In today’s culture people place high value on the following ideals open mindedness, uncertainty, theory, and tolerance especially, if not solely, when it comes to moral and religious matters. In efforts to live by such values some take the postmodern view that all religious views are on the same level plane and there is no way better than another as long as we all get along. Others take the view often dubbed new atheism where no religion has validity and all need to fade into the mythological past with the gods of the ancients.
There are, of course, variations of these two themes. Not every postmodern welcomes every religion on the planet as equally good, nor does every atheist think religion ought to be forgotten. Some atheists are quiet open to religion continuing as long as it doesn’t cross any lines into their freedom to non-belief.
Even within Christian circles these ideals aforementioned are close to many a heart. Some professing Christianity aren’t so sure it is alright to believe Jesus is the only way and think it more progressive for Him to be their way and keep all doctrine loose enough to never exclude falsehood from truth.
However, whatever the philosophical affiliation most believe that truth ought to have no boundaries. Certainty carries an arrogant connotation. Asserting a truth with conviction makes people uncomfortable. Even in politics there is a grass roots call for bi-partisanship. Asserting something as the right way is taboo for many ways can be thought up and no one should exclude anyone, or so the thinking goes.
The problem is there are foundational logical issues with the idea of perpetual uncertainty or the acceptance of all ideas. America is a melting pot of ideas designed for iron to sharpen iron to keep the debate open by holding fast to your convictions and making sure the other perspectives are recognized and considered. Truth comes in all packages, but when it is true it also necessarily excludes what is not true.
Truth is simply that which really is. And that which is not is false. We seem to have lost sight of these simple logical truths. A claim to knowledge of what is should not be shunned, but tested. A claim of something being false is based on something else being true. Both claims need testing, but it is okay to draw conclusions.
“Dogma--an evil word,” commented a blogger recently. Is that true? Dogma means “An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true.” Sounds like an “authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion considered to be absolutely true.” The commentator said he preferred “theory.” Then it has to be his uncertain theory that dogma is evil, anything else would be dogma.
I’m not trying to pick on anyone so I’m not going to provide the link to the comment I recently read. It just aptly illustrated my point. The point is that no one can get away from dogmatic statements, even those who protest dogma, and that’s okay. We can firmly hold different ideas about the world and still all love each other unless one of our ideas about the world doesn’t allow for such love. I would need to watch my back if I were to befriend a terrorist or someone of that nature.
To anyone who says it is impossible to be certain about truth. I would retort, are you certain? The thing is the necessity of an open mind is to seek the truth and close it around truth and open it to more truth. It’s a process of learning. If it remains open all the time the person is always a seeker and never a finder. Why should anyone seek what cannot be found?
Granted there are many things we will only ever know in part, but we can know a part, or a shadow of the real. But there are other things that we can know and people do know. The problems of doctrine and dogma are not problems of truth claims, but making what is only a part the whole.
You may have heard the story of the three blind men touching an elephant and being asked what the object is. One who has the tail says it is a piece of rope. Another touching the leg thinks it is a trunk of a tree, and so one. Each only experiencing a part of the whole and each firmly believing they know the whole from the part.
Knowing something as true isn’t arrogance, but steps along a journey of truth. Anything can be used in a harmful manner, but that doesn’t make the thing bad. A person can use a firearm in a crime, but that doesn’t mean all guns are bad (though some think so). A person can start a forest fire with a match, but we don’t need to remove all matches from the country. Doctrine, dogma, certainty, knowledge, truth claims, all these are tools of our lives and they can be used in a way that gives life or they can be used in a way that brings bondage.
The problem isn’t the tool it is the heart of the one wielding it. And that heart that wields it wrongly is in each and every one of us and it is that condition of the heart that needs repair and not the tool that needs to be dispensed with. Each of us, whether religious or secular, will bear it in error at times, let us all practice caution and bear truth, as best we know it, ensconced in real love.