Your Journey Starts Here

Whether you have already read the book "Through the River" or are interested in the topic of truth and how it impacts your faith and relationships, we welcome you and look forward to interacting with you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Leading Through Disagreement

If you are a leader then you have had to negotiate between people on your team who disagree. When there are two people together in a room there will always be moments of disagreement. Very few leaders handle these situations well. In fact, over the years some of the biggest complaints I have heard about leaders is their handling of conflict.

Well, conflict has a lot to do with your Truth Lens (the concept from our book Through the River). The way you understand truth defines how you will negotiate between two people who claim they have the truth on their side. In our book we have three communities along a river. The Rock Dwellers believe that all truth is knowable and that there is one way to view everything. The Island Dwellers believe that truth is personal and they do not try to impose their understanding on people from other islands because their are no bridges. The Valley Dwellers live in community and believe there is truth we can know and truth we are learning. That learning requires humble dialogue.

As you can imagine leaders from these three communities will approach conflict in very different ways:
  • Rock Dwellers will assess the two warring factions, weigh the information, side with the one they think is right and negotiate a surrender from the other side. This always leaves the other group defeated and disempowered.
  • Island Dwellers will look for a pragmatic solution that gets people working together again without being too concerned about trying to get to the bottom of the situation - since they don't believe that one answer is attainable.
  • Valley Dwellers will look for the piece of truth that is known and affirmed in Scripture and then build from there to have those in disagreement process their struggles and learn together. They will sacrificially stand in the middle and create an environment of humble learning because the process is just as important as the resolution.
We believe that Leading from the Valley represents a way forward for leaders who have been beat up and torn down by conflict in their organizations. What do you think of the way your Truth Lens might impact your ability to lead in conflict?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Understanding Leadership in Light of Truth

I had a very interesting lunch with a believer who had read our book and wanted to chat about applying it in their local church. As we talked, I began to frame a new idea that I am very excited about. Our book focuses on helping the broadest group of people understand their truth lens and then figure out how to engage their world with this new-found understanding.

What we didn't spend much time on was "leadership." But as I talked to this reader about the book, I found myself talking about what leadership looks like from the Rocky Shore, the Islands and the Valley. As many of you know these three geographies in the town represent three different truth lenses.

If we have already talked about what it means to live understanding your truth lens, why is it important to think about leadership? Well, the simple answer is that leadership is about guiding people on God's mission (via Blackaby). These people all have a truth lens that defines how they view the world. Our leadership style is impacted greatly by how we view truth.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting some thoughts on what it means to Lead from the Rocky Shore, the Islands and the Valley. I hope you will join me for this discussion.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Looking at the World through a Both/And Lens

As we continue to discuss the concept of a truth lens, it is important to develop simple tools to help us understand them better. I came across one of these recently. I call it the "Both/And Tool". This is a way of thinking that allows us to avoid the over-simplified truths that the rock dwellers (or positivists) rely on and allows us to think more deeply about truth. It allows us to consider both options and see the the truth in each of them.

Now the challenge is that island dwellers (instrumentalists) and valley dwellers (critical realists) both like the "Both/And Tool" for different reasons. The island dwellers who only believe in personal truth, view this tool as a way to coexist with everyone without having to define truth in any particular way. They hack this tool for their own purposes when they do this.

On the other hand valley dwellers (critical realists) use the Both/And Tool in a differnet way. It is not designed to keep people from having a foundation of solid truth, but it is used as a way to engage the community in learning together. That means that critical realists will acknowledge the truth they know and then use the Both/And Tool to interact about the truth they are learning in community.

