Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Do We Call Truth?

Driving to church this morning I heard a story on the news about a minister who had been shopping at a Costco and noticed that the price tag on a Bible was labeled fiction.  He then took a picture, posted it to social media, and Costco is doing the clean up dance.

While some of you may have the same response he did, I am not disturbed by such a label.  Rather I have long asked questions like:

Why do we place lower value on that which we call fiction vs. that which we call non-fiction?
Do we sometimes forget to acknowledge that much of our written material transcends either category?
Why do we struggle to claim Truth if we can't prove facts?
In my own teaching I frequently talk to people about the difference between Truth and truth when we are reading scripture.  Truth I define as the big picture message about God.  Put a lower case "t" at the front of the word and it becomes about provable facts.  While the Bible has some facts that can be proven (and some that can be disproven) that does not increase or decrease the value of the Truth we find there.
I often look to the story of Noah when talking about this.  There are details in that story - how many of each animal, how big the boat was, how many days the rain fell and so forth - that could (given the right set of circumstances) be proven true or false.  But when that's where our focus is, we miss the point.  It seems to me that the Truth of the story of Noah is that even when God has every right and reason to give up on humanity and even wipe us out (and unfortunately we give God lots of reasons!), God chooses not to.  God is so committed to humanity, even when we break God's heart, that God will seek out a reason NOT to destroy us.  Yes, it is a difficult story.  And yes, many people do die.  But throughout the story what we see is a God whose love for humanity runs deep and who simply won't give up on us.  That's good news...that's Truth worth holding on to whether there was ever a man named Noah or a big boat full of animals. 
On one hand Costco is right...the Bible contains much that would technically be classified as fiction - some that we suspect to be so and some that comes right and tells us it is.  And that's okay.  Alongside fiction is some non-fiction, some poetry, some letters, and all sorts of other writing.  Even if we came to understand the whole document as fiction, that does not diminish the Truth. 
After all, no label we put on the Bible or any other book can diminish the Truth of God's love.

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