In the realm of worldview and religious truth we are out of our league.
by Phil Wagler
Who is right?
Many battle royals have raged over that query. Such melees rarely settle anything, but they can reveal who is swiftest, strongest and the best shot. Truth is, so much of what happens in this world hinges on that question. From parliaments to courtrooms, from backyards to bedrooms, “Who is right?” is a truly human quandary with potentially beautiful or disastrous ramifications.
I love being right. Don’t you? There’s something supremely satisfying about coming out on top and being lauded as brilliant in our own minds and legends in our own times. And yet, being right is sometimes a matter of fortune rather than brilliance. We can be seen as more right by fluke of birth. Perhaps that’s why some are drawn to gambling—the chance of being right, even if by luck, is so appealing and addicting.
Still, being right is not necessarily all its cracked up to be. With rightness comes responsibility. So, who really wants to be right? Perhaps that’s why relativism is so seductive. If I’m right and you’re right and we’re all okay with no one being wrong then we can all happily dispatch of the heavy burden of truth.
And then there is this unsettling reality: those convinced of their rightness can be obnoxious and irritating. I’ve known such people and I don’t really like them or care one iota what they think. I’d like to say I’ve never been one of “those,” but that wouldn’t be, well, right. I know I’ve too often been a pompous donkey in a desperate attempt to prop up my particular view of things. We like being right, but we don’t really like those who think (or know) they are. Which is why the class clown is always a more privileged position than the straight-A nerd in grade school.
It would be one thing if our sense of rightness only showed itself in Grade 6 geometry. But human beings present themselves as deadly accurate about mysterious matters as well. When rightness gets attached to worldview and religious conviction we become especially dangerous creatures. And this is because we are not honest about this: in the realm of worldview and religious truth we are out of our league.
I can prove my rightness about sports stats with a little help from Google, and I can demonstrate my vocational or mathematical prowess through a little hard work and determination. But when it comes to issues of the soul, to questions of the heart, to the big mysterious questions of life, death, eternity and ultimate meaning, I find myself looking through those glass blocks they put in bathrooms to provide light, but which prevent you from seeing.
So, who is right about matters of faith?
I grew up convinced the world as I knew it was right and couldn’t possibly be wrong. I was right. Wasn’t I? I wanted to be right and I could muster all kinds of blustery and blistering arguments to prove my brilliance even if they were just parroted. Boy, was I wrong! And that was the breakthrough moment. My transformation into a humble confessor of truth came when I finally admitted I was out of order myself. G.K. Chesterton once responded to an editorial asking, “What is wrong with the world?” with the simple, yet piercingly accurate reply: “I am.”
Yes, I am wrong. In that admission I am now free to discover who is right; and it’s not me. In a world going stark-raving mad to prove who is right or that no one can be, my confession of wrongness produced the freedom of knowing I didn’t have to be. I only need to know the One who is right.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He claims to be right and if He’s right, then the rest of us—no matter where we came from or what sense of entitled rightness we carry—are wrong. If He is right, then the rest of us need no longer be shackled by the sinful insanity of having to prove we are and can finally know truth that sets free. And that surprising, humble freedom is an all right place to be.
Phil Wagler is an only child, husband of one, father of five, and pastor of many in Huron County, Ontario and the author of Kingdom Culture.
The article above was featured in the March 2010 issue of SEVEN magazine.