Truth Matters: The Biblical View Of Truth

The Bible is a book of literature, and thus it contains many types of writing. To understand it we must be aware that it includes history, i.e., literal narratives of actual events. It is also filled with figures of speech that are used precisely by the Author, including allegories, vivid metaphors, and idioms that make the text come alive. We also find prophetic admonitions and predictions, poetry with artistic language, and letters (epistles). Scripture employs a full spectrum of literary devices, and we must understand them in order to ascertain the meaning intended by the Author. It is also vital that the reader know the context in which the words are framed, and that includes a clear understanding of “to whom” the material is written, and the culture in which it is presented.

Despite the fact that Scripture was originally written in languages other than our own (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic), most of what it says is clear and easy to understand. If the Word of God is what it claims to be, we must be very careful in our quest to find the Author’s message. Every language is governed by rules of grammar, and even a proper translation of the words themselves does not guarantee that we will fully grasp His intent. Good hermeneutics (Scripture interpretation) demands a scope of the whole Bible and a broad background in its languages, cultures, and history. It is one thing to read Shakespeare or Chaucer and suggest their intentions, but quite another when a person attempts to speak for God Almighty.

James 3:1
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

It is not required of every Bible reader to be an expert in all these arenas, but if one is an interpreter and teacher of doctrine, he is obliged to have a certain level of proficiency. Those of us not adept in biblical languages must take the time to hone our skills in the use of concordances, lexicons, dictionaries, and commentaries.

The diversity of doctrines present in Christianity today has resulted in a multiplicity of denominations, and is nothing short of a black eye on our Faith. How is it that we can come to such a variety of beliefs, each claiming to have the “truth” about what the Bible says? One of the problems we find in the Church today is the same one Jesus found in Judaism. He warned his followers to beware of those who promoted the traditions of men at the expense of the Word of God.

Mark 7:13
Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

If the Bible is truly the Word of God, men can “nullify” it only in the sense that the traditions they substitute for it prohibit people from hearing the true Word. God, being God, will cause His Word to accomplish its intended purpose for those who hear it and believe it, and that is why it is so important for those who teach it to do so accurately.

Isaiah 55:11
so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Men can nullify the Word of God in their own lives by choosing to reject it, or to replace it with theories, philosophies, or religious practices of their own making. We must also be aware that there will always be those who use Scripture for self-serving purposes.

The confusion surrounding the Bible, its meaning and purpose, often leads many to reject it with the mistaken belief that we cannot determine the Author’s intent. Many Christians make the mistake of attempting to prove that God exists by proving that the Bible is true. We must understand that the Word of God was never intended for the “unbeliever,” the person who rejects God and His Word. Each of us views the world through a set of beliefs, or presuppositions.

“Presuppositions are simply beliefs that everyone has that affect how they think, view the world, interpret evidence, and read the Bible.” [1] God intended that people would come to His Word with the presupposition, the belief, that it is, in fact, His Word, and therefore true. The Bible takes this stance, assuming God’s existence to be true and not something to be proven (Gen. 1:1; Exod. 3:14; Rev. 1:8). [2]

Scripture simply states that it is truth because God is its Author. We understand that the sixty-six books of the Bible were penned by about 40 people, but God is the one Author because He was the inspiration and source behind the words they wrote.

2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV) [3]
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

God also declares throughout Scripture that He is the God of truth (Ps. 31:5). [4] He is the source of all creation, and all He has made reflects His very nature, which is truth. This is why the Psalmist wrote:

Psalm 25:4 and 5
(4) Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths;
(5) guide me in your truth and teach me…

Truth by its very nature is singular, not plural. Although it is popular today to think that there are many truths, this belief is contrary to the very nature of truth. Many people mistakenly refer to people’s various perspectives as “truth.” Individual viewpoints may be aligned with truth, but they can also just as easily be wrong. As Douglass Grothius states, “…we all have differing perspectives (which can be biased, prejudiced, ignorant, arrogant, uninformed and so on), but our perspectives only affect our sense of what is true; they do not determine truth. A perspective may be partially true, largely true, or mostly false….” [5] The worth of one’s perspective is determined by its alignment with the truth. The closer a person’s perspective and opinions are to the truth, the greater value they have.

Unlike one’s perspective that may or may not be true, God is always true. Everything about God is true, and everything He does reflects His truthful nature. This is why Scripture proclaims that God’s Word is truth.

John 17:17
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

The Bible says in Psalm 12:

Psalm 12:6
And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.

They are pure because there is no falsehood in them. This very statement reveals the non-contradictory, absolute, exclusive, and correspondent nature of truth.

