Archive for the 'Truth' Category

The fake and the genuine mixed in some churches: A dangerous concoction!

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Landmine Doctrine

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

I’ve been interacting with a missionary friend in a foreign country who wrote of a person from the Bethel Church who feeds 10,000 children, has established churches, and has a humble ministry of bringing healing to the black children of Africa. A film has been made about this person raising people from the dead. This person gains no money from the actions and aches as she sits in the dust with African children, preaching Christ. But she is part of the Bethel Church, Redding, CA, USA.

The question the missionary asked of me: ‘How can this person be misguided and as far from Christ as the church leaders of Bethel church’?

What does the Bethel Church teach?

Bethel Church, Redding CA

Courtesy Wikipedia

The Bethel Church, Redding, California has this teaching on YouTube where there is alleged gold dust falling. See: ‘Gold dust rains during worship at Bethel!

See also:

blue-satin-arrow-smallBethel testimonies’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallJeremy Riddle – Our Father PART 1/2 (Gold dust in the room)’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallGlory Cloud & Gold Dust at Bethel Church’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallBethel’s ‘signs and wonders’ include angel feathers, gold dust and diamonds’.

Critiques of the Bethel Church movement

Empty Words

(image courtesy ChristArt )

What are the issues with Bethel Church, Redding, California, and its teachings? There are many links to assessment of the heresy of Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Apostasy Watch:

blue-arrow-smallWarning – Bill Johnson and Bethel Church’;

blue-arrow-smallSound advice for Bethel Church Pastor Bill Johnson’;

blue-arrow-smallBob Dewaay: Bill Johnson, IHOP [IHOP], & Ancient Heresy Reborn’;

blue-arrow-smallThe dangers of the International House of Prayer’, CARM;

blue-arrow-smallBill Johnson and Bethel – Report from Redding Record Searchlight’;

blue-arrow-smallBill Johnson / Bethel Church, Redding, California’ (links to other criticisms built into the article);

blue-arrow-smallBirds of a Feather Flock Together: Strange Manifestations in ‘Christian’ Circles – from God or not? Feathers in Church? Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, Redding California’;

Let me say up front that we cannot discern a heart before God of any person, whether associated with a church teaching false doctrine or one teaching the truth. That discernment is in God’s hands. But the Scriptures give some strong indicators of what can happen.

What did Jesus say about the mixture of the fake with the genuine?

When I turn to Jesus, this is the truth that he proclaims:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt 7:21-23 NIV)

Only Jesus knows the truth of the human heart and the eternal destiny of people. It is evident from these Scriptures in Matthew 7 that Jesus did not regard good deeds and supernatural miracles to be guarantees that a person is a Christian who will enter the kingdom of heaven. It is evident that people can do many good works, perform miracles, and not do the will of the heavenly Father. It sounds strange to us, but God knows this is so. In fact, God calls these kinds of people, ‘evildoers’ (NIV) or ‘workers of lawlessness’ (ESV). So, these people are false prophets, even though they perform mighty works.

Evangelical commentator, William Hendriksen, wrote of this passage:

‘Does not all of this point to the possibility that also the demon expulsions and other mighty works of which the false prophets of Matt. 7:22 boast had been nothing but sham? Have not investigations proved again and again that among false prophets illusions, trickery, sleight of hand, etc., abound, and that what is presented as genuine is very often nothing but deception?’ (Hendriksen 1973:376).

Matthew 7:23 indicates a very high Christology. Jesus decides who will enter the Kingdom on the last day and he also decides who will be banished from his presence. That he never knew these people is because they falsely claimed him as Lord.

I find it interesting how the writer of The Didache, after the close of the New Testament, puts it this way, ‘But not everyone who speaks in a spirit is a prophet, except he have the behavior of the Lord. From his behavior, then, the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known’ (Didache 11.8). This is a good summary. One can use the word, ‘Lord’, of Jesus, allege to be a prophet and perform mighty works, and still be a fraud before Christ.

Therefore, the application to the Bethel Church is that a person can perform miracles, do other good works, but engage in false teaching and still not be a Christian who will enter the Kingdom. This does not mean that there are no genuine Christians associated with this church. That discernment is in Jesus’ control. However, ‘I never knew you’ are tragic words when they think that they are doing it for Jesus. Let’s understand that who enters the kingdom will be decided by Jesus. But here in Matt 7 there are strong indicators that good works and miracles can be associated with those who claim Jesus as Lord, but he is not their Lord. These are the penetrating words of Jesus.

I understand that we would like to think that there are those who perform wonderful deeds towards the needy, are used in supernatural miracles, but proclaim false doctrine, are misled but are truly Christian. But that’s not how Jesus sees it according to Matt. 7. I have to be true to Jesus and his teaching. It will sound harsh, but I have to answer at the end of my life to the Lord for my accuracy or otherwise with my biblical teaching. I hope people understand this. There is an attack on the truth of Scripture in the contemporary world.

Mark 9:39 states, ‘But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me’ (ESV). Those who proclaim false doctrine are speaking evil of the Lord as what they proclaim is not true.

I do not believe that miracles ceased with the original 12 apostles. See my article, ‘Can cessationism be supported by Scripture and church history?

Worm and Lace

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Which Jesus?

