This blog is part of my ZionBound series. The full series can be read in post order here.
For a few years now I have viewed truth as something that should be regarded as a type of pseudo sacrament. As I understand the sacraments, they are rites or rituals that bring us closer to God – they bring us, in a spiritual sense, into God’s presence.
Truth is similar to a sacrament in this manner. Obviously, we cannot regard truth as an actual sacrament, because truth is a concept, not a ritual or ceremony. Yet, like a sacrament, when we are honest with ourselves, and with each other, and with God, we move closer into God’s presence. We become more aligned with what Christ wants us to be, as a people, and as individuals.
Conversely, if we are dishonest – in any way – we must expect that we drift further from God’s hopes for us. We cannot expect to be more reflective of what God wants us to be if we are not truthful.
We also have to consider the fact that as Christians, as members of the Later Day Restoration movement, and as members of Community of Christ, we have a duty to be truthful. I will even say that we have a duty to seek the truth – but let me put that in context. We must, when we are exploring a particular issue of doctrine or theology, seek the truth. I don’t mean that we are otherwise obligated to keep hunting for truth, as that would become a full time vocation.
When we consider that Christians are called to follow Christ, to be His disciples, it than of course automatically follows that we need to embrace his teachings, and follow his examples. This means that we need to promote truth. How can we be regarded as model examples of Christian disciples if we do otherwise?
There is an even more important reason why we should ensure we are reflecting truth in our lives, in particular in our religious experiences. Pontius Pilot asked Christ “what is truth?”, however, before Christ could answer, Pilot turned away to address the multitudes. Therefore, whatever Christ’s response may have been was not revealed.
I have often wondered what Christ’s response would have been, had Pilot not walked away (perhaps out of fear of hearing the answer). A couple of years ago, I concluded that Christ would have indicated that truth, ultimate truth, is the mind and will of God. Its just that simple, and it does not need to be any more complex than that. Whatever is the mind and will of God is truth.
Being honest and truthful is, quite simply, our responsibility. Meaning, that in our efforts to understand our doctrine and theology as fully as possible, we must ensure that we are being honest in our conclusions, and always fully truthful in all things. Including our motives.
This is, however, perhaps not always easy. As religious people, we each approach any doctrinal issue encumbered with our own beliefs. Beliefs about scriptural interpretation, beliefs about scriptural authority, beliefs about the sacredness of tradition, beliefs about the church, beliefs about our history, beliefs about God, beliefs about how we think things ought to be.
The more controversial the doctrinal topic being explored, the greater the potential exists that we may compromise our own honesty, and our duty to the truth.
I’d like to use female ordination as an example of this. A while back, I was engaged in a dialog with a person about the validity of the call of women to the priesthood. He presented his reasons why he felt female ordination was wrong. I refuted them each. This went on for a while, until he was no longer able to offer any further reasons for opposing female ordination. He was unable to defeat my responses to his reasons for his opposition.
However, he still was against it. It occurred to me that, ultimately, he just did not want female ordination to be valid. He just didn’t want it to be right. He preferred, and was quite comfortable, with viewing it as wrong. Even when he realized there was no actual doctrinal basis to do so.
Of course, this was just my own conclusion and I had no way of knowing for sure if I was right. So, I asked him. Or, to be honest, I told him. I said that I suspected that the real, ultimate, true reason why he was against female ordination was simply the fact that he did not like it. He didn’t want to see things change.
He acknowledge that I was correct. That actually surprised me. However, it also impressed me. He was being truthful with me. Which of course, is commendable.
However, the fact that I was right is also troubling, because it proved to me that many people, in fact, probably all of us, are prone to behave like this from time to time.
He may have been truthful with me, but he was not being truthful with the doctrine in question. To oppose a doctrinal change, simply because you don’t want it, is not an honest approach to God’s church – even if you are being honest with the reason for opposing something.
Please don’t misunderstand me. It is perfectly fine to oppose doctrinal changes. I have done so on many occasions; and I have gone to great lengths to do so. I’d almost say that I like it, however, that would suggest that I oppose doctrinal changes simply for the sake of doing so – for fun, and that is not at all the case. However, when I do, sincerely feel in my heart that something is not right, I confess I do enjoy laying out my reasons for why I feel that way. I like to explore and wrestle with doctrinal issues. Pondering the scriptures, as Nephi counsels us, is something that helps me to relax.
Therefore, please be assured that I do not object to objecting. However, I would hope that if we do so, if we object to something, that we have doctrinal reasons for doing so, so that we have something more substantial and legitimate than merely not caring for something.
The real test for all of us is this: how do we respond when we run out of doctrinal reasons? Since opposing a doctrinal change without a doctrinal reason is not an honest approach to opposing such a change, than we had better find a doctrinal reason to object.
Often, the doctrinal reason is there first. We oppose the change because we already believe that the change would conflict with our understanding of existing church doctrine, of our understanding of theology, of scripture, etc.
However, we have to ponder, what if all of the reasons that we have are soundly refuted? What do we do then? Do we, like the person I spoke with, acknowledge that we still can’t support the change simply because we don’t like it? Again, we already know that doing such is not an honest approach to rejecting a doctrinal change.
Or do we go hunting for additional doctrinal reasons to resist the change? Doing that to some degree is probably acceptable. However, there has to come a point when, if we keep having our reasons refuted, yet we continue to keep hunting for more and more doctrinal reasons to object to a change, that we are equally guilty of not being honest since clearly our basis for doing so, if the first and even second wave of doctrinal reasons are refuted, is so that we can avoid accepting the change.
If we have to keep looking for more and more objections to try to defend our point-of-view, what than is the true, honest reason or our objection in the first place? It would seem obvious that when it comes right down to it, we just don’t like it.
And that is not honest. That is not valid. That is not Christ-like.
As I suggested previously, I think we probably all fall into this custom, from time to time. I’m sure I have. However, I have to recognize that as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I have a duty to the truth. Jesus Christ is God, and God is the source of all light and all truth. Therefore, those of us who take upon the name of Christ must be upfront with ourselves, and with God, and with each other. How we approach doctrine and theology and scripture, and any church issue must reflect our duty to the truth. Truth is sacred, and if we obstruct truth, even our own personal truth, than we are undermining our own relationship with our Heavenly Father.
We are called to be perfect, to strive to be Christ-like; and if Christ ever said that he was against something, I’m quite sure, if he were asked why, his answer would not be “I just don’t like it”.
Questions to Ponder
1) How do you view the relationship between truth and discipleship?
2) What gets in the way of personal honesty?
3) How can we ensure that our motives are honest?