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.
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.
14 Ibid., p. 291.
15 Ibid., p. 292.
16 Ibid., p. 293.
17 Ibid.; emphasis in the original.