Monday, April 17, 2017

Facts, facts, facts!

“Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”

This is a quote taken in the middle of a humorous passage from Charles Dicken's Hard Times, where a school master is railing about the importance of facts, and facts alone, in the training of his little charges. While of course this school teacher probably missed the importance of human emotions like love, compassion, and fear, he got it right that when humans reason, the best course for them is to be well grounded in facts.

No matter what issue we are approaching, whether it be politics, healthcare, social issues, or theology, our viewpoints should be factual and well grounded, rather than vague, emotion-driven responses to life experiences. This flies in the face of Post-modernism, which says that ultimate truth is unknowable and that humans should base their perception of truth off their experiences. If you feel like a woman even though you are very clearly a man, your feelings determine your truth, Post-modernism would say.

We as Christians, however, know ultimate reality. There is absolute truth, and it is Jesus Christ. We don't need to cry like Pilate "what is truth"? Instead, grounded in our firm faith in Christ, we should hunt for truth and speak it boldly to one another:

"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ."
Ephesians 4:14-15

Perhaps this is why gossip and slander are such a big deal to God. We are no longer like the old man who is caught in webs of deception and trickery; we are new creations with an understanding and hopefully a yearning desire for truth. This should be especially true of our theology, but it should leak out into every aspect of our lives. If we really do believe in absolute truth, then we can be absolutely certain that there is truth to be found all around us.

For instance, the topic of vaccines is a blossoming issue in our homeschool circles, and it is time we all did some serious study on the benefits/risks to vaccines, so that we can approach the issue with a factual, well-balanced viewpoint. I would encourage all of us to give a fair hearing to both sides of the debate, but to not accept what either side is saying at face value. Hold them both to the refining fire of truth. If the facts don't back up their claims, then reject their argument.

Don't even accept someone's experience as a way to justify their argument. For instance, in his viral post about the failure of courtship, Thomas Umstattd Jr.'s main argument against courtship is founded on the experiences of his grandparents and their "going steady". It worked for them, so why shouldn't it work for us? He doesn't point to the differences of our grandparent's culture compared to ours and how divorce was not often considered back then--not because the couples were so happily married after their dating experience, but because divorce was still considered a harmful evil. You will also notice in his post that he has a lot of broad statements about how "Each year I waited for courtship to start working and for my homeschool friends to start getting married. It never happened. Most of them are still single. Some have grown bitter and jaded. Then couples who did get married through courtship started getting divorced. I’m talking the kind of couples who first kissed at their wedding were filing for divorce."

His statements are frightening, but we have no basis to know whether they are really true or not. He gives us no specific examples of these divorces or these bitter and jaded singles. While I am sure he has some friends who have been divorced or are bitter and jaded, how do we know if they were really pursuing courtship or marriage in a God-honoring way? Could there have been more at play than just the "failed" system of courtship?

Again, someone's experiences doesn't make their argument automatically true.

This truth-driven approach to every viewpoint you form may put you at odds with people. Like Joel Belz, journalist for World Magazine, says, "Nothing spoils a good story like a whole lot of research." It's way easier to accept hearsay than to search out the truth behind it, especially if that hearsay aligns itself with our beliefs, but let's refuse to compromise and stand unashamedly in our pursuit of truth. We're Christians; it's our calling. I couldn't agree more with Belz's encouragement to us all in the subtitle to his article I read last night: "Let's be vigilant not to spread fake news as fact."

With so much fake or horridly-slanted news out there, let's hold each other accountable to diligently pursue and speak truth into every aspect of our lives, whether that truth agrees with our viewpoints or not. As Christ's representatives, truthfulness should be our witness. Let's live it out!