Longing for the Truth That Makes Us Free

16 April 2020, 17:34 | Religion and society | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

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Nikolay Ge, “What is Truth?”

The authors of the document encourage readers both to read the text and to sign it if "the ideas expressed in it resonate in their hearts" (signature form).

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Longing for the Truth That Makes Us Free

Contents

Introduction

Chapter I. The Truth as We See It Today

  • Ontological foundations of truth
  • The state of the world we live in

Chapter II. Secular solutions

  • The “legitimacy of all viewpoints” trap: truth does not belong to everyone
  • The “security” trap: losing truth leads to a loss of security
  • Ukraine’s experience: a clear confrontation between truth and error

Chapter III. Solutions from Christian communities

  • The “ownership of truth” trap
  • The “political correctness” or “dialogue at any price” trap
  • The “security” and “peace” trap

Chapter IV. Searching for liberating truth

  • Liberating truth is a way
  • How can we win the struggle against the industry of lies?
    • The self-destruction of lies
    • God destroying falsehood
    • Human involvement in overcoming deception
      • "by the blood of the Lamb"
      • "by the word of their testimony"
      • "and they loved not their lives unto the death"

Conclusion: the need for spiritual mobilization

 

Introduction

The signatories to this document are Christians, faithful of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, the Association of Missionary Churches of Evangelical Christians of Ukraine, and the Council of Independent Evangelical Churches of Ukraine. We love our Churches and remain true to their traditions. At the same time, we love our Kyivan land of our fathers, and we hear the approach of the Great Serpent as he seeks to deceive and dominate. This has prompted us to express our concerns and seek consensus across Ukraine.

The Church of Christ has long believed that the Truth is not what, but Who, because Christ declared to the world: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (Jn. 14:6). The Church also predicted that a world that breaks with Christ would also reject truth and fall into a fundamental ontological crisis. And in fact, the world is engulfed by spiritual crises and is losing the ability to distinguish between good and evil, truth and error.

But if Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life,” what are the effects of this relentless onslaught of deception? Christians desperately need a clear picture of what is happening, and actionable guidance to avoid the pernicious effects of fallacies and lies.

It was from our Churches that we have received the gift of baptism and the treasure of the Gospel. Our Churches exhort us to listen to God’s Word. This document is the fruit of our acceptance of God’s Word. The fullness of Truth is only with God, and our search inevitably bears the seal of human imperfection and limitations. Nevertheless, our search for truth comes from the bottom of our hearts.

 

Chapter I. The Truth as We See It Today

Ontological foundations of truth

Our world was created by God’s Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (Jn. 1:1-4). This is the world we love and where we want to live.

The devil invariably imitates God. “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:14). Satan’s word is false, and with his words of falsehood Satan creates his anti-world – the kingdom of error: “He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (Jn. 8:44). This is a world that hates Christ, because Christ testifies against this world of wickedness (cf. Jn 7:7).

The Holy Fathers of the Church discovered the mystery of God’s nature as the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [1]. Some other names of God are Love, Truth, and Mercy: “But thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ps. 86:15).

Since evil imitates good, it also adapts itself to divine nature, and therefore exists in a threefold fashion as well: Deception, Hatred and Violence. Evidence of evil can be seen in each of these manifestations. All three are interwoven in a single fabric.

Therefore, in our world, we perceive a kind of inescapable magnetic field in which people separate into those who choose good, and those who give in to evil.

For Christians, we repeat, truth is not in postulates or affirmations [2], but in the person of Christ Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). For Christians, truth is a living relationship, treating others as themselves, not merely an “idea” – because an “idea” all too quickly becomes an ideology. In fact, we find that even the truth that people suffered for (such as freedom or human rights) several decades ago have become ideologies, transformed into tools of persecution and discrimination.

Christianity teaches humility in the search for truth. Believers are called to live their lives in the light of the Second Coming of Christ. “We need the gift of discernment, in order somehow to anticipate, to become attuned to the judgment of God on human history” [3]. We might be wrong, and the tragic history of humanity teaches us that naive faith in one’s own “right” can lead to great evil and sorrow. The question is: Can we judge history before God’s final judgment? The answer is yes… and no. We can separate the truth from the error only by looking at reality through the “eyes of God”, remembering that wheat will be separated from chaff only on the day of the harvest (Mt. 13:24-44), and never forgetting that we are not the owners of God’s view. Truth is truly relative – but only in the sense that truth relates to God.

This understanding is shared even by non-believers. Scientists and activists fighting against violence and injustice understand that when someone responds with a reference to “relativity”, this is merely an attempt to escape responsibility or engage in manipulation.

The state of the world we live in

For the entire time the world has existed after the Fall, sinful deception has been present in the shadow of God’s Truth. Over time, propaganda machines have become more sophisticated, and the victory of lies has become more widespread. However, as time passed, Deception’s designs crumbled to dust. Humanity’s primary instrument in restoring the Truth was the ability of man to distinguish between good and evil, truth and error. And this implied the presence of the Light – the Divine Truth, since it is possible to recognize darkness only where there is light.

Today, in front of our eyes, the devil has tapped into this very ability, sowing confusion in the minds and souls of people. “Information warfare is not about creating an alternate truth, but about eroding our basic ability to distinguish truth at all.” [4] The modern notion of good and evil is evolving, and the novelty of our current situation is that evil “hides itself from our eyes and avoids recognition of its very existence, of ‘what evil truly is” [5].

