Tim Throckmorton: Our feelings aren’t always the truth

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 4, 2024

I remember well, the year was 1996 and I was a young pastor of a Nazarene church in southern Ohio when I heard Josh McDowell mention he saw as a potential danger. 

He began to recognize what he described as cultural tolerance. 

It is the basic idea that each person’s dignity and self-worth actually depends on everyone else endorsing their personal “truth,” that each person has the right to a moral code so subjective that no one else can judge it, regardless of its effect on themselves or society, and that those who “judge” it, must be shouted down and silenced.

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Traditionally, tolerance values, respects, and accepts the views of others without necessarily approving of or participating in their beliefs or behaviors. 

It differentiates between what a person thinks or does and the person himself. 

This view of tolerance, however, is no longer the popular view. 

Instead, today’s tolerance advocates that all truth claims are equally valid. 

Words like “diversity” and “multiculturalism” are often used interchangeably with the word “tolerance” in advocating this perspective.

C.S. Lewis wrote a great short book called “The Abolition of Man,” that describes the destructive character of the new philosophic idea I have described. 

The book begins by criticizing an English schoolbook written for young children. The schoolbook recounts a well-known story about the poet Samuel Coleridge at a waterfall. 

Coleridge heard one tourist call the waterfall “pretty” and another call it “sublime,” and he sided with the second tourist—the view of the waterfall was sublime, he said, meaning majestic and of great spiritual worth. 

According to the author of the schoolbook, however, Coleridge’s judgment simply reflected his “feelings” about the waterfall, because truth is subjective. 

Taking this story as his starting point, Lewis goes on to show that if the idea that there is no objective truth becomes dominant, it will lead to an abolition of man. 

Because how is man different from the beasts if he lacks the divine spark—the ability of reason to make judgments about what is beautiful and what is not and about what is right and what is wrong?

Speaking of Josh McDowell, He writes, “cultural tolerance wants us to operate from our emotions and experiences, not God’s universal truth. The fallout of living according to how we feel? We become a society populated by self-obsessed people. One of the expressions I hate most: “What’s in it for me?” 

Referring again to Josh McDowell, “I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a society that places a premium on mutual respect and care — simply because we’re all God’s children. We’ve learned that cultural tolerance professes to truly embrace tolerance and diversity but does not. If our society were really interested in everyone being “who they are,” cultural tolerance would respectfully honor Christianity as a lifestyle option. But as cultural tolerance is only interested in its viewpoint, it clearly displays its own intolerance.”

May we be reminded that Truth has always mattered to God. 

One of my favorite writers Oz Guinness states in his book, “A Time for Truth,” “all truth is God’s truth and it’s true everywhere for everyone even if no one believes it!” 

So, speaking in an election year, truth is not subject to your vote or your opinion! 

Once, when a stubborn disputer seemed unconvinced, Abraham Lincoln said, “Well, let’s see how many legs has a cow?” 

“Four, of course,” came the reply disgustedly. 

“That’s right,” agreed Lincoln. “Now suppose you call the cow’s tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?” 

“Why, five, of course,” was the confident reply. 

“Now, that’s where you’re wrong,” said Lincoln. “Calling a cow’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg!”  

Truth embraced and believed is one thing for it can change a life setting the one embracing truth free from the bondage of the past to enjoy all the blessings the creator has planned for them. 

However, truth acknowledged and ignored is another scenario altogether causing one to miss the greatest joy in this life and in the life to come. 

Truth is still truth whether inconvenient or not. 

Jesus, facing the imminent death of the cross surrounded by his dear friends, wanted to give them something to remember as they faced the uncertainties of the days that lie ahead for them said in John 14, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” 

This is not about feelings; this is about truth! 

Tim Throckmorton is the national director of Family Resource Council’s Community Impact Teams.