All humans are able to know what is essentially true, even in what the Bible explains is our “fallen” condition. Theologian Walter Brueggemann put it like this: “[There are] orders, limits, and boundaries within which humanness is possible and beyond these there can only be trouble.” And further, “Life has a certain evocative quality, a certain connectedness about it, a dynamic, an intention, a direction, a presence, a meaning. And we are creatures who are an integral part of that life and we respond instinctively to it even if we rebel at its qualities” (quoted in Truth Is Stranger Than it Used to Be by Richard Middleton and Brian Walsh, p.162). In other words, humans experience the world as having a certain “givenness” or truth about it.
All humans—regardless of their individual and subjective worldview—experience this truth, or “fixity,” though it often lies at a very taken-for-granted level of life. Gravity is fixed. Our biology is given. The way humans need to relate to one another with mutual respect, justice, and kindness is observably universal. Sometimes nature and human nature are cruel, tragic, and overwhelming. All human beings are confronted with these facts about the world, which are all elements of truth built into creation, and we all must learn to respond to them by seeking explanations, meaning, and ways to survive their reality. We were created to know the truth and have it fill our lives with the satisfaction of its solidness. Learning to seek it and love it is inherent to our salvation.
Here, then, is a critically important question: If I understand that I am a creature who in my most fundamental nature has a love/hate relationship with truth (in Romans 7 Paul confesses that the truth he knows he cannot obey and fulfill), what can I do about it? If I now understand that my God and Savior is the author of truth and that being saved from sin is directly related to coming into harmony with truth, if I see my need to be a person who desires the truth of God and His creation, what will get me to be one who does, in fact, desire it?
That is the core of the bad news. We now come to the good news. Our salvation to becoming truthful creatures is grounded in God’s loving and merciful commitment to us. Only the Spirit of Truth is able to overcome the deeply embedded resistance to truth in us all. This gift of being recreated to love truth and not fear it, even while I remain someone with severe tendencies to run from it, is both the evidence of God’s work in my life and a proof of my maturing inner self. Put differently, God is actively committed to transforming, over time, what the Apostle Paul refers to as my “inner man,” my deepest self, into one that increasingly desires to know, understand, and personally embrace the truth.
Even as God performs this miracle deep within me, my new, growing desire for what is true will often be in profound conflict with other sin-based desires within me—for safety, for security, for acceptance by those I admire or who hold power over me. At times, my desire for and recognition of the truth will directly contradict old, evil habits of mind and heart—especially those that show me my own flaws and moral brokenness. This realization is disturbing and unsettling until I remember that the Gospel never promised an “instant fix” of my character. I am “in process.” I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling. The event of the cross should encourage us all, for in it God has promised His mercy and has proved His intention to complete His job of transforming me—even if I have only begun to understand and to learn to love truth’s work in my life.