There is the problem we face in the twenty-first century that was also there in the first century: Which Jesus are they/we serving? Is He the one who mixes falsehood with truth, or is he the one who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ ALWAYS?

Consider these sources of falsehood and truth. We have warnings and affirmations in Scripture:

matte-red-arrow-small ‘But test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil’ (1 Thess 5:21-22 ESV).

matte-red-arrow-small‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1 ESV).

They were there in the first century. They are here n the twenty-first century. There will be the fake performed alongside the genuine. To the human eye they may look similar, but to Jesus he is the one who discerns those who knew him and those who didn’t. This we know from his teaching: Genuine good works, genuine miracles, and false teaching do not go together. They are often mixed and Christians are to be people of biblical and spiritual discernment. Too often we are not!

Therefore, the Lord calls all true believers to be people committed to the ministry of discernment:

matte-red-arrow-small ‘But test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil’ (1 Thess 5:21-22 ESV).

matte-red-arrow-small‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1 ESV).

The challenge

Here is the challenge that you and I face, whether in an overseas country or here in my country of Australia. We are to be these kinds of Christians: ‘So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes’ (Eph 4:14 ESV). It is tempting to see those who are doing massive good deeds mixed with fake miracles, to be seen as genuine. But the false and the truth cannot be mixed and come out as genuine. That’s according to Jesus and the Scriptures.

Why don’t you take a read of this article about the teaching of Bill Johnson and the Bethel Church, ‘An Invasion of Error: A Review of Bill Johnson—When Heaven Invades Earth

Part of the problem we face in the contemporary church is that teaching the truth through sound doctrine from the pulpit and in small groups is on such a low level in many evangelical churches. Many are too interested in their contemporary worship, topical sermons, and Gospel light, to be pursuing the need to teach true doctrine and refute false doctrine.

My wife and I had an experience of that in the last 18 months when we moved to a new suburb in northern Brisbane and sought an evangelical church that proclaimed sound theology in both teaching and song. We visited 8 different churches before we found one that came close to sound teaching (expository preaching from books of the Bible) and solid lyrics in the songs they sang. Most were into rock ‘n roll Christianity in their music and songs, and light sermon content.

I emailed one pastor whom I had never met as he wasn’t there and preaching when my wife and I visited his church on one occasion. I had enquired about going to one of his cell groups locally. His response was that a cell group at his church would not be suitable for me as it was ‘more contemporary than the church service’. I had not mentioned a word to him about ‘contemporary’ anything. Obviously the one person we spoke to after the service conveyed to the pastor some of the comments we made about the service. As for solid teaching in the evangelical churches, we did not find it – except for one. But the problem with this one, which we currently attend, is that it is super-traditional in all that happens in the services. However, the pastor is a sound expositor of Scripture who is not afraid to exegete the Scriptures and provide careful interpretations of the meaning.

See my articles:

silver-arrow-smallFive ingredients of a healthy church: Colossians 4:7-18‘;

silver-arrow-smallDouble faults and no aces: Margaret Court’;

silver-arrow-smallAre the dead raised today?

silver-arrow-smallSeventh Day Adventist atonement doctrine’.

T

(image courtesy ChristArt)

References

Hendriksen, W 1973. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 April 2016.

Are unthinking Christians normal for Christianity?

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Think

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

I was reading Bill Muehlenberg’s excellent article on the need for more Christians to think. It was his call to have a renewed mind and respond to the challenges of our secular world in, ‘Let my people think’.

Then came Kurt Skelland’s ‘troll’ by way of response:

If Christians starting thinking there would be no Christians left!

“Most people would rather die than think. And most do.”
Bertrand Russell.

Thinking is inimical to the fanciful claims of religion.[1]

Secularists’ false claims

It is not uncommon to read these kinds of statements on websites of skeptics or atheists. Take a read of a leading skeptic, Paul Kurtz, ‘Why I am a skeptic about religious claims’.

How do we respond to Kurt Skelland’s skeptical claims?

1. ‘If Christians starting thinking there would be no Christians left!’

This is a clear example of someone who doesn’t know the content of the Christian Scriptures. If Kurt’s claim were true, there would be absolutely no use for these Christian statements:

  • Luke 10:27, Jesus said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself’ (ESV).
  • Ephesians 4:22-24, ‘to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’ (ESV).
  • Romans 12:2, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (ESV)

It is obvious that the Bible teaches: (1) Loving God with our whole beings, and (2) After we become Christians, we are to put off the old way of thinking and be transformed by renewed thinking in the mind.

This is the problem which non-Christian people (unbelievers) face, ‘The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2 Cor. 4:4).

Kurt has another problem with the Christian faith.

2. Why choose a Bertrand Russell quote?

Honourable Bertrand Russell.jpg

Bertrand Russell 1916. Courtesy Wikipedia

Kurt cited Bertrand Russell, “Most people would rather die than think. And most do”. What’s significant about that? Russell is a friend of skeptics, agnostics and atheists.

