Doctrine / Truth

What is Truth?

Definition of Truth

Truth is the way things really are as opposed to man’s erroneous conceptions. In the spiritual realm truth is that body of teaching which God designed for us to uncover in the Bible. Everything that differs from his revealed truth in the Bible is a misstep, whether theological, doctrinal, or practical.

The Existence and Knowability of Truth

Man instinctively knows that truth exists in the physical universe and that it is knowable. This is the foundational premise of science. Given time and opportunity we can gain a right understanding of every aspect of this universe. Now the fact that God created a universe that can be understood implies that he intends to be understood in the religious realm too. And this is indeed the case, for God has perspicuously revealed himself, his will, and his redemption to man at various junctures in history, and this revelation is recorded for us in the Bible — a record that is verbally and plenarily inspired.

Truth and Authentication

The truth (the revelation of God and his salvation in the Bible) is not a matter of blind faith but a matter of evidence. Its truthfulness is authenticated by a significant body of evidence: the dozens of eyewitnesses who left mankind a written record, the hundreds of biblical prophecies that have come true, the profound typologies in the pages of Holy Writ, the Bible’s historical accuracy being vindicated time and again by archaeology, the sublime uniqueness of the Bible’s message, the life-changing power innate in the Word, the preservation of the Jews, and the singling out of the Bible and its message for special antipathy by the intellectual and religious elite.

Salvation and Truth

Salvation, as all Evangelicals agree, is by faith alone. And faith, as we read in the Gospel of John, involves stepping into the light — the inseparable light of the Incarnate Word and the Written Word — a powerful, life-transforming experience. When a man steps into the light, it reveals the truth about his badness and God’s goodness. And it places him on the path of walking in the light — the path of truth-illumination by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. This path will renew his mind, purify his heart, cleanse his life, and take him ever deeper into the wonders of grace, the principles of discipleship, and the rudiments of discernment.

How Men Miss the Truth

Man is wired to recognize light as light. This is why unbelief is so evil. Unbelief is walking away from known light — whether the vestiges of the patriarchal religion, the light of the OT, the light of the NT, or the light of creation. This is why doctrinal error is, for all who have had time and opportunity, inexcusable. Doctrinal error cannot be maintained apart from men closing their eyes to facts or observations that are fatal to the error. (We shall discover at the judgment seat of Christ that we could have been right on every important doctrinal and practical issue.) But error never rejects light without a motive and an excuse. The motive always falls under the auspices of either the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life. The excuse is any convenient piece of earthly wisdom — be it philosophy, ideology, theology, or street lore — that justifies the chosen path.

Devotion and Truth

Devotion in and of itself has no moral value. It gains its value from the amount and purity of the truth it is attached to. Therefore devotion should be focused first and foremost on mastering the teachings of the Bible on what we should believe and how we should live. Some claim that they are devoted to Jesus alone and that associating devotion with doctrine is artificial and empty. But this is wrong — very wrong. There is zero tension or contradiction between the Incarnate Word and the Written Word. Moreover, the only proof that a man is devoted to the Incarnate Word is his devotion to the Written Word and the teachings it contains.

Agnosticism and Truth

Many today claim that they are doctrinal agnostics (truth agnostics). They are not merely claiming that they don’t know what to believe. They are claiming that a studied (intentional) agnosticism is spiritually superior to doctrinal knowledge. In their estimation, the only truth that can be held with certainty, and the only truth that they strongly care about, is the bare truth of Jesus himself, divorced from any theological or doctrinal considerations framed by men from the Bible. But this is misguided. The proof that we know the Jesus of the Bible is that we embrace his teachings given to us in the Bible — “If my words abide in you …” If a man is agnostic in regard to the teachings of the New Testament, then he is agnostic in regard to the Jesus of the New Testament, for the two cannot be separated. If a man holds a Jesus divorced from the teachings of the New Testament, then his Jesus is not the Jesus of the New Testament.

Pursuit of Truth

The believer should search for understanding (for truth) as for hid treasure (Prov. 2:4). It should be his consuming passion to know God’s word and master its doctrines (teachings) so he can navigate his way through the spiritual gauntlet before him, avoiding the lies of the world and steering clear of the errors that roil the church. When men do not pursue understanding with this kind of passion, they manifest a tragic indifference to truth.

God’s Truth and Man’s Testimony

We must distinguish between the truth in the sense of that body of doctrine that God has revealed to us in His Word and “the truth” in the sense of our best efforts to understand and articulate that body of doctrine. If we do not keep this distinction before our eyes, we will confuse the two, which increases the odds that we will be married to unbiblical traditions and indulge a sectarian spirit.

