Friday, May 30, 2008

Beholding to Absolute Truth

Just because a person may have the title of "reverend," "pastor," or "priest" in front of his or her name, doesn't necessarily mean that their preaching is beholding to absolute truth.

There are many great evangelists (preachers, reverends, pastors, etc.) who DO hold to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Word, the Bible.

So what's the difference?

Some differences are easily recognizable; i.e. the difference between the rantings of someone who is obviously seen as a radical - like Jeremiah Wright - as compared to someone who is held in the highest esteem amongst most scholars because of his solid, biblical, and truthful evangelism - like the preaching, teaching and writings of John MacArthur.

Recently, I discovered some excellent information and answers on how to discern truth from error; even when such errors may appear to be quite subtle. The answers came from Chapter 14, entitled "Facing the Challenge of Postmodernism" in the book To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview.

First, we need to recognize the fact that absolute truth does exist. Whether one finds or discovers it in one's lifetime is another question. Most postmodernists don't like to even acknowledge such a thing. Their mantra is often, "your truth is not my truth." People can live their entire lives believing that. However, their relativism eventually backs them into a corner of contradiction.

Chapter 14 excerpt:


The logic of truth is the logic of the law of non contradiction. First codified but not invented by Aristotle, this law states, "Nothing can both be and not be at the same time in the same respect." Nothing can possess incompatible properties; that is, nothing can be what it is not. For example, Jesus cannot be both sinless and sinful. If there is exactly one God, there cannot be many gods. This logical principle is not the unique possession of Christianity. It is a truth of all creation and how God ordained us to think. Despite what some benighted theologians have claimed, Christian faith does not require that we somehow transcend this law of logic. God is consistent and cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). God cannot deny himself or assert what is false; nor can he make something both true and false in the same way at the same time.

Those who claim that this basic principle of thought is false must assert this principle in order to deny it. In so doing, they make a mockery out of all thought, language and the very notion of truth. Consider the statement: "The law of non contradiction is false." For this statement itself to be true, it must contradict its opposite (that the law of non contradiction is true). But in so doing, it must affirm the duality of truth and falsity--which is the very thing that the law of non contradiction itself requires. This is how God made us to think--to think in accord with reality.


Over twenty years ago, my search for truth began with reading and studying the Bible. I also found books and summaries that compared biblical Christianity with other religions, cults, and agnostic/atheistic/skeptic beliefs. Over the years, the Bible has explicitly revealed the truth to me - for it continually and vividly points towards Jesus Christ as the one and only Lord and Savior.

However, over the course of those years, I have noticed that there is a stark contrast between postmodernist liberal Christianity and the absolute truth of biblical Christian faith. I have seen the gap between the two grow wider as heresy and compromise took over the minds of those who do not hold to the truth of Scripture.

Chapter 14 excerpt:


Postmodernists who assert that logical principles are merely social and historical constructs nevertheless often accuse their critics of culpable falsehood and thus assert the law of non contradiction. 7

7 On this, see Goothuis, Truth Decay, pp. 232-33.


The liberal left side of Christianity holds to postmodernist beliefs more than it holds to biblical truth. The mantra of "tolerance" and "hyper-sensitivity" has stepped over and trumped the cause to share the absolute truth of Scripture. Thus, the Great Commission, given by Jesus Christ before his ascension into heaven, has been downplayed and a call for creating an earthly utopia here on earth has taken its place.

I am not claiming that we should not do good things to make this world a better place. We absolutely should! However, I have found that such types do not want to discuss sin, confession, and our need for repentance. Coming to the foot of the cross of Christ is often perceived by liberal Christians as "divisive" and "hurtful" for those who are not yet Christians. Therefore, those who share the joy of being born again and telling our stories of redemption and conversion to Christ are often rabidly disparaged and labeled negatively with derogatory terms like "fundies," "bigots," "judgmental" and that old favorite, the "holier than thou" rant.

Why is that?

Chapter 14 excerpt:


The law of non contradiction combined with the specificity of Christian truth and the high stakes involved in choosing whether to believe in Christ means that truth for the Christian is confrontational. When Paul beheld the idolatry of Athens, he was "greatly distressed" and "so he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks" (Acts 17:17). This apologetic spirit eventually led to his famous Mars Hill apologetics address. While the postmodern world beholds the great welter of lifestyles, trends, and facades and can only utter "whatever" with a smirk and a slouch, the follower of "the Way" (Acts 11:26) must defend "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3).


The fact that there are groups, preachers, teachers, churches etc. that label themselves as "Christian"; but do not hold themselves accountable to the absolute truth as found in Scripture, tells us that we need to be much more discerning than ever before in the history of Christianity.

I have mentioned this book and some of its great contents in previous blog posts. However, the following section entitled, "The Biblical View of Truth" is one of the best essays I have ever read! It is so good, that I hesitate to paraphrase even one sentence!


