Volume 26 - Issue 1
The Biblical View of Truth Challenges Postmodernist Truth DecayBy Douglas Groothuis
A venerable old Russian proverb claims that ‘One word of truth outweighs the world’. Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn mounted a decades-long, suffering-ridden campaign for truth on the basis of this proverb, believing that an entire communist regime would not forever resist, repress or refute the stubborn realities that witnessed against it. Having found God in the Gulag, and against all odds, Solzhenitsyn staked his life on the hope that the truth would prevail and that his calling would be vindicated—even in the face of entrenched ideology, massive propaganda, systematic oppression, and pure terror. Though the history books be rewritten, the dissidents silenced, and the masses misled, the truth itself would stand firm and upright. It could not be beaten into submission to falsehood. And Solzhenitsyn, under God, would be its prophet.
Nearly two hundred years after the founding of America, a moral reformer called his country to be true to its constituting ideals. On August 28, 1963, before over two hundred thousand people gathered between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jnr explained the purpose of this historic gathering:
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.1
‘But!, King lamented, it ‘is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of colour are concerned’. Nevertheless, the civil rights leader passionately intoned, ‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “we hold these truths to be self evident; that all men are created equal”,’2 and that one day
all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘free at last! free at last! thank God almighty, we are free at last!’3
King’s flair for oratory should not obscure the philosophical assumptions on which his earnest and articulate outcry was founded. His moral appeal flowed from his conviction that America’s deepest ideals, though imperfectly implemented, were true to a moral reality larger than America itself. His hope was animated by his belief that a greater measure of justice was attainable through the struggles of the oppressed, the repentance of the oppressors, and the providence of God Almighty. Truth would win out in the end—despite the snarling police dogs, the gushing fire hoses, the bombed black churches and the political damage control of an establishment unwilling to grant full personhood and the rights thereof to African-American citizens.
For millennia, a resolute confidence about truth has summoned philosophers, prophets, reformers and even a few politicians to defy convention and resist illicit authority, whether secular or ecclesiastical. When Professor Martin Luther affirmed the newly rediscovered doctrine of justification by faith alone—a truth that would galvanise and energise the Reformation—he confronted both state and church power by saying, ‘Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me’.
The very phrase, ‘speaking truth to power’, so often invoked by idealists and activists of many stripes, rests on the assurance that truth is owned by no one, is rejected at one’s peril, and contains a dynamic greater than any error. Whether we find Socrates suffering death at the hand of the state rather than recant his teachings, or envision Gandhi standing unarmed for Indian independence against the British imperial forces, or remember our American suffragists fighting for the right of women to vote in a male-dominated society, heroes have heretofore been defined and esteemed by their adherence to truth and their willingness to suffer all on its behalf.
Truth In Decay
Surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, American philosopher Richard Rorty sounds a different note. Following his hero, John Dewey, he asserts that ‘Truth is what my colleagues let me get away with’.4Rorty and a raft of other academics in philosophy, history, psychology, law, sociology, anthropology, and even theology have abandoned the classical and commonsensical view of truth that lies at the heart of the examples given above and have instead embraced a concept of truth that undermines any sense of absolute, objective, and universal verity. The idea of truth as objective, we are told, must be abandoned with the demise of modernism, which is regarded as the misguided attempt of the Enlightenment to attain objective certitude on matters of philosophical, scientific, and moral concern. We are postmodern now, and have left behind such grandiose endeavours for the sake of more modest aims.
For these postmodern thinkers, the very idea of truth has decayed and disintegrated. It is no longer something knowable by anyone who engages in the proper forms of investigation and study. Truth is not over and above us, something that can be conveyed across cultures and over time. It is inseparable from our cultural conditioning, our psychology, our race, and our gender. At the end of the day, truth is simply what we, as individuals and as communities, make it to be—and nothing more. Truth dissolves into a host of disconnected ‘truths’, all equal to each other but unrelated to one another: there is no overall, rational scheme of things. One chronicler of postmodernism, Walter Truett Anderson, explains it this way:
Postmodernity challenges the view that the truth is—as Isaiah Berlin put it—one and undivided, the same for all men everywhere at all times. The newer view regards any truth as socially constructed, contingent, inseparable from the peculiar needs and preferences of certain people in a certain time and place. This notion has many implications—it leaves no value, custom, belief, or eternal verity totally untouched.5
But truth decay is not occurring only in the halls of the academy, where isolated and idiosyncratic professors advance strange theories before their curious colleagues and captive students. It is everywhere in postmodern culture, often more assumed than argued for, more in the air than on the mind. Truth decay dominates most television programmes, the cinema, best-selling books, and popular songs.
Truth decay insinuates itself even into churches, Christian colleges, and seminaries. During a somewhat heated debate on the nature of truth at a conference on postmodernism at which I had spoken, a man who teaches philosophy at a Christian college told me that objective knowledge is impossible and that he rejects the idea that our ideas can correspond to an external reality. When I asked him if the law of gravity would be true if no one were on earth at the time, he replied, ‘No. Truth is limited to our language’. Philip Kenneson, another professor at a Christian college, also propounds the notion that ‘there is no such thing as objective truth, and it’s a good thing, too’.6 Author and chaplain William Willimon stated in an article in Christianity Today that ‘Christians who argue for the “objective” truth of Jesus are making a tactical error’, because ‘Jesus did not arrive among us enunciating a set of propositions that we are to affirm’.7
Such decay is evident in the fact that various polls have shown that high percentages of self-proclaimed evangelicals do not believe. A woman I know startled a table of Christian women at a luncheon by saying that her mission in life was to discover the truth and apply it to life. It was, apparently, a new thought for them.
Understanding Truth Decay
Truth decay is a cultural condition in which the very idea of absolute, objective and universal truth is considered implausible or held in open contempt. The reasons for truth decay are both philosophical and sociological, rooted in the intellectual world of ideas as well the cultural world of everyday experience. These two worlds reinforce one another. Postmodern culture—with its increasing pluralism, relativism, information overload, heightened mobility, identity confusions, and so forth—makes postmodernist philosophy seem more plausible. However, merely living in this cultural context does not mean that one must become a postmodernist on matters of truth, however tempting that may be to some.
