Can We Know the Truth? (Part 2)

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Truth DestinationIn Part 1 of this post, found here, we determined the source and substance of Truth as it is presented in Scripture. In so doing we discovered that there are such things as true statements (truth) and false statements (lies). Therefore, having established that there is indeed such a concept and thing as Truth (notice my clever use of the capitol “T” there), we are now able to move on to examine how this fact – Truth – should affect the individual Christian, the Pastor, and the application of theology in our increasing Post-Modern, Post-Christian society.

Truth and the Individual Christian

It would seem a simple track to follow; that God’s Word is the truth, Christians want or at least should want to know more of God and the truth, therefore Scripture should be the standard by which they view all things. Unfortunately, this is not the case at all. As has been pointed out earlier, there is an aversion to truth in general which is nothing more than an expression of humanity’s hostility toward God.1

individualIn the case of the Christian’s approach to Scripture this aversion is demonstrated less in the full-fledged frontal assaults of Scripture’s authority, than it is in the pervasive infiltration of doubt brought into the Church by others in feigned humility. It is a common claim within postmodernism that nothing can be known for certain and to claim otherwise is the height of arrogance; which in and of itself is a claim of absoluteness. However, when it is wrapped in the double-speak of the movement it sounds humble, academic, and of all things authoritative.

These sorts of claims bring about anxiousness and worry in the case of true Believers as they seek after the truth. As they search through the Scriptures after being assured that they are indeed useful stories and contain lessons pertinent to living a faithful life, they are left up to their own devices as to whether anything within the pages is binding or not. That is until they come across passages such as 1 Timothy 3:16-17. Once they understand that God’s Word was given in a very particular way and for a particular purpose many Christian’s are more likely to be able to trust in the commands of Scripture as well as to responding to the conviction and leadings of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the Christian can find assurance in his or her salvation—and any other thing concerning God—in the Scriptures because as God’s Word, the Scriptures carry an attribute of God alluded to earlier; God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Truth and the Pastor

The pastor who is not in possession of a biblical understanding of truth has nothing to offer Pastor Cartoonhis flock. Of course, he can tell coddling stories, tickle a few ears and generally paint over the rot of the congregation’s lives in order to hide it; but he cannot offer them any hope without biblical hope and that hope cannot be found without biblical truth. Without appealing to the truth that Scripture is the Word of God and by it He reveals Himself, and that specifically He reveals Himself in the person of Jesus Christ the pastor is without authority to make any claims of hope, or salvation. A pastor lacking a biblical view of truth is like a sentry on duty without any knowledge of the limits of his post, the rules for engaging those who may trespass upon those unknown limits, whom to call for aid should he be overrun or wounded or even if he just needs relief. Now translate that imagery to a picture more commonly found throughout the Bible, that of a shepherd tending his sheep. A shepherd has to know how to watch over, guard, guide, heal, seek, save, feed and above all love the sheep.2 A modern shepherd in the church—a pastor—learns how to do these things from Scripture, the truth which he uses in order to minister to the sheep.

An example of this may be that  in a postmodern, postconservative environment a pastor will be faced with questions concerning the sufficiency of God’s general revelation through nature (Rom 1:18-21) verses that which is found in His special revelation, which is Scripture. He may be confronted with questions like; what about folks who never had the chance to hear the Gospel, or did Job have the Scriptures, or even what about Melchizedek (Gen 14:18; Heb 7:1)?3  A pastor who has a biblical understanding that truth is God’s self-revelation can go to Scripture in order to assist the one with questions gain a thorough and biblical understanding of the purposes of both God’s general and special revelation. In the same passage cited previously from Romans, the pastor will be able to explain that God’s general revelation is given so that He is made known to mankind and in turn mankind is made universally accountable.4 Likewise, the same pastor could then move the questioner to Psalm 19 in order to demonstrate that though general revelation declares God’s glory, it is special revelation—His law, testimony, precepts, and commandments—which bring about changes in men (Ps 19:7-11).

Only by acknowledging that there is a standard to follow and that it matters whether or not you do, can the pastor develop and then apply in ministry a biblical understanding of truth.

Truth and Theology

It may seem that the challenges that face the pastor and other Christians in the postmodern culture are more daunting than those of any other time; however this is probably only a matter of perspective. Was Paul any less challenged while in Athens where the men whiled away the day in nothing more than hearing something new (Acts 17:21)? No; however instead of cowering, he made a defense of the faith once and for all delivered (Jude 3) and introduced to them the God of the universe (Acts 17:22-31). And what is more, he did it in a way that postmodernist both affirm and hate; he used a narrative to tell the story of God from creation to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ while using propositional statements of truth.Theology Comic Strip

If Christians today are to be able to grow, learn and spread the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, they must not shy away from the truth. If making logical statements of truth which affirm or deny something, and expressing those statements in such a way that they must be accepted as either true or false is called for, then it should be done.5 However, Christians must also not be afraid to engage the story of Scripture; for God has indeed revealed Himself through history in a way that can be logically followed in a narrative for a reason, so that Christians everywhere in every time might know Him, in order to worship Him. It is the role and duty of every Christian and especially pastors to be a slave to the truth found in Scripture and to examine every doctrine through its lens.

In closing there are two things left to be said, the first concerning presuppositions, the second concerning authority.Throughout this article certain presuppositions have been made but not necessarily listed nor explained, that will be remedied now. The first of these presuppositions is one that the Bible makes in Gen 1:1, that there is indeed a God and He is the Creator of all things. Furthermore, that God is a Triune God being equally Father, Son and Holy Spirit but only One God. Flowing from this presumption is a subordinate presupposition which is; it has been presumed that the Bible is God’s Word, because it says it is.6John 17,17

The second presupposition is that everyone who makes an appeal to the truth makes that appeal based on some authority. In my case that authority is Scripture – God’s Word. This acknowledgement is also made in full knowledge that some who would read this article and disagree would then make accusations of circular reasoning or argumentation, and they would be right. However, that does not make the argument invalid for the very reason that any argument making an appeal to a higher authority must ultimately appeal to that same authority for proof. 7 The key difference is that I not only acknowledge, but glory in the fact that my higher authority is outside myself, unlike the postmodernist.

Ultimately, the question of truth comes down to just that; where is your source? For the postmodernist it would seem that the questioning and deconstructing of any claim to truth puts humans in the judgment seat, making them the source of authority. The Christian on the other hand, finds his or her source of truth in the triune God of the universe. Not only is this view biblical but it is also rational, because truth exists outside of man and remains the same regardless of how he may perceive it.8

 

  1. John MacArthur, The Truth War: Fighting For Certainty in an Age of Deception (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), xvi.
  2. Charles Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd: The Privileges and Responsibilities of Pastoral Leadership (Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade, 2006), 33-56.
  3. Andrew Snider, “TH605 Theology I: Class Notes.” (unpublished notes, The Master’s Seminary, 2012), 35-7.
  4. Ibid., 37.
  5. MacArthur, 14.
  6. For a full treatment of this subject including nearly exhaustive Scriptural references see Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 73-8.
  7. Ibid., 78
  8. MacArthur, xx.
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