The biblical view of truth begins with the presupposition that God is truth. With this as our starting point, the question then is: how does God communicate truth to mankind? John Wesley, one of our faith’s great men, identified four methods God uses to communicate truth to man: His Word, reason (wisdom), experience, and tradition. Because of the singular, non-contradictory nature of truth, these four means of communicating truth provide us a system of checks and balances for discovering and discerning truth. Of course, the “bottom line” is His Word, and the other three cannot contradict that unwavering standard.

Without being able to check our interpretation of Scripture against the reality of our experience, how can we know that we, in fact, properly understand what God is saying? When we read in God’s Word about the spiritual principle of sowing and reaping, we understand it through our reasoning (wisdom), we experience it in the physical or natural realm with the propagation of plants and animals, and we recognize its value because of how Christians through the centuries have traditionally benefited from applying this principle in many ways, including financially.

Psalm 138:2
I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

God’s Word is the ultimate standard against which we must test and evaluate everything. Wisdom, experience, and tradition must be aligned with what His Word says. That is because just as there is godly wisdom, there is also ungodly wisdom, or what God calls earthly and devilish, wisdom (James 3:15-KJV). Experiences and traditions can also be untrue. If “science” contradicts God’s Word, then those “scientific” conclusions are wrong, and thus not true science. For example, “science cannot be correct when in saying that mankind evolved from lower life forms, because this contradicts God’s Word, which says that He created a man and a woman named Adam and Eve, and from them have come all mankind.

Let us first take a look at truth as it is revealed through God’s Word. The Bible is filled with statements declaring God’s Word is true. In addition to His written Word, God has revealed truth to mankind through His living Word, Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. Jesus was a perfect reflection of God’s heart and His desires, because he always said and did what his Father asked of him. This is why Jesus could announce that he was God’s living truth, the way to the Father.

John 14:6
…“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Anyone who wants to know the truth concerning God, His plans, and His purposes can really do so only by knowing His Son, Jesus Christ, and we find Jesus in the Word. Too often Christians have failed to recognize the great need to learn, study, and memorize the Scriptures. They are words of life because they are words of truth.

When God created mankind, He gave each of us a mind that can think and reason. God had no desire to have a race of programmed robots or to be a micromanager, a puppet master, if you will. No, He chose to make man a thinking, reasoning, rational being with the ability to make genuine choices that affect the outcome of history. From the very start, God gave man the choice to follow His instructions:

Genesis 2:16 and 17
(16) And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
(17) but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Each of the countless Scriptures where God requires man to make a choice points to man’s ability to operate his free will. [6] Our ability to make the correct choices is dependent upon our ability to use godly wisdom to discern truth from error, good from evil, right from wrong. Of course, one of our best tools to do this is follow God’s directions in His Word, but much of mankind, historically, has not had access to Scripture. This is why God surrounded man with the incontrovertible evidence of His creation and imbedded in his heart the ability to know right from wrong, primarily by knowing what he does not like others to do to him. That is why all men are without excuse for not seeking and knowing God.

Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

I have taken the liberty to bold the phrase being understood. It is man’s ability to reason that allows him to understand, not in the sense of grasping the entirety of who or what God is, but in the sense of knowing enough about God to glorify Him and give thanks to Him for His goodness and provision. Romans continues:

Romans 1:21
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

In the above verse I have bolded the words thinking and foolish. Man has the ability to think (reason), and God desires that we use our mental faculties to develop true wisdom.

Today God allows man to govern his own affairs, which He expects to be done with justice. By its very nature, justice requires truth, because it requires the wisdom and discernment to separate truth from error. Without truth, mankind can never administer justice. Too often I encounter Christians who acknowledge the truth of Scripture yet neglect their responsibility to discern truth by developing wisdom. Every time we choose to act foolishly, we neglect one of the most important ways that God reveals truth to us, through wisdom.

Proverbs 4:7
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding

The third way truth is revealed to man is through experience. I have heard it said that experience is no guarantee for truth, which is correct, but that does not mean that all experience is false. For example, God has chosen to reveal truth to mankind through His creation, which we experience. There are many object lessons about God, His nature, His heart, and His love for mankind that we can learn from observation and study of the world around us. Jesus was a master at demonstrating great spiritual truths by referring to God’s creation, including rocks, sand, rain, plants, yeast, flowers, birds, and much more. [7] So we too can perceive and experience truth from the physical world, and thereby learn truths about God’s greatness, power, supreme intelligence, faithfulness, goodness, beauty, love, and provision for us.

Unfortunately, much of God’s original creation has been marred, like a beautiful painting splashed with red wine. We can certainly still perceive much of the original, yet it is damaged, as evidenced by the thorns, thistles, biting insects, earthquakes, weather-related disasters, and, most heinous of all, death.

