CHAPTER IVTHE RIGHT ATTITUDE TOWARD TRUTH
TO SPEAK of the proper attitude toward truth may appear, at first thought, ridiculous to the cultured and educated. The average person would say that he has the right attitude toward truth and facts. In many instances, however, it is found that the one claiming to have the proper attitude does not understand what enters into a correct judgment. Let us, therefore, begin the investigation of the right and wrong attitudes toward truth by examining what it is to have an open mind.I. OPEN-MINDEDNESS
Open-mindedness is an attitude which is free from prejudice. It is difficult, however, for the average person not to be swayed or unduly dominated by the knowledge which he already has. Someone has very forcefully spoken of prejudice as "being down on what one is not up on." The one who is prejudiced hastily judges a case before all the evidence is in hand and, consequently, arrives at distorted conclusions.II. WILLINGNESS TO SEE TRUTH
Frequently one sees the spirit manifested which is spoken of as "big I and little you." A person with this attitude assumes his own importance, belittles others, and is unwilling to listen to what the other person has to say. "Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth" (I Cor. 8:1).
If a person has the willingness to see truth wherever it is and whatever it may be, he is willing to look at all sides of a given question and to examine carefully, honestly, and conscientiously what is presented by those holding opposite views. He has such an appreciation of truth that he is willing to renounce whatever error he may have held prior to his discovering some truth or fact hitherto unknown to him. A willingness to renounce and to repudiate error, held and cherished, is a rare trait of character.III. AN INSATIABLE DESIRE FOR TRUTH
Having discovered some truth, a person must have the courage of his convictions to take his stand for the right regardless of the consequences. It takes moral boldness to accept truth publicly and to align oneself with the right, which usually is unpopular.
Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;
The eternal years of God are hers;
But error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies among his worshippers.
Wm. Cullen Bryant
The one having the proper attitude toward truth must have an insatiable desire for it. He must want truth for the sake of truth, because it is right. In Proverbs 2:1-5, Solomon, the great sage of Israel, to whom God gave unusual insight and wisdom, sets forth God's recipe for acquiring the truth and the knowledge of God:
My son, if thou wilt receive my words,
And lay up my commandments with thee;
So as to incline thine ear unto wisdom,
And apply thy heart to understanding;
Yea, if thou cry after discernment,
And lift up thy voice for understanding;
If thou seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hid treasures:
Then shalt thou understand the fear of Jehovah,
And find the knowledge of God.
The first step in the quest for truth is expressed in these words: "My son, if thou wilt receive my words. ..." Both experience and observation show that, comparatively speaking, very few people are willing to receive truth and God's Word. Nevertheless one must have an open mind and be ready to receive any and everything that is true and proper. The second step in the quest for truth and the knowledge of God is stated in these words: "And lay up my commandments with thee; So as to incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thy heart to understanding. ..." One must, not only willingly receive truth as such, but also study, to the limit of his ability, all available data in his quest for truth. He must, therefore, as the sage of Israel said, lay up God's commandments in his heart. He must do so to the extent that even the vocabulary of the Scriptures will, at times, echo in his daily speech. The third step is set forth in the following words: "Yea, if thou cry after discernment, And lift up thy voice for understanding. ..." The God who made the universe is the God who knows the facts and truths concerning all things. One must, therefore, go to Him, the source of all knowledge, in order to learn more of the truth. Man lives in a wonderful world, which consists of a spiritual realm, as well as a material, physical universe. One needs spiritual insight to evaluate the world in which he lives and moves and has his being. Like the psalmist, he should pray, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold Wondrous things out of thy law" (Ps. 119:18). The fourth and last condition in this passage for understanding truth and properly evaluating facts is expressed in these words: "If thou seek her as silver, And search for her as for hid treasures: Then shalt thou understand the fear of Jehovah, And find the knowledge of God." As men in deep mines labor and endanger their lives in order to find silver, gold, and precious gems, the truth-seeker must come to his field of investigation and to the Word of God, searching for truth. In this connection may I give my experience briefly? God knowing my heart, for fifty years I have sought for truthand nothing but the truth. I have not spared time, or energy, or expense in my quest for knowledge and truth. Yet, after studying as I have, I am constantly discovering truths of which I have not been aware. Hardly a day passes in which I do not make some discovery, new to me, in the Word of God and in the world about me.IV. GOD'S RESISTING THE PROUD, BUT GIVING GRACE TO THE HUMBLE
If a person will only follow the fundamental principles set forth in Proverbs 2:1-5 and sincerely seek the truth, the God of Israel will overrule in his life and bring him to the truth and to the knowledge of God.