The truth itself does not decay. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘The grass withers, and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever’ (Is. 40:8). Likewise, Jesus affirmed that ‘heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away’ (Matt. 24:35). Yet, the human grasp of truth in a fallen world may loosen or slip. ‘Truth has stumbled in the streets’, Isaiah lamented (Is. 59:14). Jeremiah also declared to an apostate Israel, ‘Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips’ (Jer. 7:28).
When Pontius Pilate interrogated Jesus before his crucifixion, Jesus proclaimed, ‘Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’ (John 18:37). To this Pilate replied, ‘What is truth?’ and immediately left Jesus to address the Jews who wanted Christ crucified (38). As philosopher Francis Bacon wrote, ‘What is truth? said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer.’8 Although we have no record of any reply by Jesus, Christians affirm that Pilate was staring Truth in the face, for Jesus had stated earlier to Thomas, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’ (John 14:6).
This raises the perennial question of the nature of truth. What does it mean for a statement, a philosophy or a religion to be true? This has been the subject of much debate in postmodernist circles, where the traditional view of truth as objective and knowable is no longer accepted. Even outside of academic discussions, people may be as cynical about truth as was Pilate. ‘What is truth?’ they smirk, without waiting for an answer. Unless we are clear about what it means for something to be true, any religious or moral claim to truth—Christian or otherwise—will perplex more than enlighten. Before attempting to determine which claims are true, we need to understand the nature of truth itself. Or as Francis Schaeffer put it, we need to distinguish the content of truth (what statements are true) from the concept of truth (what truth is), because our view of truth itself shapes everything about us.9
The problem with postmoderns is that they have made peace with a poisonous view of truth, an untrue view of truth. It is one kind of problem to believe an untruth, to take as fact something that in reality is a falsehood, yet still believe that truth exists and can be known. If one believes, for instance, that Jesus never claimed to be God Incarnate, historical evidence can be marshalled to refute this claim. However, it is another kind of problem too if one believes that truth itself is merely a matter of personal belief and social custom, so that the truth about Jesus depends on who you take him to be; in this case, no amount of evidence or argument about particular matters of fact will change one’s belief. The argument must, instead, be shifted to the very nature of truth itself.
Even though ‘the need of truth is more sacred than any other need’,10 as Simone Weil put it, this nutrient for the soul is often scuttled and usurped by a desire for lesser goods. C.S. Lewis captured this problem a generation ago in the Screwtape Letters, where a senior demon, Screwtape, instructs a lower-ranking demon, Wormwood, in the art of deception. His insights are a warning of things to come. Instead of using logical arguments to keep someone from following Christ, Wormwood is advised keep the Christian’s mind off the very idea of sound reasoning leading to true conclusions. After all, Screwtape observes,
Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily ‘true’ or ‘false’, but as ‘academic’ or ‘practical’, ‘outworn’ or ‘contemporary’, ‘conventional’ or ‘ruthless’. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church.11
Argument shifts the man’s thoughts ‘onto the Enemy’s own ground’, and by ‘the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?’ Wormwood must see to it that his man avoids the ‘fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences’.12 Attending to ‘universal issues’—to matters of objective and eternal verity—is just too dangerous, from the demonic perspective. Being concerned with ‘real life’, meaning the unreflective immersion in the immediate, is far safer—and much more postmodern. But just don’t think too much about what ‘real’ actually means.13
Truth decay has ramifications for all religious truth claims, including those of Christianity, because all schemas of the sacred claim to represent ultimate reality, whether it be the Tao, Brahman, Nirvana, Allah, or the Trinity. But truth decay also affects every other area of life, from politics to art to law to history. If the idea of objective truth falls into disrepute, politics devolves into nothing but image manipulation and power mongering. Social consensus and the duties of shared citizenship become irrelevant and impossible as various subsets of the population—differentiated by race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation—grasp for power by claiming unimpeachable authority on the basis of their cultural particularities: ‘it’s a black thing; you wouldn’t understand’, or ‘It’s a woman’s thing; men just don’t get if. If there is no beauty beyond the eye of the beholder, art becomes merely a tool for social influence and personal expression; the category of obscenity is as obsolete as the ideal of beauty. If law is not grounded in a moral order that transcends any criminal code or constitution it becomes a set of malleable and ultimately arbitrary edicts. If no objective facts can be discerned from the past the novel cannot be distinguished from the historical, nor mythology differentiated from biography. History becomes a tool for special interest groups who rewrite the past on the basis of their predilections, without the possibility of rational critique from outside the group.
These interrelated elements of truth decay energise the culture wars that besiege our postmodern times. Just as warfare between nations breaks out after the breakdown of diplomacy, and civil wars break out after the breakdown of agreed upon legal norms, so culture wars break out after the breakdown of a consensual understanding of truth as objective and knowable through rational investigation and persuasion. When reasonable debate serves no purpose in achieving a knowledge of truth, all that remains are the machinations of power—whether the cause be racial, sexual or religious. Citizens become tribespeople with little sense of the commonweal. The maxim of ‘speaking truth to power’ is transformed into ‘mobilising power to overcome the other’s power’.
Although the Bible does not present a carefully nuanced philosophical discussion of the nature of truth, it does offer a unified perspective on the matter of truth and falsity that flatly opposes the postmodernist orientation. It speaks authoritatively not only on what things are true but on the nature of truth itself. The biblical view of the nature of truth was common in the cultures for which it was originally written, but this view can be rigorously defended before the postmodern world as well. We will discuss the biblical notion of truth and then advance a more philosophical exposition and defence of that view against postmodernist rejections of it.
Biblical Language and the Nature of Truth
The Scriptures use the Hebrew and Greek words for truth and their 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’ and ‘stability’. From this root flows the twofold notion of truth as faithfulness and conformity to fact.14
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 Chr. 15:3). Through Isaiah, God declares. ‘I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right’ (Is. 45:19). Likewise, people need to respond to the God of truth in truth: ‘The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth’ (Ps. 145:18).
