Truth and Science

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” Genesis 1:1-2 KJV

 When thinking about the relationship between science and truth, there are so many questions and so few definitive answers.  Does science, the practice of it,  lead us to truth?  I doubt it, but better yet, in the world of science, is there any such thing as truth?  Again, I doubt it.

Truth, if it exists, is by definition eternal. Science is the study of the material world, which in our own experience is temporal.  Also, truth is terminal, meaning the search for it has an end.  Once we find it, we stop looking for it. The scientific method, which defines the practice of science, is open ended.  What do I mean by that?

The scientific method is the repeated application of five steps:

  1. Observation:  some natural phenomenon is observed
  2. Analysis: the phenomenon is dissected and broken down into it atomic parts
  3. Prediction: based upon analysis of the phenomenon, conclusions are drawn and predictions of future phenomena are made
  4. Experimentation:  experiments are conducted that are designed to bring about the predicted phenomena
  5. go to step 1.

Finally, science has an aura of certainty, while truth seems far more elusive.  The conclusions we draw from the scientific method are backed up by the observation and analysis we have done.  We see, therefore we believe.  That is until the next experiment comes along with different results.  Truth, on the other hand, can only be known by faith.  We don’t see, but we believe anyway.

This “not seeing but believing” is what leads many to think that there is no such thing as truth, but what I would say to that is – without truth, there can be no such thing as science.  Why?

Let’s take a closer look at the scientific method.  Why does the scientific method work?  At its heart, aren’t there certain assumptions, accepted on faith, that make up the foundation upon which it rests?  Isn’t the primary assumption being that there is an order to the universe that allows conclusions to be drawn and predictions based upon analysis to be made, and experiments derived that prove or disprove those predictions?

Now, one might argue that we assume this order exists because our experience tells us that it exists, but here we are engaging in circular reasoning.  This can be illustrated by postulating a “first scientist”.  This first scientist has not been given the scientific method, and therefore must discover it.  The problem is, the scientific method requires the assumption of an underlying order for it to work; but how do we know, without faith, that this order exists?  We don’t.

One can see this in the history of science itself.  It is no coincidence that science and mathematics only began to flourish with the advent and eventual dominance of Judaeo-Christian faith and philosophy.  Why?  Because it was only there that it made sense to answer a difficult question with G-d!

This ability, often perceived as western science’s greatest weakness, is actually it’s greatest strength.  How do we know that a + b = c for all possible values of a and b?  Another way of asking the question is, how do we know that we can predict the value of c for any possible numeric values of a and b?  Theoretically, there are an infinite number of possible values for a and b.  We can not possibly try them all, so how do we know?  The answer is G-d.

We know that G-d has created a certain predictable order and that He has given us the power of reasoning and logic to discern and utilize that order and so we can say, based upon our faith in G-d and His created order, that a + b = c.

This brings us to the scripture that opens this article.  The bible is not a science book, but it is a book of truth, or so claims its adherents.  But, if it is truth, then one would expect that it would at least be consistent with the observable universe.  Notice I didn’t say consistent with science, because scientific knowledge, at least when science is practiced correctly, is always in some degree of flux (see scientific method above).

“In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.”  Well, we see a heavens and an earth, so that part seems consistent, but what about a beginning.  We can’t observe the beginning, it is in the past.  This in fact has been one of the greatest and most fundamental controversies of science.  While there are variations, there are two basic competing scientific theories for the origins of the universe: the Steady-State theory and the Big Bang theory.

The Steady-State theory suggests that the universe has always existed, that there was no beginning.  The Big Bang theory, alternatively, says there was a beginning billions of years ago, when the universe exploded into existence.  Which one is true?  As scientific theories go, neither; but, the Big Bang seems more consistent with the biblical account.  The important thing here is that we cannot know from simple observation whether there was a beginning, and science does not provide a verifiable answer.  A beginning, then, is something that we must accept on faith.