Pride and self-sufficiency are traits which God cannot tolerate. Pride was the occasion of the rebellion and the fall of Satan. "Pride goeth before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18). In Proverbs 3:34 God declares that He resists the proud, but always gives grace and assistance to the humblethe person who realizes his limitations, acknowledges the bankruptcy of human nature unaided by divine grace, and seeks for both truth and light.V. THE BLINDING EFFECTS OF THEORIES
Frequently one must adopt a theory in his investigation of certain data; but, as soon as research reveals that his hypothesis is not workable, he must throw it aside immediately for one that fits perfectly into all the facts. In all fields of human endeavor there are people who have adopted theories, have held on to them for dear life, and have refused to give them up. Thus blinded by error, they, therefore, cannot see truth.VI. MESSIAH'S LABORS IN BEHALF OF THE MEEK
"The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. ..." (Isa. 61:1). As the facts of the context of this verse show, the prophet, impersonating the Messiah, says that, at His first coming, He will spend His time laboring for and with the meek. It is useless to argue with the proud and self-sufficient.VII. TEACHABLENESS
Acknowledged as the world's greatest teacher, Jesus of Nazareth pointed out the path of true greatness to His disciples, some of whom at that time were ambitious and wanted to be considered the greatest of the group: "3 ... Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3,4).VIII. CHOOSING WHAT ONE LIKES BEST
In a Bible class I once called attention to the fact that a certain sentence in the Greek was capable of two renderings, both of which were grammatically correct. Then I asked, "Which of these two translations must we accept?" Immediately a young man replied, "The one which you like best." Was he right? Absolutely not. My instant reply was that he was mistaken. The translation to be accepted is the one which accords with all the facts of the given context. Since all truth harmonizes, one must not, therefore, choose arbitrarily any position, but must look at all the facts and select that which accords with all known facts and truths.IX. A DELIBERATE REFUSAL TO FACE FACTS
A number of years ago a certain minister who prided himself upon his scholarship and his accuracy wrote an article for a certain religious periodical. When I read it, I noted that he had quoted from Thayer's Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. Being familiar with the word which was under discussion, I immediately turned to it in the lexicon and discovered that this writer had chosen only one word in the first of the four definitions of this particular term and then had selected one or two words from the third meaning, as given by Thayer. I knew that this Greek scholar listed four different meanings. It was apparent immediately that the author of this article had twisted and distorted the definition of this great lexicographer.X. BEING ON THE WRONG TRACK
At the time of the writing of this article, there was a controversy concerning the study of prophecy, especially of a given point in prophecy. A friend of minea well-educated, cultured, outstanding merchant in the citywas a great admirer of the preacher who wrote this article. One day I took the religious paper and Thayer's Greek Lexicon to his store and asked him to read the article by his friend. He did so very readily and pronounced it fine. But when I handed him the lexicon and asked him to read the definition from which his minister friend had quoted, with a vengeance he resented my doing so, saying that he would not look at Thayer's Lexicon unless I first accused his friend of lying and misrepresenting the Lexicon. His excuse for refusing was that his confidence in his friend was unlimited. He was confident that the man had not misquoted or misrepresented the great lexicographer. When I refused to call the writer a liar, I asked him if my bringing the article and the lexicon did not arouse a suspicion in his mind. He denied that it did and persistently, to the very end, refused to look at the lexicon.
This merchant was an outstanding religious leader in his community. Feeling that he had the truth and nothing but the truth, he refused further lighteven when attention was called to the possibility of his being in error. Under no conditions would he investigate. Unfortunately this man is typical of vast hosts of people who become followers of men and shut their eyes to every thought that is not in perfect accord with their views. They seldom grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.
God cannot show new truth and cannot bring blessings into the life of the person who assumes such an attitude.
When my two sons were very young, we lived in Chicago while I attended the University. One Saturday, after visiting the Field Museum, they were returning home on the streetcar in the late afternoon. We lived on North State Street. There were a number of State Street cars, but only those marked State No. 1 went as far as we lived. Seeing a car that had the name State, the boys boarded it and went to the front platform without looking at the number or the full name of the car. When they came to a certain street, the motor-man threw the switch, and the car turned off State into this street. The younger boy said to the motorman, "Hey, you! You are on the wrong track." The motorman smilingly replied, "Hey, you! You are on the wrong car."XI. CUTTING INTO STRIPS AND BURNING THE WORD OF GOD
This little incident is a graphic representation of many people religiously. They get on the wrong track. Although they are confident that they are right, they are wrong. One should investigate, search for the truth, and make sure that he is on the right track, for he can easily step aside into some error.