The Hebrew ‘emet can also represent ‘that which is conformed to reality in contrast to anything that would be erroneous or deceitful’.15 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). After Elijah raised from the dead the widow of Zarephath’s son, she exclaimed that ‘the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth’ (1 Kgs 17:24). ‘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) or ‘your law is true’ (Ps. 119:142).
Roger Nicole explains that faithfulness and conformity to fact are
converging lines of meaning 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.16
There is no indication that truth in the Hebrew Bible is another word for belief or mere social custom, since beliefs can be false and customs be opposed to God’s will. ‘The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who are truthful’ (Prov. 12:22). 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). When Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he drew a stark contrast between irreconcilable options: ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him?’ (1 Kgs 18:21). The ensuing power confrontation vindicated Elijah’s God as the one who was the faithful and true God. After God sent fire to consume the sacrifice left unchanged by the pleas of Baal’s frantic followers, the people ‘fell prostrate and cried. “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God” ’ (1 Kgs 18:39). Nicole notes that ‘the clear and insistent witness of the OT in condemnation of all lies and deceit reinforces its strong commendation of ‘emet as faithfulness and veracity’.17
Although some scholars have posited a great difference between the Hebrew and Greek notions of truth, the Greek NT’s understanding of truth is consistent with that of the Hebrew Scriptures. The NT word aletheiaand its derivations retain the Hebrew idea of ‘conformity to fact’ expressed in ‘emet. To cite just one book of the NT, the Gospel of John employs aletheia (‘truth’) and related words very frequently in a variety of settings. ‘John uses truth vocabulary in its conventional sense of veracity/genuineness/opposite of false; but also develops his own particular meaning, where truth refers to the reality of God the Father revealed in Jesus the Son’.18 John’s understanding of truth presupposes a correspondence view of truth, but it also builds this foundation theologically by adding specific content concerning the manifestation of truth in Jesus Christ (John 7:28; 8:16).19
The related idea of faithfulness is typically expressed bywords in the family of pistos, which are translated as: faithful, reliable, or trustworthy.20 The NT frequently combines the words ‘grace and truth’, which is reminiscent of the Hebrew phrase ‘mercy and truth’. Jesus is ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14) and ‘grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’ (John 1:17). Another fact that shows the continuity between the two Testaments’ view of truth is the NT’s use of the Hebrew ‘amen’, which occurs 129 times.21 This is typically translated as ‘truly’ or ‘I tell you the truth’, as when Jesus says, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’. In Revelation 3:14, the glorified Christ refers to himself as ‘the Amen, the faithful and true witness’. Each member of the Trinity is closely associated with truth in the NT. In praying for his disciples Jesus says, ‘Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth’ (John 17:17). The gospel is sometimes called ‘the truth of Christ’ (2 Cor. 11:10). The Holy Spirit is called ‘the Spirit of Truth’ (John 14:17; 15:26) or simply ‘the truth’ (1 John 5:6).
According to Nicole, ‘The primary New Testament emphasis is clearly on truth as conformity to reality and opposition to lies and errors’.22 Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the NT draw a clear contrast between truth and error. John warns of distinguishing the ‘Spirit of Truth and the spirit of falsehood’ (1 John 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’ (John 18:37). Pilate took the side of falsehood.
In another group of passages, mostly in John’s writings, ‘the contrast is not so much between correct and false, but rather between complete and incomplete, definitive and provisional, full-orbed and partial’.23 For instance, ‘the law came through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’ (John 1:17). Christ’s truth completed what was anticipated in the law.24
New Testament scholar, Leon Morris points out that the Apostle Paul often uses the noun aletheia, which Paul knows to mean ‘that truth is accuracy over against falsehood’. Paul also refers ‘to speaking the truth just as we commonly do (Eph. 4:25; 1 Tim. 2:7).25 Paul develops this basic concept of accuracy in a rich and full way in his references to ‘the truth of God’ (Rom. 1:25; 3:7; 15:8) and the ‘judgement of God’ as ‘according to truth’ (Rom. 2:2). Morris comments that for Paul ‘human judgements might be biased according to class or creed, but with God truth is the only consideration’.26 Paul finds truth in the OT Law (Rom. 2:20), in God’s creation (Rom. 1:18–20), and supremely in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:21; see also John 14:6). This claim about Christ is that ‘the revelation of truth in Jesus is utterly reliable’.27 Paul also writes of the truth of the gospel (Col. 1:15; Gal. 2:5; Eph. 1:13). As Morris notes:
The truth that is so closely bound up with God finds its expression here on earth in the gospel, which sets out the ultimate truth of the love of God especially as shown in the cross, the sinfulness of the human race, and the provision God has made for salvation. The gospel and truth are closely connected. This is so also in the passage in which Paul speaks of God’s will for people ‘to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth’ (1 Tim. 2:4).28
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 such a 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’.29 The Bible does not present truth as a cultural creation of the ancient Jews or the early Christians. 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.
The Distinctives of the Biblical View of Truth
We need to amplify the character of the truth described above and draw some contrasts with postmodernist claims. There are several core aspects to a biblical view of truth, especially in regard to the great truths of God’s redemptive programme. In explaining these crucial categories of the nature of biblical truth I do not mean to imply that I or anyone else has perfectly grasped the nature or extent of God’s truth. We all err in many ways, not least of which in our thinking about the most important truth of all—God! However, I believe this discussion helps open up what Scripture claims about God’s revelation.
Truth is revealed by God
Truth is not constructed or invented by individuals and/or communities. Various beliefs may be the result of human invention and group construction, but truth comes from the disclosure of a personal and moral God who makes himself known. Paul’s letter to the Romans, for instance, tells us that God has made his existence known through both creation and human conscience, so that all people are ‘without excuse’ before their Creator and Lawgiver (2:14–15). Those who suppressed this revealed truth in wickedness (1:18) crafted idols instead of worshipping God (1:21–25); but in so doing ‘they exchanged the truth of God for a lie’ (1:25). Lies become idols, and every idol obscures the truth. This is because all idols are unrealities in deceptive dress, untruths, shabby social constructions of the supposed sacred.