On the practical level, this quote may be true for a lot of people. But who was Bertrand Russell? Was Russell an agnostic or atheist? This is what Russell stated:

I never know whether I should say “Agnostic” or whether I should say “Atheist”. It is a very difficult question and I daresay that some of you have been troubled by it. As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God.[2]

Even in this article, Russell admitted, ‘On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods’.[3]

I have quoted Bertrand Russell at times, but this is to refute his claim on a topic. He said, ‘I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive’[4], and I cited it in my article, ‘Will you be ready when your death comes?’ Bertrand Russell now knows the truth of what happens after death and he will have found that it is very different from what his agnosticism/atheism taught him. Bertrand Russell died on 2nd February 1970.

How do I know? Jesus died and rose from the dead. He has assured all people of what will happen at the Final Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). I commend to you Dan T. Lioy’s article, ‘Life and death in biblical perspective’.

Kurt’s Bertrand Russell quote would have only passing significance if it were not for his other emphases in his troll statement. His other emphasis was:

3. ‘Thinking is inimical[5] to the fanciful claims of religion’

In other words, thinking and Christianity do not go together. Notice what Kurt does. He provides not one shred of evidence to support his claim. He is into sloganeering by giving us his opinion. Whenever somebody does this, we need to call them to account by asking things like these:

  • So you are giving us your opinion in one foul swoop of a slogan. That carries as much weight as a car driver, with no engineering experience, going over Brisbane’s Gateway Bridge and saying, ‘That’s not the proper way to build a bridge. Those fanciful engineers didn’t know what they were doing when they built that bridge that way’. You know such a statement had fanciful, irrational overtones. So has Kurt’s claim about thinking being hostile to religion come with evidence?
  • You would never win good grade in any exam with that kind of evidence. You gave zero evidence to prove your point. You’ve made a nonsense statement because it is your idiosyncratic opinion that comes with nothing to back up your claim.
  • Get real. I’m a thinking Christian and I don’t buy into your thoughtless comments.
  • Your statement really is antagonistic to what you are trying to prove. Your statement is inimical (hostile) to thoughtful people who might want to take you seriously.

However, Kurt’s kind of statement can be found all over the www in relation to religion. These are a few grabs that Google helped me find quickly.

  • Freud, ‘religion was our “collective neurosis”’ (HERE);
  • ‘When it comes to magic, religion, politics, geography, on and on, you can write whatever you can dream up as long as you make it consistent within your world’ (HERE).
  • ‘Religion is fantasy. Everything that you have been taught about religion is wrong’ (HERE).
  • ‘The ties between fantasy and religion are quite strong’ (HERE).
  • ‘Religions, like everything else, evolved from earlier myths’ (HERE).

Kurt is echoing the statements of other skeptics. The Los Angeles Times published an article, ‘Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds’ (April 26, 2012). The article begins with this statement:

Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane — for skeptics and true believers alike.

The study, published in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, indicates that belief may be a more malleable feature of the human psyche than those of strong faith may think.

Another report on this research stated,

In some ways this confirms what many people, both religious and nonreligious, have said about religious belief for a long time, that it’s more of a feeling than a thought,” says Nicholas Epley, a psychologist at the University of Chicago. But he predicts the findings won’t change anyone’s mind about whether God exists or whether religious belief is rational. “If you think that reasoning analytically is the way to go about understanding the world accurately, you might see this as evidence that being religious doesn’t make much sense,” he says. “If you’re a religious person, I think you take this evidence as showing that God has given you a system for belief that just reveals itself to you as common sense (The Huffington Post, 27 April 2012).

So religion is more of a feeling than a thought! That’s not what Jesus thought when he told us that we are to love God with our mind. Also, there is no point in the Christian renewing the mind if thinking is unimportant for the believer. I’m reminded of how the Bereans were commended for their Christian faith:

The brothers[6] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:10-11).

So these Bereans were thoughtful Jews who checked out the apostle Paul to see if what he stated agreed with their Scriptures. Jews/Christians who think have been part of Christianity from the beginning of the Christian era.

4. Conclusion

Kurt is an example of a fly-by-night sceptical, sloganeering person who is motivated to present slogans on a Christian website (Bill Muehlenberg’s Culture Watch). These kinds of people are stirrers who don’t want to present sustainable content with which we can dialogue.

In fact, they are self-refuting in their approach. Kurt wanted to condemn Christians for not being thinkers but his actual post demonstrated to us that he is the one who is not a thinker. If he were thinking about his post, he would be providing sustainable arguments to demonstrate that religion (Christianity especially) is fanciful. And these would be arguments with which we Christians could interact.

Kurt has demonstrated that he is not seeking truth and he did not present truthful statements about why he thinks that Christianity is fanciful.

What is truth?

See:

Preference or truth?’ (Greg Koukl)

What is truth?’ (Paul Copan & Mark Linville)

The nature of truth and exclusivity’ (Ravi Zacharias, YouTube)

Embodied truth’ (Ravi Zacharias)

Why truth matters’ (Os Guinness)

What is truth?’ (J P Moreland, YouTube)

Notes:


[1] Kurt Skelland, 14 September 2012, available at: http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2012/09/13/let-my-people-think-2/comment-page-1/#comment-269299 (Accessed 15 September 2012).

