A news report the other day told of how some sniffer dogs – the kind that are used at airports to detect drugs – had accidentally been trained to detect talcum powder and not cocaine. Apparently, during the training of the dogs, the trainers had unwittingly been using the wrong kind of white powder. The result was that the poor canines ended out highly trained but useless.
It rather reminded me of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ report of C. Day Lewis’ autobiography. C. Day Lewis (not to be confused with C. S. Lewis) was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, and was not a Christian. He received the finest education that the modern Western world could offer. The problem was that he did not find the experience liberating. Lewis wrote: ‘Each proposition advanced by Plato or Aristotle, Hume or Berkeley, Spinoza or Kant, seemed irrefutable till I read the opposite viewpoint. It appeared that of everything that was true, the opposite was true.’ In the end, he found it difficult to make up his mind about anything at all. He wrote: ‘It produced a mental state of doubt, uncertainty, scepticism and confusion, that made positive action almost impossible. Extreme doubt is like a thick fog.’ That is the sad point to which the modern approach to truth has led us. In the name of humility, we have embraced vagueness at best, and dogmatic relativism at worst.
How refreshing, then, to turn to Christ’s promise to His people: ‘you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32). A little later He adds that ‘if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ (John 8:36). This is a different world to that of the Mishnah or a modern university faculty. So much education these days is about learning more and more about less and less. In order to state the obvious, one must employ the latest sociological jargon. This is done to give the appearance of wisdom, and to disguise the paucity of thought.
God is a God of truth. He can do all things, so much so that it is impossible for Him to lie (Heb.6:18; Tit.1:2). His Son, Jesus Christ, is not simply a teacher of the truth but is the truth (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit, who is the one who makes known salvation in the Son, is described as ‘the Spirit of truth’ (John 16:13). Christ can say of Scripture as the Word of God: ‘Your word is truth’ (John 17:17). Outside is a world of falsehoods and delusions; inside is God’s revealed truth, what Simone Weil beautifully called ‘the radiant manifestation of reality’.
Today the very notion of truth is under fierce attack. The only thing that is true is that nothing is absolutely true. It is not that the train has run off the rails, but that there are no rails to run off. There is a studied vagueness about all of life – from school report cards to political speeches to the modern pulpit. Over the years, Fidel Castro has mastered the art of saying nothing at great length, but there are plenty of bureaucrats, journalists, educationists, and other experts who could run him a close second.
C. Day Lewis’ ‘thick fog’ is a malaise that permeates Western culture. Nothing else could explain the quite extraordinary popularity of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, with its thesis that ‘almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.’ People have discarded the Bible as unscientific, and embraced the Da Vinci Code as high truth because it justifies immorality. The Christ of the Bible is supposedly not true, but the sacred feminine is high truth itself. In other words, Christian sexual ethics are no longer binding. It was the same with Ahab’s acceptance of Baal worship and his rejection of the true prophet Isaiah: ‘I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil’ (1 Kings 22:8). A concern for truth has nothing to do with it. It is just a case of rationalised misbehaviour.
So many believe in evolution, not because it is even faintly credible, but because it removes God from this world. Or they extol toleration because it means one can set aside more demanding issues like love and truth. We have become like those sniffer dogs – highly trained at missing the point. We easily imagine that we are pressing forward when we are only turning around. Is there any hope? One can only trust that Simone Weil got it right: ‘Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go to the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.’