Today, factories of lies incorporate partially truthful information, with subtle distortions, thereby making the information plausible, but no less untrue. “Thus, the content, albeit groundless, acquires such a semblance of truth that even reputable denials are unlikely to cause it harm” [6]. This sort of information plays on an individual’s deep instincts and stereotypes, leading him to believe what he wants to believe.

Belief in distorted information becomes an act of faith, not a logical conclusion. Furthermore, logical and objective arguments regarding the falsehood of such information are perceived by the “zombie recipient” as an attempt to deceive and mislead. For instance, Eve believed that God wanted to conceal the ability to know good and evil (cf. Gen. 3:1-7), and we all know how that story ended.

Of course, it would be an exaggeration to claim that today lies are more concentrated than at any other time in history. The Holy Martyr Cyprian of Carthage wrote in the middle of the 3rd century, comparing his era with apostolic times, where everyone lived with one heart and one soul: “And our unanimity has decreased, and active generosity has shrunk. […] The Lord must have been referring to our time when he said in his Gospel, ‘when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ (Luke 18:8). We see this coming true. The belief in the fear of God, in the law of justice, in love and work has disappeared” [7].

We must, nonetheless, avoid exaggerations, because longing for truth is not a longing for the past and condemnation of the present. Indeed, some Christian communities often present themselves as defenders of tradition, preachers of the ontological superiority of what came before. This often translates into a rejection of change, innovation, and modernity. However, Christ was crucified not by relativistic postmodernists, but by defenders of tradition. The devil became the prince of this world (cf. Jn. 12:31; 14:30–31; 16:7–11) long before the French or Russian revolutions, twentieth-century totalitarianism, or aggressive contemporary godlessness.

Propaganda is as old as our world, and Soviet ideological tales were no “truer” than their modern Russian versions. Gregory of Nyssa wrote about the evil that is attracted to the image of good (“nature seems to be mixed: it has a kind of hidden destruction, as if it were some hidden deception, and by its deceptive appearance it pretends to be some kind of good”) [8]. We find the same in Thomas Aquinas (malum sub ratione boni – “evil under the guise of good”) [9].

However, each era brings its own peculiarities, and the present time, which is commonly known as the post-truth era, has brought at least one radical change: “Fake news is not quite post-truth. Because when you lie, you still demand a certain level of truth… But post-truth does not make any arguments at all. Its main characteristic is not that it is a lie, not that it is a fake, but that it is a complete indifference to the truth” [10].

“In general, this is even more fraught, because when you have destroyed the distinguishing criteria between truth and error, when you don’t care how they differ, the most important thing is a beautiful story… ‘Truth’ (reaching agreement among the majority) becomes more important than ‘verity’ (correspondence to reality)” [10].

In the Ukrainian context, the situation is amplified by another fundamental fact. There is an important distinction between the Western usage of the concept of “post-truth” and its Slavic counterpart. For us, since the first code of laws of the times of Yaroslav the Wise, “truth” for us means, in addition to veritas, also “law” (in Slavic languages, these words originate from the same root, as do “justice” and even “duty”). Western discussion of the rejection of truth/veritas does not imply rejection of law/jus. But for us, “post-truth” is synonymous with “lawlessness”, “post-law” and “post-justice”. Following this path destroys the essence and institutional foundations of our society. Therefore, the damage extends to the area of the rule of law, which is already weak. Since the time of Shevchenko and Drahomanov, the memory of the biblical connection between truth and justice has been the leitmotif of our culture. Forgetting this connection would be a dangerous virus for our society [11].

The confusion caused by an inability to distinguish between truth and error is a great temptation for the enemy. Powerful institutions dedicate huge budgets to consciously mixing truth and falsehood. As soon as a promising phenomenon emerges, the forces of evil instantly discredit it with mendacious publicity or by creating a parallel, evil twin to disorient and confuse. Therefore, our times are characterized by an active offensive of evil, the goal of which is simple: to create disorder. After all, when you are surrounded by a hodgepodge of good and evil, which victory should we fight for? And who can people rely on?

These manipulations distort the information space beyond all recognition, leading people to sacrifice their lives for what they believe to be true, although in fact, it is not the truth they die for. Many people have lost both direction and perspective. Consciousness as such is destroyed – and as a result, the personal and socio-political life of people is being destroyed as well.

“Today, many of those at the highest levels of power see the plain truth as a threat. They fear it. They deny it. And they attack it — just as the communists once did. And so here we are, in the midst of an epidemic of dishonesty, and an endless barrage of lies.” [12] Twenty years ago, a political leader, caught in a blunt lie, would immediately resign and be permanently discredited. Today, lies increasingly guarantee political success and electoral profit, and politicians who have practiced it have buried their spirit and feel no guilt. Moreover, even developed democracies are becoming insensitive to outright lies. Jeremiah’s words are truly prophetic: “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so” (Jer. 5:30-31)!

The situation has advanced far beyond private life. In an environment of omnipotent lies, it becomes impossible to effectively carry out functions of the state. Decisions by governments or voters based on skillfully distorted information are incorrect, because they are not based on a real situation. In the eyes of the elites, the light of truth grows dim, and this light does not accurately distinguish the line between good and evil: it is impossible to distinguish stains in the darkness. As a result, societies accumulate more and more error, increasing internecine and international mistrust, which could eventually lead to a huge mistake, such as a new world war.