[2] Russell, Bertrand. “Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic? A Plea For Tolerance In The Face Of New Dogmas.” Positive Atheism Web Site, available at: http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/russell8.htm (Accessed 14 September 2012).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Cited in Richard Dawkins 2006. The God Delusion. London: Black Swan (Transworld Publishers), p. 397. This is from Bertrand Russell’s 1925 essay, “What I believe”. It is available for free download HERE.

[5] ‘Inimical’ means ‘unfriendly; hostile’, according to dictionary.com at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/inimical?s=t (Accessed 14 September 2012).

[6] The footnote in the ESV at this point stated, ‘Or brothers and sisters’.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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Religious marriage with a different twist: My response to Spencer Howson

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Marriage is from God

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

bmag is a Brisbane freebie newspaper-magazine style publication delivered to Brisbane households once a month. It can be accessed online HERE.

Spencer Howson is a breakfast presenter on radio, ABC 612 Brisbane. He used to write a regular column for bmag. Since my email letter of 11 July 2012 to Spencer Howson, a bmag contributor, was not published on 24 July 2012, p. 16, ‘Your say on marriage’, here I publish what I wrote to him on 11 July 2012 (his email was, spencer@bmag.com.au):

Your ‘Marriage shake-up‘ article (bmag, 10 July 2012) was your secular, religious, relativistic, politically correct (PC) promotion to accommodate the homosexual community. Yours is as religious a perspective as any in Australia. There is no philosophy, religion or worldview that is not devoted to some divinity – the object of its highest desire and deepest commitment. You may not call it ‘divinity’ but this pinnacle of desire and depth of commitment is the essence of the ‘divine’ (even though you define it differently).

Your use of projection triggers gives away your presuppositions (bold emphasis ahead). These projection triggers included,

(1) ‘I’ve never considered our marriage has anything to do with God’.

(2) Your marriage to Nikki was ‘a religion-free declaration of love and commitment’.

(3) ‘Nikki and I would have chosen a Civil Marriage’.

(4) ‘What do you think of my idea of having Church Marriage and Civil Marriage?’

Yours is a religion of autonomous reason – but it is as religious as any Christian’s view in Australia. [Here I add dot points that I did not include in the letter.] His presuppositions include:

  • Marriage has nothing to do with God.
  • A God-less marriage is religion-free.
  • Marriage is a declaration of love and commitment with no reference to God.
  • A Civil Marriage is preferred if you want it to be religion-free.

This is a pluralistic, relativistic religion that has considerable negative ramifications. How come? When the polyamory, polyandry, polygamy and marriage to children PC groups come along promoting their views, you have no rational basis to reject such religious perspectives. Yours is a slippery slope argument, Spencer, and you are standing at its pinnacle.

You are conning yourself by claiming yours is a non-religious perspective and your PC view should be considered or promoted. Having Church Marriage and Civil Marriage – your religious perspective – is a BIG compromise of the integrity of marriage.

By the way, your view of the church as ‘membership of a club – and that’s what church is’, is a country mile from the reality of the church being and functioning as the body of Christ (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27). If your knowledge of marriage is as far-off as your understanding of the church, our society is in deep trouble if it pursues your religious views.

Why is the church so adamant about marriage being between a man and a woman? In spite of your alternate religious values, from the beginning of time the Judeo-Christian Almighty God has declared that this is the foundation of marriage: ‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). The foundation of a stable and just society is marriage of a man and a woman. [The following was not in my email to Spencer Howson.]

Jesus Christ supported the Genesis 2:24 passage when he was teaching about divorce:

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt 19:4-6 ESV)

I add Karl Barth’s comment:

There is no man who does not have his own god or gods as the object of his highest desire and trust, or as the basis of his deepest loyalty and commitment. There is no one who is not to this extent also a theologian. There is, moreover, no religion, no philosophy, no world view that is not dedicated to some such divinity. Every world view … presupposes a divinity interpreted in one way or another and worshiped to some degree, whether wholeheartedly or superficially. There is no philosophy that is not to some extent also theology. Not only does this fact apply to philosophers who desire to affirm—or who, at least, are ready to admit—that divinity, in a positive sense, is the essence of truth and power of some kind of highest principle; but the same truth is valid even for thinkers denying such a divinity, for such a denial would in practice merely consist in transferring an identical dignity and function to another object. Such an alternative object might be “nature,” creativity, or an unconscious and amorphous will to life. It might be “reason,” progress, or even a redeeming nothingness into which man would be destined to disappear. Even such apparently “godless” ideologies are theologies (Barth 1963:3-4).

Reference:

Barth, K 1963.  Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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What makes Christianity true?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

T

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

Stated briefly, Christianity is true because ….

  1. It matches reality like a hand in a glove.
  2. It’s description of human beings is a perfect fit, including the good, the bad and the ugly (fallen human beings in sin – Genesis 3).
  3. It’s explanation of how the universe began and the majesty of the universe are spot on (see Genesis 1-2; Psalm 19).
  4. It gives the only permanent solution I know for changing human beings – from the inside out – in salvation through Christ alone.
  5. It provides the absolutes for running nations (if nations would only obey them) – the 10 commandments (Exodus 20) and the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). Francis Schaeffer described this as the thesis vs antithesis dilemma that God fulfills.
  6. As for a world and life view, there is none to match it.
  7. That’s why I know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) .

