Wineskins Archive

December 18, 2013

A Certain Mental Tyranny (Sept-Dec 2010)

Filed under: — @ 9:23 am and

By Edward Fudge

I was stopped short the other day by a well-turned phrase of syndicated columnist David Brooks, which he dropped while analyzing the popularity of Dr. Erica Brown, a Jewish sage, lecturer, author and internet columnist who regularly quotes from Scripture and the Talmud. “She offers a path,” Brooks wrote, “out of the tyranny of the perpetually open mind.” People remain the same, it seems–from the ancient Athenians at the Areogapus, who “spent their time telling or listening to something new” (Acts 17:21), to today’s citified dilettantes who work ever so hard in an effort to always appear calmly in the know.

In an age when tolerance sometimes seems the only virtue and conviction the only vice, there is reason to cheer when an opinion-shaper of the stature of David Brooks (one of the more intelligent, balanced and articulate, in my opinion, of all the columnists who either do or do not write for The New York Times) applauds the concept of moral absolutes, and acknowledges a standard of authority higher than each particular human creature considered in isolation.

Extending Mr. Brooks’ metaphor, I observe that there is no greater pathfinder or liberator than Jesus Christ himself. “You will know the truth,” Jesus once said, “and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Truth liberates us from multiple tyrants, among them “the tyranny of the perpetually open mind.” But to appreciate the content in Jesus’ saying, we must also observe its context, which includes at the very least the preceding verse 31. “If you persist in what I say,” Jesus told new believers, “then you become real disciples. And you will know the truth, and the truth will free you” (John 8:31-32, my free translation).

The Greek word for “truth” suggests what is real, but in the Greek Old Testament it translated a Hebrew word meaning something that is solid, reliable or faithful. Jesus and the rabbis who wrote the Talmud all agreed that God’s truth is not sterile or theoretical but relational and personal. It not only informs, it also transforms. The rabbis sought such truth through devoted relationship with the Torah as the God-given path through life. No, says Jesus, it is the person caught up in a transformative relationship with Him who really grasps the truth and who finally lives free. Which approach better describes you and me?

Copyright 2010 by Edward Fudge. Permission hereby given to reproduce and/or retransmit without financial profit and with credit given.

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