If you were stopped at a red light next to a bus, you may have had that confusing feeling. The one where you wonder if the bus is moving forward or if you are moving in reverse. To find clarity, the first thing you do is look for a fixed point of reference where something is not moving. This clears up the confusion. When it comes to finding clarity in a confused world, Abdu Murray explains how Jesus is that fixed point of reference in his book Saving Truth. With a collection of stories, quotes, and scripture, Murray tries to provide clarity for controversial topics our culture faces today. Some of those topics range from identity and sexuality, to science and religious pluralism.
I am skeptical of the subtitle. Are we actually living in a post-truth world? Well it depends on how you define it. Murray defines post-truth as: Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.By that definition, I would agree that Murray is onto something here. Culture is elevating feelings and emotions over truth and facts. But Murray also believes post-truth has now blossomed into a Culture of Confusion. I would say that is the more accurate term to use. This is because it is not so much about culture choosing emotions over truth. It is more about feelings and emotions transforming into its own truth. Culture is now saturated with so many truths, that it does not know what objective truth is. It is easy for culture to be confused. It does not know the difference between what they want and what they need. Murray is not wrong in using the term post-truth. But to me, Finding Clarity in a Culture of Confusion would have been a more fitting subtitle aside from the alliteration.
Get used to reading that phrase Culture of Confusion because Murray mentions it many times.
It is this culture of confusion that is angry at Christians and rejects the message it carries. Anything that challenges a cultures preference, even if loaded with facts, is deemed offensive and oppressive. It is human nature to turn to sources that reinforce our preferences. That is a confirmation bias. The danger is when we elevate our confirmation bias over truth. Murray was a devout follower of Islam. Even he stated that he knew the truth of Jesus for nine years. He just did not want it. But after nine years, he left Islam and finally embraced the truth of Jesus.
Murray also mentions the danger of culture elevating autonomy over freedom. Autonomy is being disguised as freedom, but these are two very different words. Jesus says he is the truth and that knowing the truth will set you free. But autonomy would say we have our own truth and we create our own freedom. Why be free from the law when you can be a law unto yourself? Why love God when you can love yourself? Why even have a God when you can be your own? These are dangerous questions culture asks in the name of autonomy, not true freedom.
I enjoyed some of the short summarized dialogues Murray has with some skeptical and even cynical people. Some are humorous, and some are serious. But all were engaging to read.
One example is with a young man who was hardened against the gospel. He told Murray that,
"The Bible was full of scientifically impossible fables and morally questionable stories."
When Murray asked, "Where do you get your arguments against Christianity?"
He replied, "I watch a lot of YouTube videos by atheists, I hear these things on The Daily Show on Comedy Central. And I read a lot of posts on the internet."
"Those are your sources for your worldview? Have you ever read a book by a real scholar or watched videos by credible Christians responding to the things youve watched?"
His response was simply, "No."
Another example is when Murray and his wife had dinner with a successful doctor who was an atheist. When Murrays wife asked what motivates and inspires him to do what he does, his reply was, "Helping People. Other people are my purpose."
Murray immediately followed up with the question, "Why? Why do you find helping other people motivating?"
With a silly look on his face he asked, "What do you mean why? Because they're people."
"I guess what I am getting at is this: If you think were just sophisticated chemical machines, then what makes you a doctor instead of just an expensively educated mechanic?"
Or how about this woman who is a dedicated pantheist, yet married to a dedicated Christian. She objects to the Christian claim that only one path leads to God. She says, "Where we differ is that you think logic excludes certain faiths from being true paths to God, while I believe that each of our own experiences of God shows us that were all on the right path. So I can affirm that Christianity is the path for you, even if it isnt the true path for me. We dont need to say one view is right and the other is wrong."
"But you believe that you are on the path toward realizing your oneness with God, right? Jesus claimed to be the only way to God. And he specifically said that our destiny is not to be God, but to dwell with God. So how can you possibly say Christianity is a valid path if it contradicts your views?"
"I know this is true because Jesus came to me in a dream and told me that Im on the right path with Hinduism and that all people on the path to ultimate unity with the divine."
"Hindus and Muslims converted to Christianity in part because Jesus came to them in a dream or vision and told them he is the only path to salvation. Why is your dream of Jesus more valid than theirs?"
There is even a discussion with this man about absolute truth. He says, "No human knows all of the truth."
"Right. If we knew everything, we'd be God. So were on the same page: neither of us is God."
"We all have incomplete versions of the truth. Eventually, well become enlightened and have the gaps in our understanding filled in by the Absolute Truth."
"Wait a second, are you telling me that everyone has a version of the truth?"
"Really? Even people like Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Adolph Hitler, or Joseph Stalin?"
"Well I cant say that I prefer their version of the truth. But because all of our versions of the truth are incomplete, I cant say that I disagree with them either."
"Are you telling me that your worldview doesnt allow you to disagree with anyone elses?"
"Thats right! We cant really disagree with anyone."
"Sure you can."
"No you cant."
"You just did."
Despite mounting evidence in favor of the Christian faith, I held onto the faith of my heritage because I preferred it, because I didn't want to change, because I preferred my side over the truth. Coming to embrace the truth about Jesus took me nine long years. It did not take me nine years to find the truth. It took me nine years to accept it. The truth wasn't hard to find, but it was hard to embrace.****- page22
With our cultural desire for unconditional and unceasing affirmation, it's difficult for us to imagine how anyone would have wanted to follow Jesus after he made such disheartening claims about the human heart. And yet people did follow Jesus by the throngs because his words rang true to his first-century audience. They ought to ring true to us today. One of the many reasons I follow Christ is that his words accurately describe reality. He describes the human heart so spot-on that non-Christians are forced to agree with him.****- page108/109
Despite the ever growing confusion our world faces, hope is not lost on Murray. And he does not want it lost on us either. He shares how the Church can recapture the influence of culture. How showing kindness and respect in dialogue goes a long way. How the church is to love its enemies rather than trying to vanquish them. How replacing complacency and indignation with wisdom can be a bright light in dark times. Proverbs 17:27 states that Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. A few chapters later, Proverbs 29: 8-11 also says, Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath. If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet. Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright. A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Saving Truth has a balanced take on the most controversial issues of our time. Murray points out the areas Christians messed up. He is compassionate to the struggles of those confused by their identity. He urges readers to do the same. Respond without anger while showing dignity and respect to those that disagree. You can have respectful dialogue without compromising the truth of scripture. Saving Truth invites skeptics and seekers of truth to stop and think. But it also invites Christians to show integrity and courage. When Christians adopt both, the church can display Jesus, the true point of reference, clear for all to see.
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