In Pursuit of Truth

| December 3, 2021 | 0 Comments

Below and in the attached article, Mike Atnip shares some helpful guidelines for discovering and discerning truth amidst the cacophony of today’s “authorities of truth.” He gives 10 helpful principles to help guide our thoughts and ends by warning us not to get distracted from the most important truth of all, the truth that determines our eternal destiny.

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In Pursuit of Truth
Poor Pilate! All he wanted to know was a simple truth:
Was Jesus a king or was He not? But Pilate found himself
in the same situation in which we find ourselves many
times: several versions of the “truth” about Jesus’ kingship
were floating around. Who to believe?
Some said Jesus was a prophet, others that He was the
promised Messiah, and others that He was at least a good
man. But then there were those saying that He was demonpossessed,
a deceiver, and a blasphemer.
“What is truth?” the exasperated Pilate finally uttered.
Yes, that very question faces us today, again and again.
While we may have our minds settled about the truth
concerning Jesus of Nazareth, many other vexing questions
tear at our mind, emotions, and spirit.
“Is this product that I am considering purchasing a good
investment?”
“Is this medicine good for me, or will it make me sicker
yet? Or is it totally quackery?”
“What really happened during the latest political
unrest?”
“What was the cause of that airliner crash?”
Just what is truth?
Some Guidelines in the Search
Be forewarned that this article may touch on certain
“hot” topics of our day, but do not expect any conclusions
for the truth of these topics in this article. We are looking
for some guidelines in how to find truth amidst the
cacophony of today’s “authorities of truth,” many of whom
are trying to shout louder than the person beside them. It
seems that some people believe that whoever has the
loudest voice is the one with the most truth.
The internet can be a very useful tool for finding truth in
some situations. For example, if one needs a part number
for a washing machine timer, there is a good chance that an
online search will give the seeker the truth of that matter.
But when it comes to other areas, the internet may be the
last place one would want to look for truth. After all, every
man and his brother, his 18 cousins, 12 aunts and uncles,
and 14 co-workers all have an opinion on the topic and
share those conflicting opinions freely. And sometimes
quite loudly. And sometimes without much effort to find
where the truth truly resides.
With that in mind, let us lay down some guidelines to
help us find the truth. While the following points are
numbered, the numbering is not necessarily an order of
importance, beyond the first one.
1. Does it contradict the revelation of God?
Any “truth” that is contrary to God’s revelation to man,
the Bible, is to be immediately rejected. For example, a
common “truth” presented in our day is that man evolved
from apes/monkeys. God has revealed otherwise, so we
simply dump contrary opinions into the trash can. One
nuance of this guideline is that we need to be humble
enough to realize that we may not fully understand God’s
revelation. In other words, God’s revelation is sure and
established; our understanding of that revelation may be
flawed. This is just a reminder that in seeking truth,
humility can never harm us. Never!
2. Are there two or more witnesses?
The principle of requiring more than one witness to
establish the truth about certain matters was laid down even
in the Law of Moses. The death penalty, for example, was
not to be used unless more than one witness was available
(Nu. 35:30, De. 17:6). In Deuteronomy 19:15, this principle
is expanded to “any iniquity.” In short, no one was to be
condemned without a minimum of two witnesses.
The Law of Moses was an incomplete revelation of the
righteousness to which God called men, with the fullness of
that revelation being completed by the teaching of Jesus.
Jesus confirmed the principle of multiple witnesses in
Matthew 18:16, telling us to make sure that we have more
than our own self-formed opinion before condemning a
brother who has offended us.
How does the principle of multiple witnesses work in
our search for truth, for example, about whether a certain
medicine is valid? First of all, the claims of the producer of
the medicine are not enough witnesses to prove the truth of
the matter. Seek some outside, neutral input on the
question. Have other neutral entities tested it and found it
valid? Are those supporting a viewpoint really a second
witness if they are only repeating what they read/heard?
No! Quoting someone else is not a valid second witness.
3. Are the sources reliable?
This principle ties in closely with the previous one.