This threat is quite real. Lowering the threshold for practicing lies inevitably leads to lowering the threshold for using hate speech. Hence lies are difficult to overcome with logical arguments, because they are reinforced by a hatred against which logic is powerless. Lying and hatred are an impetus to violence, and together, they constantly push humanity into the abyss.

 

Chapter II. Secular solutions

The secular world sees these threats, and we should be grateful to the brave political and public figures responsible for peace and security in this difficult time. Ukrainians are particularly aware that, without the current system of security and values ​​embedded in the international order, Ukraine would not be able to maintain its independence.

However, precisely because, in today’s globalized society, all peoples are so interdependent, we should pay close attention to the stress points causing the weakening of the world order. As is often the case, these weaknesses are the antithesis of our civilization’s strengths. Sometimes, the leaders’ conviction in their chosen path blinds them to their own errors as they stray from the truths of life. These errors are manifested in two ways.

The “legitimacy of all viewpoints” trap: truth does not belong to everyone

During its development, the Western world developed a classical method of defining truth, where objectivity and impartiality are fundamental criteria. However, times have changed.

According to today’s rules, no one is the bearer of absolute truth in political and moral affairs, and the truth that each of us has is relative. Therefore, there is no “truth” and “lie” – there are just different points of view. To say that something is a lie is to make a moral judgment. This, purportedly, is not impartial. It is impossible to call a liar by name, because this violates the rules of political correctness. Therefore, the truth is a “golden mean” between various opinions.

This system works well as long as everyone follows the rules of the game. But the emergence of conscious liars, producing propaganda and fake news, easily destroys this system.

How does the modern world respond to this? It only rarely dismisses fake news as false. In most cases, fake information (especially if it is properly mixed with some true facts) is considered someone’s opinion, as a point of view, and therefore is a valid component in “deducing” the truth as a golden mean. Needless to say, a truth “calculated” in this way is light-years away from actual truth. The democratic pluralism of tolerating varied political positions, views, and opinions, has been transformed into a valid measure to discern truth.

This is the conclusion of many contemporary researchers. But by accepting such relativity – there is no truth that corresponds to reality, there is only a “truth” agreed on by the majority [10]– humanity is endorsing its own irresponsibility as it condemns Truth to collective destruction.

To emerge from the vicious circle of post-truth, we must recognize the existence of two dimensions. On the one hand, in peer relationships between people and communities, we must recognize that no one person or group is the bearer of ultimate truth. Here postmodernism has been of great benefit. Aggressive relativism, on the other hand, must acknowledge the chaos it has created; and the vertical dimension must be brought back into the life of the world, namely, the recognition that Absolute Truth exists. It is encoded in the DNA of our civilization, and further destruction of this code will lead to the destruction of the world.

We see no other way out of the situation than to formulate a post-post-truth discourse and return to an ethical dimension – in particular, to an ethical assessment of truth and falsehood. The problem will not be solved except by explicitly recognizing a fake to be a lie, and by imposing moral and material sanctions on the producer of the lie. This requires a major reconstruction of the viewpoint postulated by the modern world. These viewpoints were developed to overcome modern crises; but today they must be reconsidered, because they are causing new crises.

For a believer, this return to the ethical dimension can be communicated by the saying, “let us put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12). This demonstrates our conviction that God provides every human generation with the proper algorithms to recognize the Truth, and we must find and be guided by these processes in our lives.

A Christian who lives in harmony with God, who is in the grace of God, cultivates the ability to stop, not spread, negative messages. He or she understands where positive statements end and where gossip begins. This gossip is used by the devil to drive a person out of the light, resulting in the moral decline of society.

The “security” trap: losing truth leads to a loss of security

The tragedy of our time is the fact that we cannot find a way out of an apparently insurmountable dilemma. On the one hand, many Western politicians admit that the international order is broken, and proper civilizational values have been shunted aside. However, these politicians are not ready to defend the system and values resolutely, because they believe that open confrontation with violators will almost certainly cause a Third World War.

So far, Western civilization has found a way out only by “pretending not to see” the cynical bullying of world order, in order to prevent war and maintain a semblance of peace. Therefore, values such as truth, love, compassion, freedom, dignity, honor and other moral principles, are increasingly becoming a luxury that hinders one’s progress. These values obstruct governments when they try to make decisions motivated by political or situational expediency. That is why even the most moral governments today are forced to ignore value motivations at times, especially when security arguments come to the fore.

However, this is precisely the trap:  ignoring values ​​brings such disturbances into the life of the world that it is precisely what they want to protect – security – that is under threat. In this situation, it is impossible not to mention the formula of Jesus: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 10:39).

We are aware that the dilemma of “values vs security” is not easy to solve, and therefore we hesitate to judge today’s politicians too harshly. However, we also know that “artificial peace will not produce any positive results. International order cannot be restored with the cooperation of nations that violate international order. Moreover, violation of rules should not be grounds for modifying international law. Our attitude towards violators/lawbreakers must change… Europe’s tactical inertia has already proven ineffective and is a constant threat” [13].

So, in our view, the fundamental solution to the security dilemma lies not in the political but in the value sphere. To illustrate: In the first half of the twentieth century, when Europe became infected with the viruses of military might and nationalistic exceptionalism, political leaders emerged to fulfill these desires, spreading these same viruses. Today, Europe (broadly speaking) is infected with the viruses of moral relativism, situational deception and this same national exceptionalism – and leaders are once again coming to the fore to spread these viruses.

