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Through the River: Understanding Your Assumptions about Truth, by Jon and Mindy Hirst, took me a while to read.  It’s not long, but it’s dense with philosophical thought and information.

The Hirsts describe three basic truth lenses: positivism, instrumentalism, and critical realism, applying them to Christianity and how Christians relate to the world and each other.  They use analogy and story to explain the truth lenses, but reading it still requires work. I found myself taking notes and making outlines to make sense of it all. Here are the basics of the three truth lenses:

Positivists, known in the book as Rock Dwellers, believe that “all truth about us and about our world is knowable, and that it is our job to engage in an active search for that truth, allowing us to expose untruth.”  All truth is objective, regardless of individual viewpoint, culture, etc.

Instrumentalists (Island Dwellers in the book) reject total objectivity, seeing truth as a personal matter. Truth can be different for each person, depending on their background and experience.  Instrumentalists have no problem allowing different systems and theories to co-exist.

Critical Realists, known as Valley Dwellers in the book, is summarized as “the truth you know, and the truth that you are learning.” This lens acknowledges that universal truths exist, but also that the experiences of different people and cultures affect how they perceive and use these truths. Critical realists understand that we can always learn more about truth, and that we can learn from the perspective of others.

Interestingly, these truth lenses can apply regardless of one’s religious and political viewpoints. I can think of people who are liberal and conservative, religious and atheist, who could fit all of these descriptions.  And I can even see all three in myself, at various times in my life and in different situations. I know there are issues on which I’m pretty rock-like, and others in which I’m a good deal more tolerant.

Though it was a difficult read that took a lot of concentration, I did enjoy the book and appreciate what it had to say.  I think it does provide a good explanation of why many people have trouble relating to each other on religious and political issues, and it gives good suggestions for how people can try to relate to each other.

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book from The Ooze Viral Bloggers program in exchange for this review.