Three hundred and forty-two witnesses testifying to the
truth about a matter are worthless if they are unreliable
sources. This problem of unreliable sources has grown
exponentially with the advent of the internet. Now one
person can make a claim, share it digitally, and within
minutes thousands of others can repeat it. So if someone
goes online and searches for more than one witness to the
truth of the matter, he can find thousands of others who
“support” the first person’s “truth.” For example, former
U.S. President Donald Trump strongly promoted the idea
that the last presidential election was fraudulent. He would
send a tweet saying that, and that would be passed on by
millions of people. So does that establish it as truth because
millions of people are simply repeating the allegations of
the first man? No! If all those people are doing is repeating
information they heard/read, they are not a reliable source.
Beware and be aware that most of the information one finds
on the internet is not a reliable source, nor a second or third
witness. If that were so, we could say that it is an
established truth that the last presidential election was
fraudulent because more than a million “witnesses” can be
found claiming it was!
4. Is this a partial truth?
Perhaps no greater example of “partial truths” can be
used than the story that we used to repeat when I was a boy.
We would say—tongue-in-cheek to make a point—“Did
you know the Bible commands us to commit suicide?”
Usually, the response was a scowl or a look on the face
that said, “What is the punchline here?”
We would then proceed to quote some Bible: “Matthew
27:5 says Judas ‘went and hanged himself.’ And Luke
10:37 says ‘go, and do thou likewise.’”
So, did we misquote the Bible? No. Did we say
something that was not true (in our quotation of the Bible)?
No. Did we tell the whole truth? No!
A current, real life example of telling a partial truth is
when I was told a couple of years ago that more people
today are dying from polio that they contracted from polio
vaccines than from “wild” polio. The point was, in telling
me this, to inform me that vaccines are unsafe. So I did a
little research. I found a partial truth.
Yes, it was true: the number of polio cases from people
contracting polio through their immunization did in fact
outnumber the cases of wild polio. The key missing truth
was that the total number of wild polio cases was only 140,
worldwide. Wild polio has almost been eradicated in the
world. Currently, only Afghanistan and Pakistan are
reporting any wild polio cases.
Now, with more than one billion polio vaccinations
given annually, a very small percentage of those getting
vaccinated end up getting (or spreading) the disease. The
number of polio cases from the polio vaccine in 2020 was
1,107.
The fact that ten times more polio cases come from the
vaccine than from wild strains could sound bad, until you
add in the truth that in the late 1980s, polio cases
worldwide numbered 350,000 annually. In the early 1950s,
over 100,000 cases were reported in the U.S. alone, with
6,600 deaths and tens of thousands of children left crippled
for life in the U.S. in just a few years’ time. The whole
truth of the matter is that polio vaccines—along with the
blessing of God—have virtually eliminated the dreaded
disease from planet earth.
In our work at Plain News, we encounter partial-truth
stories regularly when it comes to political reporting. If a
riot happens, it depends on what cause was being supported
whether it is named a “protest” or a “riot.” Leftwing news
sources still daily produce content on the January 6 “riots”
in Washington D.C., for example, almost a year later.
Meanwhile, rightwing news sources still lament the “riots”
caused by Black Lives Matter supporters more than a year
ago. Yet the leftwing sources are almost silent about BLM
property damages, and hardly a peep is heard from
rightwing sources about the property damages done by the
January 6 protesters/rioters.
How can we find the truth about these matters?
Sometimes by checking both sides of the political spectrum
and carefully navigating our way through the content. Even
so, we are still not sure exactly where the truth is in some
matters!
5. What is the spirit behind this “truth”?
Those who have been truly born again have received the
divine nature, that is, the very character and spirit of
Jehovah transplanted into them. Many virtues sprout from
this regeneration, but for this article we want to focus on
the virtue called “honor” or “respect” for people. In our
search for truth, we want to be very cautious about
accepting “truth” from those who manifest a clear
disrespect for other humans.
You can find this disrespect easily in the comments
section of news websites (the number of sites allowing
comments seems to be diminishing; I assume it is because
the level of disrespect is so high that even the unbelievers
find it repugnant). Here, you can find terms—and these are
the better ones—like DemoRATS and RePUKEtans.
Open name-calling like that has no place in the kingdom
of Christ. When we are looking for a source of truth, we
should consider that if the perpetuator of the “truth” has a
very disrespectful attitude, that means his spirit is not of
God. Do we want to feed upon his “truths”? No.
Does that mean he is wrong? No. What it does mean is
that we should be highly suspicious of what he is saying,
because his attitude is very likely tinting his “truths.”
