October 28, 2016

Wisdom Produced by Truth, Reality, and Disbelief

By Donald G. Mashburn

In my 85-plus years I’ve had to “unlearn” a lot of stuff, including an even longer list of stuff that was presented as fact but never held up under the Truth Test I developed a long time ago out of necessity. That necessity came from the realization that I had spent a good portion of my lengthening years trying to figure out what to believe, and what not to believe.

All that “figuring out” led to the conclusion that disbelief, or the healthy skepticism that demands some supporting facts, is an important part of learning about things that turned out to be different from what I was taught or led to believe. This process led to the Truth Test.

I was moved to think on the definition and meaning of truth many years ago when I wrote a column on Easter that touched on the trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate. When Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you a king, then?” Jesus replied, “You say rightly that I am a king. …Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?” (John 18:37-38 NKJV)

That question stuck with me. Pilate was looking into the very face of Truth, and it struck me that he posed the question to Him who had recently said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) shortly before the scourging began and a crown of thorns was forced onto that sacred head.

In the years that followed, my work as an earth scientist and engineer and the use of math, statistical probability, many other tools helped me develop the strong objectivity that defines both belief and disbelief depending on the known facts and truths. The persistent objectivity required by scientific and engineering thinking led to a stubborn insistence that secular truth requires facts, and that truth requires more than the beliefs and agendas of people motivated by such things as bias, greed, and hate or favoritism.

Along the way, I embraced some truths that passed the test, and I tossed out a whole truckload of things I once believed, or at least tolerated, but which turned out not to be true. Among the latter were things like the “just so” stories of evolutionism, and a number of other things that have no hard science or facts to back them up.

Decades of sifting through so-called “truths” that turned out to be bias, hearsay, or claims that would not hold together after screening for reason and fact left me with quite a lot of trash to be culled. The process led to the conclusion that what we don’t believe is often an important part of how we apply knowledge and insight to living, and choices in things like election campaigns.

Another important insight gained was the realization that true wisdom must be based on the “true Truth.” After much reflection, application, and testing in that rigorous laboratory called “Life,” my Truth Test, or definition of Truth, could finally be put into words:

Truth is reality, examined up close, so that its identity, color, shape or size is not blurred by the haze of distance or the fog of time, confusion or faulty memory.

Truth based on a combination of knowledge (facts that fit reality) and insight, and seasoned with reason, often produces what is called “wisdom.” From truth and wisdom, seasoned with honesty and reason, we can glean some basic facts of life.

If the knowledge relied on is really factual, it will fit reality. And if it agrees with reality “examined up close,” it is both factual and truthful.

If a so-called “fact” does not pass the Truth Test, it is not factual, but is more likely a biased belief, personal preference, or a falsehood.

There is of course a place – even a necessity – for belief, and that place is faith in a loving and merciful, and all-powerful, God, Creator, Redeemer and Savior. A good place to start any discussion of what we believe and don’t believe is the Bible. I believe Holy Scripture is the word of God given to us as “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21 NKJV).

We arrive at faith from believing, not from the study of science. However, science has helped many to believe because they came to see that the Holy Scriptures provide a better basis for our understanding of what we see around us than do the manmade and unscientific claims of evolutionism. They come to realize that faith in God, and His provision for salvation for our souls, is not based on scientific fact, but on a miracle – the miracle of belief, conversion, repentance, and faith. The thinkers realize that miracles are not in the province of science, but are exclusively in the province of Almighty God.

Another good place to check out beliefs and disbeliefs is our own Constitution. A reasoned reading of that great document leads one to know for certain that the Constitution does not prohibit prayer or any other manifestation of belief in God. Anyone who can read at a level such that they understand what they read knows that the Constitution neither prohibits religion nor contains a so-called “wall of separation” between church and state.

It doesn't take a law professor to interpret the clear meaning of the Constitution, where it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

As a result, I don’t believe a religion is “established” simply by children learning about the Bible, God, and the faith of our founding fathers. The key word is “learn.” And reasonable minds know that allowing children to learn about their Creator and their Constitution in no way “establishes” a religion, and that anti-God activists are not justified in whining about being “offended,” or “singled out,” or being “forced” to believe anything.

Further, I don’t believe that hanging a banner with the words, “God Bless America,” or Merry Christmas in a school or in a public area should be illegal, for such things don’t “establish” anything other than the right of free people to express themselves.

Additionally, I don’t believe members of Congress should give themselves pensions for life for serving just a few years in office. No one drafted them. Their overall record is poor, and when they leave Washington, I don’t believe they should be deprived of the opportunity to work for a living like the rest of us.

I don’t believe global warming is caused by SUVs or bovine flatulence. In particular, based on the studies and writings I’ve seen, I don’t believe that those who rant about global warming know what causes warming or cooling, or if it can be caused or controlled by man.

I believe Christianity has been all-important for mankind – compare a map of the spread of Christianity with a map of free nations. And I don’t believe that Christians are a negative influence on society.

I don’t believe it’s detrimental to mankind if people everywhere imitate the Founder and the Reason for Christianity by being “Christ-like,” and follow His commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

Returning to the wisdom of disbelief, I don’t believe that partial birth abortion, pornography, or anything else that degrades or harms children and women can be properly called the “rights” of anybody.

I don’t believe it’s a cause for concern for anyone, including our public officials, to call upon Almighty God in times of trials, such as during the horrors of 9/11, and the horrific events of 9/11, and the shootings of innocent children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

How can anyone believe it’s wrong to openly voice our faith in God and ask Him to bless our wayward and wounded nation?

Finally, I don’t believe it’s wrong to change our minds and quit believing something if we find out it’s not true.

That’s a mark of wisdom. For sometimes the better part of wisdom is disbelief toward things that don’t fit reality, reason, or the plain definition of Truth.