Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Determining Truth with Dead Fish and Downstream Directions:

I was brought up being told the quaint saying “Any dead fish can float downstream!” But I think this little fish story is misapplied all too often, for the current is not always bad, and it’s possible to “fight” against a current simply because we’re dead fish floating in a counter-current.

The problem is that either side can quote this to their prospective proselyte in opposition of the opposing side that currently has the loyalties of the desired recruit. For example: An atheist could tell an individual who was raised in a Christian home that the only reason they are Christians is because they were raised to be such. This may, or may not be true in reality; but the only one who really knows that is the one who professes Christianity. Yet the same could be said by the Christian to the atheist who was raised in a non-Christian home. Or, the one raised in a Christian home could determine to not be a dead fish, so he swims against his upbringing and becomes an atheist, or agnostic, or just plain apathetic toward God (practical atheism) just for the sake of it. The one raise atheist could do the same, and profess Christianity simply because he was raised without religion. So just because we’re going against the current doesn’t mean we’re right; and just because we may be floating in the right current doesn’t mean we’re right.

So how do you know? That’s the question I asked myself.
To float is wrong regardless of the stream! Just because you may be running with the right crowd doesn’t mean YOU are in the right. If you’re floating down stream you’re still in the dead fish category regardless of the direction of the stream; and if an opposing current that is strong enough comes by then you’ll float along with that one. This is the fault of parents depending on “positive peer pressure” in raising their children. All they’ve done is taken dead fish out of a stream flowing south and tossed them in a north bound stream – ‘problem is, is that the fish are still dead! Sure, it may keep them out of certain areas of immorality for a while, but they couldn’t swim upstream if their life depended on it. They don’t need a new stream to float in, they need life.

To go against the current, is not noble (or right) by default. Some people think that questioning the norm places them in a category above all the other “simpletons”. They refuse to be a dead fish and just float down stream. The problem with these fish is that they’re not fighting the current for the sake of truth, but for the sake of rebellion. In reality, they’re just as dead as the “floaters” because they’re simply floating in a stream that runs opposite to the one they’re “fighting”. One could liken it to being caught in an undercurrent. These fish can’t evaluate things on the basis of truth – they’re lifeless, and if the undercurrent gets weak enough, they’ll float the other direction just the same.

In both of the previous instances, each fish were dead because both were controlled by the stream it was in. A fish that is alive may swim upstream, or down stream depending on the alignment of the current with the direction he knows he needs to be traveling. The one thing he NEVER does is permit the stream to dictate his direction of travel. The stream doesn’t represent truth or falsehood; it is simply the direction of the majority in which he is living. This majority may be right or wrong, but never either by default. If he assumes the majority is always right then the majority will determine his direction. If he assumes the majority is always wrong then the majority still determines his direction. Truth, then, becomes relative to the current.

By now you’re probably wondering why I am messing around with these stupid fish/current analogies anyway. What’s all this about? Well, so often we let those around us determine what we believe about an issue. We do not examine things in light of God’s truth; rather we accept it as true if the “right people” commend it to us as such. Whether we are in the right stream or not is irrelevant since we don’t accept the issue based on God’s Word, but based on those who are in the current with us. I know one individual, whom I love dearly, that will not examine a theological position because it seems to be on the rise among young believers – it’s popular. Yet the current position they hold was popular not too many years ago (and is still popular in the denominational circles they lives in). Right or wrong, they are simply floating down stream. Yet, I have another good friend who is open to evaluating everything they have ever been taught, but it seems their rationale isn’t because they are seeking truth, but because they assume that EVERYTHING in the “stream” they were previously in is false. The past things are guilty by association. I would argue that this, too, is a dead fish. Both are floating in their respective streams, but looking at the other stream and foolishly thinking they are swimming against it. The only way to not be controlled by the current is to be controlled by something, or Someone rather, outside the current – JESUS.

Get your eyes off the current.

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2 responses

  1. 4calledbyhisgrace

    I examined myself when I read it to make sure my motives for studying some of the things I’ve been have been with right motives. I believe they are b/c the subjects I’ve been questioning/examining are things I’d been taught about but never deep in Scripture. Thanks for posting this!

    May 28, 2010 at 10:19 am

  2. Daniel,

    Thanks for the post. I enjoyed reading it and appreciate your insight and your writing style.

    The great men and women of history were, for the most part, people who challenged conventional thinking (floating in the current) and sought after truth. Galileo was thought a fool for thinking the earth traveled around the sun, but he wanted to know the truth and risked his reputation to do so. Columbus was branded an imbecile for thinking he could sail around the world. Yet we know his name and not those who challenged him.

    Jesus challenged not only culture, but the religious leaders in his own Jewish faith. They had O.T. scripture, but their understanding was perverted. Men would sit in the counsel and discuss what scripture meant and how to live according to the law and ended up creating new laws in addition to what God had given them. They faced an impossible task of living up to the law and yet they added to it.

    Jesus said, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life…”. “…I came to testify to the TRUTH…” In a way, he came to testify of himself. Truth is important, not consensus. Adam, Eve, and Satan came to a consensus that eating the forbidden fruit would not be a problem after all. They took their eyes off of what God said and looked to others for truth. What they got was the Father of Lies leading them to death.

    When we keep our eyes on the one who is truth, we can expect to know truth when we see it.

    Blessings, Marc

    May 28, 2010 at 10:56 am

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