Now, let us take this just a step further. How does our
presenter of “truth” feel about organizations and
government entities? Beware and be aware of individuals
who hold an “anti” spirit. While they may not use
repugnant terms, they often fling accusations at “Big This”
or “Big That.” And, of course, “Big” is always bad!
Let us stop and consider for a moment: Is there no such
thing as “Little” being dishonest, or is it always and only
the “Big” who are wrong? Is there no such thing as “Little
Liars,” “Little Agitators,” or “Little Doubt-sowers”? Yet
how many times are the terms “Big Pharma,” “Big Tech,”
or “Big Banking” given out with a tone of disrespect?
“Honour all men,” we are told in 1 Peter 2:17, which
follows shortly with “honour the king.” In his second
epistle, Peter then gives us some insight into the type of
men we are to avoid: “But chiefly them that walk after the
flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government.
Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to
speak evil of dignities.”
What does it mean to “speak evil of dignities”? Would
that include accusing Bill Gates of trying to depopulate
Africa when we personally have not investigated the
matter? By “personally” investigating, I mean taking the
time to find unbiased studies by neutral entities that show
this to be happening?
“Speaking evil” is also called blasphemy and slander.
They are serious sins. Blasphemy has been defined as
“blasting the fame” of someone else. Slander is trying to
ruin another person’s reputation. If I go about saying that
Bill Gates is trying to depopulate Africa with his programs,
unless I have solid sources from several witnesses, I am
blaspheming and slandering Bill Gates.
Excuse my vehemency here, but I will burn in hell
forever for those sins unless I repent. It is that serious!
6. Is my “truth” based upon “they say”?
I confess that I have said way too many times in my life,
“They say [fill in the blank],” without knowing who “they”
are. I just heard it again last night from a sincere brother,
but I did ask him the jarring question, “And who are they?”
He admitted that he did not know.
If we find our “truth” to be based upon a “they say,” and
we do not know who “they” are, it is time to jettison that
truth until we have a true witness. Another dear brother
recently told me that “a famous doctor in Europe says that
millions of people are going to die from the COVID-19
vaccines.” That statement is only a tad better than “they
say,” for he did not seem to know who the “famous doctor
in Europe” was, let alone the man’s integrity nor the
validity of the proof of his allegation. Do you want to know
what I did with his “truth” that millions were going to die
from the COVID-19 vaccine? I totally rejected all parts of
it. Anonymous sources are junk sources for truth. Does that
mean the truth “they” promote is always wrong? No. It
simply means that we are setting ourselves up for deception
if we accept something as “truth” on the basis of “they
say.”
Sometimes deception is spread by a simple statement or
question that is intended to get people to distrust one’s foes
and put more trust in the one making the statement or
question. E.g. “Have you heard what ______ is saying
about this? I’m not saying it is this way but it sure looks
_______.”
7. Does the source have an agenda?
As humans, we all have agendas. It could be a positive
agenda, such as seeking the reconciliation of God and
humanity. But for the purposes of this article about finding
truth, “having an agenda” means “having bias in the
presentation of truth.”
We see it all the time in the political realm. News is
slanted. Certain details are “forgotten” somehow. The
agenda can also be philosophical. Hunting groups may
have an agenda to create the best trophy deer hunting.
Environmentalists have an agenda to create the ideal
conditions for natural environments. But other agendas are
more subtle: seeking fame or fortune are quite common
agendas. The agenda to seek personal fame can lead
scientists to make some “startling” discovery; an agenda
can lead an anti-scientist to dismantle a valid study, just to
become the famous person who exposed someone else’s
supposed ignorance.
People with an agenda usually present “truth” in such a
way as to establish their agenda. Some may tell outright
lies, but many times it is a more subtle twisting of the
evidence.
8. Does this “truth” go against my personal bias?
While previous points help us navigate where and how
to find truth about a matter, this principle is about how we
may or may not receive truth because we have a bias that
we do not want disturbed.
The Wikipedia article for “Confirmation Bias” states the
following: “Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for,
interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that
confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. People
display this bias when they select information that supports
their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they
interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing
attitudes. The effect is strongest for desired outcomes, for
emotionally charged issues, and for deeply entrenched
beliefs.”