Now comes the really hard part.  “In the beginning, G-d created…”.  In order to keep it short, let’s just say that the existence of G-d cannot be directly observed, nor proven by science, so it must be accepted on faith.  Although, there is considerable evidence for the existence of G-d to the discerning eye, not the least of which is our own very existence.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”  These attributes of the early earth have always been somewhat puzzling to me, particularly the “without form” one.  What does it mean to be without form?  “Void” is generally understood to mean “without life” and “desolate”.  Also, there was apparently no light, and there was something called “the deep”.  Not much can be concluded here as to its consistency with what we can observe and it generally must be accepted in faith.

“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”  Here it gets really interesting for me because we have a real clue as to what “without form” means.  The early earth was made up mostly of water – the deep!  Water takes on the shape, or form, of that which contains it.  What shape does water have in space?  It doesn’t; it is literally without form!  Is this consistent with our observable universe?  Of course it is!  My question is, how did the writer of Genesis know this?

Another interesting observation is this.  Water is composed of 2 hydrogen atoms combined with one oxygen atom (H2O).  What are the most abundant elements in the  universe?  Hydrogen (~75%), Helium (~25%) and oxygen (<1%). “OK, what’s your point”, you might ask?  “Yes, hydrogen is abundant at 75%, but oxygen composes less than a percent of the mass of the universe.”  It is true that in the universe as a whole, oxygen is less than 1%, but oxygen composes about 47% of the mass of the earth!

Throughout the centuries there has been a perceived conflict between science and The Bible.  One of these controversies has been the meaning of the word “day.”  As we read the Genesis account, we see G-d completing, in stages, the heavens and earth in six days. “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day,” for example.   Is it a literal day, or a symbolic day?

As previously stated, the Bible is not a science book and should not be read as such.  It purports to provide eternal truth, not temporal facts.  But as also indicated above, it should at least be consistent with observable known facts.  So, how long is a day?  If you answer 24 hours, you would of course be correct and if we accept this answer and interpret the passages in Genesis literally, then it would seem to indicate that the universe was completed in six 24 hour periods of time.

The only possible escape from this conclusion would seem to be to interpret these passages symbolically and say they indicate some very long eras of undetermined length.

But there is another equally valid definition of the word day, and that is the amount of time it takes the earth to rotate on its axis.  Using this definition changes things considerably. While it is true that currently the earth takes 24 hours to rotate on its axis one complete turn, that doesn’t mean that it has always been that way, and it probably wasn’t.  Why do I say that?

If we go back to the starting verses, the earth was an amorphous mass in space composed primarily of water.  Since the following verses indicate a “day,” we can conclude that this mass was spinning, probably very slowly as compared to today (there is a reason for this conclusion which should become clearer as we proceed).

Under this definition, a day could have initially been many thousands of years long and over time become much shorter. It would become shorter due to the law of conservation of angular momentum.  This is the simple observation that as a spinning object gets smaller, it spins at a faster rate. Think of a spinning ice skater. So it would have been with the earth.  As G-d coalesced the earth into a smaller, denser, rounder object, its rotation would speed up considerably.  It is very possible that the first day of creation was much longer than the last day, and the seventh day, the day of rest, may in fact have been the current 24 hour day.

 The Bible tells a story.  Many believe that the the story is true, that it represents actual history, past, present, and future (called prophecy).  If this is the case then the Bible would need to be reconcilable with human experience.  The problem is, it often seems not to be.  But is the problem with the Bible?  Or is it with the reader?

The Final Solution

then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.” Deuteronomy 30:3 NIV

As I begin writing this, it is January 27, 2015, a date that marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. This day is of particular significance to me for a number of reasons, but first a brief review of the history of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz was actually a network of concentration, extermination, and labor camps that the German Nazis built and operated in occupied Poland during World War II. Auschwitz I was originally established in 1940 to hold Polish political prisoners. The extermination of the prisoners there began in 1941. By early 1942, Auschwitz II was constructed as part of the Nazis’ “Final Solution”, their plan to exterminate all of the Jews of Europe, and ultimately the world. It is estimated that at least 1.1 million prisoners were executed at Auschwitz; about 90% of them were Jews. Later came Auschwitz III, a labor camp that supplied workers to an IG Farben factory. (Most of this information is from the Wikipedia article “Auschwitz Concentration Camp“)

When I was very young, probably in the range of 5-7 years old, I came across a set of books belonging to my father. They were a five or six volume set, entitled “A Pictorial History of World War II”.

