Knowing facts does not necessarily mean that one knows truth. Truth can be found in beauty and art and even fiction, while lies can be forged from stainless steel facts.
In my last post I referenced a study by Pew Research that found that most people, especially young people, cannot discern between facts and opinion in the news.
That’s an interesting study but even if we know the facts it doesn’t follow that we know the truth from those facts. Truth, in the deepest sense, is when we not only know the facts but understand their meaning and significance.
The thing about truth is, it’s transformative by nature. We’re never left the same in its revelatory wake. We were given a brain to calculate and analyze, but we were also given a heart (seat of our affections) to perceive transcendent purpose.
If we only know the what but not the why we still haven’t understood truth.
As an aside, if we’re nothing more than unguided, purposeless blobs of matter, enslaved to our DNA, then we’ll probably never know truth because, as atheist John Gray put it, “The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.” But Jesus said the truth will make us free (John 8:32). This also implies that not knowing the truth has the opposite effect.
This is probably why we moderns have such difficulty with classic literature. We read it with our woodenly literal minds, thinking we understand what we’ve read but have we not missed the proverbial forest for the trees—the beauty and wonder, the poetic and symbolic—all pointing to something much deeper and more profound than grammatically parsing words printed on a page?
We make judgments without knowledge. And like the textual critics, we meticulously analyze and categorize the text but we never seem to bother to understand what it’s saying to us. This is especially true when reading ancient texts like Scripture…but that’s another subject for another time.
In his book, The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis had some similar things to say about how we moderns have “cut out our own souls” by trading these emotive and experiential wonders of life for cold reason and wooden literalism. The latter we call truth, the former we reject and debunk without even bothering to plumb its transformative depths.
In the first chapter, Lewis refers to two schoolmasters, Gaius and Titius, who are teaching literature; their textbook he calls the “Green Book.” Both the names and book title are fictitious but Lewis assures us that both the authors and book are very real.
His issue is with the implications of what is actually being taught to these students, not necessarily what Gaius and Titius may have intended. For instance, one of those implications is that value statements that express feelings are unimportant. For instance, they make the following statement to their students:
“We appear to be saying something very important about something: and actually we are only saying something about our own feelings.”
But with all this debunking Lewis makes this point:
“Gaius and Titius, while teaching him nothing about letters, have cut out of his soul, long before he is old enough to choose, the possibility of having certain experiences which thinkers of more authority than they have held to be generous, fruitful, and humane.”
I agree with Lewis. This is where I think we’ve lost the plot. While we’ve gorged ourselves with information we find ourselves famished in really knowing anything meaningful at all. Not only do we have problems discerning facts from opinions, but even when we get the facts we’re not able to perceive what the facts mean to us.
Anyway, here’s a video taken from chapter one titled, “Men Without Chests.” Lewis elucidates this much more eloquently than I can describe. It’s worth watching and, more importantly, understanding.