I recently wrote a blog post about this for Lausanne called "Are you a Both/And Thinker?" Take a minute to read this great example of using the Both/And Tool.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Special Announcement from Jon and Mindy

As many of you know we have been in a ministry transition over the past few months. Please take a moment to read about our new role and rejoice with us in God's provision. Read our blog announcement here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Visualizing Truth

Recently we recieved an email from a "Through the River" reader. This is what she had to say:
"I was conversing with our Music Pastor's wife, and 2 other home school moms and we were talking about your visual picture of world view lens and the River Town. They all got out their blackberries and touch screens and wrote down the title of your book so they could go get their own copy. Because of your explanation I understand so much why were are so focused on world view. At our homeschooling convention - the theme of everything was world view.

I am contemplating teaching a class on your book to highschool students. It is so powerful. Thanks so much for writing it.....I am just so amazed at God's timing....right when I needed a book to explain it visually in a vivid way to Jacob. JT just picked it up today and is reading through it."

What a great testimony to the power of a word picture! It is amazing what can happen when truth takes on different forms. We have been so trained to read truth in arguments and propositions that we fail to remember that God is so much bigger than linear logic. God can use images, imagination, history, art, memories, and the list goes on and on.

We would love to hear from others of you who have read the book. How has God used the visual image of River Town to bring this truth into perspecitve for you?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Growing in Humility as we Live in Community

I just wrote a blog post for The Lausanne Movement. As many of you know I am helping coordinate the Lausanne Blogger Network, social media and the Lausanne Blog. This week I wrote about truth and the Lausanne Global Conversation - especially about what happens when believers in community disagree. Take a minute to read the post and get involved in the Global Conversation!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Surviving the Commute

I rushed to each light, only to wait in the hot car, listening to the radio chattering on. It was the morning commute and I learned to endure it—even enjoy the liminal time between my worlds. It’s was a time to think ahead to the coming day; a time to prepare. I needed this time. Life at work was so different from life at home. At home it was secure, sure, steady. I knew what to expect, and I knew the rules. Work was full of uncertainty. Different personalities and ways of thinking created conflict, discomfort and frustration. I never quite got used to these feelings.

Why is it that we think so differently? Why when I talk to some people do we just miss each other’s meanings completely? Could it have something to do with our ideas of truth? Maybe the foundations of our thinking are made out of very different materials. Maybe we live on two sides of the same river.

Through the River describes what it’s like living on the rocky shore of the river where people believe in a firm truth and rely on logic to get there. Many people today grew up in a world where this was the primary way of thinking. But then people began to get into the river and swim out to the sandy islands to live. They left the rocky shore because they could no longer believe that logic was the only way to truth. But they began to believe in a totally personal truth and became isolated from each other. Not happy with the sandy islands, some people returned to the rocky shore, but others swam onto the other side of the river. These people began to believe in truth that not only can be found through logic, but can be found in other ways—like personal experience and history.

In our lives, we can all think of people who live in one community along the river or another. Perhaps we live on one side and work on the other—commuting back and forth along the river. When I didn’t understand what the difference was, it was discouraging, disorienting and frustrating. But once I understood what the difference among people was in their view of truth, it became much easier to deal with.

One thing that helped me in relating to people in different parts of the river is realizing that it is not my job to change their perspective—to convince them of another way. Your assumptions about truth are not like your eternal salvation. You can be a Christian and live on either side of the river or on the sandy islands. So it is not imperative that I try to win people over to my way of thinking.

But though I may not need to convince people to think like me, understanding how others think helps my relationships and understanding. For instance, if I live on the rocky shore and work in the river, I know that pragmatism drives the decision-making of the people I am working with. Logic will not reach them, but relationships will. I know then that is important to build good relationships and to hear the stories of people in order to understand where they are coming from.

If I live in the river and go to school on the rocky shore then I know it will be important to have arguments for why I believe certain things. I will understand why truth comes first in all conversations, why the story behind things is secondary and why conversations turn to debate more often than not.

If I live on the far shore and come to visit either the sandy islands or the rocky shore, I may always feel at least a little out of place, but I have an advantage. I both affirm the belief in logic of the rocky shore residents and hold valuable the importance of story and personal experience of the sandy island residents. I can begin to build relationships with either person because we have something in common.