Recently I was reading a book by Ravi Zacharias, Jesus among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message (Word Publishing 2000) in which he, a former Hindu was so disillusioned with life that he attempted suicide. In this book he writes,

I came to Him [Jesus] because I did not know which way to turn. I have remained with Him because there is no other way I wish to turn. I came to Him longing for something I did not have. I remain with Him because I have something I will not trade. I came to Him as a stranger. I remain with Him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to Him unsure about the future. I remain with Him certain about my destiny. I came amid the thunderous cries of a culture that has three hundred and thirty million deities. I remain with Him knowing that truth cannot be all inclusive. Truth by definition excludes (p. 6).

I highly recommend this as an excellent lay-level book to help people work through the challenges of multitudes of religions and gods.

However, there are many theological liberals (modernist or postmodernist) who don’t want this to be true. They don’t trust the God revealed in Scriptures and they want to denigrate biblical content wherever possible. Many of these do not believe in the reality of prophecy or the miraculous because their presuppositions exclude a God who would do that. They hack into the integrity of the Bible.

As I’ve examined their claims and the claims of world religions, I conclude where I began: The Christian worldview matches reality perfectly.

See also my articles,

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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Whytehouse Graphics

What is truth?

Monday, January 16th, 2012

 T

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

A.  Introduction

In 1993 when I was co-host of a talk-back radio show in Canberra, Australia, a caller was defending the right and value of sleeping around with anybody. As I began to present God’s absolutes as they apply to human relationships, she said something like, “That might have applied thousands of years ago, but it has no relevance whatsoever in today’s world. That’s out-of-date garbage.”

During October 1993, I advertised three times in The Canberra Times, personal column of the classifieds (Saturday edition): “There is a way out of homosexuality for gays who want to change. Ph Spencer (and I gave the phone number).”

I received about 25 phone calls, some of them abusive, but enough men wanted to begin my “Steps Out” group for those who want to be redeemed from homosexuality. One fellow who responded to the advertising, when I mentioned that this was a Christian-based group, shouted: “That’s your opinion; I know that homosexuality is right. I was born that way.” And then came a pile of swear words.

Sometimes I have shared my testimony of how Christ invaded our Bundaberg, Qld home through the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade in Brisbane (a land line crusade rally at the Bundaberg Show Grounds) and my parents trusted Christ as their Lord and Saviour. This led to the salvation of the three children in the family. I have thought: I’m sure a Hare Krishna could tell of a changed lifestyle. Mormons speak of a “burning in the bosom” that convinced them that the Book of Mormon was true and this changed their lives. If I base my witnessing on a personal testimony, what’s the difference from the Hare Krishna or the Mormon?

That great English defender of the faith and writer, the late C.S. Lewis, saw the battle lines. He contended that the final conflict between religions would involve Hinduism and Christianity, because these two would offer the only viable religions. Because Hinduism absorbs all religious systems, and Christianity excludes all others, maintaining the supremacy of the claims of Jesus Christ alone. [1]

These examples raise a critical issue when we consider Christianity: Are we dealing with an individual religious experience, a personal opinion, a personal choice, or is this truth? One of the core verses is:

B.  What does Jesus say? (John 14:6)

“Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (NASB).


We often think of Christ’s words as metaphors:

I am the door; I am the vine; I am the light of the world; and we can tend to see these words metaphorically: I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life.

In our world today, that bases truth on personal opinion, the majority vote, or the views of a prominent leader, Jesus is saying something remarkably radical. So revolutionary that it will change our view of the church and our world if we understand what Jesus is saying.

Jesus said:

1.    I am the truth

  • He is not stating that He is the Messiah or Son of God in this instance. Although he is Messiah, that is not His point here.
  • He is not saying this is truth about Me.
  • He is not saying I am one way to truth.

He is saying: I am the truth. It could not be clearer.

2. What is truth?

This was Pilate’s great question to Jesus Christ (John 18:38).

One dictionary definition is: Truth is “genuineness or veracity”; “that which is true; a fact; a reality; that which conforms to fact or reality; the real or true state of things.” [2] Another dictionary adds that truth is “that which is in accordance with what is, what has been, or must be.” [3]

This is confirmed by my Greek word studies of aletheia which state: “John uses aletheia regularly in the sense of reality in contrast to falsehood or mere appearance… The revealed reality of God.” [4] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says of aletheia: “The word has an absolute force. . . not merely ethical truth, but truth in all its fulness and scope, as embodied in Him.” [5]

When we apply this to Jesus, this is an amazing statement. Jesus is saying, “I am ultimate reality. I am the root of what was, what is, what will come, I am the foundation of all that is genuine, factual and real in the world. Everything flows from Me.”

Jesus is the truth.

God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex 3:14). To the unbelieving Jews, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58) and they wanted to stone Jesus. No wonder. He was not claiming to be like God, or sent by God, but he was claiming to be Yahweh — the “I AM.”

When I speak out against abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality; make a stand for justice for oppressed people; when I proclaim the atonement and salvation through Jesus Christ alone; when I practise biblical ethics on the job; when I write letters or articles for newspapers or magazines, my aim is never to promote my own opinion. My sole desire is to proclaim Jesus Christ as the ultimate reality of all that exists and has existed and will exist.