Besides revealing himself generally through creation and conscience, God has revealed the particular truths of salvation through his mighty deeds in history, the incarnation, and in the sixty-six books of Holy Scripture. The writer of Hebrews declares the nature of God’s revelation: ‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (Heb. 4:12). The word of God is a revelation from a transcendent, holy and communicative being, and so has an inner dynamism that rises above the psychology, sociology, and politics of its readers, even though it is mediated through the particular cultural forms of its original context. For Paul, Scripture is divinely inspired: ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ (2 Tim. 3:16). G.K. Chesterton captured the meaning of divine revelation, as opposed to human construction, when he affirmed this about the Christian faith: ‘I won’t call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me’.30 This stress on God’s authority and ownership of truth should give followers of Christ a deep sense of anchorage in a divine reality beyond themselves. Their faith is not a ‘religious preference’ but has an indissoluble reference to revealed truths.
The Christian world-view, contra-postmodernism, understands language not as a self-referential, merely human, and ultimately arbitrary system of signs that is reducible to contingent cultural factors, but as the gift of a rational God entrusted to beings made in his own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26). ‘In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God and the Word was God’ (John 1:1–2). Communication has eternally existed between all the members of the Trinity, and continues as God speaks to us—through creation, conscience, and Scripture—and as we speak truth to each other and to God. Human language has been wounded by the fall and fractured by the judgement at Babel (Genesis 11), but is not thrown down for the count. Language is God’s vehicle for conveying truth, although it may be clouded in much of our experience (as evidenced by the density and outright unintelligibility of much postmodernist writing).31
God’s disclosure of himself through revelation is not an existential experience devoid of rational, knowable content. God reveals objective truth about himself. J.P. Moreland makes this point with respect to biblical revelation:
The central biblical terms of revelation—galah (Hebrew), apocalupto, paneroo (Greek)—express the idea of revealing, disclosing, making manifest or known. When we affirm that the Bible is a revelation from God, we do not simply assert that God as a person is known in and through it. We also mean that God has revealed understandable, objectively true propositions. The Lord’s Word is not only practically useful, it is also theoretically true (John 17:17). God has revealed truth to us and not just himself.32
Objective truth exists and is knowable
The claim that God has revealed himself to us presupposes objective truth as the cognitive content of revelation. God is the source of objective truth about himself and his creation. Unlike a Platonic view that makes truth abstract and independent of God’s being and revelation, the biblical view deems truth to be personal in that it ultimately issues from a personal God. But truth is also objective because God is the final court of appeal, the source of all truth, by virtue of his nature and his will. Objective truth is truth that is not dependent on any creature’s subjective feelings, desires, or beliefs. Paul makes this point when he discusses the unbelief of some Jews: ‘What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every person a liar’ (Rom. 3:3–4). God’s truth is not dependent upon any individual’s or group’s experiences or interpretations, however strongly felt or culturally entrenched they may be.
George Barna claims that 80 per cent of Americans ‘believe that the Bible includes the statement that “God helps those who help themselves” ’.33 But the numbers say nothing concerning the facts of the matter because this folk belief is not based on any objective reality and woefully contradicts the biblical teaching on God’s grace (Eph. 2:8–9; Titus 3:3–8).
The biblical emphasis on objective truth does not minimize the imperative to make God’s truth subjectively or existentially one’s own; rather, it sharpens and deepens the need for authentic personal experience. Believing in objective truth does not mean one is neutral or detached concerning that truth. Truth matters mightily, particularly the saving and sanctifying truth of the gospel. Biblical faith involves assent to true doctrine (derived from biblical revelation) as a necessary element of saving faith and growth in Christ, but it also demands trust and commitment to the flaming truths to which one gives assent.34 The objective truth must be subjectively appropriated. Deeper and more personal yet, one should entrust oneself to the very God of truth, the one ‘to whom we must give account’ (Heb. 4:13). When Paul was labouring to persuade the Galatians not to follow the error of the Judaizers, he spoke to them as ‘my dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you’ (Gal. 4:19). This highlights the need for biblical truth to stick to the soul and transform the whole person into greater Christlikeness. As David prayed, ‘Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place’ (Ps. 51:6).
Neither does the objectivity of God’s truth diminish the reality of the church as an interactive and interdependent community of believers. Postmodernism has tended to stress community norms and practices over the existence of objective truth, but biblically there should be no conflict between the two. The church, as the community of God, was born through truth and is constituted by the truth. Therefore, Paul calls the church ‘the pillar and foundation of the truth’ (1 Tim. 3:15). He also desires that the church mature to the degree that members ‘speak the truth in love’ to one another (Eph. 4:15). The worship, teaching, preaching, fellowship, outreach and service of the church must all be centred on revealed and objective truth as its unifying and impelling dynamic. The Body of Christ, like Christ himself, must ‘bear witness to the truth’ (John 18:36).
Christian truth is absolute in nature
This means that God’s truth is invariant. God’s truth is true without exception or exemption. Neither is it relative, shifting, or revisable. The weather may change, but God will not. An example from physics helps to illustrate the concept. According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, the speed of light is an absolute limit in physics; nothing can travel faster. For this reason Einstein almost called his model idea ‘the theory of invariance’. He named it ‘the theory of relativity’ not because everything is relative, but because things are relative to what is invariant or absolute, namely, the speed of light.35
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’ (John 14:6). There is no exception or exemption from this claim: there is but one way to the Father, Jesus himself. Facing the pluralism of the ancient Mediterranean world, Paul was so bold as to say this in his discussion of food offered to idols:
We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live (1 Cor. 8:4–6).
The truth of the gospel is not subject to any human veto or democratic procedures. Jesus was not elected Lord by humans, but chosen by God; nor can he be dethroned by any human effort or opinion or insurrection. Jesus declared, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son’ (John 3:16). Jesus is an only child, without peer and beyond challenge.