So the commute can be hot, frustrating, and tiring, but it can be done. By understanding how others think about truth I have the ability to work with people who think very differently than I think.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Shining a light on Truth

I have just returned from the MAI Board meeting in Chicago. Serving with MAI is one of my great joys. The ministry trains and equips thought leaders – most of whom are authors or publishers in countless countries around the world.

When the chairman of the Board, Mark Carpenter, opened up our meetings he shared a story that impacted me and is a great example of the truth lens we highlight in our book. Here is how it went:

Mark shared how he and his son attended a city-wide cultural event held in the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil. One of the sponsors who hosted a part of the event was a local art museum that had a large sculpture garden as a key exhibit.

This museum’s event was a walk through the sculpture garden at night with each participant holding a flashlight. The participants would shine their lights on a sculpture when the guide was sharing about that particular work. Mark also mentioned that some of the sculptures were so big that the group had to work together with all their lights to bring the entire work of art into the light.

Mark went on to share how each of us on the board brings various experiences, ideas, etc. to the work of MAI. Each of us are shining our light onto the vision and mission of the organization to bring it into full view.

What an amazing analogy for truth!

In our book we share about the three communities along the river who view truth differently. The third community that we focus on is the Far Shore of the river and they believe that there is absolute truth but much of it is still unknown to us and has to be learned in humble community.

As I thought about Mark’s flashlight story, I realized that it is a wonderful example of the Far Shore of the river. The fact that the sculpture existed was not in question. Everyone knew it was there because the guide was talking about it. But the many visitors could not see it in the dark. To remedy this, they had to each shine their light on the sculpture to bring it out of the darkness.

That is the way it is with truth. We know that truth exists and that God is the master of it. He is our guide in the sculpture garden. But many times that truth is not clear or easy to see. But as we learn together in humble community and shine each of our lights on that piece of truth, it becomes much clearer.

Think back on this week and consider a moment when you and a friend, co-worker or family member were wrestling through a topic or idea. What light did you shine on the idea – what light did they shine on it? How did your interactions in community bring the idea into focus for both of you?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Big K little k what begins with k?

How many of you remember that wonderful Dr. Seuss book about the alphabet? It walks through each letter and describes it with a charming mix of rhythm and humorous characters. The book also helps small children see the difference between the capital letters and the lowercase letters. That difference doesn't seem as important today in a world of lower-case logos and texting vocabulary, but it still matters.

Let's take the letter "k." When used in the word "kingdom" the size of the first letter has huge significance to us as Christians. With a capital "K," kingdom represents God's Kingdom in which we are participants in His plan for the world. With a lower case "k," kingdom represents our human efforts to control our situation and build influence for ourselves.

I am participating in the Lausanne Global Conversation leading up to the Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelization happening in Cape Town, South Africa in October. One of the key topics is partnership. One significant issues in partnership is the size of the letter "k" in kingdom. Throughout Christian missions and ministry we have seen many kingdoms come and go. They form around a powerful vision but in the end they are focused on themselves. Sometimes we see efforts and movements that are focused on the Kingdom of God. These efforts don't usually look as impressive in human terms but they recognize that the "k" must be a capital one.

There are many differences between the lower case "k" ministry efforts and the upper case ones, but one of the most significant is the ability to partner and work together. If we have many kingdoms to protect, partnership will always be a challenge. There are intellectual property issues, issues of who drives programs, challenges with keeping donor bases separate and distinct, and the list goes on and on.

But if our ministry efforts have a fundamental appreciation and commitment to the kingdom with a capital "k," then partnership is almost assumed. That doesn't mean it will be easy. People still have their own ideas, their own perspectives and human nature always kicks in. But if our context for ministry is the Kingdom of God, then those things can be overcome in His power and for His glory.

