Hard Facts, Soft Truths

At a university conference on business, Fred¬†Smith, a successful executive and editor, followed¬†an engineer to the podium. In his speech, the¬†engineer remarked, ‚ÄúI am a scientist. I deal only¬†with hard facts‚ÄĒthings you can see and feel.‚Ä̬†When it was his turn to speak, Smith said, ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt¬†mean to be discourteous, but most of life is made¬†up of soft facts. I respect hard facts, but when I¬†take the long view, I notice that the rocks and the¬†riverbank do not control the water that flows in the¬†stream; the water forms the rocks and the bank. All¬†matters of the spirit are soft, but they ultimately control.

Armies, formulas, and scientific technology¬†do not guarantee that a civilization will survive.¬†That is up to other factors. The soft is just as¬†factual as the hard, but more difficult to deal with.‚Ä̬†(Empowering Your Church through Creativity and¬†Change, Marshall Shelley, General Editor.)
In John 4:23-24, Jesus said, ‚ÄúTrue worshippers¬†shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for¬†the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a¬†Spirit and they the worship him must worship him¬†in spirit and in truth.‚ÄĚ Some say truth and Spirit¬†balance each other, but a closer examination teases¬†another thought to life. Both elements are not¬†independent of each other, as if you could have¬†truth without the Spirit and be formalistic; or you¬†could have Spirit without the truth and be fanatical.¬†Since neither formalism nor fanaticism are good‚ÄĒso the thinking goes‚ÄĒit is preferable to have both¬†of them as a counterbalance to each other.
Both hard facts and soft truths make up the structure of today’s church. The hard facts of the oneness of the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ, the new birth experience, holiness and separation from the world, and the soon return of Christ all exist as integral boundaries for the church. Different in shape, less intense in practice, however are the subtle truths with a much softer feel to them. Christ’s words concerning worshipping the Father in spirit and truth and the new birth immediately suggest the supernatural Spirit of God moving in synchronization with the hard facts of truth, as in the Spirit baptism, the operation of the gifts, anointed preaching and teaching, inspiration in writing and singing, and the direct leadership of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
A study of the operation of the Spirit in the New Testament reveals God directly guiding His church through the influence of soft truths. Healings, angelic visitations, earthquakes, powerful prayer services, conversions, anointed testimonies and sermons, wisdom, revelations of future events,and the word of knowledge abound. One instance was clear instructions from God by means of the Spirit in the change of plans to go to Bithynia. They ended up in Troas in accordance with the Macedonian vision. These cannot be construed as hard facts. The only universal hard fact is that every born again believer must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (John 3:1-8; Acts 2:1-4; 10:46; 19:5).
Look at John 3:8 in the NIV. ‚ÄúThe wind blows¬†wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but¬†you cannot tell where it comes from or where¬†it is going. So it is with everyone born of the¬†Spirit.‚ÄĚ In other words, no believer can base his¬†or her experience or relationship to God on¬†pure mental, cognitive processes. A personal,subjective relationship must exist between a person¬†and God. The hard facts of gospel truths must¬†work in tandem with the soft truths of spiritual¬†manifestations. The hard facts of the gospel¬†represent the skeletal structure of the church, but¬†the soft truths of the Spirit functions like the soft¬†tissue of the church. These two elements are not¬†opposite but equal; they are totally interdependent,¬†integrated, each vital to the other‚Äôs viability.
Jesus operated in soft truths that defined the¬†way He conducted Himself and ordered His¬†ministry. He and His disciples ate corn and healed¬†on the Sabbath; He ate in the house of sinners; He¬†allowed a woman to touch His feet and wash them¬†with her hair; He conversed with the woman at¬†the well; He touched dead corpses and healed theSyrophoenician woman‚Äôs daughter. These actions¬†were condemned by the hardline Jewish hierarchy¬†but were in perfect congruency with the Spirit and¬†intent of God. In fact, in His encounter with the¬†Jewish leaders over eating corn, Jesus closes with an¬†astounding statement. ‚ÄúAnd he said unto them, The¬†sabbath was made for man, and not man for the¬†Sabbath‚ÄĚ (Mark 2:27).
To declare that the Sabbath¬†was subservient to man, and not the other way¬†around was a soft truth of the highest order.The ultimate example comes to light in the exchange between Jesus and His disciples concerning His identity. Simon Peter expressed the hard fact when he said, ‚ÄúThou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.‚ÄĚ This forever established the absolute deity of Christ, and Jesus did not deny it but applauded Simon Peter for his insight.