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, “I am a scientist. I deal only with hard facts—things you can see and feel.” When it was his turn to speak, Smith said, “I don’t 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.” (Empowering Your Church through Creativity and Change, Marshall Shelley, General Editor.)
In John 4:23-24, Jesus said, “True 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.” 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—so the thinking goes—it 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. “The 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.” 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’s 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’s 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. “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (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, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This forever established the absolute deity of Christ, and Jesus did not deny it but applauded Simon Peter for his insight.