Absolute Truth, arrogance or fact beyond ourselves?
by Jim Hutson 6/18/2008 / Christian Apologetics
"We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majestyFor prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:16, 21)
I spent most of the day thinking about what my friend, who was to have been a mentor for me in the pursuit of the Calling, had to say about my blog on the "emergent" movement, its leadership, and authors. Within his reply, I found both admonishment and thoughtful reflection. Although I've posted his comment to stand alone, I do want to speak my peace about some of what he said.
I continue to be somewhat troubled by statements made of "How arrogant of any of us to presume that we have "perfect truth" in spite of our personal prejudices, our upbringing, our cultural context, and information passed down through the generations. If we have Perfect Truth, then we are right and everyone else is wrong" and "Jesus didn't have to be "right" nor did he have to prove anyone "wrong"."
Seems to me that I am hearing often lately the words intolerant and arrogant, just because I believe what I believe, live what I believe is the faithful pursuit of God and take offense at such terms as 'hijacking' and a statement that leads me to believe that my belief in the end times is nothing more than flights of fancy for a mind that has to be deceived into doing things my beliefs call me to do.
It all comes down to Truth.
Because I believe the Truth, that absolute truth that defies any attempt of man to change it, is something beyond my complete ability to defy it, alter it, and claim it as something I've created. I cannot create truth, in that way that defies someone else from coming along and changing it. I can define truth in relation to me, but then again I run into the wall of 'cultural community' bringing overwhelming weight in changing it to reflect the community's opinion as a whole.
I agree with my friend's argument that the emerging movement has taught evangelical born-agains some of the things that we have neglected, just as the Mormons have taught us about the passion of evangelism. Or the service they perform as part of their faith. Neither does the awakening of the emergents to social justice, etc. Some of everything is based on good, just as vampires are based on a disease that made people act like the myths. Does that make their definition of God correct? There are a multitude of papers, historical documentation, errors, and logical thought that show an overwhelming preponderance that they aren't correct. Just as the vagularities of the emerging church in reaching into pagan, or as my friend called them, pre-nicean beliefs. To what standard to we, as Christians, hold them? The emergent movement would have us include them, Hindu, Tao, occultism, and other religious traditions in our definition of truth.
Does that mean that we should believe in the Dracula we've seen in the horror films?
Who chooses what is included and what is rejected? Are we going to stand upon the mistruth of the Nicean Council as stated in the DaVinci Code by Dan Brown and follow the scholarly book of the Holy Blood, Holy Grail?
Are we going to define God according to our understanding of Him?
Or the Mormons?
Or the Islamics?
I don't believe that the entire journey of a evangelical Christian is only to revolve around the thought of 'end times', where Christ will come back to reclaim His own; from the Creation that groans to the faithful who remain on the earth upon His ride on that white horse. I never said that was the offense to which I took the statement by Brian McLaren. I took offense because he decided to ridicule my beliefs as an excuse to fool myself into reaching beyond my sinful nature to a higher standard to which God calls all Christians.
I don't know, though I tend to think along the pre-trib lines, whether the Faithful will be raised up before, during, or after. Therefore, McLaren's statement of ridicule to those who believe like I do that the end times prophecies are only that bedtime story that we tell ourselves to help fool ourselves into doing the other things that believers in Christ are called to do is insulting, at best, and arrogant at its worse.
I didn't say that the 'end times' were to be the focus of the Christian. Yet, that is what I'm admonished about. I didn't say that the emergents weren't doing some good things. Yet, that is where I am called to account.
I said the core was rotten.
And, if the branches are bearing what looks like good fruit, one should be able to look to the core of the tree to see the same health displayed. As Christ said, if the core is healthy, then the tree will bear good fruit. If the core is rotten, isn't it part of the logical deduction that the fruit would be rotten also?
Truth stands beyond an ability to modify it to our culture, our morals, and our wishes.
And, then increasing desire to understand truth takes us beyond our humanity of self-preservation, self-motivation, and self-edification. Even though we may believe that our house will burn down tomorrow, we continue to struggle to conform to this Truth...in effect, cleaning our room despite our depressed outlook on the future of its existence.
We become increasingly aware that we are not in control. The house may burn down tommorrow or it may not. We may not even have the right to live in that house come the morning and so set fire to it ourselves out of spite.