In our ongoing discussion about truth, this size of our kingdoms comes into play regularly. We talk about three ways of understanding truth in our book "Through the River." Each one of these truth lenses understands the Kingdom of God differently. Positivists who base their foundation in modernity understand the Kingdom of God as something that can be understood as we "grow in knowledge and truth." They want a kingdom with a capital "k" and expect that it will be clearly defined and understood. This means that positivism brings an expectation of certainty to a partnership. Essentially, they believe that the Kingdom can be understood completely and then implemented based on that understanding. The expectations of things being completely aligned and in agreement will be very high - so high that much of the time these partnerships only last a few years because the two organization's cannot agree and keep the same picture of reality for a long enough time period.

The second truth lens that we speak about in our book is instrumentalism. This truth lens says that truth is understood personally. For most of them the idea of kingdom will always be a lower case "k" because it is hard to imagine God's Kingdom in the broader sense. This group is the majority of people in Western Christianity today and is defined by pragmatism. That means that partnership is seen as a way for lower case kingdoms to be more effective and efficient but it is not done primarily to advance the Kingdom of God. This means that partnership will be pursued as long as it benefits the lower case kingdoms involved but will be abandoned if there is not clear benefit or if the benefit is only seen in the upper case Kingdom of God.

The third truth lens is critical realism and it is best understood as the truth you know and the truth you are learning. For this group of truth seekers, the Kingdom of God is a place of mystery on one hand and clarity on the other. I believe that this truth lens is particularly well suited for partnerships in the Kingdom of God. This is because critical realism says that there is absolute truth that we can all share as a foundation, but that most of God's Kingdom is still a mystery to us that we are learning about as we work. By acknowledging that we are learning in community but solidly established on the truth we know, we can humbly serve within the Kingdom of God without creating lower case kingdoms. This focus on community levels the field and takes the focus off of individual organization's and puts it on where God is at work.

So is your life oriented around little "k's" or the big "K"?

Monday, April 26, 2010

What the Bay Bridge Can Teach Us About Truth

That iconic bridge in San Francisco that many people have seen in movies or as tourists is a powerful example of the change in how people understand truth. We got this insight after watching 60 Minute's segment about the new bridge currently being built.

The show focused on the race against time to build the new bridge before a major earthquake strikes the area. According to geologists it is time, but the bridge is far from done. There was the usual drama over time lines and budgets, but that is not what caught our attention.

When they were interviewing one of the builders, he explained how in decades past people thought that the best way to help a structure survive the earthquake was to build it as solid and sturdy as possible. But after a major earthquake hit the area and damaged many of the sturdiest structures, they are now focused on buildings that can sway and move. During the piece, they showed how one particular section of the new bridge had at least 6 feet of sway built into the structure.

What does this say about truth you ask? Well, in the last century the truth lens of positivism ruled the thinking of scientists, builders and financiers alike. This way of thinking said that all truth was knowable and claimed that the job of mankind was to build the most solid foundation possible by accumulating truth in an effort to collect it all.

But just as an earthquake shattered the illusion of safety in sturdy buildings, post-modernity and relativism shattered the idea that all truth was knowable. People began to look at those towers of truth they had built and realized that there were many hidden holes and cracks.

Today a new truth lens is emerging called critical realism (the one we share about in our book "Through the River"). This new way to look at truth says that there is a common foundation on which we can build, however the key to stability is having plenty of give in your structure that will allow for the tumult of the 21st century. Just like the new bridge, those constructing the framework for truth today are creating an environment that establishes the truth we know, but then realizes that there is much truth that we are learning together. The new bridge is dug deep into the San Francisco Bay so that the bridge is anchored firmly in the ground. But the rest of the bridge is attached to the solid tower and is designed to learn and adjust to each earthquake that might come.
So are you building your understanding of truth as a solid structure that strives to defy the earthquake of relativism or are you building a structure that is designed to hold fast by leaving room to grow and learn?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why Truth is Important . . . its not what you think!