The Crucible of Scripture

We must hold no doctrine or practice so sacred that we exempt it from the crucible of Scripture. This does not imply that certainty is an elusive phantom — that we cannot be certain that a doctrine is the absolute truth. This only implies that after a doctrine has passed a rigorous test in the crucible and been proven to be the truth of God, that it is still necessary for it to remain in the crucible where it can be refined, modified, balanced, clarified, qualified, or guarded as necessary. This approach to doctrine is the only path that can deliver us from any errors that we might hold.

The Historical-Grammatical Interpretation of Scripture

God communicated a definite body of truth to man in the Bible using human language as humans normally use it so that this body of truth can be readily understood. Therefore the only way to arrive at the understanding of the Bible that God intended is to use the historical-grammatical method of interpretation — interpreting the Bible with the everyday rules of language usage — words have their normal meanings, figures and idioms have their usual senses, historic passages are simple history, the prophetic passages are simple history foretold. Nothing is esoteric and nothing is arbitrarily figurative. Whenever believers depart from this method, they depart from the understanding that God intended.

Truth Sets Men Free

Knowing Jesus brings glorious freedom — freedom from sin, destructive self-will, and error — freedom to experience the goodness of God, the beauty of Jesus, and the joy of holiness. This freedom is ministered to man through truth — “the truth shall set you free.” At salvation the glorious truth in Jesus sets men free from the guilt, power, and punishment of sin. After salvation the delivering work of truth continues through the washing of the water of the Word, cleansing the mind and heart, replacing error with truth, dispelling darkness with light. This freedom is progressive — the more truth a man has, the more freedom he experiences from error, darkness, and self-will (going his own way) .

No Error is Inconsequential

There is no such thing as inconsequential error — i.e. error without consequences. While the consequences of some errors are relatively small compared to the consequences of others, every error has definite consequences. Every point of God’s revelation in the Bible was intended for man’s blessing. Every error, therefore, robs us of the blessing intended by the point that has been marred or voided.

No Truth is Inconsequential

There is no such thing as inconsequential truth. Sometimes men object to an effort to correct their error with the argument, “So what if you are right. What is the gain even if you are right?” This is a mistake. First of all, every advancement of light, in and of itself, is a gain. Secondly, every ray of light in the Bible was incorporated for a definite, practical purpose, even if ignorance can’t or prejudice won’t see it, therefore every gain in light brings practical gain.

Worship in Spirit and Truth

We have an obligation to worship God in spirit and truth. We can only fulfill this obligation to the degree that our understanding agrees with the truth — the body of teaching which God designs for us to uncover in the pages of Scripture — and the degree to which we walk in that light.

Truth is Propositional

Truth is neither fuzzy, nor nebulous, nor beyond logic, nor metaphysical. Truth can be expressed in clear statements which men can readily affirm or deny. “Truth” which cannot be expressed with such a statement is either broad-road gibberish or scientific malarkey.

Truth is Universal

Truth is the same for every man, every generation, every age, every culture, every nation, every people — without exception. It is immutable and inflexible — oblivious to man’s circumstances or viewpoint.

Truth is objective

Truth has no subjective or relative component. Any subjectivity or relativity supposedly entangled with truth is added by man — a contamination that is neither necessary nor unavoidable.

Truth is Systematic

The entire body of revealed truth is systematic. Every truth fits hand-in-glove with every adjoining truth. There are no contradictions and no paradoxes. Apparent paradoxes are the result of man’s ignorance or misunderstanding, not a shortcoming in the revelation nor an indication that truth is ultimately abstract, mysterious, and intangible.

Truth is Harmonious

The correct understanding of any subject covered in the Bible is the understanding that harmonizes every passage in the Bible that touches on the subject, neither ignoring nor wresting any of them. Supposed tension between passages or subjects lies neither in the revelation nor in the nature of the case, but in the minds of men whose viewpoint is tainted by the world’s unbelief and lies.

Religion and Science

While we can make a practical distinction between evangelical truth (the message of salvation in Christ) and scientific truth, there is neither contrast nor qualitative distinction between revealed religion and the facts of science and history. The testimony of the Bible agrees perfectly with the testimony of creation and the testimony of history — the same God wrote all three testimonies. Apparent discrepancies are the result of God-denying ideologies — like atheism and evolution—polluting history with revisionism and railroading science with “science falsely so called.”

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