Romans 8:21 and 22
(21) that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
(22) We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

The further we investigate and analyze the world around us, the more we discover a system or order. The world is filled with physical constants, values, and laws upon which are based all of Creation. For instance, if the constants governing electromagnetic coupling were altered in the slightest way, molecules could not exist. God has established the laws of physics, light, energy, chemistry, planetary movements, biology, life, mathematics, and much, much more. [8] Everything in God’s creation is designed to inspire us and to point us to Him. No one can avoid recognizing the beauty, majesty, complexity, and orderliness of Creation. An atheist may not be able to explain the source of the laws of Creation, but he cannot deny their existence. How unfortunate that man has chosen to serve the Creation instead of the One who created everything. [9]

Experience is a very valuable tool for evaluating truth, especially in relationships. If someone tells me they love me but I experience unloving actions toward me, I then know it is not true, at least not to the degree they may claim. It often happens that a person will say one thing and do another, and it is evidence (experience) that aids us in our evaluation of what is truth. Knowing truth through experience is another way of saying you will know a tree by its fruit (Matt. 12:33). It is experience, in addition to the application of wisdom, and evaluation in light of Scripture, that helps us discern truth from error.

A fourth way truth can be communicated to us is through tradition. Throughout history, God has set many traditions in place. For example, the very first tradition involving a blood sacrifice can be traced all the way back to Adam and Eve. [10] Later, on the eve of the Exodus of the Hebrew nation from Egypt, God began the tradition of an annual Passover meal, a ceremony that pointed the way to the greater truth of Jesus being the Passover Lamb for all mankind. [11] God instructed the Israelites to have many traditions involving the Tabernacle and Temple worship. Once He had them remove twelve stones from the Jordan River as a memorial, a tradition, so they would look at them years later and remember the miracle of Him parting the river at flood stage so they could pass.

Unfortunately, traditions can also be man made. Members of the Jewish religious community confronted Jesus and his disciples because they were not adhering to hand-washing traditions or customs concerning the Sabbath. Jesus correctly pointed out to them that they were following false traditions, which nullified the Word of God.

Mark 7:8 and 9
(8) You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”
(9) And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!

We should take his words as a serious admonition for ourselves. The Christian Church has many traditions, practices, and beliefs that need to be carefully examined in the light of Scripture. A sincere examination should begin with a serious study on the doctrine of the Trinity, and also include holy spirit, the manifestations (sometimes miscalled “gifts”) of the spirit, whether God is in control of everything that happens, the state of the dead, heaven, and “hell.” The conclusions of honest research on these critical topics would yield illuminating results for those in the mainstream of Christian thought. There appears to be a renewal of passion in the Church to return to the basics of the faith. We are very thankful for that, and time will tell how far it will go.

Furthermore, the tradition of communion was intended to be much more than a periodic solemn activity at church. Rather, it was a tradition designed to remind us of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus every time we eat or drink. The first century church also had a tradition of meeting in people’s homes several days a week, not in large monumental structures once a week. There they shared in each other’s lives and ate communal meals called “love feasts.” [12] Tradition is a powerful tool God uses to communicate truth.

Through the years many have recognized the truth that is revealed through all four methods, but have not kept these in the proper balance, placing too much emphasis on one area and neglecting the others. When we place too much focus on reason (wisdom), we tend towards Gnosticism, while too much emphasis on tradition will cause us to become restricted by ceremonialism. Too much importance on experience has led many to seek for signs from God, thus exposing them to deception by the Enemy.

God has given us a wonderful system of checks and balances by revealing truth through multiple means. His Word is true, and it is the standard against which we are to measure all reason, experiences, and tradition. It is the touchstone against which we can evaluate everything in our lives. God desires that we both know the truth and live it, demonstrating it in our reasoning, our actions (experiencing), and the traditions we promote. Truth Matters, and God has made it clear that He desires that we spread the Word!

Endnotes

[1] David Wright, Answers Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 4, Oct – Dec 2007, p. 90. Published by Answers in Genesis, PO Box 510, Hebron, KY, 4108. For additional information, visit their website at AnswersMagazine.com.
[2] Ibid., p. 90.
[3] Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version®. © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[4] See also Psalm 40:10 and 11, 43:3, 86:11.
[5] Douglass Grothius, Truth Decay, Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism, (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 60515) p. 10.
[6] See Deuteronomy 30:19.
[7] See Matthew 7:26, 13:26; Luke 12:24, 13:19.
[8] For additional information regarding the revelation of truth through creation, we recommend Answers in Genesis, P. O. Box 510, Hebron, KY 41048, AnswersInGensis.org.
[9] Romans 1:25 “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator…”
[10] Genesis 3:21 “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”
[11] 1 Corinthians 5:7b “…For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
[12] Jude 1:12 refers to love feasts and there are numerous records of churches that met in the home (see Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; 1 Tim 5:13; Philem. 1:2;)

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