The current election cycle has made it more apparent than ever how philosophically and ideologically divided our country is. It’s quite amazing – and at times humorous – how intelligent individuals on both sides of the divide can look at the same facts and yet arrive at totally different conclusions.
A recent book helps explain why this kind of division is not only possible but predictable. In his scholarly work, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012, Pantheon Books), Jonathan Haidt highlights the dominant role that emotions play in our thinking. He makes the point that our logical/reasoning side is primarily committed to defending our beliefs rather than seeking the truth.
Haidt’s analysis points to our need for God’s help in discerning and understanding truth – especially truth related to our values and spiritual beliefs. Left to ourselves we are all naturally vulnerable to deception. This explains how the future deception of the whole world is possible:
“So the great dragon was thrown out . . . who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world”
Thankfully, God has a process in place through Jesus Christ by which we can comprehend the truth. That process involves both His revelation – a miraculous, unfolding of truth – and illumination – insights and applications from the Holy Spirit that continually verify His divine revelation. An excellent illustration of this reality is in Matthew.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven.”
I further explain how this works in my Life Essentials Study Bible, Principle #3, page 1482:
To accurately understand God’s unfolding revelation throughout biblical history, we are to consider carefully God’s miraculous plan for verifying His message. Furthermore, to enable all of us to understand and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God inspired the authors of Scripture to give us a trustworthy written account. John recorded a series of miraculous events and concluded his Gospel with these words: “But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).