By Everette Chapman
A party game from an age long gone was “Thimble, thimble, who has the thimble?” During an election year, one finds oneself asking a similar question, “Truth, truth, who has the truth?” A few years ago, the Rev. Mr. Fred Holleman, Chaplain of the Kansas State Senate, offered this prayer before a session. He petitioned:
Omniscient Father: Help us to know who is telling the truth. One side tells us one thing, and the other side just the opposite. And if neither side is telling the truth, we would like to know that too. And if each side is telling only half the truth, give us the wisdom to put the two good halves together. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
That is an honest prayer and one that would fit lots of situations, wouldn’t it? The report that shared Rev. Holleman’s prayer didn’t indicate the tone in which the prayer was offered – with a twinkling Mark Twain irony or with righteous despair. However it was prayed, it not only nails those in public life who handle the truth loosely and to their advantage; it also speaks to everyday situations that arise in families, communities, and, especially, in matters of religious belief.
Conflicting voices about religion, the Bible, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, worship styles, even life styles, can be confusing. “Truth, truth, who has the truth?” is a far more perplexing question the party game question mentioned above. So what do we do about all this theological and philosophical confusion?
I can’t tell you or anyone else what to do, but I can tell you what “works for me” in sorting out what to believe. First, I give the edge in the matter to the Bible, my chosen source for truth. If the Bible contains something I consider to be true, and other writers, secondary sources, or prevailing current opinions disagree, I examine the latter in the light of the former, not vice versa. The Bible has been around a long time and has served me well.
Secondly, when I begin to doubt something and come up with something to replace it in my belief system, I try to be intellectually- and spiritually-honest enough to subject the new “truth” to the same acids of skepticism as I did to that which I first doubted. It is important to keep “doubting our doubts,” as Harry Emerson Fosdick once suggested. Ironically, I quite often go full circle to find out that what I first rejected I now espouse whole-heartedly again.
Thirdly, I find that Chaplain Holleman’s way of praying for God to reveal the truth to me is wise. Jesus promised that when the Holy Spirit of God comes to us, He will “lead us in all truth.” We can trust God as our guide. James writes, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let Him ask of God, who doesn’t scold you for asking and will give to all persons liberally.
Fourthly, over the years I have had to admit that there are some things I just don’t know. I don’t know why good people suffer and bad people prosper. I don’t know what causes persons to be gay. I don’t know why tornadoes or floods or other natural disasters take many lives and leave destruction in their wake. There are many things I don’t know. In the face of those, I have learned to trust God with my unanswered questions.