The Truth, realized, means that we aren't right, can never be 'righteous', and are beyond the ability to force our own views upon another. The views we subscribe to stand beyond our personal prejudices, upbringing, cultural context, and even information that is taught from generation to generation. It is something that stands above our own sinful nature and understanding and stays the same in the changing cultural landscape.
Only the Truth can force itself upon an unwilling subject. Then, in accordance with our 'Free Will', we can either deny it for what it is or accept it unaltered. But, whatever choice we make, it still exists. It still remains.
If we reject the Truth, then we spend our time rejecting those who believe in it and spend an increasingly verbal violent means to force them to reject that belief. Yet the Truth continues to exist, continues to operate and run things according to its own definition. It remains, even if we try and reject its premise.
For those who accept the Truth, adopting its validity into the core of their lives, an awakening and understanding starts to grow. It becomes more and more evident in the experiences of those who reach into its core. It remains unaltered, and its believers become altered as they grow more and more understanding of its viability and solidity as something they cannot claim as their own but can only value, emulate, and seek its underpinnings in the unexplainable.
How do we know it is not 'our truth' that is that which we believe is the "Truth"?
Does it stand beyond any inconsistencies? If it doesn't, if the 'truth' changes with the cultural demands of the society that subscribes to it, how can it be anything other than human origin?
Once slavery was believed to be okay, since the black man was considered inferior, only a small step beyond the monkey in intelligence, and incapable of having a soul. Today, we only have to look back into the annals of human history to discover the un-truth of a premise on which slavery was claimed to be 'okay'. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, and the Tecumseh Airmen, among others stand as greats within our human culture. And society as a whole has abolished this practice of slavery of Africans and other races as inhuman and morally wrong. The truth of slavery changed as the culture changed. Yet, the unaltered Truth of the value of the African remains the same, in accordance with the standard of consistency. "All Men are created equal" and "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
Once, a man stood before others who belonged to the same ethnic background to which he was born, grew up in the same culture that he, himself, had been raised, and had the same societal values written into his psyche. He declared his race to be the 'master race' and in full authority to rule the world, and destroy those inferior to that ethnicity. He began an ethnic cleansing that he believed, along with his fellow countrymen, to be correct as his truth defined it. The world opposed this man and his 'axis of evil', offering the blood of their youths upon the field of battle in defiance to his truth. To this day, ethnic cleansing is an abomination to the world and is opposed wherever it rears its ugly head; Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur. The Truth remains unchanged, only the truth as defined by another was changed.
So, how can we discover this Truth?
"There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth; how to define and identify truth; the roles that revealed and acquired knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective, relative, objective, or absolute," the online free encyclopedia Wikipedia states. And the subject is hotly debate by more intellectual minds than mine.
Absolute Truth, which my friend considers an arrogant presumption on an evangelical Christian's part, is "the concept of an absolute, unconditional reality which transcends limited, conditional, everyday existence." Which automatically rejects my friend's statement that an evangelical or any other believer cannot discover such a truth, for it stands against any individual attempt to define it in terms favorable to the speaker. What I believe was being referred to was subjective truth (a concept of truth that is based on a person's perspective; i.e. feelings, beliefs, and desires) which can be impacted by humans and alters according to the introduction of new perspectives by voices that are more vocal than others.
Subjective truth is unique to the person who experiences it and is the core of what I believe the emerging church subscribes to. This is an logical explanation of why each 'village' subscribes to varying 'truths'. Of course, this can be considered to be subjective to me and my perspective. So, we must apply it to something, some understanding of Truth, which lies beyond my or their perspective. The emerging theology claims that this cannot happen, which is applying their subjective truth to a concept that by its definition, cannot be contained within the limited walls of such truth.
Historically, even before the apparent 'rebirth' of a monotheistic belief system under Abraham (according to the Christian tradition, and even the Islamic tradition), the sudden birth of Zoroastrianism, Orphism, Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, the "new" Hinduism, and post-exilic Judaism in the span of a hundred year, early cultures shared a 'high gods' belief system despite animism, totemic, and naturist practices. High gods, who were all-knowing, eternal, and all-powerful, who controlled the moral order and interacted with the affairs of men. There is too much historical evidence to support that these 'pagan' cultures simply 'went along to get along' with the 'new' religions that came upon the cultural landscape.
As if it is in our societal memory, Socialogist David Stark points out in his book Discovering God, "Humans will tend to adopt and retain those elements of culture that appear to produce 'better' results, while those that appear less rewarding will be discarded." Is this a memory that is imprinted in our genetic makeup, reminders of a better life and place that we once resided in?
If Absolute Truth could be modified by such human beings, to shape and mold a god that was totally rational, loving and limitless in abilities and authority that is servant to our whims, what would it look like? As Stark asks in his book, "Did we discover God or have we just invented him?"
I find it hard to believe that a god who we invented would look like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and would send His only begotten Son to die for a people who wouldn't receive Him. But, how would we know that we have the Absolute Truth concerning this 'invention' of this God? How do we know that He is who we believe He is?
Religious traditions that swerve from a consistent core "can be relegated to human origin", according to Stark's criteria for this question of what faith is true. "According to the principle of divine accommodation, revelation should become increasingly sophisticated, telling us more, not less, about God over time.." is the second compelling criteria.
Regis Nicoll, an Centurion for the Wilberforce Foundation, points out in his article God and the evolution of belief, that only the monotheistic belief systems of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity can claim adherence to this criteria.
Each share the fundamental core regarding the nature of man, creation, and God in addition to a "progressive growth" of faith infancy that develops into an increasingly complex and comprehensive belief in "the doctrines of the Trinity, substitutionary atonement and other-centered love embedded in a historical, rather than mythical, context," Nicoll points out.
The other 'sudden' developing traditions of Taoism, Confucianism, Jainism, Buddhism and a revamped Hinduism address man's irrepressible need to now, "Now what?" The latter three have additional doctrines regarding a meritable 'afterlife'. Nicoll points out that these movements define, "doctrines of good, evil, and the importance of right moral actions in one's destiny."
But none of these have an important part of the criteria Stark sets. None express a growing understanding of and regarding the complexity of God.
Understanding Salvation has become for some, as my friend stated, a purely transactional belief (i.e. the Roman Road). Others believe that it is inherently bulit into the original design and is a inheritance that we automatically claim upon the realization of our first breath. The truth is that the only transaction that takes place is the covering of our sins by the sacrificed blood of an innocent, who took the sins of our broken, sinful nature upon Himself to pay the price of Sin's existence. This was a debt we couldn't pay, even in our best efforts, for sin begets sin. The only thing that takes place is a 'replacement' for the payment of sin by God who became Man.
We only have to believe that He stood in our place. No transaction, an exchange for services or goods, takes place.
So that we couldn't boast that we were more righteous, more Christian, or even more understanding of the Truth than another.
Doctrinal differences exists even within the Christian community, but every one has this as their base, their foundation, and an unalterable truth. Otherwise, they aren't Christ-ian.
We have to believe in Jesus Christ's crucifixion, death, and resurrection to understand the rest.
An absolute. Something that defies change. You can either accept that or reject it.
It stands alone.
What bothers me about McLaren and other emergent authors is the selectiveness of their biblical expression, and the exclusion of the absolute truth of Christ. What sounds good isn't necessarily good.
And they want us to regress rather than progress to a 'new age' thinking system using those practices in the past that glorified man, not God.
As my friend remarked, Jesus taught us who would be first has to become last, who is rich to become poor, and those who are wronged, to forgive and not retaliate. Jesus also told us, as he pointed out, to pick up our cross and follow Him. The cross, where we have to submit to the absolute authority of Christ, who is God, and who indwells within us through the Holy Spirit.
It was also Christ who cleared the temple area twice, tossing out those who would tarnish His Father's house with their greed, corrected not only His disciples but also the Pharisees in the distortion of the Scriptures. It was Christ who said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light. None can come to the Father but through Me."
What truth will you believe? The truth told through the translation, personal experiences, and opinions of another.
Or the provable, historical, and authoritarian Truth that defies our understanding, logic, or desires?
I believe in the absolute Truth that is Jesus Christ. Not by my own authority, but as established by the authority of God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Not by any action of my own.
If I am intolerant, so be it. I am intolerant of distorts of any truth; be it the gospel, the 'global warming', or the effects of the destruction of the family upon the cultural and societal landscape of this world.
"I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."
I speak what I believe for the sake of those who question, wonder, and seek that Truth.
Jim is a Senior Ordained Chaplain with Chaplain Service Corp. Answering the call to ministry for the sake of all men, focusing on God, Jim writes and pursues with faith the plans of His Father wherever that may lead. www.chapel-michigan.blogspot.com