Connected Truth (Pt.1)

A Brief Personal Testimony

Before I became a Christian at the age of 25 I had a yearning for truth.  I tried to find it, of all places, at the local pub, ‘The Bull’.  Not the deep truth of philosophers; just the everyday truth of belonging.  Real Ale and parties and pub banter provided the backdrop for this belonging.  The trouble is, it wasn’t very “real.”  The conversation was aimless and repetitive: we knew it all and knew absolutely nothing.

When I reached twenty I discovered a book about Michelangelo among my mother’s books.  The amazing brilliance of this artist: painter, sculptor, architect, poet, as well as his brooding persona, and his dedication to the ‘Christian’ humanist ideal, captivated me.  I began to read about Art History, beginning with Vasari’s Lives and broadening out into all periods.  I found the expressions of truth in Caravaggio’s mixing of serenity and menace, Brueghel’s depictions of death in the midst of pastoral beauty, the dignity of the mundane in de Hooch; Claude’s use of light, Constable’s clouds, Cezanne’s geometrical preoccupations.  Men like these helped me to see that truth lay within the world around me.  But for the most part, truth remained aloof.

The work of Vasari is punctuated by the presence of a man whose influence profoundly affected many of the artists Vasari wrote about.  That man was a Domenican priest by the name of Girolamo Savonarola ( d.1498).  Roman Catholic though he was, from the accounts of his life which I have read, it appears that Savonarola was a converted man.  But putting that question aside, what impressed me about him was how his preaching in the great cathedral at  Florence, brought about a real reformation in morals and a true fear of God in that Renaissance city.

Savonarola was not the only prominent man I read about.  I also studied Machiavelli.  The contrast between the motives of the two men; the one to make men see their answerability to God; the other to advise on the shenanigans of Cesare Borgia, started to make me see that truth was tied to motive.  The martyr priest was more likely to point me to truth than the political philosopher.  Notwithstanding, I did not “get religion” at that time, thinking it was a crutch and an escape.  Instead I began to read authors I had run into in the history of art.  I read Plato and Aristotle and Sophocles – the serious writers.  After I’d had enough of them I indulged in the sarcasm of Aristophanes.  From him I turned to Shakespeare, and then, for no real reason other than I liked the name, to Bertrand Russell.  Again it became clear to me that even though the philosophers were brilliant and often witty, they seemed further from the truth than the poets and painters.

It was after plowing through most of Hans Kung’s Does God Exist? that I  finally decided to read the Bible.  My younger brother Craig had been reading the Bible for a while and now I felt I needed to do the same.  I told myself that I could scarcely ignore such a book any more.

I am very glad that I hit upon reading the Gospels first.  These four short “Lives” set before me the most compelling person I had ever encountered.  Jesus spoke right into me.  He did not “philosophize”  about truth, he just spoke it; He confronted you with it!  And the odd thing was, I recognized it when I read it.

I did not accept Jesus’ claims right away.  There was a lot of clutter that needed to be riffled through.  Besides, coming across John Drane’s doubt-filled book Jesus and the Four Gospels certainly didn’t help.  But the Holy Spirit did not allow Drane’s concessions to historical criticism phase me.  I was beginning to see that Truth was not a thing – a sort of home-plate to gain.  Truth was not disconnected from the world; still less from people.  Truth made claims upon me.  Those claims I heard in Jesus’ voice and saw in His actions.  Truth was personal.  It was connected to Him who said “I am the truth!”

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5 comments

  1. “And the odd thing was, I recognized it when I read it.”– it was no longer mere “foolishness” you were becoming “Logos”-positive…..

    1 Cor 1——POW RIGHT IN THE FACE!– Take that Bertrand Russel et al….yes even you Socrates you wily rascal!!

    GO JESUS!!!!!!

    p.s welcome board Brother Paul!!!

  2. I don’t doubt that all those meanderings prior to your exposure to the gospel were part of His divine plan for you 😉 What a blessing that you don’t have to spend time on such tangents now, but can still speak with some authority in that arena having paid your dues earlier on.

    God always makes use of our lives for His glory–even much of what we did well before “He dawned upon us.” 🙂

  3. Here is the most sublime description that “dawning” ever penned:

    ” And then followed an experience impossible to describe.
    It was as if I had been blundering about since my birth with two
    huge and unmanageable machines, of different shapes and without
    apparent connection–the world and the Christian tradition.
    I had found this hole in the world: the fact that one must
    somehow find a way of loving the world without trusting it;
    somehow one must love the world without being worldly. I found this
    projecting feature of Christian theology, like a sort of hard spike,
    the dogmatic insistence that God was personal, and had made a world
    separate from Himself. The spike of dogma fitted exactly into
    the hole in the world–it had evidently been meant to go there–
    and then the strange thing began to happen. When once these two
    parts of the two machines had come together, one after another,
    all the other parts fitted and fell in with an eerie exactitude.
    I could hear bolt after bolt over all the machinery falling
    into its place with a kind of click of relief. Having got one
    part right, all the other parts were repeating that rectitude,
    as clock after clock strikes noon. Instinct after instinct was
    answered by doctrine after doctrine. Or, to vary the metaphor,
    I was like one who had advanced into a hostile country to take
    one high fortress. And when that fort had fallen the whole country
    surrendered and turned solid behind me. The whole land was lit up,
    as it were, back to the first fields of my childhood. All those blind
    fancies of boyhood which in the fourth chapter I have tried in vain
    to trace on the darkness, became suddenly transparent and sane.
    I was right when I felt that roses were red by some sort of choice:
    it was the divine choice. I was right when I felt that I would
    almost rather say that grass was the wrong colour than say it must
    by necessity have been that colour: it might verily have been
    any other. My sense that happiness hung on the crazy thread of a
    condition did mean something when all was said: it meant the whole
    doctrine of the Fall. Even those dim and shapeless monsters of
    notions which I have not been able to describe, much less defend,
    stepped quietly into their places like colossal caryatides
    of the creed. The fancy that the cosmos was not vast and void,
    but small and cosy, had a fulfilled significance now, for anything
    that is a work of art must be small in the sight of the artist;
    to God the stars might be only small and dear, like diamonds.
    And my haunting instinct that somehow good was not merely a tool to
    be used, but a relic to be guarded, like the goods from Crusoe’s ship–
    even that had been the wild whisper of something originally wise, for,
    according to Christianity, we were indeed the survivors of a wreck,
    the crew of a golden ship that had gone down before the beginning of
    the world.
    -Chesterton, Orthodoxy, p.44

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