We do the greatest disservice to you, and especially our young people, when we ask them to experience Jesus without an understanding that we are talking about truth.

The world wants to separate faith from knowledge and reason. Christians don’t want to mix faith with reason. “Thou shalt not think” seems to be the 11th commandment. And yet, what did the apostle Paul do when he proclaimed the Gospel? I read through the Book of Acts and this is the kind of language I appears:

  • explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (17:3)
  • “he was reasoning in the synagogue. . . trying to persuade Jews and Greeks” (18:4). cf 17:2,4; 18:19; 19:8, 26
  • solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ” (18:5). cf 20:21, 23
  • “This man persuades men to worship God” (18:13).
  • “He powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (18:28).

What drove Paul to be such a defender of the faith?

Second Corinthians 5:10-11 gives us the key: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (NIV). Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (NASB).

Yes, Paul was a gifted apostle. Most of us do not have such a gift. But what drove Paul, must drive us: All Christians will appear before Christ’s magistrate’s court one day to be judged for our rewards. If you know what it is to fear the Lord, you must be involved in persuading people of the God who exists, who they are before Him, and how they can be set free from a life of sin and enter into eternal life by repenting of their sin and trusting Christ as Saviour and Lord — this will mean that your life must be as salt and light in this world.

This is quite in contrast with the scientific world where a Carl Sagan, of the Cosmos TV series, could so arrogantly say: “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” [6] Western civilisation was built on the foundation that there is a God of truth who gives objective truth that is ultimate reality. This is the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Here are two recommended resources for an analysis of the nature of truth:

C.  It is crucial that we understand Christianity as truth.

Down through the centuries, people have tried to find answers to life through the biblical world view and hundreds of other philosophies. But we have reached utter despair in Australia today. I see it in kids who are high on all kinds of drugs, youth who are committing suicide as a phenomenal rate. When I was working for the international Christian-based drug rehabilitation and counselling agency, Teen Challenge, Canberra, we as staff were confronted with three attempted suicides referred to us in one week. There is a sense of hopelessness and disillusionment in Australia. Families that are busting apart. Crime on the increase. Approximately 100,000 unborn babies slaughtered in Australia every year through abortion. That’s about one every seven minutes.

This should not be surprising when our society is influenced by the Eastern mysticism and occult of the New Age Movement, or straight secularism — this life is all there is to live for and then you die you rot. So eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die. In eastern mysticism you seek meaning within yourself. For secularism, it is this life — so rip into it and use and abuse people, yourself and your environment. Who cares? You only go round once.

As a result, the Australian culture and much of the world are morally exhausted. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the suicide rate, sexual promiscuity, divorce rate, premarital pregnancy rate, abortion and euthanasia, sexually transmitted diseases (in 1988, there were 51 STDs. Now we are approaching 60 STDs, with a new one discovered about every 9 months. [7]  Australia and the Western world are morally destitute.

It is critical for Christians to understand that Christ is the truth, ultimate truth. This will alter your view of Christianity and the nature of the world. Your university studies, the environment for political and ethical decisions, your personal worth and significance, the whole of life, need to be measured by Him. If a personal God is not there, who is? When Charlie Chaplin heard that there was no life on Mars, he said, “I feel lonely.” [8] Ultimate questions are too horrid to contemplate if there is no meaning apart from me and the universe. Thank God we have this revelation:

Jesus Christ says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). The beginning and the end flow from him. The past, present and future are His.

Colossians 1:15-17 says: “And He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

This Jesus, who said, “I am the truth; I am the beginning and the end” and “all things hold together through Him” is also the one who said, “Sanctify them by the truth; [the Father’s] word is truth” (John 17:17 NIV).

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D.  God has spoken truth through the Scriptures.

His word is truth, true to reality. II Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

 

This is not the place to develop a defence for the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Word of God (see, ‘Can you Trust the Bible?).  But sufficient to say that the Bible will leave the writings of antiquity for dead when it comes to assessing the accuracy of a document. I recommend John Warwick Montgomery’s, History and Christianity, Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, and Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament History?[9]

With the Bible, we are dealing with accurate, verifiable, objective truth that can be trusted. It matches up with the external world around us, and the uniqueness of human personality.

Do you understand the implications of this? When you want truth about morality: you shall not commit adultery and flee sexual immorality are the truth about relationships.

It means that there is no such person as an atheist. Fools, yes! But certainly not atheists. The truth of God’s word says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God” (Ps 14:1).

Why is this? Because of the objective truth of Romans 1:18-20!. So-called atheists are “suppressing the truth” of God’s evidence in creation, “by their wickedness.”

That’s why Ps 14:1 can be emphatic in giving the objective truth — a fool says there is no God.

I support the scientific enterprise. Christianity gave science its foundation with a personal God who created an orderly universe that could be investigated in a systematic way. But, I am amazed at all the philosophising about the origin of the universe, when the simple fact is: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The more modern cosmology develops, if scientists would bring God into the equation, the more one sees the enormity and complexity of the universe — and the might and mystery of Creator God.

Yet, as I was finalising my preparation for this message (preached in 1993), I picked up The Canberra Times (Nov 7, 1993, p. 19), in which there was an article, “The Eternal Question”. I was thrilled to see that a capital city newspaper was taking up the subject of life-after-death.

