Attitudes Toward The Truth (1)
Morris W. R. Bailey
A previous series of articles in this publication was given to a discussion of the important question, "What Is Truth?" That was the question asked by Pilate, the Roman governor, when Jesus was on trial before him. While we cannot know for certain the motive behind Pilate's question, we do know that to them that seek to know and do God's will it is one of the most serious and thought provoking questions to challenge the attention of man. Eternal issues are involved. Knowledge of the truth can free us from bond service to sin (John 8:32). Belief of the truth saves us from the condemnation of sin (2 Thess. 2:13). Obedience to the truth purifies our souls from the guilt of sin (1 Peter 1:22). These facts suggest to our minds the necessity for:
A Proper Attitude Toward The Truth
Two passages of scripture come to my mind. One is from the Old Testament and says, "Buy the truth, and sell it not; Yea, wisdom, and instruction and understanding" (Prov. 23:23). The other is from the New Testament and says, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine: but having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:3, 4).
Here we have two attitudes toward the truth, standing out in vivid contrast. One as it should be, but often is not; the other as it should not be, but too often is. The one seeks for the truth with the determination to acquire it, regardless of the cost. And having found the truth wilt not sell it regardless of the price that is offered. The other, though in possession of the truth, regards it as such little value that he turns from it to the fables of men.
The word, attitude is defined as "the bearing assumed by a person, or persons, indicative of feeling or opinion" (Webster), "a state of mind, behavior or conduct regarding some matter, as indicating opinion or purpose" (Funk & Wagnall). Some of the synonyms given are, "Condition of mind"; "state of feeling"; "mental state"; "frame of mind" (Webster's New World Thesaurus).
We may thus summarize the above by saying that an attitude is a state of mind or feeling. It is the way that we feel, whether it be toward a person or persons, toward law and order, toward moral values, or toward a system of doctrine. An attitude can thus be favorable, being overtly expressed in friendliness and kindness toward others, strict compliance with law and order, or enthusiastic reception of a proposition or system of teaching. An attitude can be indifferent, exhibiting an "I couldn't care less" state of mind. It can also be intensely hostile, indicating bitter hatred of some person, a complete disregard for law and order, or a scornful rejection of a proposition or system of teaching.
The foregoing observations lead us to the conclusion that our attitudes determine the pattern of our conduct. The wise man, Solomon, said, "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). Attitudes are formed in the heart and are actually a condition of the heart. So it thus follows that the issues that make up the warp and woof of our life are but the expression of attitudes conceived in the heart.
This leads to the further conclusion that if proper attitudes are essential to our well-being and happiness in the things of this life, how much more necessary it is that we have a proper attitude toward the truth which has to do with the welfare of our soul. It is a sad commentary on the human race, however, that men have not always had that proper attitude toward the truth. In this article and some others to follow, I shall point out some unfavorable attitudes, sometimes of indifference and other times of hostility that culminated in rejection of the truth and sometimes violent opposition to and persecution of gospel preachers.
Indifference To The Truth
In the second epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote of some who "received not the love of the truth that they might be saved" (2 Thess. 2:10). Concerning such he said, "that they all might be judged who believed not the truth . . ." (vs. 12). One verse is the explanation of the other. They did not believe the truth because they did not love the truth. It should be observed here that Paul did not say that they hated the truth. One can be merely indifferent to a person, or to a system of doctrine without hating him or it. But the intellectual nature of man is such that he must love, or at least be sympathetic toward a system of teaching before he will believe it. So all that was necessary to their rejection of the truth was that they did not have a love for the truth. It was simply a matter of indifference with them.
Such an attitude, even though not hostile, is nonetheless deadly so far as the salvation of such persons is concerned. In fact, I would be more hopeful of converting some one who opposed the truth, if he did it out of strong religious conviction, than I would be of converting some one who is indifferent, even though he never opposed the truth.
The difference between strong religious conviction, even though in error, and a calloused indifference to the truth is exemplified in the experience of two New Testament characters.
