Loyalty is a beautiful thing. Loyalty to loved ones, family members, and even noble ideas, for example, is generally perceived as admirable. But loyalty to unworthy ideas is unbecoming, and even destructive.
While not all belief systems are particularly concerned about objective truth, Biblical Christianity claims great affection for truth. It is a system named after one claiming to be “the way the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), and one that demands its adherents speak truth (Eph 4:15, 25). But how does one assess truth? And how does one avoid loyalty to unworthy – untrue – ideas? Rational disinterestedness is a vital component for understanding truth. Rational, in that the mind and critical thought are engaged, and disinterestedness, in that there is no loyalty and no emotional attachment to the ideas as they are considered. Rational disinterestedness helps a thinker avoid passions that cloud the ability to consider ideas as objectively as possible.
Jesus shows the worthiness of rational disinterestedness when He says, “If I testify about Myself, My testimony is not true” (Jn 5:31). He doesn’t ask His listeners to exhibit blind faith; instead, He challenges His listeners to consider evidence – evidence that met the legal standards of their day. Those standards required guilt to be determined on the evidence of at least two or three witnesses. An outcome could not be determined by only one witness (Deut 17:6, 19:15). Even if Jesus’s words were true on their own merit, if there was no corroboration, He understood that they did not bear the strength needed for adjudication. Jesus identifies His key witnesses as the works Jesus did (5:36), the Father (Jn 5:37), John (Jn 5:33), the Scriptures (Jn 5:39), and Moses (Jn 5:46). Having established the veracity of His claims, He later asserts that His testimony is factual (Jn 8:14).
Jesus asks His listeners to believe in Him based on corroborating evidence and consistent testimony. Whether or not that testimony is true is another matter. Jesus required His audience to pay attention not just to the content of what He claimed was objective truth, but also to the method of arriving at it. If that method of arriving at truth is important to Jesus, and we claim to be His followers, then shouldn’t we be concerned about applying that method to every area of our lives?
When we exhibit loyalty to ideas without vetting them properly we become no better than the churchmen who (contrary to Biblical ideas) supported the crusades and inquisitions, opposed the heliocentric theory, and advocated slavery. Just because our ideas may not have been demonstrated to be false yet, does not mean that our current thinking is necessarily the right thinking. We often claim to have beliefs that are consistent with Scripture, but are we really examining these convictions in light of objective truth? Are these ideas really consistent with what the Bible says, or have we fallen into impassioned and traditional loyalties without critiquing them properly?
If we cannot calmly and dispassionately consider and articulate opposing arguments – as Jesus did when He was accused of working in the power of Satan (Mt 12:25-33) – then we prove that our loyalty is not to what is true, but what is agreeable to us in our present immaturity. That brand of fanaticism is to be expected from those who openly admit disregard for truth, but for those who claim to represent Christ, there is no room for such intellectual disingenuousness.
In discussing Christian maturity, Paul doesn’t just tell us to be mature in our conclusions and beliefs. He says, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor 14:20). Later he adds, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think on these things” (Php 4:8). What we think is important, and how we arrive at our conclusions is equally as important.