The insistence on absolute truth is a massive and sharp stumbling block for postmoderns—given their absolute abhorrence of the absolute—but it cannot be softened or avoided if believers are to remain faithful to the truth of God. In Barna’s annual surveys he asks a random sample of adults their opinion on this statement: ‘There is no such thing as absolute truth: two people could define truth in totally conflicting ways, but both could still be correct’. He found that between 1991 and 1994 the percentage of those who agree with this statement grew faster among Christians than non-Christians, with 62 per cent of Christians rejecting absolute truth in 1994.36 Charles Colson comments that ‘believers cannot present a credible defence of biblical truth when more than half don’t even believe in real truth’.37
The notion of absolute truth is sometimes misunderstood and rejected for false reasons. Consider, for instance, the following statement: ‘Jesus alone is Lord and provides the only way for anyone to reconciled to God’. There are several things this statement does not mean.
First, it does not mean that Christians claim to have unlimited or perfect knowledge about God or humanity—or anything else. It simply means that God has revealed his one way of salvation through Christ and made this known in history, as recorded in Scripture and as illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Those who know Jesus as Lord confess his absoluteness, not their own. Christ’s supremacy means our dependency. 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.
Second, to confess the absolute truth of Christ does not entail that one must be able to prove it absolutely to anyone on command. The nature of truth and its verification are two different matters. For instance, a mathematical problem has only one correct answer, but the calculation of that answer may be quite long and involved. The defence of the Christian worldview (apologetics) involves many intellectual claims and counterclaims, but this does not detract from the absoluteness of the truth that is being defended.
Third, holding to absolute truth does not remove one from the give-and-take of logical argument and the presentation of evidence. Sadly, many Christians confess Christ’s absoluteness and then resolutely refuse to engage in any apologetic discussion of the matter. This leads their questioners to conclude that Christian faith is not only absolutely unshakeable, but absolutely unconvincing. Yet a solid conviction of truth should lead to intellectual satisfaction and contentment, as well as the willingness to dialogue. As Harry Blamires put it in his classic The Christian Mind, ‘If one is conscious of drawing one’s convictions from a solid, deep-rooted tradition, one inevitably has a sense of quiet assurance in one’s beliefs and a feeling that is the reverse of touchy defensiveness’.38
Fourth, to claim that the truth about God and God’s ways with humanity is absolute is not to claim that Christians are inerrant in their understanding about every aspect of their faith. The Apostle Peter, a personal disciple of Jesus Christ, stubbornly refused to believe that Gentiles could be full participants in the new order of redemption revealed through Jesus until God gave him a vision to dispel his theological narrowness (Acts 10:9–48). Christians should be open to having their theology corrected and deepened through prolonged intellectual engagement with fellow believers and non-Christians alike. If the core of their faith is indeed absolutely true, there is nothing to fear—and much to gain—from such a dialogue. J. Gresham Machen was a staunch defender of the fundamentals of the faith against those who would undermine it; yet he realised that our grasp of the truth always needs to be refined and improved. Theology can progress because our errors can be corrected by God’s truth. Theology is
a setting forth of those facts upon which experience is based. It is not indeed a complete setting forth of those facts, and therefore progress in theology becomes possible; it may be true so far as it goes; and only because there is that possibility of attaining truth and of setting it forth ever more completely can there be progress.39
More positively, though, the absolute truth of Jesus Christ frees erring and needy mortals from the confusion of a welter of conflicting religious claims. God is focused in Jesus and not spread all over the map. There is one way out of the spiritual maze—if one looks up to the cross. As Jesus said, ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life’ (John 3:15).40
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 are not circumscribed or restricted by cultural conditions. When Peter was preaching before the Jewish religious authorities, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and declared in crystal clear terms concerning Jesus of Nazareth: ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humanity by which we must we saved’ (Acts 4:12). This includes everyone and excludes noone. Salvation is offered to all humanity, not just a particular group of people. Paul further extends the universality of the gospel by affirming the supremacy of the risen Christ, ‘not only in the present age, but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church’ (Eph. 1:21–22). The scope of Christ’s authority is unlimited. Paul further expands on this in his great Christological hymn that declares that because Christ Jesus, though ‘being in very nature God’, emptied himself to come to earth for our salvation, God the Father ‘exalted him to the highest place, and gave him the name that is above every name’. In light of this, ‘every knee should bow’ and ‘every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Phil. 2:6, 9–10). Evangelical theologian Carl Henry drives this home:
Christianity contends that revelational truth is intelligible, expressible in valid propositions, and universally communicable. Christianity does not profess to communicate a meaning that is significant only within a particular community or culture. It expects men of all cultures and nations to comprehend its claims about God and insists that men everywhere ought to acknowledge and appropriate them.41
The universality of the gospel message is conceptually locked into the Great Commission. Jesus proclaims that he possesses all authority in the universe. On this basis, his disciples must disciple all the nations, baptising converts in the name of the Trinity, and teaching them all that Christ commanded. Those sent can take heart that Jesus will be with them always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:18–20). Jesus’ authority is universal, as is the field of mission, the scope of the teaching, and the duration of Christ’s fellowship.
The Book of Revelation gives us a powerful picture of the universal effects of the Great Commission. While not all who are offered the gospel will believe it and receive it, the Apostle John was privy to a heavenly vision of a vast and diverse multitude who accepted the truth of Jesus and worshipped him accordingly:
I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
‘Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:9–10; see also 5:9)
God’s truth is not provincial, parochial, or partial; it is universal in scope and application. Yet it also allows for unique cultural expression and the creative individuality of people made in the divine image and redeemed through the Lamb. The truth does not flatten us out into faceless conformity, but liberates each of us to be who we ought to be under the Lordship of Christ. Just as God provided for twelve different tribes in the Hebrew economy. Providence makes room for a diversity of gifts, personality types, and callings in Christ. Yet all exist because of, and under, God’s universal truth. As Jesus promised, ‘If you are truly my disciples, then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (John 8:31–32).
