Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Stretching the Truth


'Stretching the truth' is a turn of phrase that you might use to describe a kid who is trying to give a plausible excuse to her maths teacher for why she hasn't done her homework on time. But does truth actually possess elastic qualities? Can it be stretched? If truth isn't elastic does that render it brittle? If it is, does it have an elastic limit beyond which it will... snnaaAP!
These questions are important to me because of the faith-journey I find myself on. I feel like I'm in a very dynamic place where there's a lot of movement going on, movement that I'm part of. (a dance?) It's very different from where I was a few years ago which felt a lot like standing on sinking sand. But with so much movement all around the challenge is to locate those fixed points that offer reliable orientation and prevent the onset of nausea!
I'll be having some friends round on Saturday morning to talk about this sort of stuff. I'm really looking forward to it, especially as there will be a whole range of positions and perspectives represented. Where will we end up? I really don't know, but that's the exciting thing. I don't know if the truth can be stretched, but I can, I want to be.

"Faith alone is certainty. Everything but faith is subject to doubt. Jesus Christ alone is the certainty of faith." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics

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10 comments:

Geoff said...

Hey Matt - that sounds very interesting. I can relate, certainly. I have often felt like my own journey was one of being stretched from my traditional familiar moorings, and with that has been a fear that the elastic would break and I'd never find my way back. It can be hard, because I can constantly feel like I'm living in tension, but I also feel that if I don't pull on the elastic, I'll never discover new landscapes .

Geoff

adam said...

This is a question I have been bouncing around for a few months now but have recently started viewing from a different angle. I was studying and discussing the 10 commandments the other day and as part of that began to look at 'do not lie'.
I started by noticing that if I lied to you I damaged you because I distorted you view of truth. I also damaged our relationship as trust was broken but just as importantly I damaged myself as I lost touch with truth myself. to illustrate my point I used the comments by Hilary Clinton last week about her trip to Bosnia where she claimed to land under sniper fire and have to run to the hanger. when the news crews checked their files they found footage of her arrival which was far different from her account. My point was that I wondered whether she set out to lie, or whether she actually thought she was telling truth. My suspicion is the latter; she actually now believed that to be the truth, she had completely lost touch with truth. this is particularly worrying as I see it reflected throughout society. truth is no longer an absolute but rather transitory, individual, variable and changeable. When this happens we become lost because we have no benchmark, no plumbline, no basis on which to judge things. When truth is gone how do we decide who to trust, what path to take, what to listen to, what moral code to align ourselves with?
To look at Jesus' claim that he is 'the truth' in this light also sheds some light on how much we have distorted that claim and adopted it for ourselves to claim that our interpretation of scripture is truth, rather than Jesus in some way being truth himself and so being the only absolute.

wow, even more questions, thanks for the blog

Adam

Matt Wilson said...

Hi chaps,
I suppose more with reference to your comments Adam when we speak metaphorically about truth (and I feel often we must) why do we conjure images that are rigid and static rather than dynamic. I know you're a Rob Bell fan so if I put it like this it might help: I may hold in my hands 2 steel objects, say, a tent-peg and a spring, they are both truly steel, but one is flexible and the other isn't.
Back to my post, I think what I'm getting at is - I seem to be encountering truth in a form other than the rigid variety I have inherited from the generation before me, it is no less 'absolute' it just has all sorts of 'bendy' properties that I never associated with truth before.

Anonymous said...

If u are talking about bible truths or the 'truth' as in what we base our faith on i dont actually think it can be stretched. Back in the day the belts in armour were not only attached around the waist for battle, but over the shoulder aswell...and the breastplate was attached to this. The breastplate (righteousness) could only stay on properly if the belt (truth) was tightly and properly fitted. Both needed each other to work properly

spurious said...

Hello again Matt. For me, truth isn't something I'd describe as elastic as much as revelatory. By that, I mean that the truth is the truth; even if it changes and adapts, it remains absolute by it's nature. 'Absolute' needn't mean stagnant, but it does equate to a level of consistency that transcends it's subject, if that makes sense. Yet it's also revelatory because we may understand the truth by degrees. Our journey and flexibility in recognising and understanding the truth shouldn't be projected onto truth itself, but understood as part of who we are; people whose understanding and self-awareness in relation to the truth are 'elastic'.

I'm going to ignore the absurdity of the quote you ended on, though I'm sorely tempted to discuss it. ;)

Matt Wilson said...

Ref the Anonymous quote, it is the 'stretchiness' of many so-called 'bible truths' that led me to this post, so that must mean I need to trade in my belt for a set of braces!
Ref Spurious (by the way do I know you from somewhere?) I like your thinking on this a lot. I agree that the truth is so much bigger than we are that we often fail to take in its real shape and form.
And yes the Bonhoeffer quote was a bit of a red herring (or red rag) but I used it as it is printed in the inside cover of an amazing (no really) book by Lesslie Newbiggin called 'Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt and Certainty in Christian Discipleship'.

spurious said...

Agreed, Matt. Our culture is such that we are conditioned to accept that the truth is something we own, rather then something we discover. We're told it's of our making, not of our understanding and accepting. The demonstrable failure of such an approach to truth is apparent in many ways of prevalent concern to society at the moment. By the way, yes, you do know me from somewhere, more specifically our mutual home from the very start of Eden Wythenshawe.

Matt Wilson said...

My, my, my, young master Parker, haven't you grown! I've quite enjoyed sparring with you in these little comments boxes over the last year or so. Hope you're enjoying the California sunshine, as you know I'm still stuck in the Manchester drizzle.
Maybe now would be a good time to ask you to delete that review on Amazon slagging my book off. You didn't really expect me to publish a public autopsy of Eden Wythenshawe did you? You may be reassured to know that for the last 5 years since I got the job of looking after Eden as a network I've been working my butt off to make sure that the mistakes made in Wythenshawe never get repeated. That said, it hasn't escaped my memory that even back in your days as a Cross Rhythms reviewer you did tend to relish writing a bad review more than a good one.

spurious said...

Actually I haven't been in CA for a while now. I am heartened by your recognition of, and effort to avoid, the mistakes of yesteryear re:Eden. Regards my Amazon review of your book, I have deleted it. I suppose it was more a comment for you then it was a review for the general public. Take care Matt.

Matt Wilson said...

Thanks Matt, here's the link to my Facebook profile, it's good to be back in touch after all these years.
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=595711579