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Five Cultural Struggles: Truth
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?
LeaderLines is a weekly "e-briefing" providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.