The truth of God is eternally engaging and momentous, not trendy or superficial
In postmodern times, our sensory environments are saturated with bright images, intrusive words and blaring sounds—all vying for our attention (and our funds). Fads, whether in advertising, politics or sports, come and go with increasing rapidity. It seems that nothing is settled or rooted or stable over time. In his book, The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion, Stephen Carter laments that for many people (and the state), religion is little more than a hobby, something with which to amuse oneself, or a kind of curiosity for when the mood strikes, but not something to take all that seriously, especially in matters of legality.42
Yet beyond empty ephemeralities, there lies ‘the Rock of ages’. Beyond the fragility of shifting tastes, hobby horses, and market fluctuations stands the Word of the Lord, resolute and rooted in the eternal God of the universe. ‘The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God lives forever’ (Is. 40:8). ‘Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens’ (Ps. 119:89). And as God declared to his rebellious people: ‘I the Lord do not change’ (Mal. 3:6). God remains faithful to his covenant with creation and to the community he summons forth. His word endures and is reliable, from age to age. James combines the eternal trustworthiness of God with divine goodness and truth:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created (Jas 1:17–18).
God’s truth is grounded in God’s eternal being. It has no expiration date and needs no image make-overs. Moreover, it is not an inert and abstract kind of truth, such as that of mathematics, but a living, personal, and dynamic truth—a truth that transcends the transient trivialities of our age and touches us at the deepest levels of our beings by including us in an eternal drama. This truth transforms us, as David knew well: ‘I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you’ (Ps. 119:11).
While postmodernists are enamoured of stories and narratives, they demur when it comes to meta-narratives, deeming them hopelessly ideological and debunked by the failures of history. But God’s eternal truth involves the meta-narrative of divine Providence. Being a disciple of Jesus alerts us to the grand themes of God’s story and the unfolding of his eternal plan of creation, fall, and redemption. Christians live, as Kierkegaard put it, ‘under the audit of eternity’ and within the vicissitudes of the divine drama.43Everything matters, when viewed under the eternal audit.
Far from being trivial, the truth of God made known to a rebellious planet is perennially engaging and continually controversial. Because of this, followers of Jesus are enlisted in the great debate for the hearts and minds of immortal beings. The stakes are infinite, the participants precious. The eternal God offers eternal life through ‘the blood of Christ’ who ‘offered himself unblemished to God’ to ‘cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God’ and ‘receive the promised eternal inheritance’ (Heb. 9:14–15). The truth is deathless, but the ‘second death’ awaits those who reject God’s saving truth (Rev. 21:8). Because of its view of truth—the truth of Christ, of heaven, and of hell—the Christian claim is the highest stakes proposition on earth. God’s revelation of truth has eternal consequences for us all. As Os Guinness said, ‘Hell is nothing is nothing less than the truth known too late’.44
Truth is exclusive, specific, and antithetical
For every theological yes, there are a million nos. What is true excludes all that opposes it. This why God declares, ‘You shall worship no other gods before me’ (Ex. 20:3). If there is but one God, all other claimants are impostors. The inexorable logic of antithesis is also behind Jesus’ fearful utterance, ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it’ (Matt. 7:13). As R.J. Rushdoony commented, ‘Truth is exact and precise, and the slightest departure from the truth is the substitution of falsity for truth’.45 Exactitude in truth should be our goal, even if it is never our perfect achievement. While ‘all truth is God’s truth’, not all that claims to be true fits together logically and factually. Postmoderns find this hard to swallow, because of their taste for a smorgasbord of varying ‘truths’ selected and combined according to whim, fashion, feeling, or even frenzy. This was highlighted by a rather surreal exchange between Pastor Leith Anderson and a young man who asserted he believed in, (1) Reformed theology, (2) the inerrancy of Scripture, and (3) reincarnation—all without seeing the contradiction between believing in reincarnation and believing in a Bible and a theology that teaches resurrection! Because the young man did not think in terms of truth being exclusive (resurrection eliminates reincarnation), he held to both because he ‘liked’ both.46 One may like green peas and chocolate ice-cream without pain of logical contradiction, but resurrection (the once-for-all uniting of the soul with one immortal body) cannot be squared with reincarnation (the recycling of the soul through different many bodies over time).47
The logic of truth is the logic of the law (or principle) 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. Put another way, if one statement is true, its opposite cannot also be true in the same respect at the same time. If there is exactly one God, there cannot be more than one God. This logical principle is not the unique possession of Christianity, it is a truth of all creation. It is 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. Although God’s ways are above our ways (Is. 55:8–9), God is consistent and cannot lie (Titus 1:2). 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.48
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. As Schaeffer tersely, but truly, put it:
When a man says that thinking in terms of an antithesis is wrong, what he is really doing is using the concept of antithesis to deny antithesis. That is the way God has made us and there is no other way to think.49
Schaeffer, the great modern soldier for truth, was echoing Aristotle, Plato, all great philosophers—and Reality itself.50
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. The Christian cannot rest contented and happy in a world oozing with error. 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 17:16–17), which led to his famous Mars Hill 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 followers of ‘the Way’ (Acts 11:26) must lift their heads, take a few deep breaths, pray for courage and humility, and defend ‘the faith given once for all to the saints’ (Jude 3).