But I was shocked to read the statement by Rev. Neil Adcock of Canberra Baptist Church that “he does not believe that some souls will be eternally damned to Hell.”  He says that “judgment is largely an assessment of oneself in the light of the reality of God and all that God stands for.”

“‘All the stuff of fires and brimstone really comes out of the medieval idea of the earth being flat — Hell was underneath and Heaven was up there. We know that is not the case… I do not necessarily believe that the goal of a Christian life is to get to Heaven. “‘I think the goal of a Christian life is to grow in character like Jesus Christ… [The article’s statement: “He is honestly unknowing about the difference between an afterlife in Hell and one in Heaven” is incorrect, according to my personal phone call to Neil. He said he doesn’t know where the journalist got that from. When I asked him about judgment, he said he considers the Old Testament prophets inferior to Jesus and the New Testament.]

“‘Judgment is largely an assessment of oneself in the light of the reality of God and all that God stands for.'”  That’s Rev Neil Adcock from Canberra Baptist Church.

Yet, the Jesus who said, “I am the truth,” will say to unbelievers at the judgment, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41), a place, Jesus says, where there “will be weeping and grinding of teeth” (Matt 24:51). And Neil Adcock doesn’t know what hell will be like?  Is this a statement about his view of Scripture?

He says, “Judgment is largely an assessment of oneself in the light of the reality of God and all that God stands for.” The ultimate truth of God’s Word is much different. Romans 2:5 says: “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed”. In the Book of Revelation 6:17, “For the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand?”

“More than one writer has drawn attention to the fact that there are more references in the Bible to the anger and wrath of God than there are to the love of God.” [10]

I phoned Neil Adcock five days after the publication of the article, and not one clergyman or anybody else in Canberra, had phoned to ask about the unorthodox theology in the article. Where are the defenders of the faith today?  However, Neil did tell me that members of his congregation had commended him for going public with his views.

Let’s look at:

E.  The modern world

Flower   If there is no ultimate truth, your school and university studies are only a process with no ultimate answers to be found. If there is no ultimate truth, you have no solid, unchanging standard to judge music, art, literature, business deals, the church, politics and government, or your personal life. There is no way to judge between the horrors of Hitler’s Nazi Germany and the work of Mother Teresa. The difference between good and evil amounts to personal opinion, the majority vote, or the imposition of a dictator or a government elite.

The late Francis Schaeffer shared the speakers’ platform with a former American cabinet member and urban leader, John Gardner. Gardner spoke on the need to restore values to our culture. After he finished speaking, a Harvard University student asked him: “On what do you build your values?” Gardner, who is usually articulate and scholarly, paused, looked down, and said, “I do not know.” [11]

In our secular, relativistic culture, there is no basis for values. Absolute, unchanging values are so vital for politics and government, law and order in society. If we look to puny human values, we are doomed.

What is truth? Jesus said, “I am the truth.” God’s Word is truth. Ultimate values are centred in

Flower  the God who was;

Flower the God who is;

Flower  the God who is to come.

Pilate said, “You are a king, then!” “Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, 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, NIV).

Christianity is not some psychological religious experience. This is not a feel-good religion. Contrary to Sigmund Freud, Christianity is not an illusion. It is not the opiate of the people, as Marx would say. Christianity is Christ, who is truth, ultimate truth. Christianity is true to reality. It can be verified and falsified.

Pontius Pilate symbolises modern people. Just turn on the TV to Donohue and Oprah, or here in Australia to Kerry O’Brien, Ray Martin, Mike Munro, and other current affairs’ hosts and imagine their asking questions like:

Flower  What is the meaning of life?

Flower  How does this affect our lives?

Flower   Is it right, moral or good?
Flower  What is true?
Flower  What is truth?

Francis Schaeffer: Courtesy Wikipedia

 

Francis Schaeffer was right, “Modern man has both feet firmly planted in mid-air.” [12]

R.C. Sproul puts it another way: “Modern man is betting his life that this is it, and that there is no judgment and that there is no eternity.” [13]

Listen to the words of distinguished historian, Arthur Schlesinger: “It is this belief in absolutes … that is the great enemy today of the life of the mind…. The mystic prophets of the absolute cannot save us. Sustained by our history and traditions, we must save ourselves at whatever risk of heresy or blasphemy.” [14]

Australian philosopher/bioethicist formerly at the Human Bioethics Centre, Monash University, Melbourne, and now at Princeton University, NJ, USA, Dr Peter Singer, wrote:

 

“Once the religious mumbo-jumbo surrounding the term ‘human’ has been stripped away, we may continue to see normal members of our species as possessing greater capacities of rationality, self-consciousness, communication, and so on, than members of any other species. . . If we compare a severely defective human infant with a nonhuman animal, a dog or a pig, for example, we will often find the nonhuman to have superior capacities, both actual and potential, for rationality, self-consciousness, communication, and anything else that can plausibly be considered morally significant… Species membership alone, however, is not morally relevant.” [15]

If we follow this kind of ethic, I am convinced it will lead our culture into a shambles. I believe, this kind of ethic will help Australia to become a lawless moral mess.

But Jesus said, “I am the truth.” God’s “Word is truth” — real truth, objective truth that is ultimate reality.