I listen to certain Christmas songs all year round. Does that surprise you? Well, it certainly surprises me. Sometimes I wonder why I turn my Ipod to these specific songs when they are very much focused on the Christmas season. But as I listen to them I remember why and those songs bring my faith to life. They speak about Truth in a person . . . the Christ.

But thinking about Truth as a person is a very odd thing to do, isn't it?

Ever since Christianity's growth began to challenge the ideas and power structures of their day, the quest for what is "the Truth" has been at the center of wars, nation-building and cultural upheaval. Truth with a capital "T" has been our goal and we have taken extreme measures to discover it, define it and monopolize it.

But how have we defined and understood Truth? For the most part we have done so through a series of propositions. Ideas that are observable and reproducible. We developed the scientific method as a way to document and categorize these ideas as our understanding of our surroundings grew more and more complex.

In reality we have done the same with our faith. We have created volumes full of statements about what we believe and how they impacts our lives and actions. Those volumes become truth with a capital "T" and we use them as foundational for our understanding of truth.

There is definitely a place for this kind of knowing, but I want to stress for you another kind of knowing that is equally important . . . Truth incarnate. In Isaiah 48:17 God says "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go." We all believe that God is the source of Truth and the one who can direct us and guide us. But that is a pretty comfortable idea since God is this supreme being out there that never became something that we could touch or feel. Never, that is, until Jesus came as the incarnation of God to this Earth to bring salvation and redemption.

All of a sudden truth with a capital "T" has a name, wears sandals, eats fish, has nightmares and eventually died on the cross. That is the idea that I keep coming back to with these Christmas songs. The idea that all that is real, true and right was among us! People like you and me saw the God of the universe in human form and we have records of what He said and what He did. I love how Jesus says in John 14:6, "If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well."

What this means is that the things that Jesus chose to care about represent Truth. The people He spent time with and the stories He shared represent His values and His presentation of God's character to us. Every time I read the Gospels, I am amazed that I am able to see into God's mind through the actions of Jesus.

But if you truly believe that we can see truth with a capital "T" when we look at Jesus, then the next thing that God did is even more amazing. Once Jesus had left the disciples, the Holy Spirit descended and came to live in all those who believed. In fact, thousands of years later, we as Christ-followers still have the blessing and honor of having the Holy Spirit in us.

So does that mean that truth with a capital "T" lives in us . . . you . . . me? Does that mean that when I respond to the Spirit and not to my flesh that I am representing the God of the universe and showing His mind and His heart to others?

If so than our lives are incarnational and our actions can reveal the character, values, ideas, desires of God. And because God's Truth is so much larger than anything we as humans can fully grasp, when we represent God and put aside our sin and selfishness, we are revealing things that God wants others to see and know. Could it be that God might use you to reveal a new idea that fills out what He has already provided through thousands of years of other believers and through His Word?

That changes how I view my preparation for tomorrow. My thoughts, attitudes and actions could be used by God to bring Truth to those around me, or they could be used to satisfy my sin nature and the Prince of Darkness who plagues this world and torments so many.

Will my life be a tool for God to bring Truth into this world?

I cannot think of a question with more practical and immediate implications than this one!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What happened to the common foundation?

I found this great infographic on that shows how the Left and Right in US politics view the world. Take a minute to look at it on this screen or click on it to see the full size:

What struck me immediately about this image is that it shows the two sides completely separate. This is classic positivism (or Rock Dweller) thinking. The idea presented here says that you can either be on one side of the fence or another and that a person must select the picture puzzle that they want to build.

But what if at the bottom of this graph was another bar of all the common ideas and beliefs that both groups of people hold dearly within the system? All of a sudden we would see how those same foundational truths supported both perspectives in very different ways. Then it would be much harder to take a position of arrogance and criticism because we would see that the other side's ideas had at least some origins in a common truth.