As the name states, the books told the story of the Second World War, mostly with pictures.  Some of the pictures were relatively benign: pictures of troops in training, of USO gatherings where coffee and donuts were served, or perhaps a USO sponsored dance, and pictures of Women’s Army Corp (WAC) members dealing with the rigors of life in the field.

Other pictures, though, were taken during battles, of land, sea, and air, and showed up-close ground combat, aerial dogfights, and tremendous naval engagements.  As I viewed these pictures, my young heart and mind were awed and made fearful at the same time.  What would I have done, if I had been there?  Would I have been afraid?  Would I have been brave?  Would I have come home?

Still other pictures depicted the aftermath of these battles;  burned out tanks and sinking ships, the wreckage of planes, the desolation in the wake of the atomic bombs, the fire-bombing of Dresden, and of course, the wounded, the dying, and the dead.

One day, as I paged through a volume, I came across pictures that I had difficulty understanding.  They were the pictures of the liberated concentration camps.  War, to a degree, I understood, even at that age.  There were two sides; they disagreed, they fought, killed, and died, for what they believed in.  But the concentration camps were another matter.

At first, I wasn’t even sure of what I was looking at: emaciated survivors with hollowed eyes, crematoriums with half burnt bodies, bodies piled eight feet high awaiting burning or burial, mass open graves with bodies tossed in helter-skelter, where, incredibly, the Nazis had tried to hide their atrocities before the Allied troops arrived but were forced to flee ahead of the advancing armies before their work was done; and, finally the “showers” themselves, where the victims, mostly Jews, were herded and gassed.

This was, to my young mind, incomprehensible.  Why had this been done?  What had these people done to deserve this?  What could anyone possibly do to deserve this?  And who were they, the victims of these crimes?

I went to my parents with my questions about the “war” books, and they were a little upset with me that I had been in their room by myself, something I was not supposed to do. But much more than that, they were horrified that I had been exposed to these things at my young age.  They made an attempt to explain to me what I had seen, but how do you explain such things to someone so young?  How do you explain them to anyone, really?

You can’t, except maybe to simply say that the German Nazis were bad people and, for some reason, they hated the Jewish people.  The bottom line though, was that I was absolutely forbidden to look at the books anymore, and in fact, I did not until years later.

But I never forgot them and the impression they made.  Over the years, I got answers to my questions, but the answers only raised more questions.  For example, to say that the German Nazis considered themselves the “Master Race”, and Jews (and just about everyone else) as inferior; that they were trying to “purify” their nation and their culture explains nothing.  It is delusional and insane.

A modern, “civilized” nation, one of the most modern and most civilized, put people in charge that not only held these deranged ideas, but believed them to the point that the they would methodically and systematically go about the task of murdering a people with the same detachment and business-like efficiency of a successful sausage maker.

Of course, though the holocaust may be the worst example, persecution of the Jews did not begin with the Nazis.  We should not forget that Israel was born a nation of slaves in Egypt.  The Pharaoh tried to wipe them out when they left Egypt.  Later, the Assyrians defeated the ten northern tribes of Israel, and scattered them to only G-d knows where – and He does.

When the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin were in exile in Babylon, another villain whose name begins with an H, Haman, plotted to induce King Xerxes to destroy them, only to end up plotting his own ignominious execution.  In more recent times, the sorrowful, shameful history of most of the nations of Europe, and their relationship with the Jewish people, led up to the holocaust and made it possible.

And of course, unfortunately, the persecution of Israel did not stop with the German Nazis, either.  The day in 1948 when, for the first time in almost 1900 years, Israel once again became a nation, the neighboring countries tried to drive them into the sea, and out of existence.  This is still the desire of many, if not all of them, to this day.

The most amazing thing, though, about this story of attempted genocides and persecution isn’t that it happened, but that the people of Israel not only survived, but have prospered.  This is where the story gets really interesting because all of this was predicted thousands of years ago.

The prophets of the Torah predicted, starting with Moses, that the people of Israel would be scattered and persecuted.  They predicted that they  would lose their land and reside in the land of strangers, even those hostile to them; but, they also predicted Israel’s restoration and ultimate vindication

The Christian scriptures, which also had Jewish writers, followed in this tradition and spoke of these things.  Jesus Himself spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple, and the Book of Revelation describes Israel’s restoration in the end times.

