This column first appeared in 2015.
“Do not dispute over the truth with someone who does not know the truth, but from the person who is eager to know the truth, do not withhold words from him” – Saint Isaac the Syrian
For Eastern Orthodox Christians, “the truth” is Christ, a person, the incarnate word, the authenticity of the existence, the validation and verification of reality. The truth cannot be subjective, or relative or many different truths, but only one objective truth. There can be no opinion of what truth is because the truth is what reality is.
John 18:37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause, I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth [of the Word, of Christ] hears My voice.”
In John 14: 6 Jesus said to him, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” For us (Eastern Orthodox Christians) he is the way to perceive the truth, he is the incarnate truth, everything he says is the truth, he is the life. Without him, there can be no life (reality).
If we choose to make truth subjective and relative, then we have created our reality that we choose to live in. Given these conditions we might say that the truth for me is not the same as the truth for you. So in times of political correctness some responses might be like:
“We all worship the same God,” not taking into consideration that our Christian God is a trinitarian community of persons defined as love. The implication being you can’t have a God of love without the existence of two or more persons in the godhead. Love demands the presence of another person for love to exist! The Christian God of love willingly became a man in his creation through the Incarnation and willingly gave himself up in the crucifixion, for the life of the world, exhibiting his unconditional love for us.
- “All religions are basically the same,” so say Jim Jones and David Koresh.
- “God just wants us to be nice to each other” having nothing to do with sharing, involvement, or obligation of our resources, time, or talents with one another.
- “My religion is a very private issue; It’s just about Jesus and me and not anyone else.” What happened to the Body of Christ (the Christian Church of love one another) defined by the second great commandment? Was this imperative Christian commandment thrown out with the bathwater?
- “We will all be happy when we get to Heaven.” I guess all we have to do is just sit around and do nothing and wait.
- “My view or opinion of religion is very private…etc., etc., etc…..”
We are conspiring with ourselves to confirm our myths. We create our reality by choosing and redefining the “Christian God” that fits the way we live. We recreate a god so that there would be no expectations, accountability, or effort on our part (Heaven forbid)! We use the expression that “works can’t save us” as many of us know, however, “faith without works may not save us,” as written in the Scriptures:
James 2:14 [Faith Without Works Is Dead ] What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Although difficult to do, living in the truth and being grounded in the truth, one may find an unrealized freedom and an unshakable peace mind, even in the midst of any tribulation. Sin destroys relationship and isolates you, keeping you from the truth. The truth frees us from the slavery of sin and enables us to function as you were designed too.
John 8:32: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Freedom to be who you are and not a self-imposed behavior, dictated by your environment and peers.
John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
If the truth is a matter of debate, then unity is the first casualty of truth. Unity is only possible when we agree on the truth. We can have different perspectives of how we see that truth. However, we should be looking at the same event, and we should see the same truth. Take, for instance, the four Gospels, reporting from a different perspective, however, each Gospel telling the truth.
If we change the way we look at things, things will change the way they look. Knowing this, If beliefs change, symptoms change. Thoughts and beliefs (schema) affect behavior and subsequent actions. Dysfunctional thinking causes dysfunctional behavior and our beliefs shape that thinking. Our beliefs determine the course of our actions. Faulty and irrational psychological perception causes distorted learning and reasoning.
We must get to know ourselves so that we can overcome ourselves. Choosing any other path or choosing no path, is a waste of one’s existence. We should live wisely with intention and purpose, determined to find the way that leads us to Christ (The Truth) and to the fulfillment as human beings. Otherwise, I am afraid that C.S. Lewis is right, that we may be heading towards the abolition of man.