In summary, we humans tend to receive what we want
to receive and to trash what we do not want to hear. The
following is a little test to determine if you are letting bias
affect whether you receive truth. We are going to use a
“hot” topic, COVID-19 and Ivermectin. Many people have
taken a stance on this issue. Now, let us see if you have a
bias.
Two Argentine studies will be referenced here. The first
is a study that showed that Ivermectin use was 100%
capable of keeping individuals from contracting COVID-19
among health care workers in Argentina. The study was
disseminated broadly, and many people have become
enthused about Ivermectin’s ability to completely stop
COVID-19 with a cheap medicine that has been used for
decades already for various diseases, with little side-effects
if used according to recommendations.
The next study, again from Argentina, shows no
practical positive effect with Ivermectin against
COVID-19. This was a single-center, prospective,
randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
So, we have two contradicting studies from the same
nation, both done by scientists and medical workers. The
question is: Which one do you want to believe, and which
one do you want to disbelieve? If you find yourself wanting
to believe one or the other, you have a bias that you want
confirmed!
Let’s take this one step further. The study that found
100% positive protection from COVID-19 was debunked
by some people who made the effort to dig into it. Two
hospitals that were said to be involved denied being
involved when they were contacted directly. One lady
scientist also denied that she had been involved—even
though she was named as a contributor—when she was
contacted directly. Some of the data did not match other
data when compared to other sections of the same study,
such as the numbers of participants and their genders. As
well, some of the participants were also taking other
antiviral medicines along with Ivermectin. This taints the
study because no one knows how these other medications
may or may not have affected the outcomes. These
inconsistencies have led some researchers to pitch the
whole study in the wastebasket.
The other study, which found no positive effect using
Ivermectin against COVID-19, has been criticized because
it only gave the Ivermectin in low amounts for two days.
Critics say that it is well known that Ivermectin would not
be effective at that low dosage and short time usage. These
weaknesses, say critics, make that study essentially useless
except to say that low dosage for short duration has little
positive effect … something everyone already knew. But
high dosage taken for many days, well, that could be a
different story!
Confirmation bias test for you: Which of the above two
rebuttals do you want to believe? If you find yourself
accepting one but rejecting the other, you probably have a
bias that you want confirmed rather than honestly and
openly seeking truth.
So, what can we learn about Ivermectin from the above
two studies? Actually, not a whole lot, with the exception
that at low dosages, it does not appear to have much effect.
And everyone already knew that. So, we really have not
learned much from the two studies once we dig into them
just a little bit.
9. Educate yourself on topics where you want to
learn truth.
If we want to learn the truth about global warming, for
example, we will need to do more than just read some
information on the topic and believe whatever we read. We
will need to learn some terminology, learn to think
critically, learn to find weak reasoning, and learn to doubt
man’s theories until proven true by several independent
sources.
Using the example of global warming, we need to
consider whether solar and wind power sources are truly
“renewable,” how much energy these systems take to build
and maintain, and whether the payback is worth the effort.
We need to consider if ending coal and oil consumption
will affect the world economy and cause economic
devastation in developing nations and whether it would be
better to encourage less consumption of resources rather
than trying to turn to “green alternatives.” As we study into
some of these things, we can (and should) quickly realize
that the more we learn, the more we find out how little we
know and how much we cannot even know!
10. Be aware that enemies are sowing lies.
When the Soviet Union broke up a few decades ago, the
anti-Communist nations gloated. The huge, threatening
empire had imploded and fallen apart without the first
bomb being dropped!
A few years later a map came out of Russia. This map
showed the United States of America divided into about
nine regions. This fracturing was the hopes of a Russian
who wanted to see the same thing that had happened to the
Soviet Union happen to the U.S.
We have not seen that fracturing so far. But we are
seeing strains and bulges. We are hearing talk of eastern
counties in Oregon wanting to become part of Idaho.
Texans sometimes remind us that they were given legal
right to withdraw from the U.S. when they joined the
Union, something that is still possible and would only take
a majority vote of Texans to accomplish.
So, with Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, Iranians,
Venezuelans, and millions of other people in the world
hoping to see the U.S. fragment and implode, are they
sitting there with their hands in their pockets? No!
