Our pastor gave a fiery sermon this past Sabbath about the importance of truth and its elusiveness in contemporary society. The truth is often elusive, not least because there are a great many people who have an active interest in preventing people from knowing the truth, because that truth is inconvenient and unpleasant to them, and has repercussions that are impossible for people to accept. The capacity for humanity for self-deception is immense, and a great deal of the discourse that has always existed has been between false dilemmas that form false pictures and that reject the truth. While the specific frame of the window of acceptable discourse has always varied, the truth has always been outside of that window because it has always made unpalatable demands on people and thus has never been active option for humanity, even if there are different aspects of facets of the truth that are always attractive as a means of making us feel better than previous generations that have failed in one or another area where we happen to do well in our own eyes.
It sometimes amuses me to talk about political philosophy with other people, in large part because the view of so many people is so narrow. One of the many divides between the United States and Europe, despite our common ancestry, is the fact that the political culture in both areas made a serious divergence in the 1700’s that placed and removed different options in different places. Different generations have sought to add options to the acceptable list that are reprehensible for one reason or another, and have sought to remove different options from what can be discussed in polite conversation. Even driving around town, for example, I witness people whose political beliefs are without a doubt immensely foolish and of the wrong spirit because they view matters of life and death as being mere theology seeking to dictate biology, which is an indication that someone is not prepared to deal with the truth of their existence and the reality of divine judgment.
There are a great many ways that people can try to keep away the truth. A few ways are so obvious and so effective at this task that they have been used over and over again. For one, we may use the standards of our time to judge ourselves. We may fancy ourselves to meet or excel the usual standard of our times and think that this is good enough, not realizing that the standards of our time may (frequently) fall so far beneath what is proper and acceptable that it is nowhere remotely near anything approaching truth and goodness. Similarly, we may judge what we know of the truth by the standards of our time and may fancy ourselves to be the judges of what is true rather than subject to it, which certainly prevents us from finding the truth because we think ourselves to already be in possession of it. Whether we seek the truth in our times or in ourselves or in other beings as flawed as we ourselves are, we will not encounter the truth. Indeed, there are so many ways to go wrong that to get right requires assistance from another place.
And sometimes we prevent ourselves from receiving that help. It is distressing to see how this is the case. We can easily be far more attracted to speculation or to the thrill of private interpretations that distinguish us from our fellows to accept plain and mundane truths that are not difficult to understand. We can find some aspects of the truth to be quite hostile to our own feelings about ourselves or others, or make too many demands upon our behavior that we are unwilling to accept. We may find that the truth is too strange compared to the custom of the times and of the positions we find comfortable among those whose interests in the truth is extremely limited at best. There are a great many barriers to our encountering and accepting what is true, and every age heaps up its own to that which already exists.