May 5, 2015

Cliff's Edge

Having grown up in a secular Jewish home, I can count on three fingers the number of Jewish holidays we kept. The essence of those experiences could be summed up like this: They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat!

Those holidays, though, made more sense than did my secular education, which was essentially structured on the postmodern meta-narrative that “truth” (to pilfer Nietzsche) was just “a mobile army of metaphors,” illusions “of which we have forgotten that they are illusions” and blah, blah, blah.

Postmodernism is simply the retrofitted sophistry that Plato ate for breakfast more than three centuries before Christ, and what Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century A.D. dissed in the first pages of Summa Theologica: “For whoever denies the existence of truth,” he wrote, “grants that truth does not exist: and, if truth does not exist, then the proposition ‘Truth does not exist’ is true: and if there is anything true, there must be truth.”

Despite all I was taught from Mrs. Reiger in kindergarten, and from all the other teachers on up, at the tender age of 21 I realized I had been nurtured on a self-refuting error. Because total reality existed (i.e., the universe), truth—that which explained this total reality—had to exist as well. Even if total reality were just an illusion, something had to explain the illusion, and that explanation would be the truth. Even if we’re just brains in vats, something still had to explain the brains and the vats, and that explanation would be the truth. Thus, the truth (that which explains all reality, whatever it is) had to exist. I defy anyone to prove me wrong here.

Of course, my realization that the truth had to exist didn’t automatically mean that I could know it, any more than knowing that someone would win a $50 million Lotto ticket means it would have to be me. I might not ever learn this truth; it might not have even been possible for me (or anyone) to learn it. But once I realized that it had to exist, I thought: If it’s humanly possible to know the truth, then I want to know it, no matter what it costs me, where it leads me, what I have to give up, and what I have to suffer.

And much to my surprise, and though it cost me everything, I found it in Jesus Christ, “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and from the light He has given the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

I didn’t work my way inductively to the truth, starting with an immediate single empirical fact and expanding upward and outward until—voilà! Nor, with the exception of my epiphany that truth had to exist, did I work deductively, starting with grand overarching premises out of which the conclusions I drew had to be true.

Instead, like Saul of Tarsus, I kind of “cheated.” Though I cringe to draw analogies between myself and the apostle (with the exception that we were both Jews who, having hated Jesus, came to love Him instead), I can relate to how he found the truth. Saul had this supernatural experience in which he met Jesus, who gave him a few new premises on which to rethink his life. Saul didn’t study himself into the arms of Jesus; instead, Jesus revealed Himself to him. Then Saul (soon Paul) studied himself into a firm intellectual foundation for that belief.

Something similar happened to me, only 1,900 years after Paul. I had a supernatural experience in which I met Jesus, who gave me a few new premises on which to rethink my life. I didn’t study myself into the arms of Jesus; instead, Jesus revealed Himself to me. Then I studied myself into a firm intellectual foundation for the belief.

In one sense, we didn’t find the truth; the truth found us.

What, though, about someone like Richard Dawkins, who has declared that all he wanted was the truth? How, in his desire for the truth, did he end up a hard-core atheist-materialist-evolutionist, while I, in my quest for truth, became a Seventh-day Adventist Christian? Dawkins and I can’t both be right. His truth contradicts mine, which means that either what one of us believes isn’t the truth, or that neither of what we believe is.

But Dawkins is just one example. What about the millions of others who, after claiming their desire for the truth, became Buddhists, or Scientologists, or Catholics, or Maoists, or even former Adventists? If any of them found the truth, then I certainly haven’t.

In the end, I don’t know these people’s hearts. I don’t know their circumstances. I don’t know how sincere their quest, or how they responded to the Holy Spirit (John 1:9). I don’t know what opportunities they took advantage of or squandered. I have no idea how, or if ever, the truth was presented to them. I don’t know whether in the final judgment they will be inside the Holy City looking out, or outside looking in. I know none of these or 10,000 other things about them and their quest for the truth, other than that I’m promised 1,000 years to get these and other questions answered.

Truth exists; it has to. And I’ve staked the little spasm of life allotted me now, and the hope of eternal life, on the belief that I have found the truth; or rather, that He has found me.