Darrow Miller and Friends

Whatever Happened to the Pursuit of Truth?

Christians are largely unprepared to deal with reality. The pursuit of truth has seriously eroded.

Nancy Pearcey writes about the pursuit of truthIn a recent interview in the online magazine, The Christian Post, our friend Nancy Pearcey—an author, Christian philosopher, and apologist—clearly captured the dilemma faced by Christian young people today:

Youth groups rarely encourage young people to grapple with tough questions. Instead the goal seems to be to engineer events that ratchet up emotional commitment. But emotional intensity is not enough to block out questions. If anything, it leads teens to redefine Christianity in purely emotional terms — which leaves them vulnerable when they finally do face their questions.

I have witnessed the same thing as I journey around the globe speaking to pastors and young people. For years I have heard pastors and Christian leaders say, “Stop asking questions and just believe!” It seems that objective faith has been replaced with a faith based almost exclusively on emotions. We do not ask, Is it trueDoes it match reality? Instead, we ask, Does it workDoes it feel good? On a recent trip I visited a megachurch where the youth service seemed designed to achieve nothing more than an emotional high. The youth were so disengaged mentally their behavior appeared to me to verge on the demonic.

It seems that, with a few brave exceptions, pastors are afraid of thinking. Unlike the Bereans (see Acts 17:11), they care little for truth and are more concerned to keep their churches full. Each year it seems to me that the worship service becomes more about reaching a new emotional high than about calling people to stand in awe of God and the truth (seen in the twin revelations of His creation and His word).

Life should be a pursuit of truth

Our children’s faith too often fails them when they meet the “real world,” e.g. the onslaught of Darwinian ideology at the university. Repeated exposure to an emotional high does not prepare students to withstand the tough questions of their professors and peers. The church has not taught their children to think independently, to reason, and to seek answers to tough questions. Pearcey reports the biggest reason young Christians leave the faith: “They could not get answers to their doubts and questions.” Feelings were seldom the problem. The problem was a truth vacuum.

Life should be a pursuit of truth, not merely following one’s feelings.

I just read a very sad and troubling letter from the head of Friends School of Baltimore, Matt Micciche, to the students and alumni of the school. Like any school, they liked to publish the achievements of their alumni. They posted an article in the Washington Post about alumnus Ryan Anderson. But some alumni who identified with the LGBT community protested. Mr. Anderson is a leading spokesman for covenantal  marriage between a man and a woman.  The “offended” alumni created such a firestorm that Mr. Micciche felt obliged to remove the post and apologize to the stakeholders of the school. In his letter of apology, Mr. Micciche wrote of the personal conflict he experienced in removing the post:

I found myself torn between two seemingly opposed aspects of our School Philosophy. We believe, as we say in that document, that “Quaker education is a pilgrimage–a continual seeking after Truth. The search for truth requires a willingness to listen openly to the ideas of others, even in fields of controversy.” I take very seriously our responsibility as a school to encourage the free and open exchange of all ideas, from across the political spectrum. I firmly believe that we must support, foster, and celebrate divergent thinking to the greatest possible extent. There can be no “party line” in a truly great educational institution, no sense that there is only one acceptable view on any complex topic.

Here is a school founded on the pursuit of truth. The pursuit of truth establishes a level playing field of inquiry, a forum for people of differing opinions to present their best arguments. Such pursuit creates the framework for free and open societies. The pursuit of truth should be in the mission statement of every church and every Christian school worthy of the name.

Yet, Micciche goes on to say:

We also affirm in our Philosophy that “Friends School seeks to live the conviction that there is that of God in each person. At Friends, we work together to build and sustain a community that is inclusive, respectful, and supportive of all people; we value diversity and cherish differences.” With this ideal in mind, the celebration of divergent viewpoints is not, and cannot be, without boundaries. When the views that a person espouses call into question the full humanity or the full access to human rights of others, based on their very identity, the active harm that the espousal of these views causes outweighs the opposing value of freedom of expression.

I can’t affirm everything there—especially if my suspicions about his meaning are correct—but yes, it is good to value diversity and cherish differences and to create communities that do the same. But notice where he goes from there: someone’s feelings are allowed to trump the pursuit of truth.

My feelings have often been hurt. I’m sure I have hurt others’ feelings. Since when do feelings take precedence over truth?

Micciche makes his priority clear:

My decision, in other words, places a priority on the very real and human sentiments of the actual members of our community (as expressed to me in the wake of our posting of this article) over the more purely philosophical commitment to the free flow of ideas.

Truth, according to Micciche, is merely abstract. The imago Dei nature of human beings is irrelevant. The sanctity of human life is negotiable, based on human feelings. The dignity of women matters only if people feel good about it. What a travesty.

In her new book Finding Truth, Nancy Pearcey unpacks the apostle Paul’s principles of apologetics in Romans 1. The book provides tools to equip young Christians and the church to confront today’s world. The idols of any society are found on half-truths. To challenge the modern and post-modern minds you must:

  1. Identify the idol.
  2. Identify the idol’s reductionism.
  3. Test the idol: Does it contradict what we know about the world?
  4. Test the idol: Does it contradict itself?
  5. Replace the idol: Make the case for Christianity.

Go here to read the Pearcey interview in its entirety.

As the church, let us out think, out love, and out serve our rivals.

  • Darrow Miller

See these related posts:

VERITAS – The Puritan Pursuit of Truth

The POWER OF TRUTH in a World of Illusion

The Mind is the Battlefield of Truth vs. Lies

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).