So, is the modern state of Israel a fulfillment of these prophecies?  Some argue that no, they won’t be fulfilled until the nation is fully restored and the Messiah rules from Jerusalem.  My view is that it is a fulfillment of prophecy, but there is still more history to go and more prophecy to be fulfilled.  Anyway, there are plenty of books on Bible prophecy, and that is not the purpose of this article, so lets just say for the sake of argument that the state of Israel is at least a partial fulfillment, and the rest is yet to come.

What does all of this have to do with explaining the Holocaust?

I am reminded here of the story of Job.  In the beginning of the Book of Job, we find G-d holding court, and in comes Satan from “roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it”. (Job 1:7 NIV)

G-d asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless–a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil”. (Job 1:8 NIV)

Satan replied that, of course Job fears G-d – G-d has protected Job and made him wealthy, but if G-d took everything that Job had, he would curse G-d. G-d then gave Satan permission to take everything from Job, except his health. (Job 1:9-12 NIV).

Satan left G-d’s presence and attacked Job, taking or destroying all of his possessions, and even killing his children, but Job did not curse G-d. (Job 1:13-22 NIV)

Later, G-d was once again holding court and Satan was there.  G-d pointed out to Satan that even though Satan had challenged G-d into allowing him to attack Job, Job did not curse G-d.  Satan responded that Job still had his health, and if G-d allowed him to take Job’s health from him, then surely Job would curse G-d.  G-d then gave him permission to take even Job’s health from him, but not his life.  (Job 2:1-6 NIV)

Satan once again left G-d’s presence, and afflicted Job with terrible, painful sores all over his body.  He was in such torment, even his wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9 NIV)  But Job refused to do so, and in the end, Job’s fortunes were restored and he was given many children. (Job 42:12-17 NIV)

In my narration, I have skipped many chapters, in most of which three of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, try to convince Job that he must have done something wrong for G-d to allow him to be treated this way.  Job protests his innocence, and at times, questions God’s justice, because He allows the wicked to prosper and the righteous to suffer.

Job’s friends, while they say many true things about G-d,  persist, and even accuse Job of self-righteousness.  This is of course wrong, as G-d Himself said at the beginning of the story that Job was righteous in all his ways; and besides, innocent people suffer all the time in this world, a point which Job’s friends seemed to have missed.

One more of Job’s friends speaks up, Elihu, but instead of claiming that Job must have sinned in some way in order to suffer, he addresses Job’s attitude in the present.  He asserts G-d’s essential righteousness and tells Job that G-d cannot treat anyone wrongly.  He addresses Job’s complaints against G-d, and provides answers to those complaints, but unlike Job’s other friends, he never does accuse Job of unrighteousness.

Finally, G-d speaks up, but rather than try to explain Himself, He challenges Job with a series of questions, just as Job had questioned and challenged Him. Of course, Job is completely unable to answer G-d’s questions but, through these questions, G-d demonstrates to Job His omnipotence and His sovereignty, and Job realizes his folly for questioning G-d, and repents.  When G-d is done speaking to him, Job responds:

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.

Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:2-6

But G-d did one more very important thing besides question Job, He fully vindicated him.  He told the three friends who had accused Job of unrighteousness that they had done wrong, and they needed to make the appropriate sacrifices in the hope that Job would forgive and pray for them, so they would not be punished for their own folly.  Job of course prayed for his friends, and was rewarded with far more wealth than he had before.  He was given seven sons, and three daughters who were the most beautiful in all the land, and he saw his children’s children to the fourth generation. (Job 42:12-17)

There are many lessons that can be learned from the Book of Job, but one that stands out for me and is most relevant here is that, according to the scriptures, there is a war going on in the spiritual realm.  It is a war between good and evil, between G-d and Satan.  The war began when the angel Lucifer, the most beautiful and intelligent of G-d’s creation, let pride enter his heart and determined to make himself god in G-d’s place.  One of his strategies is to demonstrate that G-d is not sovereign, that He is a liar, and unfit to be G-d.