One was Saul of Tarsus, the one time bitter enemy of Christ and the church. His early life was devoted to persecuting the church, even to the point of participating in the death of saints (Acts 26:10). But all this he did because he was a man of conviction. He had been reared a devout Jew, and educated at the feet of Gamaliel, the great teacher of the law, and had advanced in the Jewish religion beyond many of his own people. (Gal. 1:14). He regarded the Christian religion as a heresy that must be destroyed, and to which end he was passionately dedicated. So, although mistaken, he was a man of conviction who loved what he thought was the truth. When he learned the truth he accepted it, and at a terrible cost became a fearless preacher of the faith he had once sought to destroy.
Compare Paul's experience with that of Felix, the Roman governor. So far as we know, Felix never actively opposed the truth. He was lenient with Paul, his prisoner (Acts 24:23) But when the truth was presented to him in Paul's sermon on righteousness, self-control and judgment to come, and which caused him to tremble, his only response was a nonchalant "go thy way for this time; and when I have a convenient season, I will call thee unto me" (Acts 24:25). He never obeyed the gospel because he was indifferent to the truth.
Indifference Prevalent Today
Things have not changed since the days of Paul. There are multitudes today who, while not actively opposing the truth, reject it, or, what amounts to the same thing, fail to accept it because of indifference - a lack of love for the truth. This becomes more and more prevalent as time goes on, and the seeds of modernism planted by some of the colleges, universities, denominations, and yes; even by some who were one time faithful brethren, bear fruit.
Indifference to the truth spawns a prolific offspring of other evils. It lulls one into a false sense of security. If such a one is inclined to listen to any kind of preaching, he will probably listen to every kind of preaching and will be "carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14). Like those of whom Paul wrote, he will be "ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7).
It is those who are indifferent to the truth who tell us that is does not make any difference what one believes, as long as he is sincere. They make sincerity the standard of authority rather than truth. That is a philosophy that just does not work anywhere else. People have perished in blizzards because they thought that they were walking in the right direction, when in fact they were just walking in a circle as people that are lost usually do. Men have lost money because they sincerely believed that they were making a sound investment in some promising business enterprise, but which proved to be -al6ilure when the well did not produce oil, or the mine did not produce gold. Why then should anyone think that sincerity of belief is sufficient to make that which is believed true?
It is certain that Paul did not subscribe to the idea that it does not make any difference what one believes. For when writing of them that received not the love of the truth, he said, "And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they might all be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:11, 12). I do not understand Paul to teach that God will arbitrarily cause men to believe a lie. But since He has made man a free moral agent, if one has so little regard for the truth that he will knowingly accept a substitute, God will not stand in his way.. He will allow him to continue in his self-delusion.
Indifference Among Christians
The attitude of indifference to the truth is not confined to the irreligious world, nor to those who have espoused denominational error. All too often, it is found in the church of the lord. Sometimes we find church members who are woefully ignorant of some Bile subjects because they do not love the truth enough to study what the Bible teaches about those subjects. Just as ignorance of God's word was the cause of Israel's apostasy (Hosea 4:6), so also, ignorance caused by indifference to the truth can be, and yes, has been the cause of departures that lead to the ultimate apostasy of some congregations.
Indifference to the truth is the door through which worldliness creeps into the church. Sometimes preachers neglect to preach against certain sins because of the fear of offending some members. And sometimes sins that call for disciplinary action are allowed to continue unreproved because elders and other leaders are afraid of the possibility of disturbing the church and possible division.
Indifference to the truth is the door through which false teaching and human innovations find their way into the church. They creep in because members do not have enough love for the truth to keep them out. And they are allowed to grow because members are too indifferent to the truth to get them out after they are in.
Because of a lack of love for the truth, brethren sometimes object to. the discussion of controversial issues, fearing that some one will become disturbed. The result is that good men are often barred from pulpits where they were once welcome, because of the truth that they preach. Sometimes they have been accused of causing division, when all that they did was to preach some truth that was. sorely needed, but not welcomed. Such brethren are obviously more interested in a semblance of unity than in the truth.
Make no mistake about it. Since its beginning, the church has been embroiled in controversy and it always will be as long as men have the power to choose between truth and error. Division is not wrong if it is the result of contending for the truth (Gal. 2:3-5). Any semblance of unity that is maintained by compromising the truth cannot be pleasing to God. Those who love not the truth will be judged (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
Truth Magazine XXIV: 6, pp. 102-103