Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Some things are true whether you believe in them or not.

What is the proper (i.e., Christian) response to truth? What's the appropriate attitude toward its acquisition? toward its possession? toward its transmission?

We know that ... God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

However, has relativism and the undercurrents of postmodernism (e.g., Derrida's concept of "undecidability") produced an unhealthy notion of humility where God's truth is concerned?

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy:
"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert - himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason. . . . The new skeptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. . . . There is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it's practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. . . . The old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which makes him stop working altogether. . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table."

In John Piper's piece "What is Humility?" we see 5 descriptions of biblical humility and the notion that, "Modern-day humility would never cry, "Fire!" since the smoke might be vapor from the clothes drier."

From Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
"We contend for the objectivity of truth, and we must insist that all persons do actually believe in the objectivity of Truth. The fact is that even the relativists objectivize their own positions. The difference for us is that we know that truth exists in God, who is Truth, and whose Word is truth. Our knowledge is true only in so far as it corresponds with God's revealed truth. We are dependent upon the Word, the Word is not dependent upon us. As Martin Luther stated so clearly, "The objectivity and certainty of the Word remain even if it isn't believed." We have no right to seek refuge in a halfway house of false epistemological humility. To deny the truthfulness of God's Word is not an act of humility, but of unspeakable arrogance."

"This is our proper epistemological humility — not that it is not possible for us to know, but that the truth is not our own."

"This is our proper humility. But we must be on guard against an improper and faithless humility."
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy:
"The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether."
Humility does not mean we question whether truth exists, but we instead question whether we have understood it. Humility does not mean there is no truth, but it means we must labor to ensure we truly know truth, because truth and God can be trusted, but our apprehension must be suspect.

Such humility will also show up in how we possess truth, with an appreciation for God's giving it, and how we transmit truth, with patience for those not yet there.

"For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" (1 Cor 4:7)

Pilate had asked, "What is truth?" But he failed to realize that Truth was right in front of Him, for Jesus had already explained that He is "the way and the truth and the life."

That conversation serves as a reminder that truth is not determined, but recognized, by the subject. The bumper sticker should not be God said it. I believe it. That settles it. but rather God said it. That settles it.

Truth is still truth, regardless of our response to it. Some things are true whether you believe in them or not.


At 29 March, 2006 21:23, Blogger M. Jay Bennett said...

Hey Gunny. I agree wholeheartedly. Chesterton's quotes are gems, and Mohler is right on track. Therefore what you said is true for me ;).

The concept of truth is certainly objective for us and, interestingly, subjective for God since he is it. It is also absolute and ultimately determined according to correspondance by the standard who is the triune God. God is truth, and that which reflects him is true.

But I'm wondering, what do you think about the relationship between truth and redemptive grace? Or to put it another way how does the indwelling Holy Spirit relate to our perception of truth? Is love necesarry in order for truth to be known? If so, how is it that the demons believe God is one (certainly true) and yet they shudder without love? How is it that Jewish rabbis can have amazing insights into the text from the advantages of their historical/cultural/grammatical perspective that we would definitely call true, and yet they deny the Son and therefore cannot know the Father?

Finally I would ask, is the perception of truth an end in itself or a means to a more ultimate end end? If it is a means to an end, what is the more ultimate end?

Great blog! Thanks for making me think!


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