Anthropologist Ernest Gellner, who was a secular critic of postmodernism, paid tribute to monotheism when he said that the Enlightenment emphasis on ‘the uniqueness of truth’ and the hope of discovering nature’s objective secrets is rooted in monotheism’s avoidance of ‘the facile self-deception of universal relativism’.51 Gellner said:
It was a jealous Jehovah who really taught mankind the Law of Excluded Middle: Greek formalisation of logic (and geometry and grammar) probably would not have been sufficient on its own. Without a strong religious impulsion toward a single orderly world, and the consequent avoidance of opportunist, manipulative incoherence, the cognitive miracle (of the Enlightenment) would probably not have occurred.52
The law (or principle) of excluded middle trades on the same essential insight as the law of non-contradiction by stating that any factual statement and its denial cannot both be true. Either Jehovah is Lord or he is not Lord. There is no middle option. Jesus assumes this principle when he warns that ‘No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’ (Matt. 6:24). Although Gellner embraces the Enlightenment vision, which he deems more rational than Christianity, he respects monotheism for its insistence on a singular and knowable truth—against postmodernism’s ‘opportunist, manipulative incoherence’.53
The fires of theological antithesis are at work in the apostle Paul when he sharply warns the foolish Galatians not to embrace heretical teachings that opposed the gospel. Being ‘astonished’ that the Galatians were ‘so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ’ and were ‘turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all’ (Gal. 1:6–7), Paul drives home his point with passion and power in two passages:
Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you let that person be eternally condemned (Gal. 1:7–8).
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any human source, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11–12; cf. Acts 9).
The logic of Paul’s appeal is simply the logic of antithesis and exclusion. He is unwilling and unable to synthesise or amalgamate the truth of the gospel with the error of the Judaizers, who were bewitching his beloved flock of believers (Gal. 3:1). This truth is far too important to be compromised; the stakes are far too high for that, because only one gospel can deliver sinful people from eternal condemnation—the gospel of Jesus. Paul is not having a temper tantrum or throwing his apostolic weight around. No, he recognises the terms of the debate and the eternal implications of truth and falsehood for the soul.
Truth, Christianly understood, is systemic and unified
Truth is one, as God is one. All truths cohere with another as expressions of God’s harmonious objective reality—of his being, his knowledge, and his creation. Something cannot be true in religion and false in science (or vice versa), or true in philosophy but false in theology (or vice versa).54 There is only one world, God’s world; it is a universe, not a multi-verse. Although not a Christian, Wittgenstein understood this unity of truth well, ‘If a god creates a world in which certain propositions are true, he creates thereby also a world in which all propositions consequent to them are true’. This is because a ‘proposition asserts every proposition which follows from it’.55
In an age content with fragmented knowledge and conflicting opinions, Christians must strive for a well-integrated perspective on life that rings true wherever it is articulated. Nietzsche anticipated the postmodern mood when he opined: ‘I mistrust all systematisers and I avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity’.56 But Nietzsche was wrong. As Arthur Holmes put it, ‘In a universe subject to the rule of one creator-God … truth is seen as an interrelated and coherent whole.’57 All areas of thought and life should be brought under the cosmic lordship of Christ. Schaeffer challenges us in this:
It is no use saying he is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the Lord of all things, if he is not the Lord of my whole unified intellectual life. I am false or confused if I sing about Christ’s lordship and contrive to retain areas of my own life that are autonomous.58
In our finitude and fallenness, we often fail to see the harmony of God’s orchestration of all truths, but we strive to know what we can and to rest content with the mysteries framed by our knowledge. A fragmented and incoherent world-view is never the goal of the truth-seeking Christian.
Christian truth is an end, not a means to any other end
It should be desired and obtained for its own value. This flies in the face of postmodernist pragmatism, which reduces truth to social function or personal preference. As Harry Blamires declared,
There is no subtler perversion of Christian Faith than to treat it as a mere means to a worldly end, however admirable that end in itself may be. The Christian Faith is important because it is true. What it happens to achieve, in ourselves or in others, is another and, strictly speaking, secondary matter.59
Postmodernist spirituality deems truth as malleable and adaptable to one’s perceived needs and style. One’s ‘God-concept’ or ‘personal spirituality’ is formed irrespective of the idea of reality in and of itself. Truth, religious or otherwise, is what works—for me or for my social group. But Christian faith teaches that it works (or bears spiritual fruit) only because it is true.
The notion of spiritual truth as a means and not an end was hammered home to me by a college student who attended a lecture I gave on comparative religion in which I attempted to argue that all religions cannot be one in essence since they make such radically different truth-claims. She claimed that both Buddhism and Christianity can be true since Buddhists are helped by their Buddhist meditations and Christians benefit from their Christian prayers. To this, I gave an example of a married couple where one partner is committing adultery. The innocent partner is oblivious and thinks they have a good marriage. The marriage seems to ‘work’, but the reality is otherwise. Even if this scenario is somewhat unlikely, the illustration hit home, because the student then asked how we can ever know the truth at all. This scepticism (‘What is the truth?’) is better than pragmatism (‘Truth is nothing but what works’), because it allows for the existence of a discoverable truth that means more than mere pragmatic results.
Returning to truth
Without a thorough and deeply rooted understanding of the biblical view of truth as revealed, objective, absolute, universal, eternally engaging, antithetical and exclusive, unified and systematic, and as end in itself, the Christian response to postmodernism will be muted by the surrounding culture or will make illicit compromises with the truth-less spirit of the age. The good news is that truth is still truth, that it provides a backbone for witness and ministry in postmodern times, and that God’s truth will never fail. As J.P. Moreland puts it:
This is why truth is so powerful. It allows us to co-operate with reality, whether spiritual or physical, and tap into its power. As we learn to think correctly about God, specific scriptural teachings, the soul, or other important aspects of a Christian world view, we are placed in touch with God and those realities. And we thereby gain access to the power available to us to live in the kingdom of God.60
This article is excerpted from chapters one and three of Truth Decay: Defending Christianity From the Challenges of Postmodernism (InterVarsity Press, 2000).
1 Martin Luther King, Jr, ‘I Have a Dream’, in William J. Bennett, ed., The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993), 573.
2 Bennett, The Book of Virtues
3 Bennett, The Book of Virtues, 576.
4 Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. (New York: Princeton University Press, 1979): see also, Stephen Louthan, ‘On Religion—A Discussion with Richard Rorty, Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff, Christian Scholars Review, Volume XXVl:2, 177–83.
5 Walter Truett Anderson, The Future of the Self: Inventing the Postmodern Person (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1997), 27.
