and the Fury, or what is Apple’s next iPhone going to be like.  We ask questions about the meaning of our lives, about why we suffer, about what is right and what is wrong, and about what death means to us and to our loved ones.

And, it almost seems formulaic, too: The importance of the question is directly proportional to the difficulty in finding the answer.

The Scientific Method

For past few centuries, many believed that science offered the great hope for mankind, and the answer to all these questions. The idea had reached a feverish pitch at the beginning of the 20th century, when many were certain that science would solve it all.  After World War One, however, science was now the cause of bigger questions with even harder answers.  Surveying the carnage of the war (and not knowing a worse one was looming), Albert Einstein lamented:  “Our entire much-praised technological progress, and civilization generally could be compared to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.”   

An axe? How about today a 20-megaton thermonuclear device instead?  A pathological criminal?  How about a Jihadist utterly convinced that it’s his God-given duty to kill as many Westerns as possible?

Even if science hadn’t become a force of such potential devastation, it could never answer the hard questions, anyway. “Unfortunately,” wrote Oxford Professor Michael Polyani, “the ideal goals of science are nonsensical. Current biology is based on the assumption that you can explain the processes of life in terms of physics and chemistry; and, of course, physics and chemistry are both to be represented ultimately in terms of the forces acting between atomic particles.  So all life, all human beings, and all works of man, including Shakespeare’s sonnets and Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, are also to be so represented.”

Though we are atomic particles, the truths we’re looking for, the answers to the important questions, aren’t found in protons, electrons and quarks.  Of that, we can be sure.

That’s why linguistic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said: “We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched.”

In other words, science doesn’t have the truths we’re looking for.

The Chess Set

At times, writers have likened human life to chess: We’re pieces on a board limited and constrained in where we can go and what we can do by the rules of the game.  As with all analogies, it has weaknesses but in one important sense it works very well.  The bigger questions about the chess game—why the knight can do this, why the rook can’t do that, or why only the king can be checkmated—cannot be found in the game itself.  The answers must be outside it.

That is, nothing about the chess pieces, the chessboard, or the chess rules explain themselves.  They are the questions, not the answers or the source of the answers.  To find the answers one could have to go beyond the chessboard, the pieces, and the rules of the game, to something that transcends them, that’s bigger than them. In fact, you need to go to what created them to begin with.

This same principle, many believe, applies to us, and to the important truths, the important answers that we are looking for.  Like the chessboard, pieces, and rules of the game, human life, with all its struggles, foibles, and pains are the questions that need answers.  Thus, to find those answers, we need to go beyond ourselves, to something that transcends us, to whatever it was that created us to begin with.

No wonder, then, that millions have looked to the Bible, which purports to have answers to the hard questions so many are asking.

The Challenge

As we have already seen, truth exists.  But what about the truth about the things that matter to us, that matter to our lives and to our loved ones?  Do we just fumble along, in darkness, not knowing the answers?  Or, do we give the Bible a try, which claims to offer us not just truths, but the truths that matter to us the most?

In the Bible, God is recorded as saying something quite astonishing to us: “And you shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

We can find God, if we search with all our heart?

Quite a challenge.  Why not take it?

Part three of three.
Ready to take the challenge and start Bible study? Get started here.

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