“You lied to me!,” an exclamation that has ended more than one young budding romance, and perhaps a few others in full blossom. But more than a statement which often signals the ending of a relationship it is an acknowledgment of something more; that there are such things as true statements (truth) and false ones (lies). As subtle as this acknowledgement may seem it is indeed an important one especially within the postmodern society we find ourselves living in today.
Ours is a society which leans toward a dismissal of any possibility of sure and settled knowledge of the truth; because everyone is entitled to his or her own truth.1 An outpouring of this thinking has been moral relativism which is a way of looking at the world that says what is right or wrong for each person depends upon what that particular person thinks is morally right or wrong.2 This worldview or system of thought settles the question of the source of truth or authority to determine the truth by investing that authority in each individual.
But the question must be asked; is this correct? Is the source of truth really to be found in the heart and mind of each individual? And if this is so, can what is true for one be false for another? It will be the focus of this article (presented in two parts) to attempt to answer these questions by examining the source and substance of truth, how this affects the Christian’s approach to Scripture, a pastor’s ministry to his flock, and ultimately how doing theology is affected in the context of Christian ministry.
In order to address the aforementioned questions in an orderly manner a foundation must be laid by asking and answering the question; what is truth?
There are many in today’s society and even within evangelicalism who may believe they are the first to seek after truth or more precisely its substance, however they are mistaken. The Bible records that even Jesus was asked this question in His interaction with Pilate prior to being crucified in John 18:38, ‘Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” 3 Jesus did not provide Pilate with an answer, but that is not to say He has given no answer at all for He has amply answered within the pages of Scripture.
One of the many places we can find an answer is in John 17, a section of Scripture referred to as Jesus’ high priestly prayer. In verse 17 of this chapter Jesus prays to God the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” From an exegetical standpoint, one must examine the construction of the sentence in the Greek text which comes out in the English translation.(Spoiler Alert – this is when I get all “Seminoid” on you for a minute, but just hold on it won’t last long and it will be worth the read.) As can be readily observed Jesus did not say that God’s word is merely “true,” but that it is truth itself.4 Jesus does not use an adjectival form of the word ἀλήθειά but instead he used the noun in the nominative case, the same case as the subject of the sentence, ὁ λόγος, these two nouns are connected by a verb of being, ἐστιν. This grammatical construction places the term truth in the position of being the predicate nominative which in this case is a convertible proposition. This means that God’s Word is equal to the truth and the truth is equal to God’s Word.5 Keeping this in view, one must acknowledge that truth and meaning are not determined by one’s intuition, experience, or desire, because the true meaning of anything has already been set in the mind of God.6 It is on this foundation that one must build in order to properly approach the Bible as God’s Word.
Furthermore, the Bible reveals that truth is indeed more than propositional statements and narrative history—a claim touted by postmodernists at every turn—it is a person, Jesus Christ. Referring back to John’s Gospel once more, Jesus Himself in answering Thomas’ question answers, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”(John 14:6, emphasis added). So if Jesus is the revelation of the nature of God in human form, and Scripture is the written revelation of God to man, how can both be truth? This question may best be answered by MacArthur, who says;
Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God—truth is the self-expression of God.7
Using this definition, it is not hard to reconcile that both Jesus and Scripture are the truth, as each of them embody the self-revelation of God. Furthermore, if one searches the Scriptures, Jesus will be revealed because truth can be analyzed and examined and compared under the light of other truth.8 The practice of comparing truth to itself should be a reminder to all believers that they should emulate the Bereans of Acts 17, in order to determine if the claims of the world hold up to Scripture, which is the truth.
Now that we have determined the source and substance of Truth as it is presented in Holy Scripture, we can move on to how Truth should affect the individual Christian, the Pastor, and theology in general in our increasingly Post-Modern World. So be sure to tune back in – in two weeks – same bat-time, same bat-channel!
- John MacArthur, The Truth War: Fighting For Certainty in an Age of Deception (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 10-1. ↩
- Ryan Dobson with Jefferson Scott, Be Intolerant (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 2003), 22. ↩
- All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, within the body of this paper taken from NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright© 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org. ↩
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 83. ↩
- Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics 5.0 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 39-49. ↩
- MacArthur, xxi. ↩
- Ibid, 2. ↩
- Ibid., 13 ↩