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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"Saving Truth" (Abdu Murray)

TITLE: Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post-Truth World
AUTHOR: Abdu Murray
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018, (256 pages).

The Renaissance gives rise to a new age of confidence in humanism. Modernism ups the bar to through science, technology, and all manner of human advancement. Postmodernism introduces an era of skepticism and relativism. As the age of Christendom diminishes, the age of atheism and secularism emerges with greater boldness and confidence. Some calls the present a Post-Christian world. Others deem it a Post-Postmodernism society. For author and North American director of RZIM, it is simply a "Post-Truth world," which he defines it as a "Culture of Confusion." In a culture of relativity, without an absolute to anchor oneself upon, we risk losing clarity. We lose a sense of purpose. We lose ourselves. Incidentally, those who declare that there are no absolutes are guilty of making their theory of relativity as an absolute in themselves. For if relativism is not an absolute, it is but a flaky philosophy. Truth is about fixed points of reference; about solid ground; about objectivity; and about the clarity of thought and life. From a big picture view, Murray moves to deal with the seductions of a "Post-Truth Mindset." Surprisingly, this mindset is not just non-Christians, but involves Christians as well. Things such as a wrong understanding of "judge not let ye be judged." Truth is, Jesus is not forbidding any forms of judging but reminding us about the purpose and motive of judgment. Other ways in which Christians are not helping clarity is when they overcorrect in their desire to defend the truth. Be calm, caring, and clear. Following the chapters on Post-Truth world and Post-Truth mindset, Murray goes into various specifics such as the proper understanding of freedom; about human dignity that does not elevate itself above God nor dumbs us down. Gospel clarity will help resolve true workmanship and worthiness.

On sexuality, gender, and identity, he upholds biblical sanctity with reason. He empathizes with those who struggle with homosexuality. Gently, he reminds all that our greatest need is not sexual fulfilment but reconciliation with God. He addresses the cultural dichotomy that pits science against faith. We need to get clarity about the limits of science and the place of faith. They do not necessarily contradict. On religious pluralism, Murray points out that Christianity is not the only faith that champions exclusivity. All religions do albeit to various extents. The path to clarity begins by recognizing that not all roads lead to God. Those who say that all religions are the same have missed the key point altogether: that all groups claimed something exclusive.

Three Thoughts
First, this is a necessary book that helps blow away the fog-filled world. A Post-Truth society can be very aimless. Without anchoring on something solid, many are vulnerable to senseless freedom that would ultimately land in confusion. This relativism will lead to people asserting that there is no such thing as right or wrong. If that is the case, then we should abandon research and studies altogether. That would be absurd because it would throw a divided world into deep disarray. I remember the words of Max DePree: "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality." In the same light, the first thing we ought to do to get clarity is to recognize that we are in a fog of falsehood, fake news, and feeble foundations. Like a needed fan to blow the clouds away, Murray helps us to think systematically and clearly.

Second, I appreciate the gentle but firm hand Murray uses to persuade. In our Post-Truth World, we need to adopt a wise and cool-headed approach, something I call "Cool Heads; Warm Hearts." this means any apologetic of today must have a steady mind to think through issues and implications clearly. At the same time, one needs to share information in a way that shows we care. There is no point in winning an argument but lose our friend. Far better is to learn how to engage meaningfully and respectfully so that even if we do not win any non-believer over, we can still plant a seed that appeals to their openness and candour.

Third, I like the way Murray positions this book. The goal is clarity. The way is charity. He is spot on in identifying our culture as a Post-Truth culture. Identifying is one thing. What to do about it is another, and Murray goes through several examples on how to bring clarity and show charity. This is particularly so on the chapter about "sexuality, gender, and identity." Instead of being stuck on sexuality, he talks more about sanctity. On gender, he argues that simply championing our personal preferences and rights about our own sexuality could very well lead us deeper into confusion. The danger is self-deception. We may insist on a particular right. What if that is an erroneous choice? He urges all to recognize and empathize with the hurts the LGBTQ community are facing. At the same time, there is no need to compromise our beliefs about biblical principles surrounding gender definitions. Like a wise guide, Murray acknowledges a hard path but clarity will bring big dividends in terms of identity.

In summary, this book is primarily addressed to Christians not to take either of two extremes. They should not be too quick to brandish placards to make their statements. Neither should they be too meek in silence when they are presented with an opportunity to witness. If they are able to maintain a focus on presenting clarity and showing charity, the way to saving truth would be more beneficial for all.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This Advanced Reading Copy has been provided courtesy of Zondervan and Graf-Martin Communications without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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