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Five Cultural Struggles: Truth
by Tom Goodman
October 25, 2007

A few years ago on her radio program, Dr. Laura Schlessinger asked a caller about the value of believing in the resurrection.  At the height of her popularity, Dr. Laura was heard on 430 radio stations by an estimated listening audience of 18 million people.  One caller asked for advice regarding her fiancĂ©, who attended a different church than the caller attended.  The sharp differences in what the two churches taught were causing a problem in the relationship.  When Dr. Laura pressed for an example, the caller answered that her fiancĂ©'s church did not affirm the resurrection.

"Tell me something," Dr. Laura replied.  "I don't understand all these ins and outs.  What difference does the resurrection make?"

The caller didn't have an answer.  Do you?

Laura Schlessinger's question illustrates our culture's struggle with truth.  And too many of us can identify with her caller's inability to address that struggle.

In his book, No Perfect People Allowed, Austin pastor John Burke says that our skillful presentation of the truth is one of five main issues in our culture that we must come to terms with.  The five issues are:


We've already looked at the first two struggles in previous editions of LeaderLines.  So, what about our culture's struggle with truth?

Most people who check out Christianity do so from a worldview that told them that history was written by the powerful few with a motive of oppressing and controlling the weaker -- and this includes religious history, where those who compiled the Scriptures selected as authoritative only those stories that benefited their interest.  They've been told that truth and morality evolved out of social context, and so they are simply relative to that culture.  As a result, our culture thinks that people claim to have "the truth" are the source of religious wars and intolerance and bigotry.

But that doesn't mean that people in contemporary culture have no interest in discussing Christian truth claims.  In fact, Burke observes, people "long to experience something firm and solid that 'feels' true."

So, if nonbelievers in our culture are open to truth claims, where's the struggle?  "They don't resist the truth," Burke notes.  "They resist arrogance."  In other words, too many Christians are perceived as belligerent, closed-minded, and unwilling to listen to others.

So, what can we do to successfully communicate truth to a culture that has become guarded toward us?  Burke suggests four things.  We need to present our truth claims humbly, practically, rationally, and incarnationally.

Humble truth.  "Knowledge must take a back seat to love as we present truth in the postmodern context," he says.  "Knowledge is very important, but not to those who can't hear it."  Taking the time to listen, to highlight positive features of another's worldview, and to commit to friendship regardless of whether the person "comes around" to our way of thinking -- these are humble ways to communicate truth.

Practical truth.  While some believers (and bloggers) are cynical about sermons focused on making life "work," this approach is a useful way to introduce nonbelievers to Bible study.  Burke writes:
What we find is that people who are not on a search for "what's true" are still on a search for "what's life-giving."  We challenge people to live "as if" God and his words were true and to see if it doesn't produce in their lives something better than they have right now....  This is not to say we believe truth is only pragmatic.  It just means that God's truth is pragmatic, and we can't fail to explain how faith works practically, because this is partially how emerging generations approach finding truth.

Rational truth.  It's a myth that people in our culture no longer have an interest in linear thinking and propositional presentations.  In fact, Burke has found that people appreciate a well structured apologetic, such as how Jesus fulfilled the many Old Testament prophecies.  As we communicate truth to our community, we can't depend on these rational defenses of the faith alone, but that doesn't mean we can't depend on them at all.

Incarnational truth.  This aspect of communicating truth may be the most important in our day.  People are not asking what is true so much as they are asking if they want to be like us and our friends.  They are asking, "Do these people reflect who I want to become?"  In other words, if they don't see anything real or attractive in us as Christ followers, they don't care how "true" we think our Bible is.  In order to address this aspect of discovering truth, we have to invite people into our backyards and our Bible study groups.  People have to spend time with us to see how we live our faith.  As we say around Hillcrest, it's all about "finding and following Jesus together."

Review those four components of communicating truth to our community.  Which one(s) do you need to develop across the next few months?


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