Therefore, the root problem is a collapse of values, which creates false political demands; this collapse should drive our reaction. That is why attempts to guarantee security at the expense of values ​​will not produce a lasting effect: distorted values ​​will give rise to changes of the international order which will become even more dangerous.

In addition, we should bear in mind that values ​​do help to create solidarity and common ground for positive action, but only on one condition: that they are based on the unchanging commandments of God (cf. Ex. 20:1–17), where one of the fundamental values ​​is the respect for human freedom and dignity, which are in turn the fruits of divine love.

Ukraine’s experience: a clear confrontation between truth and error

Ukraine has experienced this confrontation in recent years while defending itself against Russian aggression. The Kremlin has launched a powerful information war against our country across the globe, distorting our desire for independence and the nature of democratic processes in Ukraine. The “fascist clique”, “nationalists seizing power”, and “under-state” are just a few examples of the clichés which the Kremlin uses to disorient the world community.

However, lies are not static; they lead to hatred. When they deny your right to exist and to be true to yourself, this inevitably leads to hatred and aggression.

“[Putin’s media] produce not ideas, but hatred, and they do it very effectively. To match Solovyov and Kiselev to say where they lied again, is senseless…” [14]. “An unprecedented regime, built in the Russian Federation, is simply unthinkable without hatred. This is the spiritual ‘hook’ on which its power hangs, and the whole history of Putin’s Russia is a history of cleverly directed hatred of different people, social groups, countries, and peoples” [15]. Ukrainians are one of the first targets of this hatred.

Hatred inevitably causes aggression. Russia has violated many international agreements and, in defiance of its Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Ukraine, as well as the Budapest Memorandum, has annexed Crimea and occupied a part of Ukrainian territory. For this, the Kremlin has employed its latest crafty inventions, such as “little green men” and “they-are-not-there.” The circle is thus closed, as aggression and violence inevitably lead to the outright lies by which the Putin regime seeks to elude responsibility. Thus, this regime becomes like the mockingbirds of Isaiah, who “made lies their refuge, and in falsehood have they taken shelter” (cf. Isa. 28:15).

When defining the cunning and deceptive nature of Russia’s current regime, we cannot agree with the politically correct language preferred by the West, because this distances us from the truth. The world must decide to call a threat by its real name, because this is the logic of justice and spiritual security: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him.” (Lev. 19:17). Not to reproach the Kremlin for information aggression – or to rebuke it by expressing only “deep concern” – means to bear its sin, that is, to share responsibility for this crime; since without reproach, you indulge the criminal.

 

Chapter III. Solutions from Christian communities

Having come to today’s principal problem – the lack of a spiritual alternative to an arrogant and triumphant devil – we must turn our gaze to the Church of Christ. Therefore, must ask the question: “How would Jesus confront this civilizational threat? What would He say to people at this particular time?”

We are grateful to the Church for her attempts to show us the spiritual guideposts that allow us to discern the right path. He who has good will, hears the call of the Church. However, the spirituality of the present world is decaying too quickly for the Church to properly respond. Therefore, the people of God must ask themselves why their testimony is so unconvincing to those who are “outside the flock.”

Below are some suggestions illustrating our conclusion.

The “ownership of truth” trap

There are Church communities where “truth” is a cold ideological formula, not a passionate love. This is a type of Christianity that turns away from the principles of democracy and is trapped in fundamentalism. For such Christians, the “truth” is the strike of the sword they inflict on wounds, not a healing balm. Such “truth” elevates communities to an apex of pride, which engenders the cruelty of “possessing the ultimate truth”. “We are all cruel, and especially cruel when right” [16].

In these communities, people feel a constant need to assign blame; their mission is to expose and condemn the sinner. For them, the Church is a legitimate playground from which to fling thunderbolts at perpetrators real or imagined, thus satisfying their spiritual “hunger.” This illustrates perfectly the need for Jesus’ cautionary words: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

All too often, such Christians are correct in the content of their accusations, but theirs is the truth of a thunderous judge having no doubt about his own sinlessness. However, a righteousness that merely conceals anger and a lack of love, ceases to be God’s truth. That is the mistake of all Christian fundamentalists who are trying to find a way out of the crisis we are experiencing, when democracy as a social order is being transformed into an ideology. It is impossible to find a proper solution if we go to the opposite extreme, when we oppose ultra-liberal ideology with an ideology of Christian fundamentalism. The truth can be found in the middle, where ideology dissolves in faith. This is where the four principles of a just society are upheld: respect for human dignity, solidarity, subsidiarity, and the common good.

The “political correctness” or “dialogue at any price” trap

Other church communities go to the other extreme – that of political correctness. In general, they rightly share the caution of modern secular culture not to demonize opponents. “The truth of statements can be recognized by their fruits: whether they cause controversy, spark controversy, instill remoteness, or vice versa – lead to conscious and mature reflection, to constructive dialogue, to useful activity” [6].

However, not every wound inflicted with the word of truth signifies a lack of love – sometimes the opposite is true. The Lord loved the Apostle Peter, called him a rock, and promised, “upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt. 16:18). However, it was He who told Peter when he was worried about Jesus’ life: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Mark 8:33). Did these words not wound the stricken apostle? Could we not call the words of Jesus a direct “demonization” of the apostle? And was this “demonization” not in fact a manifestation of love?