A common foundation of truth as seen in critical realism (the Valley Dwellers) challenges us to look for foundational truth and then helps us to look at those around us through a posture of humble learning.

Doesn't that sound better than the friction we see around us today?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Truth about Healthcare Reform

Wow, what a debate. We have seen discussions, research, lobbying, arguments, protesting, spitting, name calling, and on and on. And in all of the posturing and sharing of ideas from one side to the other, the question you have to ask yourself is “Where is the truth?”

In this issue, that question is loaded and very challenging to grapple with. If ever there was a time when understanding and apply our truth lens (epistemology) would come in handy this seems to be it. In our book Through the River, we talk about three ways of viewing truth that we call truth lenses that exist and influence us today.

So why don’t we walk through the three lenses and how people in each camp might try to derive truth about the healthcare debate. It should be an interesting journey and I’m sure it will garner some dynamic responses! So strap on your seat belt and let’s go….

If you are a positivist (a rock dweller in our river analogy) you believe that your job every day is to add truth and subtract untruth. You also believe that truth is a picture puzzle and your job (along with those around you) is to uncover the pieces and put them in their place.

A rock dweller approaches the healthcare debate with a specific idea about the truth in this matter. Their job is to take every new piece of information about the bill, the players and the ramifications and hold it up to what they believe and either add it or subtract it. Because they understand truth as a picture puzzle, they believe there is one right answer about healthcare reform and that they must uncover it and champion it at all costs.

In essence they agree to agree or they break relationship. We have plenty of rock dwellers in this debate don’t we? In fact, entrenched positions and understandings of truth have been part of the very contentious nature of the debate.

If you are an instrumentalist (an island dweller in our river analogy) you understand truth personally. You believe that truth exists, however you are not convinced that your truth can be shared with others. Instead of a picture puzzle, you view truth as a collage where everyone’s understanding and personal experience are summed up into this big dynamic picture that ends up looking a lot like modern art – interesting but not particularly like anything you can point to in life.

An island dweller approaches the healthcare debate in a very pragmatic way. They inventory their personal experiences, their understanding, their perspectives and the facts and come up with the truth that they know and believe. They may believe their position very strongly and speak adamantly about the healthcare issue, but deep down they don’t expect anyone to reach the same particular conclusion as they have reached. The truth is personal. In the end their perspective will be based on their healthcare experience and needs. It may also be based on their passion for the cause of either side of the argument. The key is that island dwellers have no bridges so in the end their view and perspective is their own and they must live with it as individuals.

The island dwellers agree to disagree, knowing that consensus is impossible. There are many people who hold personal perspectives about this issue but don’t pretend that others will agree; aren’t there?

Critical Realist:
If you are a critical realist (a valley dweller in our river analogy) you believe that there is absolute truth that can be shared and can serve as a platform but you also believe there is much truth that is unknown and can only be learned in community. Another way of saying it is that there is truth you know and truth you are learning. You promote the idea of objective truth but you insist that it is understood subjectively. That looks like a montage of many small pictures that come together to make a clear and powerful picture.

A valley dweller approaches the healthcare debate by working to establish the truth that they know…about the government’s past performance in similar programs, the specific elements of the bill, the potential implications and so on. Once there is a clear understanding of what is known within the valley dweller’s community (and validated by other sources), then that person begins to challenge his/her community to humbly learn together. They discuss the subjective reality, process the personal experiences, and look for new perspectives on the issue that could help them expand what they know.

This group agrees to learn together and does not break relationship even if they are not on the same page yet. This is a relatively new approach in our world and we don’t see a lot of people naturally taking this tactic yet. But what would the debate have looked like if they did?

Ok, we quickly explored how people with different truth lenses might respond to the healthcare debate. Now here is your challenge:
1. What truth lens did you use when dealing with this issue?
2. As you reflect on each one, which one represents a Biblical approach and why?
3. Which one reflects the character of God incarnate – Jesus – as he interacted with challenging issues during his time on earth?
4. What will you do the same or differently when the next big truth issue comes up in your world?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Journey of Truth as Tourism

This month we continue to respond to the excellent articles being posted on the Lausanne Global Conversation site about pluralism and the struggle to understand truth. This is a key topic and was the focus of our book - Through the River.