As part of this war, Satan enlisted man on his side through cleverness and deception.  G-d, out of love for man, developed a plan, His own strategy to win the war, and to win man back.  G-d could have made other choices, such as to simply destroy Satan and the angels that followed him, as well as man, and started over; but, what would that have proven? In a creation where G-d has given created beings the ability to choose, brute force solves nothing, and persuasion, diplomacy, and most important, love, are necessary.

Man, then, has become both a combatant and a battlefield in this war.  Satan continues his deception and constantly tries to create doubt in men’s minds about G-d.  G-d simply continues to show His love for man, and requires man only to have faith in Him and His plan.

The book of Job teaches many other lessons, one very important one is about our attitude towards those who suffer and how we should treat them.  Do we accuse them of sin and unrighteousness, or do we provide them with comfort?  Do we tell them that G-d is punishing them, or do we assure them that G-d loves them and cares for them?

Our answers to those questions could very well determine whose side we are on in this great, millenniums long war that we are in.

I Did It… My Way?

 ““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8 NIV

I enlisted in the Army in the early 1970’s. My basic training company was one of the last to be trained under what was referred to as the old “Brown Boot” Army. After us, the rules and regulations of the new “All Volunteer” force would kick in.

The new way of training appeared to be a somewhat “kinder, gentler” basic training.  At least this is what it seemed to me as I observed the unit training several weeks behind mine, which trained under the new way.  Less running through the sand at Fort Dix, maybe a little less in your face.

For some reason, I’m glad I went the old way, maybe even a little bit proud of that fact.  I think that I just would not have had  quite the same sense of accomplishment, and one experience, among many memorable ones, has always stood out in my mind.

After several days of being processed in,  I found myself standing in formation outside the brick barracks that would be my “home away from home” for the next eight weeks.  There, the Senior Drill Sargent, Sargent First Class Hatcher, informed me and my fellow recruits of what would be expected of us over the course of our training.

While I can remember little of what he actually said, one thing he did say that I’ll never forget is, “In the Army, there are four ways of doing things, my way, your way, the right way, and the Army way, but while you’re here in this unit, you’ll do things…”

Now here I have to say that, at that moment, I knew what he was going to say.  I was so sure that I started to smile a little, this was too easy, I thought, he was going to say “the Army way”, I just knew it.

“…my way”, he finished.  See, I told you, he said… what?

Why wouldn’t  we do things the Army way?  This didn’t make sense.

And so we spent the next eight weeks doing things Senior Drill Sargent Hatcher’s way; not the Army way, not even the right way, and certainly not our way.  Now the purpose of basic training is to turn sorry-*ss civilians into soldiers, and you can imagine, this is no easy task; but, Sargent Hatcher and his associates were certainly more than up to it.

The first thing that needed to be done was to teach the trainees that everything they knew up to that point in life was wrong.  Not just some things, not just most things, but everything.  This was absolutely necessary because the relative lack in civilian life – of discipline, of commitment, of fortitude, of, well just about everything necessary for success in military life – meant that you pretty much had to start over with a blank slate, tabula rasa, as they say.

Once the “purging” was complete, the next step was for the Army to remake us in its image, or I should say, Senior Drill Sargent Hatcher’s image.  To say that this entire process was painful would be a great understatement, at least initially; but, after a while a surprising thing happened – we started to “get it”, at least most of us.

The more we “got it”, the less we resisted our extreme makeover, and the less we resisted, the less painful the training became.   Now, “getting it” wasn’t just things like learning to follow lawful orders, or learning how to fire a weapon or throw a grenade.  And there was much more to it than just the physical, mental, and emotional conditioning that was required.  These things were all absolutely necessary, but really don’t come close to comprising the “it” I’m referring to.

It wasn’t just thinking like a soldier or acting like a soldier, but it required a change of heart and mind, a  reorientation of our focus and attitude.  What it ultimately came down to was really just being a soldier.  It was just being a soldier.

I have found that most big changes in our lives require this kind of “re-making” experience.  The one really big change that readily comes to my mind that most people experience is marriage.

It seems that no matter how well your parents teach you (the “Army” way), or how many books you read (the “right” way), or how much you think you know (“your” way), the way you really learn about marriage is through your spouse (the “Drill Sargent’s” way).

Now, I am really not comparing your husband or wife to a Drill Sargent, but I think your spouse does fulfill a similar training role in marriage in that while your parents, the “book”, and your own experience and knowledge are all good for preparing you for your married life, no one or nothing can prepare you like your spouse.

The point here is that in both cases, one really doesn’t get to do things his or her own way, or some theoretical “right” way, but the way of the person best in the position to know how things should be done.

In the military, that’s the Drill Sargent.  In marriage, it’s your spouse.

Who better than a knowledgeable and experienced Sargent to teach recruits what they need to know to succeed, and survive, in the military?  And, who better than the spouse to teach their partner what they need to know to succeed, and survive, in a marriage with them?

I think there is a general principle here, which is actually very simple, and it is that the best source to learn something from is the person most experienced in the subject matter at hand who has a vested interest in you learning it.  Books are great, advice is often valuable, and your own experience and knowledge certainly plays a large role, but nothing beats learning from a true expert in the field, who is motivated to see that you learn, and has some means to compel you.

If we look at these items one at a time we can see why this is so.  Books, for example, have the great advantage of being neutral and dispassionate.  They also have the great disadvantage of being neutral and dispassionate.  The book is not intimidating, and can be read at your leisure, but the book doesn’t care if you learn what it has to teach, or even whether you finish it.  The book has no real vested interest in whether you learn it or not, and no means to compel you.

Advice from family and friends  is limited by their experience and while they may have an interest in you learning, they have no way of compelling you to learn either, in most cases.

As for you, while you may be a very knowledgeable and experienced person, your objectivity, when it comes to you, is almost non-existent.  Left to ourselves for motivation, we often let ourselves down.

Fast forward from Basic Training about two years.  I was doing well in the Army, making rank, and more than just getting by.  To be sure, I had made my share of mistakes, some big ones, but I had also met my fair share of success as well, and I liked being a soldier.

I was a paratrooper stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.  At that time, there were frequent outdoor concerts out in the country, usually in the woods.  Mostly Bluegrass and Southern Rock or Blues, and being the music lover that I am, I attended as many as I could.  Few things can compare to sitting out in the woods on a warm summer day, in the shade of the trees, listening to the Earl Scruggs Revue, or the James Gang, and maybe passing around a bottle of Jack Daniels, to take your mind off of things.

It was at one of these concerts, after parking in a grass field, that – little did I know at the time – an event occurred that would change my life forever.

My friend and I had just locked up the car and had turned toward the area of the concert stage when we were confronted by a hairy individual in cutoff jeans and t-shirt – a “Jesus freak”, as we called them then.  He stuck his hand out toward us, and in it was a small booklet.  My friend declined, but I was never one to pass up on a free book, so I accepted it gladly, thanked the hirsute fellow, stuck it in my back pocket, and moved on to the concert.

When I grabbed the publication, I glanced at the cover before slipping it into my pocket.  It read “The Gospel of John”.

I quickly forgot about the whole thing, and then months later, I was sitting in my apartment in Fayetteville and had probably just finished reading the local paper when I glanced down at the table next to my chair.  There was this little booklet from the concert.  I still don’t know for certain how it made its way to that table.

Now, I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the gospels, having been raised a Catholic.  But as I have mentioned in previous posts, I had gone on a journey, a quest, to find the truth, and during this quest the Jewish and Christian scripture was the one place I hadn’t really looked.

So, I opened the booklet and it was in this context that I began to read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-1:5 NIV).

As I read these words, a very uncomfortable thought entered my mind and my heart, and it was that what I was reading was true.  But that just could not be.  Why?

Well, for one thing, I understood the Bible well enough to know that if this were true, then the entire Bible was true.  If John 1:1 was true, then so was Genesis 1:1.

But even more disturbing to me was that if this were true, then everything I knew and had learned up to that point in my search, and my life, was wrong!  And I just could not accept that.

There is an old and wise saying, “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it”.  This was the dilemma I found myself in.  I began thinking of all the reasons why this was not the truth, but again, something or someone spoke to my heart and said “There are answers to all your questions, all your reasons, you just have to make the commitment to finding them”.  I distinctly remember standing in the  center of my living room, my heart and mind in turmoil, arguing with…  who? myself? Well, no, I don’t think so.

Searching people who consider themselves open minded – if they are sincere – will always experience a certain amount of distress when they finally find what they are looking for; in particular, when the object of their search is something life-changing and profound, like The Truth.  One reason this is so is because once they find the truth, they can no longer be open minded, at least not in the same way as before they find it.

Before, I could consider every thought and philosophy, as possible.  After though? The funny thing about the truth, it is very exclusive.  I knew this instinctively, and this is why I fought and struggled so hard against believing what I was reading.  But I also knew I was being challenged to be, ironically, open-minded enough to at least consider this to be true, as I would any other viewpoint or fact.

In the end, I had to cave to the spirit of open-mindedness that I had embraced for so long, and make the commitment that was being thrust upon me to at least consider the Jewish and Christian scriptures to be true.  But to whom was I making this commitment?  To myself?

Well, once again, I don’t think so.  Then to whom?  Well, to the G-d that I still wasn’t quite sure I believed in.  I asked Him, if He existed, to help me know the truth.

From that point on, my life began to change.  The change wasn’t instantaneous by any means, and in fact, it is still going on.  For one thing,  I began reading everything “Bible” I could get my hands on; bible history, bible prophecy, apologetics, science and the bible, bible hermeneutics, anti-bible, pro-bible, bible neutral, bible commentary.  Anything and everything bible.

Another change began to happen as well, even more life-altering than my insatiable thirst for knowledge.  Little by little and piece by piece, my world was being torn down and disassembled.  Everything I had learned and thought I knew up to that point in my life was fair game to be questioned, deconstructed, and discarded.  I often had the feeling that I was “walking on air” with nothing firm under me for support.  Like Nino the Mind Bender from the Firesign Theater, I began to believe that everything I knew was wrong, and that was the one thing I was absolutely right about.

And more than that, I began to get the distinct impression that there was nothing random about the re-learning process that I was experiencing, that there was a plan and an intelligence behind it.

I would ask a question and the answer would come, in one form or another.  Maybe it was a book I would come across, or an article.  Maybe it would come in the form of a person that I would meet, seemingly by chance, or a television or radio program, or an ad in the mail.  Sometimes the answer would come sooner, sometimes it would come later, and sometimes the answer was, in fact, no answer.

What’s more, there was a deja vu familiarity about my experience, like I had done this before.  This thought nagged at me for some time until it finally occurred to me: I was back in Basic Training!  This training was much more thorough, though, and reached much deeper than my military training.  It left no thought undisturbed, no idea unexamined, no opinion undissected.

As my spiritual “basic training” wore on, I began to realize some things.  First, while it may be true that in the Army there are four ways of doing things, in life there are really only two: G-d’s way, and the world’s way.  Second, my training, as with my military training and later, my marriage training, consisted first of being torn down and then rebuilt.

In this case, the tearing down was being disabused of the world’s way of thinking and doing things, and the building up was being reformed into G-d’s way of thinking and doing things.

What is G-d’s way of doing things?  I’ll give just one example, but its a big one.

The world wants you to focus on man and his efforts.  The world says trust in yourself and your own efforts, or of some other person or group.  Believe in man.

G-d, in His scriptures, says to focus on him.  G-d says to trust Him in everything you think, say, and do.  Believe in G-d.  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3 KJV

Recently, I was challenged to have a bucket of ice water poured on my head and make a monetary donation to a good cause.  I took up the challenge, and it was cold!  But I did it.

I am not going to list any more differences between G-d’s way and the world’s way, because I have a challenge for the reader.  The challenge is to make a commitment to know the truth.

Don’t make it to yourself – that will never work – but make it to G-d, as best you conceive Him to be.  If you’re not sure you even believe in G-d, then make the commitment to this G-d of which you’re uncertain, this “unknown” G-d, as the Greeks referred to Him.

If you take up the challenge, do it with an open heart and open mind, but with the understanding that as you learn the truth, most of what you think you already know will have to be discarded.  That is just the nature of things.

So what are you going to do?  Are you going to take up the challenge and make the commitment?  I can assure you, if you do, your life will never be the same.