I recently posted my last Facebook note on a site and welcomed thoughts and criticism. A reader was questioning the idea that there are truths and untruths in regard to spirituality. I had made the argument that because we see that the physical world behaves in a certain way and not other ways - that it is specific, that we have no reason to believe that the spiritual world is any different. True and false statements can be made about mathematics or the force of gravity. These things don't change because I may have a particular preference. But, this person seemed to prefer the notion that spirituality is more like taste... some people prefer the tastes of certain foods, while others may dislike those foods but love other foods.
Relativism is one of the most pervasive beliefs today, and it's not new. We're familiar with "whatever works for you" - it's essentially permission to believe in whatever you find to be meaningful and/or satisfying.
Now, as an actor, I really do believe there are areas of life when a "whatever works for you" attitude can be helpful. What matters in a film is that the story is told well, and for an actor - that he acts well. No one cares whether the actor used the Meisner technique or Method acting. The goal for the actor is that he is able to express the truth of the character. However he or she gets there is less important than that he gets there. Art, in general, can be very subjective. But, when we talk about art, entertainment, food/drink taste, favorite colors yada yada yada, these are all experiential. They have to do with pleasure, entertainment, style. These are things that define you and your personality. The choices a person makes as to what type of cheese he'll have on his burger and the color of his jeans are about what he finds most pleasant, enjoyable and personally appropriate for him. He isn't saying anything about the world. He is telling you about himself.
Now, there are levels of objectivity in art. You won't find much argument over whether a Davinci displays more skill and beauty than a bucket of chili strewn on a canvas. You will still find personal reasons for preferring the other, but we can all even see a level of objectivity in areas like art and taste.
Now, how do we know that "the spiritual" is less like your color preference or taste in wine than it is the physical world or physics? In no way am I trying to argue that our spiritual lives are themselves purely logical, or law-driven constructs. But, what I am saying is that we are subject to spiritual truths in the same way that we are subject to the natural laws or the laws of logic. They just are, whether we prefer them or not. If there really is a spiritual reality and a God, it seems clear to me that this reality must be, as far as we can understand it, even more specifically one thing and not another. And, though we each may prefer to be in relationship with certain types of people, these people are not "subjective." They are who they are and they are not who they are not. We are not free to define other people... one can choose to do so but this has no baring on the reality of who this person is. And, so it is with God. Making some statement about how you think God must be does not change who he is. And, how do we know what people are like? We must get to know them.
We must be personally engaged in some way in order to know someone. And, if we are to truly know God than he must reveal himself to us. This is exactly what he has done. He has contacted us, he is the God who comes down. He not only revealed himself to men like Moses and Elijah, but became a man himself and walked this earth. We can know who he is and what he is like because he has revealed himself to us.
We live in an interesting time. The culture right now is pervasively saying two things:
1. If you can't test it scientifically, it's not real. (essentially, "pics or it didn't happen" for you internet-lovers).
2. Spirituality is about finding a way to live your life that works for you - that helps you to be a better person.
The Christian life is the opposite of the preceding statements:
1. Science and reason are gifts and tools God has given us. But these are methods to certain types of knowledge. When it comes to personal relationship, intimacy and a revealing of self, a sharing of time builds relational knowledge.
2. Life is not about finding a way that works for you, but dying to yourself and surrendering your life to your Lord and God - then, being sanctified and transformed as a new creation more and more into the image of Christ.
The world is believing in two very contradictory things: that everything worth knowing needs to be proven in a lab and that your personal fulfilment is anything that you wish it to be. The first is overly materialistic and rigid while the second is incredibly childish and wishy-washy... almost to the extent that those who espouse it are admitting that there is no spiritual truth, only spiritual taste. And this is easy to believe if you don't believe anything at all, in which case you probably shouldn't be making any judgements.
As much as the modern atheist would like to say that the Christan is living a childish life with an ignorant blind-faith in a non-existent God, the Christian is actually building his life around both the revealed word of God but also what this natural world would logically lead us and show us to be true. He or she does not live in contradiction. It is, in fact, the double-minded "science or nothing, spirituality is a preference" individual who is living in contradiction to what the world around us reveals to be true.
Written: September 26, 2011
Written: September 26, 2011