Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What is Truth? Part 1

“What is truth?” Pilate asked sarcastically.

Jesus was on trial, and He explained to Pilate that He had come to “bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice (John 8:37).” Pilate laughed off Jesus as if to say, “Can you really know the truth?”

That same attitude has become the rhetorical question of many of the new churches today. Churches are billing themselves as “church for people who don’t like church” or places where “we don’t have it figured out.” The traditional churches that read and believe the Bible have come under fire for being arrogant knowers of theology, while these newer emerging churches boast of not knowing what the Bible is really all about.

Sound doctrine has been replaced with fluidity, black and white issues are now in color, truth is not knowable, the Gospel is a mystery, and the commands of Scripture take a backseat to each person’s story.

I will be the first to admit that the emerging church has rightly criticized those who “believe” without knowing why. I stress that each Christian should know what they believe and why they believe it, and to say that “my pastor says” or “my church says” is not sufficient. We need to say, “the Bible says.”

Socrates was executed for being an atheist, when in reality he was an agnostic who got in trouble for asking tough questions. Kierkegaard decided to become a “Christian Socrates,” to ask tough questions to know why Christians believe what they believe. [i]

But the emerging church seems to go a step too far and demonize the ones who know both what they believe and why they believe it. Truth, they say, is something that is unattainable.

Here is how we arrived where we are:

Ancient philosophers just assumed that truth was a reality, a sort of common sense. But then, with the rise of men like Socrates, along with Aristotle, and Plato, philosophy began to try to define truth through nature. Next, men like Descartes, Kant, and Locke began to teach that truth comes through reason, experience, or both. This was the age of the Enlightenment.

Enlightenment gave way to Modernity, which believes that truth can be discovered only through the scientific method. Men like Marx, Darwin, and Nietzche championed this cause, but ultimately have all been disproven. That brings us now to Post-Modernity, which holds that truth, therefore, is not knowable. [ii]

That is a fine theme for philosophy, for philosophy isn’t really known for its accuracy anyway. Where this becomes a problem is when pastors have taken up the postmodern claim that they cannot know truth.

Let’s go back to Pilate’s question: What is truth?

According to Jesus, His Word is truth. Consider what the Bible has to say about truth.

“Sanctify them by Your Word; Your Word is truth (John 17:17).”
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (John 8:32).”
“I am…the truth (Jesus in John 14:6).”
God is the “God of truth (Deut.32:4, Ps. 31:5, Is. 65:16).”
It warns of those who change “the truth of God into a lie (Romans 1:25).”
“The sum of thy Word is truth (Psalm 119:160).”
“Lead me into truth and teach me (Psalm 25:5).”
Ephesians 1:13-14 says that Jesus brought “the word of truth” that brings salvation.
Jesus is “full of grace and truth (John 1:14).”
The Holy Spirit will lead believers into truth (John 16:13)

This is only a portion of the verses that refer to God and His Word as being truth. For the Christian this means that, no matter what philosophy says, we can know absolute truth if we stand on the timeless truth of the Bible, and its great subject Jesus Christ.

(Read Part 2 here )

[i] Caputo, John D., Philosophy and Theology, Abingdon Press, chapter 1
[ii] MacArthur, John, The Truth War, Thomas Nelson, chapter 1

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