Faith Matters: Seeing Truth and Believing

Pastor Shawn Hannon
Contributing Writer Pastor Shawn Hannon

One of the greatest ironies of the information age, is how with all the intelligence at our fingertips we still remain in the dark or at least cautiously on the fence regarding so many things. There are indisputable truths backed by historical record or beyond scientific reproach, and yet as accessible as the journals and papers stating their claims are websites who disagree.

Take for example climate change. Chances are just reading the phrase “climate change” sparked feelings or preconceived notions. Without reading another word, part of your attention is already being spent either guessing what I am going to say next or starting to formulate your response.

Either way, I hope you will read on and I extend that invitation with an assurance that this is not actually about the ozone. Instead, I pose a question: How do we discern truth?

I mention climate change because it is indisputable, and yet endlessly disputed. NASA’s website (www.nasa.gov) has this quite unambiguous claim to make regarding climate change: “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” It cites the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It goes on to say, “…satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.” And yet, as I mentioned before (and I know I am not telling you anything you do not already know), opinions concerning the truth of NASA’s claims are widely disputed. In the courtroom of public opinion there is still some question.

(Then again, in a world where flat-earthers persist, should any of us be that surprised?)

The conversations we should be having should be about the most appropriate, effective, and possible ways to address climate change. What can or should we do? That’s where we should be talking to one another. Instead, we cannot get through the front door and keep citing snowy mothers’ days as science.

I wonder why.

Then I read a gospel like John 14:1-14 and it begins to make sense. Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and you have seen him” (emphasis mine). It’s probably equally important to note that Jesus begins this passage with an invitation to believe. “Believe in the truth.” It should not be that hard.

But after Jesus tells his disciples that knowing him they know the Father and seeing him they have seen the Father, Philip responds, “Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Philip, apparently, has not seen enough.

Jesus is dumbfounded. He responds, “11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” Jesus responds (and I’m paraphrasing), “how have you not seen enough?”

Why do we have an affinity for skepticism and an aversion to truth? Philip, and this is just according to John, saw Jesus turn water to wine, heal a paralytic, and feed 5,000 people on a hillside with scraps. He listened as Jesus opened the scriptures and was present when Jesus openly prayed. He watched Jesus speak to God and then raise a man from the dead. Then, after all of that and more, he turned to Jesus and said I need to see more before I will believe.

But we all know (Philip too, I reckon) that he didn’t lack the evidence he needed. He lacked the eyes to see.

There are much in these days that are hard to see. There are other things that are not. And the question for us is to what extent the truth will play. And answering that question begins with our ability to see truth and accept it.

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Pastor Shawn Hannon
Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.