Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15
(Taken from an email message to a friend)
If it's agreeable to you, I would like to continue our previous conversation because I enjoy interacting with thinkers. Therefore you should know a little about me. What I'm about to say is my perception of myself. If I'm wrong, then chalk that up to delusion.
When I was in my late teens I made a life-shaping decision to seek truth above doctrine. That is, regardless of what I had been taught or wanted to believe, I would seek the truth whether it contradicted me or not. I think of truth as solid substance and false as a shadow or vapor.
That does not mean I have always arrived at the truth, but it does mean I have honestly to myself sought the truth, whether I rightly understood it or not.
Some may say to me, "Everybody wants to be right. What you just said applies to everybody." No. I think most people never made that decision to consciously seek the truth. I think most people simply test what they hear and if it makes sense to them at the moment, or tickles their infantile ears, then they incorporate it into their soul doctrine and then will argue it for the rest of their lives. Me, I live to be corrected.
One thing that has infuriated my family (as told here) is that I don't accept people's word on things; they have to prove it. Why should I believe "island" is pronounced "EYE-land" instead of "IS-land"? It doesn't make sense. Therefore prove it is "EYE-land" by showing it to me in the dictionary. (And, of course, it was proven to me so now I say EYE-land.) My mother and older brother forever called me stubborn because I just would not take their word for things.
The result has been that I struggled with things and sought out truth purposely for over fifty years. That doesn't mean I'm always right or think I am; I love it when I'm corrected... into the truth. But it does mean I have sought out and proven many things that some people just accept without thinking about.
I don't know everything, but I know some things. I don't see why I should say that everything I think is just my opinion. It's not. Some things are my opinion and some things are facts. If it's a fact, I say so. That infuriates some people. They think that if they don't know something therefore I don't. If they've never done the study and research to find out, therefore I haven't done it either. If they are ignorant about something, therefore I am ignorant about it to the same degree.
Here's an example. I have studied the Bible for fifty years. I can't tell you everything the Bible teaches but I can tell you many things the Bible teaches. But don't ask me about church doctrine; I have not studied church doctrine. Church doctrine is usually a combination of Bible, tradition (for that particular church), and personal proclivity. I don't do that. I only do the Bible. Somebody may tell me "Nobody knows for sure if the Bible really says Jesus is the Son of God." I say, "Yes it does. The Bible directly says Jesus is the Son of God." That person responds, "Well, that's just your opinion. Nobody knows that. It's just your church doctrine." The thing is, that person assumes that because he doesn't know it therefore nobody knows it. His assumption is that he is fully vested with the knowledge of what the Bible says. But he's wrong. He is like the average person who has not studied the Bible at all, but has simply heard this or that occasionally from various people, including his pastor.
Our knowledge grows on basic assumptions. If we have few or ill-defined basic assumptions, then we have nothing to test what comes into our ears. Therefore people who have few basic assumptions tend to accept and incorporate into their souls anything that sounds good at the moment. That's what the average person does; he does not define basic assumptions and therefore is at the mercy of anything at all that comes his way.
Here's a basic assumption. "There is a God" versus "There is no God." You can see how one assumption will color and test everything in one way and the other assumption will color it another way. It's a big difference. But if you've never made that assumption one way or the other, then over the years you will begin to accept and believe many impossible, contradictory things because one thing may be based on the assumption there is a God and the other will be based on the assumption there is no God, but you accepted them both over the years because they both sounded good at the time they were presented, and you had nothing to test them with.
Although it's an assumption, that doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be tested. Of course it should be tested. Assume there's a God. All right, if there's a God, then... this must be true or that must be true. If you're satisfied with your tests, that they support the proposition there is a God, then you can start to build on it. If your proposition does not support the tests, then maybe you should evaluate whether there is no God, and test that. The truth is more important than your personal church beliefs.
About politics. Some of my respected good friends were liberals. They told me their thoughts and they sounded good to me, so I went in that direction for awhile. As the years went by, I saw some things that didn't make sense, so I because to investigate the matter. The more I learned and discovered, the more I swayed to the conservative side. Eventually I wrote a little, non-published book, Why I Changed From Liberal to Conservative.
Just because I changed from liberal to conservative doesn't mean I'm right. It means simply that is my current thinking today, but I know why I think what I think and can point to supporting evidence. I'm always ready to be corrected, but I will have proof, not just a person's say-so.
One last thing. If I think one way of life is advantageous to people and another way of life is harmful, then I will support, promote and try to persuade people to embrace the advantageous way of life. I don't want them to hurt. In fact, whenever people embrace harmful activities, they hurt not only themselves but everyone around them; it's a ripple effect. So I do argue my point, but I don't cling to my point as if there is no other point possible.
That's all I can think to tell you about today.