For all the talk about our world being a “post-truth” or “morally relativistic” society, we sure still spend a lot of time arguing about facts. Back in the day, there was usually a know-it-all in every group, who would spout trivia and sound smart, because no one else could quickly confirm or refute what he had to say. Today, if someone spouts off a random claim, it’s just a few taps (or a voice command) to fact-check them…or at least to find a contrarian opinion online. We no longer have to try and remember where else we saw that guest actor that’s currently on TV, since IMDB gives us their entire acting history.
Yes, I understand that much of today’s muddiness about the nature of truth is related to moral or philosophical concepts. However, is it possible that there are basic things that are true that we just don’t “get”? There are several categories of this:
- In the first case, there are some concepts that are just hard to understand. Quantum physics, economics, protein folding, and encryption algorithms probably fall into this category (unless you happen to be an expert in one of them).
- Other concepts can be understood, but we simply don’t have time to research and understand them completely. There are scientists, researchers, historians, lawyers, physicians, and many others who dedicate their lives to these studies, to learn complex topics (and then to write up summaries of their findings, or otherwise teach us, so that we can more quickly understand these difficult topics…sometimes).
- However, there are also concepts that perhaps we are unwilling or unable to understand. The principles are simple, but – for whatever reason – we just don’t get it (much to the frustration of those around us, to whom the answers are clear).
I believe that the “unwilling” case within this last category is usually our fault (our choice), although there is some evidence that maybe God sometimes leaves us in our own ignorance, once we’ve gotten ourselves established there.
Read Jesus’ description of why certain people did not believe Him, from John chapter 8:
But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”
John 8:45-47 NASB
See also this passage below from 2 Corinthians:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NASB
Other passages to review include 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 and 1 John 4:4-6. The Bible also talks about “mysteries”, which – unlike the way we use that term in a detective story – can be solved. See Ephesians 3:1-7.
Let’s take a look at two examples of those who couldn’t see the truth clearly:
In the first case, consider the Pharaoh who was oppressing the Israelites when Moses was sent to free them. The Bible says that Pharaoh’s was “hardened”, but there are two ways that this is described in Exodus chapters 4 through 14:
- Some passages talk about Pharaoh (and others) “hardening” (or making heavy) his heart:
- Other passages talk about God hardening Pharaoh’s (or the Egyptians’) heart:
- Yet other passage(s) don’t make it entirely clear who is responsible for this:
The former seems to be willful – where Pharaoh is making a choice. I think that we can relate to this. We can be guilty of choosing to not listen to God, or to try and skip over passages from the Bible that we don’t like (or aren’t compatible with what we want God to say). If you aren’t tempted to seek out support for your own point of view, I rejoice for you, since this is a challenge to many of us (gauging by both my own experience and the Internet).
The latter is less like what we expect, though. Why would God prevent someone from taking actions that would seem to benefit himself and others? There seem to be at least two possible explanations (although you may see others – if so, let me know), and these are not mutually exclusive:
- It could be that Pharaoh had already made up his mind, and that his path was set. While he could change his mind, during the time he is choosing to remain aligned against God, God prevents him from making choices that would spare Pharaoh from the consequences of his (Pharaoh’s) decisions.
- While it is not entirely clear, there might be a chronology indicated in the passages listed above. One could possibly read into the sequence of events that, at first, Pharaoh made the choice; then, after a while, God let Pharaoh remain in his rebellious state.
- I Timothy 4:1-3 may refer to people who have gotten themselves into this kind of situation.
- Passages like Exodus 7:4-5 and Exodus 10:1-3, Exodus 11:9, Exodus 13:14-15, Exodus 14:4, and Exodus 14:17-18 indicate that God had reasons for doing this. Pharaoh’s resistance to Aaron’s and Moses’ requests would (and did) result in a greater good. This included establishing who God is (in the eyes of the Egyptians and the Israelites), and perhaps demonstrating that God’s words were true (since He foresaw that this would happen).
Regardless of how we wrestle with these latter questions, though, we are in control of what we willfully ignore. Our challenge today is to not be like those who are stubbornly resisting God’s promises, in 2 Peter, chapter 3:
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”
2 Peter 3:3-4 NASB
So, our first challenge is to keep our hearts softened to God’s leading. When my kids were little and didn’t want to be picked up and relocated, they would “be heavy”. This means that they went all limp, and didn’t help us (their parents). Let us not “be heavy” when God wants to provide some holy relocation (to provide His guidance) into our lives.
For another case study (looking at Jesus’ disciples and the messages that they missed, even though Jesus taught them in person!), see Looking in the Wrong Direction, Part 2.