The newest formula in inter-church dialogue – “talking about what unites” – is a truly powerful tool if the partners in dialogue are really looking for truth. However, when dialogue is knowingly abused by some participants, this really means “not to speak the truth for the sake of apparent agreement.” But can you imagine Christ not speaking the whole truth for the sake of apparent understanding with the Sanhedrin? And was Jesus’ pointed stance a disruption of dialogue? No, it was an invitation to enter a dialogue in truth. If we think otherwise, then we will be like Judas, who sought to persuade Jesus to enter into a wicked agreement with the mighty of this world.

Particular attention should be paid to the fact that the “dialogue at all costs” formula often harms the dialogue itself. After all, if an unscrupulous participant in the dialogue knows that he or she will be engaged in any case, then the temptation to abuse dialogue for the sake of greater self-interest becomes insurmountable.

Thanks to political correctness and a sincere belief in dialogue originating from the win-win principle, it does become possible to repeatedly avoid unnecessary conflicts and keep a space open for eventual agreement. But there is one critical condition: all this must be done for the sake of truth, not at the expense of truth through its suppression or distortion, since genuine dialogue is only possible in truth.

The “security” and “peace” trap

Church communities often hesitate to condemn authoritarian regimes that do evil, fearing that this will result in greater persecution of their believers. In this case, the Church is not telling the whole truth in order not upset dictators. At times, this leads to concessions with dictators which contradict Christian doctrine.

It is true that dictators do not like the word of truth and seek revenge for it – we have known this since the days of King Herod and John the Baptist. However, dictators need truth the most, because it is the truth that, even when it wounds, heals. This forces dictators (and all society) to test their conscience, the same conscience they were suppressing. Was this not the great mission of a Soviet-era dissident?

Also, it was Jesus who said in His Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt. 5:10-12). In other words, anyone who is a faithful disciple of the Church and who seeks to bring Christ’s truth to life will inevitably come into conflict with the world of violence and error, and must be prepared for this conflict!

For a Christian, suffering for Christ – which means suffering for the Truth – is also important for Christian testimony: “This will be a time for you to bear testimony” (Luke 21:13). For it is through this testimony that Christ’s Truth is affirmed!

No less meaningful are the words of Jesus: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10:28). The goal is not that the Church push people to unjustified martyrdom, but that she should help people seek first the Kingdom of God, which is incompatible with unrighteousness. What kind of suffering a person will undergo as a result, is a matter of the Lord’s Providence. In doing this, the Church can negotiate with dictators to free those who suffer, but she cannot yield the truth to dictators.

The above-mentioned church communities, similar to the whole world in international security matters, believe there are only two ways to respond: (1) a return to the logic of hostility, or (2) an actual compromise with evil to preserve a fragile peace and the illusion of dialogue. These communities choose between the two, forgetting that there is a third way: the affirmation of truth in the language of love, and this is the case when truth is liberating (cf. Jn. 8:32). That is, the choice for Christians is not between telling the truth or not. Their choice is in how they tell the truth: whether they speak truth with hatred to the sinner, or out of a love for truth itself.

Truth and love are interdependent. Lack of love creates a space for deception and lies which make mutual understanding impossible. Conversely, blocking or ignoring the truth prevents the release of love that leads to forgiveness. In both cases, true reconciliation becomes impossible.

We Christians do not have a simple template that can be used to determine if we are acting properly. But in the pursuit of security and peace, we must remember that “peace is a consequence of God’s order… Peace is not a lack of war, but a positive concept in its own right… God’s peace is not compatible with evil! One cannot tolerate sin and speak of God’ peace. God’s peace is always the fruit of renunciation of evil and union with God. It is to this clear choice that Jesus calls with His words of division (Luke 12:51). Either we are on the side of God, or we have chosen the side of evil…” [17].

The Apostle’s words are food for thought: “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against world rulers of this present darkness, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:12–15).

Rulers belonging to darkness create a world full of malice, unrighteousness and injustice. There can be no real peace in such a world and attempts to appease such rulers will not bring the desired result. They should be combated; the question is, how to combat these rulers. Fighting through counter-hatred is unacceptable, because then we nourish within ourselves the same “spirit of malice” and would be no different from darkness. Therefore, Christians should preach a peace based on truth and justice: “These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace” (Zech. 8:16).

 

Chapter IV. Searching for liberating truth

In this chapter, we answer the following questions: what is the truth that liberates us? How do we counteract the lies that enter people’s minds? And finally, how should we treat a deceiver who sows lies?

Liberating truth is a way

“In times of relativism, post-truth, and fake news, people seek truth and certainty. But let’s not forget that Jesus, when asked by Pilate ‘What is the truth?’ – remained silent, offering no definition or simple answer. He himself was the answer – His personality, His life, the strange, sometimes shocking parables He told. Jesus showed that truth can only be true when it is both the way and the life. What is necessary is the witnessing of truth – authentic, living truth is always both a way and a life. Truth cannot be separated from the dynamics of human existence and locked in a system of beliefs. The truth that ceases to be a way and moves away from life, ceases being the truth.” [18]

In other words, if a lie destroys everything in its path, salvation can only be the emergence of a “critical mass” of truth-tellers who will testify to the truth, who will express and affirm the truth through the practice of their lives.

“The best antidote to a lie is not strategy, but people: people who are free from spiritual thirst, who are willing to listen and allow truth to emerge through genuine dialogue; good-natured people who use language responsibly” [6].

