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.

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.