“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Growing up as the son of the “Bible Answer Man” wasn’t always easy. Imagine the stereotypical experience of a preacher’s kid — on steroids. My childhood was spent wandering the halls of the Christian Research Institute, with the theme song of the Bible Answer Man broadcast serving as the soundtrack to my youth. Almost every weekend I found myself in a different corner of the country sitting in the back of another foreign, yet strangely familiar sanctuary as my father spent the weekend as the featured speaker. My formative years were spent watching my father debate, define, and defend truth at all costs, answering people’s theological questions live on the Bible Answer Man broadcast five days a week, “…because truth matters!”™
Yet, something always seemed missing to me. In all honesty, much of the “Christianity” that I was witnessing looked like people spending all of their time theorizing about sports — diagraming plays and game plans — yet never picking up a ball to actually participate and play a game. I vividly remember walking down the hall of the Christian Research Institute and cursing these theologians and their apoplectic allegiance to truth. As my father notes in his book, Truth Matters, Life Matters More, “in the West, theology, like politics, has become a veritable blood sport” and at a young age I had already seen too much of the bloodshed. Sure, truth matters, I would think to myself, but where is the life?
Years later my father would come face to face with the same question, eventually concluding that truth matters, life matters more. Encounters with earnest Christians in the underground church of China, in addition to an enduring disillusionment with the modern church and its insistence on ebbing and flowing along with the corrosive currents of our culture, caused him to dig deeper into the full history of the Christian faith, often forgotten, overlooked, or ignored by the majority of modern Christians.
His discoveries resulted in his decision to join the Eastern Orthodox Church, leading many to proclaim that he had “left the Christian faith.” Some of his closest friends and confidants concluded that they could no longer associate with him, despite his declarations that “God has his people everywhere” and an earnest desire to promote unity within Christendom by making good on the maxim of his ministry, “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.”
I was present for the moment that one of my father’s closest confidants tearfully concluded that he could no longer associate with my father and the ministry of the Christian Research Institute. Denominational disassociation with my dad was nothing new to me. Without wading too deeply into the weeds, I had spent my life watching as “brothers in Christ” built and broke bonds with my father depending on their deeply entrenched tribalistic definitions of truth. I had seen countless Christians driven to draw denominational lines in the sand time over theological conclusions that they or my father had made “because truth matters.” Yet, this was the first time I had seen someone decide to disown him because he was proclaiming that “life matters more.”
Befuddled by this behavior, I couldn’t help but laugh the incredulous laugh of someone who couldn’t believe what he was witnessing. The individual asked, “Do you find something funny about this?” I simply said, “I’ve never seen my father closer to Christ and I can’t possibly understand how that could sadden your soul.”
My father had a real encounter with Christ that was and continues to be truly transformational as his union with God grows more bountiful and unbreakable. My father knew the Bible better than most anyone I could imagine and has been praised for his biblical discernment and ability to recite passages from memory at a moment’s notice. Yet, his discovery that “life matters more” has led him to grow closer and closer to Christ. What did I find funny? I couldn’t believe that someone had to create distance with my father because he had graduated from giving truth the pole position in his life to understanding that the purpose of life itself is about growing closer to Christ.
Truth matters, it really matters. But life matters more. What does it mean for life to matter more? It is difficult to explain, but you know it when you see it — better yet, when you experience it. Or, as our Lord explained it, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). I had seen my father transition from a defense attorney to a disciple — more concerned with winning people to Christ than winning arguments about Christ. In his own words, he had discovered the “unexpected beauty of an authentic Christian life.”
Let it be known, I wasn’t always in my father’s corner. This may come to you as a surprise, but fathers and sons don’t always see eye to eye. My father’s undying devotion to defending essential Christian doctrine led to my rebellious devotion to the importance of life over truth. I didn’t quite understand what that meant at the time, but I was certain that there was more to Christianity than propagating truth propositions and putting people into pews. Despite disagreements and differences with my dad, it was never in doubt that I was loved. As such, I never developed a disdain for the faith foundations of my formative years, despite times of distance in which I tested the validity of various worldviews I’d been warned against. While my dad never force-fed his beliefs on our family, we were sufficiently submerged in truth to ensure that essential Christian doctrine seeped into our essence by osmosis and would always be within us.
After spending many years wandering in the wilderness of a world that has largely concluded that they can do without Christ, I had come full circle and concluded that I simply could not live apart from our Creator. My father and I took circuitous routes to arrive at the same destination. As my father came to conclude that truth matters, life matters more, I was coming to my own conclusion that life matters more, but truth matters, too. The map is not the territory and should never be elevated above it; but anyone who has ever been lost without a map can attest to the importance of understanding the terrain upon which we traverse. Truth and Life are symbiotic in their relationship to one another, or as my father states in Truth Matters, Life Matters More, “There can be no life without truth and no truth without life.”
Whenever I came to my father for advice on potential paths to take in life, he always pushed me to pursue my own way, quoting Proverbs 16:9, “the mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but in our post-truth culture I am eternally grateful to have been inoculated with these foundational truths for protection as the pillars of our civilization as we know it continue to collapse. I plotted my own way as the Lord directed my steps, but my father provided me with the steppingstones of truth to place upon my path, without which I would be truly lost.
As a witness to my father’s full journey and the transformation of his life, it is my earnest prayer that you read Truth Matters, Life Matters More with an open mind and that the Holy Spirit will use you and unify those who take His sacred name and call themselves Christians, because truly, God has his people everywhere. The maxim of my father’s ministry for as long as I can remember has been “in essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.” As followers of Christ it is imperative that we unite in the essentials of the Christian faith to stand together in the unity commanded of us by the Lord in his high priestly prayer:
“And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:19–23)
I have come to discover why truth matters, but life matters more and how understanding the difference will lead you closer to Christ and the purpose of human existence — experiencing union with God.
Dave Hanegraaff lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his wife Emily and their new baby. A humble disciple, husband, and father — everything else is ephemeral. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.