The Biblical View of Truth

In order to counter effectively the postmodernist attack on truth, the Christian apologist should master the biblical understanding of truth. The Scriptures use the Hebrew and Greek words for truth and its derivatives repeatedly and without embarrassment. The meaning of the Hebrew term emet, which is at the root of the great majority of the Hebrew words related to truth, involves the ideas of support or stability. From this root flows the twofold notion of truth as faithfulness and conformity to fact. 12

God is true or faithful to his word and in his activities and attitudes; God is the God of truth. So David prays, "Into your hands I commit my spirit, redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth: (Ps 31:5; see 2 Chron 15:3). Through Isaiah, God declares, "I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right" (Is 45:19).

The Hebrew emet can also represent "that which is conformed to reality in contrast to anything that would be erroneous or deceitful." 13 In several passages, "If it is true" means, "If the charge is substantiated" (Is 43:9; Deut. 13:14; 17:4). Many biblical texts include statements such as "speaking the truth" (Prov. 8:7; Jer 9:5) or "giving a true message" (Dan. 10:1) or a "true vision" (Dan 8:26). Emet can also connote "what is authentic, reliable, or simply 'right,' " such as "true justice" (Zech. 7:9) or as in swearing in a "truthful, just and righteous way" (Jer 4:2). Roger Nicole explains that faithfulness and conformity to fact are:

converging lines of meaning [for the concept of truth] in the Old Testament. Neither is reducible to the other, yet they are not mutually conflicting. It is because truth is conformity to fact that confidence may be placed in it or in the one who asserts it, and it is because a person is faithful that he or she would be careful to make statements that are true. 14


There is no indication that in the Hebrew Bible truth is another word for belief or mere social custom, since beliefs can be false and customs may be opposed to God's will. Jeremiah attacked the falsehood and unfaithfulness of his people when he said, "How can you say, 'We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,' when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?" (Jer 8:8 NIV). Nicole notes that "the clear and insistent witness of the Old Testament in condemnation of all lies and deceit reinforces its strong commendation of emet as faithfulness and veracity." 15

Although some scholars have asserted a great difference between the Hebrew and Greek notions of truth, the Greek New Testament's understanding of truth is consistent with that of the Hebrew Scriptures. The New Testament word aletheia and its derivations retain the Hebrew idea of "conformity to fact" expressed in emet. According to Nicole, "The primary New Testament emphasis is clearly on truth as conformity to reality and opposition to lies and errors." 16

Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament draw a clear contrast between truth and error. John warns of distinguishing the "Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood" (1 Jn 4:6). Paul says that those who deny the reality of the God behind creation "suppress the truth by their wickedness" (Rom 1:18). Before Pilate, Jesus divided the field into truth and error: "For this reason, I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me" (Jn 18:37).

This biblical conception of truth as fidelity to objective fact also involves the claims that God's revealed truth is absolute as well. It is invariant and without exception or exemption. Neither is it relative, shifting or revisable. A classic text on the absoluteness of truth is Jesus' uncompromising statement, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6). There is no exception or exemption from this claim: there is but one way to the Father, Jesus himself.

The truth of the gospel is not subject to any human veto or democratic procedures. This claim does not mean that Christians claim to have absolute knowledge about God. It simply means that God has revealed his one way of salvation through Christ and made this known in history and as recorded in Scripture and is illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Those who know Jesus as Lord confess his absoluteness, not their own. We can know this truth and testify to it only in light of God's grace because it is only by grace that grace can be known. Postmodernists to the contrary, the biblical meta- narrative does not lead to oppression and arrogance because it centers on the revelation of a good, loving and holy God who has commissioned his people to communicate the absolute claims of the gospel in humility and love.

Moreover, God's revealed truth is universal. To be universal means to apply everywhere, to engage everything and to exclude nothing. The gospel message and the moral law of God is not circumscribed or restricted by cultural conditions. When Peter preached before the Jewish religious authorities, he declared in clear terms concerning Jesus of Nazareth: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12; see also 1 Tim 2:5-6). This, of course, is a direct spiritual and intellectual challenge to every other religion and philosophy on the planet (see also Acts 17:30).

A survey of the biblical view of truth cannot do justice to the richness of the words employed in a wide diversity of contexts. Nevertheless, it should be clear that the biblical view of truth collides with postmodernist notions of the social construction of reality and the relativity of truth. Nicole concludes that "the biblical view of truth (emet-aletheia) is like a rope with several intertwined strands"; it "involves factuality, faithfulness, and completeness." 17 The Bible does not present truth as a cultural creation of the ancient Jews or the early Christian. They received truth from the God who speaks truth to his creatures, and they were expected by this God to conform themselves to this truth. With his basis in revealed truth, the defender of the faith can work to challenge false philosophies pitted against the Christian worldview (2 Cor 10:3-5; Col 2:8-10).


Source: "To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview," ed. Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2004), pp. 241-246.