Today we want to highlight one of the official responses to the article by Krish Kandiah who serves as executive director of Churches in Mission for the UK Evangelical Alliance. What I love about the response is the use of the analogy of tourism to talk about our truth journey. This ties in so well with our analogy of going through the river of relativism as people interact with truth.

In this response the author challenges us in two key ways:

1. There is a challenge not to be "tactless tourists" that simply ignore what those searching for truth are going through and demand that they understand truth the way we do. Here is a quote that I love, "The tactless approach to pluralism can lead the church to retreat into arrogant absolutism." This is so true. What we have seen as we have studied the way people view truth is that many fight away the uncertainty of relativism through arrogance. This is easy to understand because people are trying to reduce the uncertainty around them but it is a huge mistake because it makes Christianity so irrelevant to the larger community who is struggling with truth.

2. There is also a challenge not to be "reluctant tourists" that cower in the face of the pluralistic approach all around us. In our book we call the "reluctant tourists" the "island dwellers." They live out in the river of relativism on sandy islands where there is truth but it is completely personal. Unfortunately most believers in the West live in this world of personal truth where there are no bridges to others. I agree with this great quote from that section, "A fast-food message cannot compare to the nourishment offered by a local flavoursome organic church." What a powerful way to combat the idea that truth can no longer be anything but personal. In our book we talk about a third way that is very compatible with how this article approaches the subject. We talk about a humble approach to truth that is derived in relationship to God and in community with believers.

Our prayer is that this global conversation hosted by Lausanne will be a catalyst to bring that kind of truth discussion to the forefront.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Truth in a Human Context

I am very excited about the upcoming Lausanne Capetown 2010 conference in South Africa. It is a key moment in the life of the 21st Century global church. You can follow Capetown on twitter at

This month the Global Conversation leading up to the event is focused on how our world understands truth. This is a key topic for this century and it needs some fresh thinking. I want to focus on one paragraph from Mark Chan's article in Christianity Today and on the Global Conversation:

"Our common humanity is a good starting place to share the truth of Christ. It is in the safety of genuine friendship, where trust is earned and respected, that we may honestly question assumptions. Christians can learn to sow seeds of subversion in the field of relativism by raising questions about the adequacy of moral relativism as a guide for life."

What I like about his approach is that he is starting from a position of human relationship when he talks about truth. The mistake we make so often is to force truth into an objective and sterile world. The age of modernity pushed this as the ultimate goal. But in making the truth sterile they also made it completely without meaning to humanity. It was a bunch of numbers and facts on a page without any context.

In the context of relationship we can validate the truth that we know and understand and commit to learn the rest of the truth in humble community. Mark did not really go there and I wish he would have taken that next step and challenged people not just to fight against relativism but to actively learn truth together.

One of the great challenges that we run up against in the "fight for truth" today is that people think they have to defend the truth. One of the things that Mindy and I have realized as we wrote the book with Dr. Paul Hiebert about our truth lenses is that the best defense for truth is a strong commitment to learning in community. It provides accountability and it also allows our understanding to be framed by what God is telling people across many backgrounds, cultures and experiences.

As we share about in our book, relativism is a natural progression from the short-comings of modernity. The key challenge I would like to throw out there is that the answer is not to pull people back from the raging river of relativism to the rocky shore of modernity. There is another side to the river where absolute truth can exist within the context of learning in community. That is what will appeal to those tired of being buffeted by the waves of relativism.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Is God bigger than your village?

In Tom Steffen's book "Reconnecting God's Story to Ministry," he shares about the "blinders" that we can have when our worldview shapes our theology.