6 Phllip Kenneson, ‘There is No Such Thing as Objective Truth, and its a Good Thing, Too’, Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World, ed., Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 155–72.
7 William H. Wlllimon, ‘Jesus’ Peculiar Truth’, Christianity Today, March 4, 1996, 21. Wlllimon would not consider himself a postmodernist, but a postliberal. Nevertheless, his views agree substantially with postmodernist themes.
8 Francis Bacon, ‘Of Truth’, in Francis Bacon: A Selection of His Works, ed. Sidney Warhoft (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill Educational Publishing, 1965), 47.
9 Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who is There, 30th anniversary ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998: orig, pub., 1968), 175.
10 Simone Weil, The Need for Roots (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953), 37.
11 C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, revised ed. (New York: MacMillan, 1961), 8.
12 Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.
13 Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.
14 Roger Nicole, ‘The Biblical Concept of Truth’, Scripture and Truth, ed. D.A. Carson, John D. Woodbridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), 290.
15 Nicole, ‘The Biblical Concept of Truth’.
16 Nicole, ‘The Biblical Concept of Truth’, 291.
17 Nicole, ‘The Biblical Concept of Truth’, 292.
18 D.M. Crump, ‘Truth’, in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, eds. Joel B. Green, Scott McKnight, I. Howard Marshall (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 859.
19 See Crump, ‘Truth’ Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels in 859–62, for more on this.
20 Nicole, ‘The Biblical Concept or Truth’ 292.
21 Nicole, ‘The Biblical Concept of Truth’ 293.
22 Nicole, ‘The Biblical Concept of Truth’.
23 Nicole, ‘The Biblical Concept or Truth’, 295
24 See also John 1:9; 6:32, 55; 15:1; Heb. 8:2; 9:24.
25 Leon Morris, ‘Truth’, in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Red (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 954.
26 Morris, ‘Truth’ Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.
27 Morris, ‘Truth’ Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.
28 Nicole, ‘The Biblical Concept of Truth’ 296.
29 Nicole, ‘The Biblical Concept of Truth’; emphasis in the original.
30 G.K. Chesterton. Orthodoxy, (New York: Doubleday, 1990; orig, pub., 1908), 9.
31 For a humorous treatment of this, see Stephen Katz, ‘How to Speak and Write Postmodern’, in The Truth About Truth, ed. Walter Truett Anderson (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995), 92–95. See also. John Leo, ‘Towers of Pomobabble’, US News and World Report, March 15, 1999, 16.
32 J.P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1997), 45. For an in-depth treatment of the biblical words for revelation and modern views of revelation, see Colin Brown, general editor, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), vol. 3:309–39.
33 George Barna, Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators (Waco, TX: Word Publishers, 1996), 80.
34 I take the term ‘flaming truth’ from Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), 81–83.
35 On this see, Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, revised ed. (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), 1–5.
36 Reported in Charles Colson. ‘Apologetics for the Church: Why Christians Are Losing the Culture War’. Christian Research Journal, Summer, 1996, 52.
37 Colson, ‘Apologetics for the Church’.
38 Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind (New York: Seabury Press, 1963), 120–21.
39 J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith? (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1927), 32–33.
40 On Christ’s exclusivity, see R. Douglas Geivett. ‘Is Jesus the Only Way’, in Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. eds. Michael J. Wilkins and J.P. Moreland (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1995), 177–205: Ajith Fernando. The Supremacy of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1995); and Douglas Groothuis, Jesus in an Age of Controversy (Eugene. OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1996).
41 Carl F.H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Waco, TX: Word Publishers, 1976), 229.
42 Stephen Carter, The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion(New York, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1993), 23–43.
43 On this, see Soren Kierkegaard. Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1948).
44 Os Guinness, The Dust of Death: The Sixties Counterculture and How it Changed America Forever, rvsd edn (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. 1994; orig. pub, 1973), 358.
45 R.J. Rushdoony, Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church(Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1978), 118.
46 Reported in Gene Edward Veith. Postmodern Times (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 175–76.
47 There are, in fact, various theories of reincarnation, some much more complex than this. However, all views of reincarnation—whether Buddhist or Hindu—are logically incompatible with the doctrine of resurrection. On this, see Douglas Groothuis, Confronting the New Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 85–105.
48 For the record, this is not a denial of God’s omnipotence, because omnipotence concerns the ability to perform logically possible actions.
49 Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape From Reason (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1968), 35.
50 Some think that modern physics has done away with the principle of non-contradiction because of light behaving like both wave and particle. This is not true. The discovery of quantum electrodynamics (QED) near the turn of the century showed that ‘light is essentially made up of particles’ but that all elementary particles are capable of ‘wave-like’ behaviour. By showing in a logically consistent manner how light was capable of behaving like a wave on some occasions and a particle on others, this breakthrough produced one self-consistent paradigm that satisfactorily resolved the confounding puzzle of ‘wave-particle duality’, Scott R. Burson and Jerry L. Walls, C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Influential Apologists of Our Time (Downers Grove. IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 86–87. The authors cite as their source: Richard P. Feyman, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985), 37.
51 Ernest Gellner, Postmodernism, Reason, and Religion (New York: Routledge, 1992), 95.
52 Gellner, Postmodernism, 95–96.
53 Gellner, Postmodernism, 96.
54 On this see. Mortimer Adler, Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religion and the Unity of Truth (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1990), 10–39.
55 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (New York: Routledge, 1981), 107. Wittgenstein’s understanding of the concatenation of propositional truth in the Tractatus was smaller than that which is implied in the Christian world view, where all things (whether necessary or contingent truths) work together according to God’s plan; but his essential insight concerning logical implications with respect to propositions still holds, and is suggestive for Christian thinkers.
56 Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘Twilight of the Idols’, Aphorism #26 in The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kauffman (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 470.
57 Arthur Holmes, All Truth is God’s Truth (Grand Rapids. MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 7.
58 Schaefer, Escape, 83.
59 Blamires, The Christian Mind, 104.
60 Moreland, Love Your God, 81–82; emphasis in the original.
Associate Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary