The inconvenient truth about truth

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

I want to declare an inconvenient truth. Very inconvenient, in fact.

No, I am not wading into the climate change debate.

But Al Gore posed an interesting question when he titled his movie this way. Why I find it interesting is that (in my educated guess) neither Al Gore nor many of the people who watched his movie actually believe that truth even exists, at least in an absolute sense.

What people really believe is summed up in Oprah Winfrey’s recent speech: “Speaking your truth is the most powerful weapon you have.” She borrowed a phrase heavily used in today’s culture.

In the school of ministry I am currently leading in the USA, and in my “big book of doctrine” titled Landmarks, which has just come off the press, I start not with the doctrine of God, but with the issue of truth. And in particular, the truth of the Bible.

Why I do this is important. It’s because we need to know if in fact we can have reliable knowledge about God. It’s no use teaching about God, Jesus, salvation or anything else if the source of the knowledge is unreliable.

The source of the knowledge is clearly the Bible. And so if the devil wants to undermine the Christian faith, if he’s smart (which he is) he won't bother with the virgin birth, the cross or the resurrection, he’ll skip straight to the knock-out blow. The Bible isn’t reliable (so he will say). You can’t trust it. It’s full of mistakes. He uses the same predictable tactic today he used in the garden: “Has God said?”

There is absolutely no point trying to talk to people about the cross and salvation if they don’t accept the reality of absolute truth. Why? They’ll take the same attitude the young guy I was witnessing to did. “That’s great for you, Dave, but I have my own truth.” That conversation ground to a total impasse until the Lord showed me something about his family that I could only have known by revelation from God. That led to him being willing to read the copy of Tim Keller’s outstanding book The Reason for God, which I gave him.

The Bible presents itself in the form of a treaty. God used the treaty format prevalent throughout the world of the ancient near east so that the children of Israel would understand what it meant. The treaty imposes the will of a conquering king on a conquered people. It cannot be altered. Anyone who tries to do it will suffer curses described in the last verses of the Bible as losing one’s share in the tree of life. You can read more about this in my book, where I give a summary of the work of the Biblical scholar Meredith Kline.

The real and ultimate issue about the Bible boils down to one question, as the great theologian Carl FH Henry taught me, and that is this: does God have the ability to communicate accurately, and without error, with humanity?

I believe he does. If he doesn’t, the Bible is just guesswork, and its authority collapses. Satan knows that as well as he knows anything. Have you noticed that every church which gives up on the Bible is reduced to a fraction of its former self within a generation or two?

Your truth or my truth is not good enough. Two thousand years ago, Pontius Pilate took the same view as Oprah. When Jesus spoke of the absolute truth revealed in himself, Pilate replied, “What is truth?”

Jesus gave us a very great promise which spits directly in the face of Satan: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

God breathed out absolute and irrevocable truth in the Scriptures. Without knowing and believing that, you will lose not only truth but freedom.

An inconvenient truth for today’s world.