We can be assured that a steady flow of propaganda,
lies, fearmongering, and distrust is being pumped into the
U.S., mainly via the internet. Do we realize that people are
purposely pushing conspiracy theories into our nation in an
effort to destabilize the government and turn the citizens
against the authorities? Do we understand that this happens
on both ends of the political spectrum and on all sides of
practical questions, in an effort to divide and spoil?
We can read about this type of destabilization effort in
Isaiah 36. We can see it happening with Nehemiah and
Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. And it is not only happening
to the U.S.; we can be assured that it is happening in
many countries around the world as it has happened all
throughout history. Some of the “disinformation” is coming
from exterior enemies, while some of it is being generated
from citizens who want a change of government.
The question for those of us who seek truth is this: Are
we aware that lies are purposely being spread, just to divide
people and cause mistrust and dishonor? Should that not
make us extremely cautious of swallowing anything unless
there is genuine evidence from a variety of unaffiliated
sources?
We are stuck!
Sad to say, these types of flawed studies, disinformation
campaigns, and illogical conclusions abound on the
internet. Using Ivermectin again as an example, you will
find everything from conspiracy theories, conflicting data,
rebuttals of rebuttals, and name-calling as you dig through
the data and commentary. At the end of the day, you, the
honest seeker of reality, will likely have to throw up your
hands and say like Pilate, “What is truth?”
Despite our human desire to know the truth on certain
matters, there is nothing wrong with saying, “I simply do
not know what the truth of that matter is, nor do I have
hopes that I will find it out very soon.” Then, we need to
content ourselves with being in that position, possibly for
years or even decades. In the current politicized situation
with COVID-19, for example, it may be some years before
the political drama melts away and sincere researchers can
give us some genuine, unbiased data that shows just how
effective masks were, how effective Ivermectin was (and if
it is, what dosage and duration of treatment is needed), how
effective vaccines were, how many people diagnosed with
COVID-19 were actually misdiagnosed, or how many
people died from the vaccines.
At the moment, you and I will have an extremely hard
time finding unbiased data for those questions. I am content
to let those questions rest, or at least I am trying hard to do
so.
Are we being distracted?
I am going to quote a letter from a brother in Christ who is
also a medical doctor outside of the U.S. He is neither pronor
anti-vaccine. The topic at hand that he is addressing is
how too many Christians are getting caught up in
conspiracy theories and slander, feeding upon politicized
data and commentary concerning COVID-19 and vaccines.
Consider his heart cry:
“We have a desperately large mission to proclaim the
good news to all people, to serve the needy, to encourage
the faint-hearted, to build up the weak in faith. On top of
that, the clock is rapidly running out to get this task done. I
recognize God is bigger than us, but I am sure he
intends us to feel the weight of this task which he has left
us. We don’t have time to devote countless hours to mere
distractions. In my opinion, already far too much time has
been given in our midst to many things that do not serve the
purpose of this mission. We cannot afford to waste time and
energy with so much to do. Each of us will soon be judged
based on what return we have given our master on His
investment. I don’t need to tell you what will happen for
those of us who fail that test.
If these claims of mass conspiracy are not true, and it is
not the case that thousands of people are actively engaged
in intentional deception about COVID or are intentionally
poisoning people with COVID vaccines, then any claims of
this nature are slander. Slander is a sin that can separate
you from God and which needs to be rooted out of the body
of Christ. I’m not saying that these claims are not true
(although I highly doubt they are) and I’m not interested at
this point in engaging in debates about them. Obviously, if
these claims were true, there would be no sin in exposing
them. However, if you are spreading slander, you will be
accountable to God for those words. In general, I think it is
very unwise to spread strong accusations about people you
have never met, based on the allegations of people you
have never met, without very clear evidence to support
them. I do not think that type of thing is in keeping with the
kind of careful speech that should characterize servants of
Jesus.
My [counsel] to those of you who are focusing on these
[vaccine] issues is to get your focus more squarely on the
task you have been given by your master.” [End quote]
The letter to the Hebrews teaches us to “lay aside every
weight.” Getting involved in these long-winded, politicized,
emotion-laden debates is a weight on our race to
become like Christ and be invited to spend eternity with
Him. Spreading unproven allegations is more than a
weight; it is a “sin which so easily besets us.”
Rise, lay aside, and run, brothers!
Mike Atnip | 12/1/21

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