F. The challenge

We are living in a decaying society and we cannot afford to be aloof in our comfortable churches.
Charles Colson says a ‘dark age’ is upon us;
Carl Henry writes of ‘the twilight of our culture’.
Malcolm Muggeridge predicted the end of Christendom.
Francis Schaeffer warned of the “spiritual collapse of the West.” [16]

Moral and spiritual clouds are looming. The crisis is not just some small shower, but a mighty thunder storm. The crisis may shake the very fabric of Australia. The boundaries that held back our vices and promoted our virtues are eroding.

What can the people of God do?

  1.    We, the church, must defend the truth, objective truth, ultimate reality.

Church leaders will need to equip their people to do apologetics in a post-Christian society. We must!

No wonder their is moral rot in Australia — sexual immorality and perversion, family breakdown, crime, drugs. Christian values are on the decline across the nation. Why?

Christians are generally illiterate when it comes to defending the faith. There has been a fierce attack on the Christian world view for at least 30 years. The mass media feed viewers with a regular dose of violence and sexual sensuality. And we Christians vegetate in front of the box while our Christian values are assaulted — and there’s hardly a murmur.

Church leaders undermine the word of God, like the Canberra Baptist pastor I mentioned, with hardly a whimper. This must change as we equip a new generation of believers to defend the objective truth of God’s Word.

John Wesley challenges us: “Making an open stand against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness which overspreads our land as a flood is one of the noblest ways of confessing Christ in the face of enemies.”

There is no other way out of this mess Australia is in, without the salt and light of the people of God. We are the only ones who can provide the answer and show a crumbling, sceptical culture the ultimate and only reality, Jesus Christ.

2.     We must have a renewed commitment to truth.

The evidence is compelling that the Scriptures are God-breathed, authoritative and trustworthy, without error in the original manuscripts in all that they affirm. We need to stand boldly for the inerrant Word of God.

3.    We must challenge our culture in its moral choices.

Mark 7:23 says, “… All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” This is an offence to modern people to say that evil actions come from within the person. Homosexuals tell me, “I was born that way.” Or as a woman told me the other day, “I had the demon of lust cast out of me.” Or, I was a victim of my upbringing, alcoholic parents, domestic violence. Or, my generational sin has caused this problem I have with the occult. When will we get back to the sinful nature within as the problem, and personal responsibility for overcoming it?

R.C. Sproul shocked me when I read: “If you think about it, we are all really more like Adolf Hitler than like Jesus Christ.” [17]

The atrocity is that we in the church have allowed our society to decay by not standing for truth, not confronting our culture, failing to promote an intelligent, consistent Christian world-view, and not consistently living the truth in our own lives.

Former Dutch Prime Minister, Abraham Kuyper [lived 1837-1920] , would encounter some stiff opposition from the civil libertarians if he promoted this view today:

“[Our call] is this: that in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the state for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which the Bible and creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.” [18]

It is urgent: We need to equip ourselves to offer a reasoned, consistent defence of God’s absolute truth, the biblical world-view, in the marketplace of our cities and towns.

Proverbs 29:18 (New International Version) summarises it so well: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.”

This is where we are in the twenty-first century. The people are casting off restraint. We are in an age of chaos personally, in the family, in many nations and internationally. September 11, 2001 was a gross symptom of what is happening world-wide. Will you join me in defending the Christian faith now to all peoples and nations? Will you join me in living out the Christian life with authenticity in these crisis times?

Take a look at Norman Geisler’s view of the nature of truth.  He concludes that truth is that which corresponds to reality.  Check our what this apologist says in his defense of the nature of truth as applied to Christianity.  Douglas Groothuis answers the question, “What is truth?

Notes:

1. In Walter Martin, The New Age Cult. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989, p. 13.
2. Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (unabridged). Collins World, 1977.
3. In Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, The Body: Being Light in Darkness. Milton Keynes, England: Word Publishing, 1992, p. 158.
4. Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Vol 3). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978, pp. 889, 891. 5. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. London: Opliphants, 1940, p. 159.
6. In Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview (Vol. 5). Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1982, p. 439).
7. John Ankerberg & John Weldon, The Myth of Safe Sex. Chicago: Moody Press, 1993, p. 53.
8. In Charles Colson, The Body, p. 161.
9. John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity. Minneapolis Minnesota, Bethany House Publishers, 1965; Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972; Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1987 (InterVarsity Press, USA); F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1960 (rev. ed.); Paul Barnett, Is the New Testament History. Sydney: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986.
10. Eryl Davies, An Angry God? Bryntirion, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1991, p. 70.
11. In Colson, The Body, p.163.
12. Ibid.., 165
13. Ibid.
14. From Schlesinger’s speech at Brown University, in Brown Alumni Monthly, May 1989, pp. 18, 22, in Colson, The Body, pp. 170-171.
15. Pediatrics, July 1983, p. 138, in Franky Schaeffer, Bad News for Modern Man. Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1984, p. 156.
16. In Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, Against the Night. London: Hodder & Stoughton, p.10. [Servant Publications, USA]
17. In Charles Colson, The Body, p. 191.
18.  In ibid., pp.196-97.

The Truth will set you free!

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 September 2016.