The dominance of sin must not lead to a loss of faith in the victory of Good. This conclusion comes from the words of the Apostle Paul: “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). An increase in sin would imply that somewhere in its invisible epicenter, there is a tremendous increase in grace. Therefore, a ubiquitous and seemingly all-conquering entropy (growth of chaos) will be overcome by the creation of a new order.

Psychologically, this time is very difficult to endure, because evil appears to be all-powerful and invincible. That is why worried voices cry out to God: “Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I complain to thee; yet I would plead my case before thee. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” (Jer. 12:1). However, this anxiety must be tempered by a realization that behind the present bacchanalia of Satan rests a creation by God, in some invisible place, of a new solution for the world – a new, reborn truth that underlies a new order. Our mission as Christians is to assist in the creation of this new order.

How can we win the struggle against the industry of lies?

The self-destruction of lies

Many of us have had the intuition that a lie, and evil in general, multiplies uncontrollably and then crumbles under its own weight. There are many references to this in the Bible. In the Proverbs of Solomon, we are reminded that “wickedness overthrows the sinner” (13:6). In other words, the cause of the sinner’s defeat is the evil (including fallacy) itself.

St. Augustine of Hippo is credited with the words: “The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.” Behind this lies the conviction that lies eventually crumble under the weight of their own fabrications: “The world stands on truth; the order of the cosmos, society, family, and the internal order of man are based on what the Aryans called Rita; the Egyptians – Maat, the Greeks – Dike, and we, the Slavs – Pravda (true). Without this correspondence, the cosmos begins to collapse and quickly turns to dust around the liar. Both a liar and those who are like him die.” [19]

In modern times, nothing has more vividly confirmed the validity of these words, as the collapse of a colossus with clay feet – the Soviet Union. The lies behind the official doctrine became unbearable, and at stroke, everything fell apart. That said, this does not mean that we can remain passive. On the contrary, witnesses to truth must emerge in order for the lie to be revealed.

God destroying falsehood

In the Old Testament, evil, which is a deception, is actively destroyed by God: “Why do you boast, O mighty man, of mischief done against the godly? All the day you are plotting destruction. Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery. You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth. You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. But God will break you down for ever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living.” (Ps. 52:1-5). Or, “For thou art not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not sojourn with thee. The boastful may not stand before thy eyes; thou hatest all evildoers. Thou destroyest those who speak lies; the Lord abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men.” (Ps. 5:4-6).

However, one should not forget the peculiarities of this biblical language: “Whenever it comes to the wrath of God and divine vengeance, it specifically refers to such acts between people through which the perpetrators punish one another… Violence is always perpetrated by people” [20]. In other words, God punishes people by leaving them to suffer the consequences of their own actions: “Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who set brands alight! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the brands which you have kindled! This shall you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.” (Isa. 50:11).

In the Christian tradition of prayer, the active form of divine action is also prevalent: “And as a good lover of man, you forgive sins and erase unrighteousness…” The same form is used by the author of the book of Revelation: “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” (Rev. 12:9-10).

Human involvement in overcoming deception

Let’s turn our attention to the text on overcoming lies posited by the author of Revelation: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11). We see that victory over Satan can be achieved with these three “weapons.”

(a) by the blood of the Lamb

In other words, by Jesus’ sacrifice, “whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (Rom. 3:25). This sacrifice is fundamental for the confirmation of the Truth: “he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth.” (Isa. 42:3-4).

Christ is the “life preserver” for those who are immersed in lies: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn. 8:31–32). We know the end of this verse well, but in the context of our conversation, the opening clause is fundamental: “If you continue in my word.” Jesus is the incarnate Truth, and, therefore, the constant recourse to His word is a prerequisite for knowing the truth and being set free.

This conclusion is not a doctrinal impediment to people of other faiths. As applied to society, Jesus’ most important message is a warning against violence, falsehood, and hatred. So long as humanity is in the vortex of these three natures of evil, considering them to be salvific for their social or national interests, they will not be able to escape the vicious circle. The only salvation is to trust the divine antitheses of this evil – Truth, Love, and Mercy. The experience accumulated by mankind is more than enough to prove the validity of this conclusion.

(b) by the word of their testimony

The word “testimony” signifies an active stance on the truth and is applicable to all: Jesus Himself, the Holy Spirit sent by Him, and all Christians:

“For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” (Jn 18:37).

“But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (Jn. 15:26-27).

This is the sequence of events. After His departure from this earth, the Lord affirms the truth by sending the Holy Spirit, who brings people to the fullness of truth. The task of people is to testify to the truth incarnate in Christ, but to do so, one must open one’s heart to the voice of the Holy Spirit: “If your heart is closed to the Good News of the Holy Spirit, you will never reach the full truth!.. your Christian life will be a 50/50 life, a patchwork life, mended with new fabric but on a framework that is not open to the Lord’s voice: a closed heart, because you are not capable of changing the wineskins.” [21]

The words “bear witness” or “testify” has one more implication: they are antithetical to coercion, coercion being a denial of love. Jesus’ truth is incompatible with hatred, and so when we bear witness to Christ, we must understand that we will have truth if love grows: “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of steadfast love” (Hos. 10:12).

The testimony of truth as a guidepost of human civilization is important, because, without it, humanity could instead conclude that lies are the norm. Those who defend the truth not only resist evil, but also prove that they love the truth.

(c) and they loved not their lives unto the death

Everyone who witnesses to the sacrifice of Christ in this world, sets out on his own path of sacrifice. This does not imply a cruelty of God’s order, but demonstrates a need to not accept a sinful, or false, world: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1-2).