The most vicious and diabolical attitude that one can take toward truth and God's Word is illustrated by Jehoiakim, king of Judah. When the sacred writings of Jeremiah were being read, the king seized the scroll, cut it into strips with his penknife, and threw it into the fire. This case is one of the most daring and defiant on record. What did the impious, godless king accomplish by this act? Could he make null and void what was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Evidently he did not know, or else ignored, Psalm 119:89: "For ever, 0 Jehovah, Thy word is settled in heaven."
Here is the account in full of Jehoiakim's impious act:
36 And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from Jehovah, saying, 2 Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. 3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.
4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah; and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of Jehovah, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book. 5 And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of Jehovah: 6 therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of Jehovah in the ears of the people in Jehovah's house upon the fast-day; and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities. 7 It may be they will present their supplication before Jehovah, and will return every one from his evil way; for great is the anger and the wrath that Jehovah hath pronounced against this people. 8 And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of Jehovah in Jehovah's house.
9 Now it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, that all the people in Jerusalem, and all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem, proclaimed a fast before Jehovah. 10 Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of Jehovah, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the upper court, at the entry of the new gate of Jehovah's house, in the ears of all the people.
11 And when Micaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all the words of Jehovah, 12 he went down into the king's house, into the scribe's chamber: and, lo, all the princes were sitting there, to wit, Elishama the scribe, and Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and Elnathan the son of Achbor, and Gemariah the son of Shaphan, and Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the princes. 13 Then Micaiah declared unto them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people. 14 Therefore all the princes sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, unto Baruch, saying, Take in thy hand the roll wherein thou hast read in the ears of the people, and come. So Baruch the son of Neriah took the roll in his hand, and came unto them. 15 And they said unto him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears. So Baruch read it in their ears. 16 Now it came to pass, when they had heard all the words, they turned in fear one toward another, and said unto Baruch, We will surely tell the king of all these words. 17 And they asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words at his mouth? 18 Then Baruch answered them, He pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book. 19 Then said the princes unto Baruch, Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye are.
20 And they went in to the king into the court; but they had laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe; and they told all the words in the ears of the king. 21 So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll; and he took it out of the chamber of Elishama the scribe. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes that stood beside the king. 22 Now the king was sitting in the winter-house in the ninth month: and there was a fire in the brazier burning before him. 23 And it came to pass, when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, that the king cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. 24 And they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words. 25 Moreover Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll; but he would not hear them. 26 And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king's son, and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet; but Jehovah hid them.
27 Then the word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, 28 Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned. 29 And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah thou shalt say, Thus saith Jehovah: Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast? 30 Therefore thus saith Jehovah concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David; and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. 31 And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them, but they hearkened not. 32 Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire; and there were added besides unto them many like words (Jeremiah, chapter 36).
A person does not have to be naive, crude, or defiant in order to be classed, figuratively speaking, with Jehoiakim. He can cut the Word of God into shreds and cast it into the fire by the attitude which he takes toward the Word, the truth, and facts.
Far removed from the position taken by Jehoiakim is that which was taken by the king and the people of Nineveh, to whom Jonah proclaimed the Word of God. The prophet proclaimed the divine message in the power of the Spirit of God. Every word, every sentence, was a flaming dart of conviction that pierced the hearts of the people of that great city and led them to repent toward God and to forsake their evil ways. Their taking this attitude toward the Word of God averted a national calamity that would otherwise have blotted the city from the face of the globe. Let all people like the Ninevites stand in awe of the God of Jonah, who is the God of truth, and in whom we live, move and have our being, and to whom all shall give an account (Acts 17:24-31).
An excellent example of the proper attitude toward truth is that of the people of Beroea. The Apostle Paul went to this city and preached the truth in the synagogue of the Jews. "Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily, whether these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed; also of the Greek women of honorable estate, and of men, not a few" (Acts 17:11,12). The desire that these Jewish people had for the truth proves that they were free from prejudice. At the same time they were not gullible. Hence, when Paul expounded the Hebrew Scriptures, they examined them daily to see whether or not he was properly interpreting the Word of God. Being both lovers of the truth and students of the Word, they readily saw the truth regarding the Messiah and accepted Him as Lord and Saviour. They showed their nobleness of heart toward truth. Many of the people, the outstanding leaders of the community, saw the truth and believed. May God grant to each of us such a noble heart and spirit as was manifested by the Jewish community of Beroea.