4 Truth Parables
This post is heavily based on this video from J. P. Moreland, in which he shares several truth parables.
“I don’t care about truth.”
“Religion isn’t a matter of right and wrong.”
“Religion doesn’t need to be true; it just needs to work for you.”
How do we respond to such apathy towards the truth? Here are four truth parables that can help.
Truth Parable #1: The Story of Wonmug
Here is the story:
Wonmug wasn’t very intelligent. He could add and subtract if the numbers weren’t too big, but that’s pretty much it. But he decides, only God knows why, to apply for a degree in particle physics. He applies and somehow gets accepted to the University of Texas.
His first few weeks are a disaster. On the first exam, he gets 3/100 right. (The fact that he got 3 questions right was probably just by luck.) In his classes, he asks questions that have nothing to do with what they’re talking about. But one day, one of his professors comes up with an idea: “Let’s make him think that he’s the smartest student who has ever come here.” So they develop a conspiracy. They make him think he’s the smartest physics student of all time. They “ooh” and “ahh” over his insights, even though they make no sense. The conspiracy continues. He graduates summa cum laude. He applies for a PhD, gets accepted. The cover up continues. Every scientist in the world makes him think he’s brilliant. He’s interviewed by top magazines regularly. And while this is all going on, everyone mocks him behind his back.
Now here is the question:
Would you like to be Wonmug? Or would you want your children to have Wonmug’s life? Wonmug is the happiest guy on the face of the earth. He believes: “Wow, my students are so happy to have me; that interview last week was excellent; I am serving my government like nobody else; I am respected and loved by everyone who knows particle physics.” His life is filled with happy beliefs. But those beliefs are all false.
Truth Parable #2: The Mother Illustration
Do you know what my mother looks like? I’ve been asking several people, and I’ve gotten several different responses. One person said he thought my mom was 5’11” with blonde hair and blue eyes. The next person said she thought my mom was 5’2″ with black curly hair and brown eyes. What do you think my mother looks like? Oh, you think she’s probably 5’4″ with red hair and green eyes?
Now, do you think that my mother is 5’2″, 5’4″, and 5’11” at the same time?
Do you think she simultaneously has blonde hair, brown hair, and red hair?
Do you think she’s some mutant freak that has brown, blue, and green eyes at the same time?
Listen, I don’t care how passionate you are about my mother; you could write songs about my mom praising her diverse attributes. But just because you’re passionate about it and happen to have some views on the matter doesn’t mean that they’re right. What matters, once again, is whether or not they’re true.
Truth Parable #3: The Buffet Illustration
What happens when you go to eat at a buffet? Well, you grab a plate, and you begin to put things on the plate that catch your eye. Our plates reflect our desires.
Now, this is how many people approach religion. They take some sayings of Jesus, some sayings of Buddha, some ideas from Hinduism that they like, and they throw them all onto a plate. But this is an unwise idea. Why? Because our plates will only end up reflecting our desires. In other words, your god will end up looking just like you. Your god will be nothing more than a projection of what you want to be true. If you’re a passionate Democrat, you’ll end up worshiping an Oboma figure in the sky. If you’re a Republican, you’ll end up worshiping a Ronald Reagan figure up above. Either way, the project is doomed from the start.
If religion is going to mean anything, it needs to be bigger than your personal psyche, and it needs to be based on truth, not desire.
Truth Parable #4: The Brain Surgeon Illustration
Last week I planted some flowers. And then the day after I planted them, my gardener was going through my lawn, and he accidentally plucked up those flowers, mistaking them for weeds. Now, that’s irritating. I spent a solid afternoon looking for the right flowers and planting them. He made a mistake.
Just yesterday I had to go in for an emergency brain surgery. I got on the operating table, and I heard the surgeon ask someone else in the room: “Now, the brain is located in the navel area, right?” He was about to make a big mistake.
The bottom line from the previous four stories: we need to find the truth. We don’t want to be like Wonmug. And there’s only one truth, just like my mother has only one height. Furthermore, we must pursue truth in a systematic way, not as if we were a buffet picking and choosing. And lastly, the more important the topic, the more important it is to have the truth. And what could be more important than what we believe about God?