Friday, August 31, 2007

Truth and...(5)


Is it true that some truths have no experiential consequences? We might answer quickly, "Sure!" But a second thought might lead to hesitation in this pronouncement. When we consider facts of the past, such as Abraham Lincoln's presidency or Christopher Columbus Crossing the Atlantic Ocean, we might not see any impact on our daily lives. However, these facts have undoubtedly affected our present-day lives - just not in immediately tangible ways. Perhaps we are related to one of these men, and if it weren't for their exploits, our existance would be in jeopardy.

If one molecule in this universe didn't do as it did, the whole balance would be thrown off. Do you disagree? Tell me about it.

The most important of truths regards Jesus Christ. Did He atone for your sins on the cross? Did He rise from the dead never to die again? Were His teachings true? If so, then there are consequences. If not, then there are consequences.

First, if not... The apostle Paul says, "If Christ be not raised, then we are still in our sins. Christians are to be pitied more than any other man." Second, if so... Then, as Peter declared, "there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Jesus once said (in John 8:24), "If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will die in your sins." That statement is either true of false. And you life depends on it.

Blaise Pascal thought through the matter of truth and consequences in great detail. He concluded thus:

If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is....

..."God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.

Do not, then, reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you know nothing about it. "No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all."

Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. "That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much." Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Truth and...(4)


When engaged in conversation about controversial truths, in order to minimize conflict and confusion, and in order to make sense out of apparent contradictions, the most important element is undoubtedly the context.

One can use the Bible to support just about any view by taking words out of their intended context. For example, I can proclaim that the Bible says, "Fear God!" And someone else can proclaim that the Bible says, "Do not fear." And it is true that the Bible makes both of those statements. So, some might say, "Clearly the Bible makes all kinds of contradictory claims. It's an untrustworthy text." People must understand the principle of hermaneutics whereby context is important!

When a sportswriter comments, "The Cardinals killed the Wildcats," after UofL defeats UK in football, the context helps us to understand that a bunch of red birds did not swoop down and maul to death a number of wild felines. The same is true for the Bible, for other published works, and for any conversation. How often politicians get misrepresented when their comments are taken out of context!

Truth and context... truth and contradiction... truth and conflict... truth and confusion... truth and conversation... Next we'll look at truth and consequences. And finally, next week, we'll conclude with truth and contingencies.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Truth and...(3)


Is there such a thing a contradicting truths? No. When truths appear to be contradicting one another, we have what's called antinomy.
The image above depicts two truths (man's responsibility or accountability and God's sovereignty) that may appear to be contradictions. But they are compatible. It has been suggested by the creator of this image that we as finite humans may not be able to figure out how the two views are compatible, but I have been blessed with a sound understanding of it. I may not be able to convey it in such a way that you can grasp it, but it is not antinomy in my mind.

Once again, we return to the age of the earth. Whatever the truth is, say 6114 years old. There can be no contradictory truth in this regard. The earth cannot be both 6114 years old and 4.2 billion years old. No matter how close you bring the numbers (even 1 year apart), the truth is still true and the other answer is still false. In secular environments, and sadly in Christian circles as well, contradictory truths are commonly taught and espoused.

For example, to follow Jesus is to be conformed into His image. Christians are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we think like Jesus. Indeed, Christians have the mind of Christ. Thus, if Jesus knows something to be true (that homosexual acticity is sinful behavior), then Christians need to agree with Jesus on the matter. If Christians hold that homosexual activity is not sinful behavior, then we are living in contradiction. We are claiming to follow Jesus; yet we are not following Jesus. This is hypocrisy, notably the number one reason people avoid the church.

Thus right doctrine - to agree with Jesus' teaching - is crucial. But following Jesus' living is equally crucial. The idea is Coram Deo. Since we live before the face of God, we ought to live like we live before the face of God. Let our life and our doctrine match up with one another. 1 Timothy 4:16 says, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."

Truth and conversation. Truth and confusion. Truth and conflict. Truth and contradiction. What's next? Truth and context....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Truth and ...(2)


In a conversation about truth, confusion or conflict can arise. This is a result of presuppositions getting in the way of objective understanding. Check out this audio clip of John MacArthur discussing some comments made by Brain McLaren, the leader of the Emerging Church movement:

MacArthur wrote a book in response to McLaren's views. The book is called The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception. Did you catch the title? Other books responding to McLaren are called, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications (Don Carson), and Truth and the New Kind of Christian: The Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church (R. Scott Smith).

McLaren's views skew the truth as he encourages leaving the objective truth of the Bible behind in favor of living a life of love for the sake of people. The lifestyle encouraged by the Emerging Church is fine; it is a good thing to "serve one another in love" (Galatians 5:13). But, with MacArthur and countless others, I would argue that this must not be done at the expense of the truth. And it can be confusing. Conflict arises between people equally trying to promote righteousness. A conversation is possible, but hard due to the fact that presuppositions get in the way.

But it begins with the Bible. Do-gooders often reject the Bible, because they don't like a lot of what it says. But when that rejection takes place, the foundation drops out. The same is true as illustrated by yesterday's age of the earth question. How do we know? Look first at the Bible. Trust it. It is true. Unfortunately, it doesn't end there in our society today. You may have seen the bumper sticker that says, "God said it; I believe it; that settles it." Well, the whole "I believe it" part is insignificant. The truth of God is enough, whether we believe it or not. Thus, the truth is important. But how do we come to agree on what God's Word means? Conversation, confusion, conflict, truth... More to come.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Truth and...(1)


Let's have a conversation about truth.

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus this question: "What is truth?" (John 19:38), but he failed to carry on the conversation. If there was ever a time to hear the answer, it would have been then. If ever there was an individual to whom that question should be addressed, it would be Jesus. But I have a feeling Pilate was not looking for Jesus to answer seriously. Rather, he was mocking Jesus for thinking He had the truth. In fact Jesus not only had the truth, but He has the truth; He is the truth.

This series of articles is intended to point out why truth matters, and for the sake of illustration, let's consider the age of the earth as an example. What is the true age of the earth? There is an objective answer to this question. There is absolute truth in this regard. And I would argue that it matters. Whether we can find the answer or not is not the issue. What is at stake is the truth. And we need to be willing and able to have conversations about the truth.

A conversation is "An informal discussion of a matter of fact" or "The spoken exchange of thoughts, opinions, and feelings." Notice that the former definition has to do with objective truth (a matter of fact), whereas the latter definition can be lesser matters (opinions) or subjective truths (feelings). Sadly, in our society / culture, there is not much conversation about objective truth. The problem with this reality is that not all objective truth is sure and settled in everyone's mind. Consider the following example:

It is objectively true that Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States in the nineteenth century. Many adult Americans have this objective truth settled in their mind; but many elementary age children do not. Thus the objective truth is taught to them in school. There may be some conversation about it (the historical events surrounding the objective fact), but regarding the fact itself, there is not much about which to converse.

Now, taking the previous example regarding the age of the earth, there is an objective truth in that matter. Secular scientists will give a range of ages, down to a hundred thousand years or so. But that's not the exact answer, not nearly as exact as Abraham Lincoln's presidency. Thus, there is opportunity for authentic conversation about the truth. At this point in the article, that's all I want to point out. Opinions on and evidence in support of the truth in this particular matter are not so settled. So let's converse and settle the matter so far as we are able.

Truth and conversation. Are you willing?