The facts are the facts. I learned as a pulpit minister that how a person spins those facts naturally causes division. The Bible says what it says, yet we have Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Pentecostals. I was involved in a group known as the church of Christ and we put our spin on the text like everyone else and formed ourselves into a group. There was often heated debate about what to do with the exact same facts that the other groups had access to, not to mention debates among our own people. There are divisions within churches of Christ that would probably surprise outsiders. There are conservative churches of Christ, liberal churches of Christ, institutional, one cuppers and more (what the heck is a one cupper?). Even with the divisions within our ranks, we were a united front against the likes of those Baptists, Methodists, Catholics and Pentecostals.
Along the way I’d heard about the idea of presuppositions – what a person supposes to be true beforehand. A person comes to and interprets the world of facts through lenses of presupposition. Where presuppositions come from is a topic that from could fill volumes and surely many have been written. They emerge from the way we’re wired, but it’s also apparent they emerge from our environment. The religious divisions above illustrate that well. A person born into the churches of Christ will probably default to looking at the biblical facts through that lens. Same with being born Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Pentecostal and so on. A member of the church of Christ and a member of the Baptists will usually end up with opposing conclusions about the same exact texts because they start from entirely different presuppositions. Their conclusions stem from where they begin. Starting points are a limiting and determining factor.
From one perspective there’s fierce division, negativity and bad feelings. From another, everyone gets along. That’s because even though there’s disagreement, there’s freedom. One group may think the other is taking the world to hell in a handbasket, yet in the final analysis, they all get along. Are there anomalies? Sure. But statistically speaking, those who disagree don’t get a beatdown behind the woodshed. Despite differences in Bible interpretation and expression, they are united in their freedom to be different and were that freedom to be jeopardized, they’d drop their differences and unite. How dare anyone take away their freedom to duke it out?
How could they drop their differences so easily and unite? They have another underlying, deeper presupposition that guides them. They act as though their freedom, their ability to disagree and fight with one another is more important that the disagreement itself. I’ve heard them say it. “It’s ok with me if they want to be wrong” as they chuckle to themselves. The facts are the facts and what’s done with those facts stirs up the controversy. Both sides find fault with one another, spar back and forth, yet in the end, accept one another with all their flaws. They get along. One might also conclude that their disagreement makes them stronger, digging their heels in deeper to defend their positions, studying harder. The people who spin the facts another way make great sparring partners. How can anyone train for a fight without a sparring partner? Anyone can train against a lifeless punching bag but let that punching bag fight back and it changes the whole game. It’s struggle that makes us better.
Facts And Conclusions Are Not The Same
Take it in another direction. We all start with the same set of observable facts in the world around us and we draw conclusions based on those facts. The sun comes up and goes down. It’s raining outside, the toilet is clogged, my phone is dead. A fact might be that a particular scientist does his work at a particular address. That scientist went to such and such a school and now focuses on one particular topic and narrows the focus even further. The scientist gathers data about that narrowed topic and looks at it critically, draws conclusions and shares those conclusions with peers. The peers agree or disagree – these are all facts. The conclusions are not though, they are conclusions that have been drawn through various lenses of presuppositions. That a conclusion based on facts must go through peer review to test it demonstrates that they are doing what people do with religious texts – they duke it out.
The scientist is doing something we all do. We narrow our focus and aim at one particular thing. Me? I aimed at understanding the Bible in the original language for a time. I narrowed my focus a certain set of ancient Greek words and remember them like it was yesterday. Proskuneo and Latrueo – the two words most often translated “worship” in the New Testament.
We narrow our focus and specialize because there’s simply too much information to gather and take in. My work with Proskuneo and Latrueo barely scratched the surface, yet I gleamed what I could. Now, years later I have a new focus. I work on windows. But even within that arena I have a narrowed focus. Growing up as a carpenter, wood windows were a natural fit. But I specified even further. I only work on wood windows from the era of the second industrial revolution. I’ve developed strong opinions about Proskuneo and Latrueo and their relationship to activity of Christian groups that emerge out of reading the Bible. I have strong opinions about the windows I work on. My conclusions goad me to live and work in a certain way and pressure me to make certain decisions. Yet there are many who would and often do debate me and my chosen topics. Some of the people I like, some I don’t. Some have even stabbed me in the back, but one thing we are united on is our freedom to debate. I’d rather my opponent take a cheap shot at me than take away our freedom to spar and work in the markets as we see fit, and this makes us stronger. Competing ideas make us stronger.
The scientist draws conclusions based on available facts, but it’s a big world out there and others have drawn opposing conclusions from the data that’s been collected and observed. And actually, all of us all the time are collecting data from the world around us to draw conclusions. In truth there are simply more facts to assimilate than any one person can gather – hence specializing.
The Law Of The Highway
It’s interesting to note that we all assimilate facts from a presupposition of self interest and an instinct for self preservation. We believe it’s important, crucial in fact that the conclusions we make based on the data we collect and assess will serve to ensure our survival. Consider the highway. Everyone on the highway functions from self interest and self-preservation. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Bible student, police officer, scientist, window maker, attorney, doctor, athlete, government official. It doesn’t matter my sexual preference, skin color, nationality, where I’ve been or where I am going. My self interest and instinct for self preservation serves not only me, but the entire population around me, protecting the group. Are there accidents? Obviously. But statistically speaking, we are safe driving because of self interest.
The other day my mother came over to the house, somewhat troubled. She passed an accident along the way where there was a body in the road, surrounded by the EMS and police. The road was practically shut down but she got by. My wife passed the same accident and expressed similar emotions of shock and concern. Now when I drive down the same road, there’s a memorial to the person who died. The point? I drive down the same road past the fatal spot just like everyone else. There’s no one I know who passed by the initial accident or passes by the memorial that can’t or doesn’t empathize with the tragedy, yet they keep driving.
It’s self interest and the instinct for self preservation that has endured and evolved in our species to ensure our survival. This principle is observable in all of nature, that nature, left to its on devices, thrives. We, the human element, are part of that nature and are no different. Humanity needs to be free to let self interest and self preservation run its course and solve the problems it encounters, the way it does on the highway every day.
Time To Speak Up
Right now that freedom is being challenged. People are being hindered from debating topics freely and openly. Sparring is being shut down. People are being censored, unallowed to fight and discover the optimal path for themselves and for humanity. Paths are being chosen on our behalf and unallowed to be challenged.
What are the facts? What we do with those facts should be the people’s choice, not the choice of a select few. Let self interest and the instinct for self preservation take over and guide us.
Part of the problem is a general softening of the populous, being enslaved pretty much, to convenience. Their mantra? Please don’t take away our Neflix, Amazon or Uber. It’s so easy to delegate responsibility to an expert to minimize our responsibility, suffering, to make our lives easy. However – right now there are millions of people who strongly disagree with the path we’re being taken down, millions of people who were entranced by the mantra, are actually experiencing a shock, a slight awakening. People who have been used to a world where we can openly debate ideas, with freedom to be right or wrong, find it bewildering to be shut down, silenced, censored.
Censorship is not by accident. It’s a tool employed by those seeking to grab power. If there is a movement to silence a section of the population, a force has set that in motion. Behind that force is an agenda and people are being strongly discouraged from challenging it. Let the shock of being silenced and censored be a wake up call to shed our comforts in the name of speaking up and – speak up. It might be along time before you can do it again.
The facts are the facts. You see what you see. What you see is not imagined. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Arrows of stigma are being and will be cast in your direction. Let these be badges of honor. You are and will be maligned and called crazy, violence may be even used against you. Resist. Resist now. Speak up. Will it hurt? Yeah. We’ve been comfortable too long. The facts are the facts and speaking up these days can get you killed. But take heart. You have only yet begun and have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. It may come to that. History demonstrates that those who want power will crucify their opposition to get it.