Therefore, the mission of truth-telling is inevitably linked to a sacrifice, since proclaiming the truth in a world of deception means invariably being the victim of an avalanche of false accusations, culminating in hatred and violence. In this situation, sacrifice is the price of speaking truth, transforming the truth-teller into a life preserver people can reach for in a turbulent sea.

Today, people fear this sacrifice because, in their minds, sacrifice is associated with being a “loser.” Hence, they cling to a mirage of success, collect treasures of the earth, chase glory and honors – that is, they cling to the primordial lures that are exhibited by the Eternal Liar. The virus of “success” infects more and more people, as they reach for illusions, stepping on each other and engaging in an endless “war of everyone against everyone.” The complete victory of Evil seems to be approaching.

However, let’s once again remember the Easter sacrifice of Jesus and the “time of Satan” when Evil, for a short period, gained power over the Son of God. It might seem that the victory of Satanism is certain: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (Mt 26:31). But this victory is illusory, for it is at this very moment that, with Jesus’ voluntary sacrifice, God establishes a new world of purified Truth: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

Conclusion: the need for spiritual mobilization

From time to time in human history, the same magnificent event occurs: a group of people hear the call of the Holy Spirit, who is the “Spirit of Truth”, who “cleanses us from all unclean things” and, overcoming the resistance of Satanism, escape the snake pit of lies. And the spiritual weapon in this struggle, as we saw above, is Christ’s Word of Truth, man’s personal testimony and man’s readiness to sacrifice.

We cannot wait for saints to do this work. Jesus did “not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mt. 9:13). Therefore, each of us, sinners and weak, is called to a heroic confrontation with error. The only prerequisite for our participation in this mission is “Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light… But put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:12, 14). It is the removal of old spiritual garments and the donning of the new, not tarnished by falsehood, that provide a spiritual alternative to the world of error.

Is this task impossible? Certainly not impossible, because “no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it.” [22]

Moreover, it is exactly at the time of the greatest darkness of error, when dawn seems unthinkable, when the time for this dawn approaches: “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Am. 8:11). It is during this darkening of the spirit that man is most tired of unrighteousness, hatred and cruelty. This was evidenced by numerous conversions in the terrifying days and nights of the 2013/2014 Revolution of Dignity. The soul of man then becomes a vessel that seeks to be filled with purity. Therefore, those who fill their thirsty souls with the Lord’s Truth will most certainly appear.

Falsehood and deception are a global and systemic phenomenon, pervasive and seemingly invincible. However, it can no longer be opposed by a system, but by a single community – a community of people who are fighting for truth, raising their voices against wrongs. Our purpose is not merely to “do no harm”; our purpose is to change the values ​​and principles of the social, political, and legal order, in order to break the chains binding us to a system permeated by and enslaving us in falsehood.

It is only thus that peoples who have long been in the shadows of history come to the fore. “For the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble, And the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the Lord of hosts. But for you who fear my name, the sun of justice will arise with healing in its wings” (Mal. 3:19–20).

Signatories

Myroslav Marynovych, former political prisoner, Vice-Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University and President of the UCU Institute of Religion and Society

Constantin Sigov, philosopher, Director of the European Humanities Research Centre, National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” & Director of the Research and Publishing Association “Dukh i Litera” (Spirit and Letter)

Petro Balog О.Р., Doctor of Theology, columnist, Director of the Thomas Aquinas Institute of Religious Studies

Myroslava Antonovych, Doctor of Law, Associate Professor, Head of the Center for International Human Rights at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy

Anatoliy Babynsky, journalist, Ph.D. candidate of the Department of Church History at the Ukrainian Catholic University, layman of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Mychajlo Dymyd, Protopresbyter of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Doctor of Eastern Canon Law, Professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv

Viacheslav Horshkov, Religious Studies scholar, Staff member of Scripture Union Ukraine, Parishioner of Orthodox Church of Ukraine

Cyril Hovorun, archimandrite, director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute, professor at Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles

Marianna Kiyanovska, writer, Shevchenko National Prize winner, Ukrainian Greek Catholic

George Kovalenko, archpriest of OCU, rector of the Open Orthodox University of Saint Sophia the Wisdom

Roman Morozov, Secretary of the Kryvy Rih Council of Churches

Bohdan Ohulchasnky, archpriest of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine

Pavlo Smytsniuk, Director, Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv

Iryna Starovoyt, Associate Professor, Ukrainian Catholic University

Victor Tregubov, columnist

Sergiy Tymchenko, Director of REALIS Christian Center, Pastor of Spring of Hope Evangelical Church in Kyiv, Ukraine

Volodymyr Volkovsky, Researcher at the History of Ukrainian Philosophy Department of the Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy at the NAS of Ukraine, Orthodox Christian

 