Footnotes:

12 Roger Nicole, "The Biblical Concept of Truth," in Scripture and Truth, ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge (Grand Rapids, Mish.: Zondervan, 1983), p. 290.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid., p. 291.
15 Ibid., p. 292.
16 Ibid., p. 293.
17 Ibid.; emphasis in the original.

8 comments:

Christinewjc said...

A quick note:

I have had several commenters inform me that previous replies which they have posted on other threads were not posted. This was not due to comment rejection. For some reason, they never did appear in the comment moderation box.

I don't know what is wrong, but I would suggest that you make a copy of your comment and storing it somewhere, just in case it gets zapped by the system!

Christine

Susan Smith said...

WOW Christine! This post is a lot of solid food to chew and digest.

God bless you for being salt & light to the whole world via Talk Wisdom. What a delightful post to read as Shabbat begins here in the United States this Friday evening.

Have a wonderful weekend and Shabbat Shalom, my friend. Much love to you and the family. (ss)

Christinewjc said...

Hi Susan,

Thanks for taking the time to read it and comment! It has so much information that it could be used as a mini-Bible study!

I have read hundreds of Christian books; many of them books on or about Apologetics. But that portion on the subject of the absolute truth of Scripture and the revelation of Jesus Christ had to be the best essay I have ever read on the subject!

This morning, I thought about the Beatles hit written and sung by John Lennon - "Imagine."

The lyrics of that song indicate (to me, at least) souls who are searching - searching for answers and meaning in this life. But the lyrics turn the listener away from the truth of the God of the Bible when they state:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too



Recall that the Beatles became involved with the Maharishi Yogi - who introduced "Transcendental Meditation." His influence became apparent in the Beatle's lyrics. This guru's universities around the world promote the "mastery of Natural Law to every individual and to perpetuate life in accordance to Natural Law-- perfection in every profession--and create Natural Law based problem-free government in every country--governments with the ability to prevent problems."

Quite a noble effort and worldview. However it conflicts with the truth we find in the Bible; especially the truth that Jesus tells us in just one Bible verse:

Jhn 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Thanks for the love and encouragement! Have a blessed weekend Susan!

GMpilot said...

CJW: Quite a noble effort and worldview. However it conflicts with the truth we find in the Bible; especially the truth that Jesus tells us in just one Bible verse:

Jhn 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.


What about that other truth that Jesus tells us in just one Bible verse?:

Mat 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

...or doesn't that one count?

Christinewjc said...

GM,

You will notice that I wrote "especially the truth" regarding what was stated by Jesus in that particular Bible verse. Meaning, there are several others that we could cite as well.

You chose an additional verse that conflicts with the Yogi's worldview. Peace does not always result from pacifism (although our liberal Dems would have us believe otherwise). Sometimes wars need to be fought in order to turn chaos in the world back into peaceful order. However, we know that ultimate peace will never be attained in this sinful world. That will only be achieved when Christ returns.

GM, you often show knowledge of God's Word in your comments. You would make a good Christian apologist - if only you were a believer in Christ.

Gary Baker said...

Another thing which some people refuse to acknowledge is that while Christ's pronouncements and prophesies are directed at the world at large, his commands and directions are personal.

He commanded his people to be loving and generous. He never said that the world would be. He admonished individuals to be generous to the poor. He never told anyone to set up government programs that would take away from one group and give to the other.

Many liberal believers also forget the inherent flaw in trying to establish a morality through government. Morality, or goodness, was never the endpoint. We were never commanded to be good for goodness alone. Christ commanded us to do good works so that our Father in heaven would receive praise.

Contrast that with what you hear from people that are pushing laws for universal health care, living wage, entitlements, etc. Who are they trying to glorify? And if they succeed, will God receive glory, or will a government or political party? And if that is the result, can it really be considered "good" if it steers people away from God. I do not think so.

Mark said...

if I may - GM's question; the peace in one's heart, peace of assurance, hope, and knowledge is what Jesus speaks of in John, there will be no peace on earth nor did He come to bring peace. Salvation is not subject to world peace. Matthew 10:34 NASB "Do not think that I came to send peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" - the sword being God's word, the truth, and a light that will offend many living in darkness - resulting in many divisions and conflicts as the following verses after teaches us.

Eph 6:17 NASB - And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Christinewjc said...

Excellent points Gary and Mark!

Jesus was targeted for what he preached (the sword of the Spirit); not for any military-type actions or "sword."

The fruit of the Spirit for born-again Christians contains the fact that Mark speaks of in the term "longsuffering."

Jesus also told us that his kingdom is "not of this world." Liberal Christian movements (like the emergent/Rick Warren types) want to create some sort of utopia on earth. We know that true peace will never be reached until Jesus returns!

Meanwhile, we preach the gospel and those who will listen to the Holy Spirit of God knocking at the door of their heart will receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.