"Worldviews influence the development of theological categories of convenience; they also automatically create blinders to other themes of the Storybook. All theologies are local theologies, but Western theologies tend to conceive of themselves as containing the fullness of the truth. In fact, many Westerners don't believe that culture impacts ones's questions and interpretations of theology. They argue that one is able to remain cultureless while interpreting Scripture." (pg 87)

This idea of blinders is a significant one. Each worldview has a truth lens, as we talk about in our book, and many times those who hold a certain worldview believe that their understanding of truth is the only acceptable way to view it.

Tom does a wonderful job here jolting us out of that understanding and daring us to think that there could be more than one way to view something as deep and intricate as theology - the study of God. Paul Borthwick described this so well in the introduction to our book when he speaks of an encounter with an Ethiopian Christian and their disagreement. Here is what Paul said,

"We disagreed, but as we walked towards our next meeting, he (the Ethiopian believer) turned and said, "We must have these conversations, for if we do not, we will each end up with our own village God." (pg 4, Through the River)

That is powerful! Because many of us have the tendency to focus on our own beliefs and understandings of truth as the only way to view the world, we become isolated and we make God as small as our understanding and our reality. God is much bigger than a village, but for our comfort and security we confine Him to a space that we understand.

Now the opposite is no option either. Many people swing open the gates of their village and say that God is whatever you want Him to be. This is the prevalent way of viewing truth in our culture today. And those who have a village God fight it with all their might. But the tide is too strong. Why would you ever believe that God is as small as a village when you could set God free to be whatever anyone wants?

So that is where we (and Dr. Paul Hiebert) present a third way. We call it "the truth you know and the truth you are learning." In our book we share how those who have liberated their village God and have now found that a God without any absolutes is no God at all, have another truth lens to consider.

This truth lens we share as an third way is simply that there are absolute truths that we have identified throughout Christian history and can be confirmed within our setting. These are the undeniable truths of the faith. But there is also a huge amount of truth about God that we have not yet understood. That "truth we are learning" is slowly uncovered through our experience with God, through other cultures and through the unfolding of history. Slowly God is revealing more and more of Himself as we engage with other believers and humbly learn together in community.

So what truth lens do you have? Do you believe that all truth is knowable and that your village represents all of what God is? Do you believe that God is everything to all people and that personal experience defines who God is? Or do you believe that there is truth we can know and truth we are learning in community?

What you believe about truth matters? It colors your faith, your relationships and your outreach. Pray about it and share where you are in your journey of truth.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Prayer for Haiti

We are all overwhelmed with the needs in Haiti, but where do we start. We believe firmly that we start with prayer. That is what we are doing in our church and in our family and we would ask you to join us in that. Jon has created a 30 Day Prayer Guide for Haiti with Eric Foley as part of their work with .W (doers of the Word - Take a minute to visit Eric's blog and download the prayer guide. And please be sure to share here how you and your family are responding.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Useful Fictions and Silos

We recently ran into another wonderful review of the book. Dan shares how creating useful fictions and silos for ideas were very powerful ideas for him. Do you know what he means? Take some time to pick up the book and check it out. We will be blogging more about those topics in coming months as well. Here is Dan's review.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A New Perspective on Through the River

Take a minute to read a powerful review from a priest in the Orthodox Church about how he interacted with our book and the concept of truth lenses. Very well written:

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Great Truth Story

I just read a great story about one person's truth journey. David Wierzbicki recently wrote a year-end blog that chronicles his journey through the river and his ongoing truth search. I love the fresh and transparent way that David shares. Please take a moment to read about David's journey.

One of my favorite quotes in his post is, "I discoved a love of God that didn’t revolved around a need that every brick in my truth wall be perfectly fitted." This is such a key observation. Once we realize that our God is truth but that there is so much to learn about who He is and what He made, then we can humbly engage our world in exciting ways without feeling like our foundation is being shaken.

So where are you on your truth journey?