Bibliography

  1. Saint Gregory of Nazianzus. Oratio 45, In sanctum pascha.
  2. See: Christos Yannaras. Orthodoxy and the West: Hellenic Self-Identity in the Modern Age / trans. Peter Chamberas and Norman Russell. – Brookline, Ma.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press 2006, p. 101; Christos Yannaras. Against Religion: The Alienation of the Ecclesial Event / trans. Norman Russell. – Brookline, Ma.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press 2013, p. 50.
  3. Carlo Maria Martini. Homily for the 25th Anniversary of Episcopate // ARCC Light - Newsletter of the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church 28 (2006), [5],  http://www.arcc-catholic-rights.net/arcc_light_28_2.pdf.
  4. Molly K. McKew. «Putin’s Real Long Game» // http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/putins-real-long-game-214589
  5. Zygmunt Bauman, Leonidas Donskis. Plynne zlo. Zhyttya bez alternatyv / transl. Oleksandr Butsenko. – Kyiv: Dukh і litera, 2017, p. 8. (See the original: Liquid evil. Living with TINA / Zygmunt Bauman, Leonidas Donskis. - 2016. - ISBN 978-966-378-545-5)
  6. Pope Francis. “‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32). Fake news and journalism for peace”. Message of His Holiness Pope Franses for 52nd World Communications Day // http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/communications/documents/papa-francesco_20180124_messaggio-comunicazioni-sociali.html
  7. Cyprien de Cartage, L’unité de l’église – De ecclesiae catholicae unitate; Eds. M. Bevenot, P. Siniscalco, P. Mattei, M. Poirier, Sources Chrétiennes 500 (Paris: Cerf 2006), p. 244–246].
  8. (De opificio hominis), 20.
  9. See: Colleen McCluskey. Thomas Aquinas on Moral Wrongdoing. – Cambridge University Press 2017, p. 71.
  10. Koltsov, Mykhajlo. “Postpravda pochynayetsya, koly vam bayduzhe, pravda tse chy brekhnya.” Interview by Yuliya Bilous, Kunsht (2019). https://kunsht.com.ua/mixajlo-kolcov-postpravda-pochinayetsya-koli-vam-bajduzhe-pravda-ce-chi-brexnya/ Accessed 15.04.2020.
  11. Konstantin Sigov. Pravda // Dictionary of Untranslatables. A Philosophical Lexicon. –Princeton University Press 2013, p. 813–819.
  12. Rice University Commencement Address by Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of NYC, 2018/ May 12, 2018. https://news.rice.edu/2018/05/12/bloombergs-message-to-rice-graduates-honesty-matters/
  13. Peace in Donbas and deoccupation of Crimea are possible and necessary: Paris declaration of intellectuals.” Communique of the fourth meeting of the Commission on Truth, Justice and Restoration of Peace between Russia, Ukraine and the European Union held in Paris on October 10-12, 2019. // http://euromaidanpress.com/2019/10/19/intellectuals-issue-joint-declaration-in-paris-on-peace-in-donbas-return-of-crimea/
  14. Ihor Yakovenko. “Yak Ukrayini staty tsinnisnoyu alternatyvoyu putinskomu “russkomu miru?” // https://day.kyiv.ua/uk/blog/polityka/yak-ukrayini-staty-cinnisnoyu-alternatyvoyu-putinskomu-russkomu-myru
  15. Ilya Milshteyn. “Ubiystvo na tom zhe korniu” // https://graniru.org/opinion/milshtein/m.238474.html
  16. Gertsen Aleksandr Ivanovich. Byloye i dumy” // http://az.lib.ru/g/gercen_a_i/text_0130.shtml
  17. Fr. Yuriy Shchurko. 25-y tyzhden pislia Pyatdesiatnytsi. Sereda. Spravzhniy myr (Luke 12:48–59)» // https://zhyty-slovom.com/lectio-divina/25-i-tyzhden-pislia-p-iatydesiatnytsi-sereda-spravzhnii-myr-lk-12-48-????
  18. Tomás Halík. “Vyklyky ta onovlennia tradytsiynoyi Tserkvy” // https://zbruc.eu/node/89245
  19. Andriy Zubov. “Teper і sport. Yak Rosiya potonula v mori brekhni” // https://nv.ua/ukr/opinion/vada-wada-yak-rosiyu-pokarali-za-doping-novini-rosiji-50058286.html
  20. Raymund Schwager. “Chy potrebuyemo kozla vidpushchennia? Nasylstvo ta vidkuplennia u bibliynykh Pysanniakh.” – Lviv: Svichado 2003, p. 92–93. (See the original: Schwager Raymund. Brauchen wir einen Sündenbock? Gewalt und Erlösung in den biblischen Schriften. – Thaur-Wien-München; Kulturverlag, 1994).
  21. Pope Francis: If your heart is closed to the newness of the Holy Spirit, you will never reach the full truth” // https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/29243
  22. John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor, par. 1. http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

 

Acknowledgement

The authors of the document would like to express their gratitude to Dr. Frances Forde Plude, retired Research Professor at Notre Dame College and a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), for her invaluable assistance in authors’ work; and Myron Cizdyn, Educational Technology Advocate and LvBS Key MBA Program Graduate, for voluntarily editing the English translation.

The authors of the document encourage readers both to read the text and to sign it if "the ideas expressed in it resonate in their hearts" (signature form).

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    • Halo | 30 May 2020, 12:27

      Хороша агітація проти РПЦ в Україні

    • Рокитне | 30 May 2020, 07:10

      Уже ж писали що давно вже вивезли. А тепер знову вивозять. Значить нас в новостях раніше обдурили. А де гарантія що і це правда.

    • Рокитне | 30 May 2020, 07:04

      Є всякі пастирі і пресвітери, у всіх конфесіях і церквах. Тому міліонерів священників у селах і в містах наврядчи дуже багато.

    • Рокитне | 30 May 2020, 06:48

      Звичайно це поодинокі випадки. Навіщо мусульманам України себе так підставляти.

    • enzian | 30 May 2020, 06:36

      Інформація може. а ДЕЗінформація - не може.

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