A few days ago, my wife and I were talking with our boys, ages 8 and 9, about what kinds of books they like to read. Among the mentions of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Harry Potter, my son Ethan made a statement that always gets me. He said, "I like reading non-fiction books about things like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster." It wasn't the first time I had heard him say it, and this time I kept my mouth shut and just smiled and nodded. I know he's only 9, and I know what he means by "non-fiction" - indeed, there are loads of books written as factual books by "experts" in things that don't exist.
Reality exists, even if you stop believing in it. To me, reality matters. As humans and as Christians, what is true - reality - should matter more than anything. In other words, all truth is God's truth. If we believe something, even though it's not true, it's not from God. I don't know that too many Christians would disagree with that statement.
So why is there so much division in the global church? It has taken me a long time to realize it, but there is a huge difference between God's reality and our perception of reality. For some people, Bigfoot is as real the air we breathe. Undeterred by the fact that there is no evidence to support such a stance, some people will spend their lives dedicated to the study of Bigfoot. And, believe it or not, there are disagreements within the church over what is true and what isn't.
I am not egocentric enough to think that everything I believe is reality. Indeed, my understanding of truth has grown and changed. What I am pretty confident about is this: In light of new and compelling evidence, our perception of truth and reality must change. Think about it. We go to church every week to hear someone speak truth into our lives. Most of the time it affirms what we believe, or challenges us to live what we say we believe. But every once in a while, a new truth, based on evidence, will be presented, and we have a choice. Do I accept this truth, and alter what I believed to be true an hour ago, or do I reject it because I'm kind of attached to my old "truth"?
Like I said, in light of new and compelling evidence, our perception of truth and reality must change. But what if it starts a domino effect and the entire scaffold of reality that I have built is threatened? This is the fear that keeps many people from accepting new truth, and fighting hard to hold onto their old ways of thinking. For me, holding onto the fact that all truth is God's truth means that if my "truths" are being shaken by undeniable fact, then perhaps my understanding needs to be altered. I am not living in a right relationship with reality. It doesn't mean I abandon everything I believe, but sometimes, a healthy dose of critical reflection can go a long way.
So I guess I'm OK with my 9 year old's fascination with Bigfoot and the Lock Ness Monster. I've tried to show him that there is no evidence to prove that they exist, but he's not having it. The reality of being a 9 year old is that his reality is still being formed. I have no doubt that as he grows up, fantasy will give way to reality, as we teach him to look critically at the borage of information and “facts” being thrown at him. Through conversations like these, I pray he will learn that the pursuit of God’s truth, even if it leads to places unexpected, is what life is about. Maybe the pie charts and bar graphs outlining my position will be more compelling when he's 10. Then again, even for some adults, those blurry Bigfoot pictures are a tough act to follow.