Charles Spurgeon famously said, “If you want the truth to go round the world, you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world it will fly; it is as light as a feather, and a breath will carry it on. It is well said in the old proverb, ‘a lie will go round the world while truth is putting its boots on.’”
Perhaps we could update Spurgeon’s quote to say, “if you want a lie to go round the world it will fly; it is light as a feather; and a tweet will carry it on.” Regardless of the relative transportation methods of truth and falsehood, it is manifestly true that it is easier for lies to spread then for truth to take root.
In a far more sinister quote, Hitler’s chief propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels is reputed to have said, “A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”
We live in an age in which a thousand lies are being repeated a thousand times a thousand and becoming “truth” at an epidemic rate.
This is where the church comes in. 1 Timothy 3:15 states, “but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the loving God, the pillar and support of the truth.” The people of God are, and always have been the, people of truth. We must be increasingly active in upholding the truth even as the Father of Lies births children of falsehood at an alarming rate. We have become lackadaisical in our approach to truth, too often willing to compromise truthfulness for effectiveness – with disastrous results.
And so it seems good to start a series on the blog called “Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” in which we will explore the nature of truth; delve into issues of social justice, and critical race theory; and flesh out a Biblical response to American government and culture.
We must begin with a biblical understanding of truth – the most valuable commodity in the universe. It is more precious than gold, more constant than light, more necessary than breath itself. Everything of value is grounded in the truth. Christians are birthed in, and sustained by, the truth as they enter into a right relationship with the only absolute source of truth, God Himself.
In these first two articles we will flesh out the following thesis:
All truth is grounded in the character, nature, word, and work of God and must be passionately pursued and properly displayed in every aspect of a believer’s life.
We must know the truth and the truth will set us free!
Some basic assumptions or pre-suppositions must be in place before this article will be of much value. You must believe that the God of the Bible exists. You must believe in the inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Word of God contained in the sixty-six books of the Protestant canon. You must believe that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in the person of Christ alone. There are good and profitable ways to demonstrate the validity (truth!) of these pre-suppositions, but that is for another series. Our discussion of truth will proceed upon this foundation.
At the core, truth is simply that which has a 100% correlation with reality 100% of the time i.e. that which always corresponds exactly with what is real. Additionally, truth necessarily carries with it the idea of faithfulness and reliability. Truth is consistent, it can be trusted, it stays the same. This assumes, of course, that there are things that are real in an essential, unchangeable way. This also presumes that we have some way to verify what reality actually is. Our pre-suppositions kick in at this point. If the God of the Bible exists and has spoken to us in His Word, then reality is tangible and it can be known.
There are just over 200 references in the Old and New Testaments to the word truth and closely related concepts. These can be broken down into various senses, three of which are most important – truth as a quality or concept – that which is intrinsically or propositionally true; truth as a statement – something true that is written or spoken; and truth as the gospel – the revelation of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Three definitions arise from these usages of truth.
First, there is truth in the Word of God. The Bible is inspired (the very Words of God) and inerrant (without error in regard to everything it reveals – history, principle, prophecy) thus everything in it is perfectly and unchangeably true. The corollary to this reality is that for anything to be true in the lives of people it must be evaluated in relationship to God’s character and principles as revealed in His Word. This kind of truth may be defined as: Any belief, motive, affection, attitude, thought, word, or deed which corresponds perfectly with the will, character, and nature of God as revealed in the Word of God.
This standard of truth cannot change, because the word, will, character and nature of God cannot change. It is reliable, faithful, perfectly consistent. The Bible speaks of this kind of truth in the Psalms:
Ps 119:160 The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.
Jesus summarized this understanding of the truth in His prayer to the Father:
Jn 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
Next there is truth in relationship to nature. Although this truth is not found exclusively in the Word of God, it is still grounded completely in the work and character of God. This concept of truth can be defined as: Anything in nature or information about the natural world which perfectly corresponds to the reality of what God has decreed.
That is, all nature exists and acts according to the decree of God, so, to the extent that our physical senses can determine this reality, we can discern truth in the natural world. The Bible speaks of this kind of truth in Romans:
Ro 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Again, this truth is not separate from God and it, also, reveals His character. For example, when we observe the sun rise in the sky, we are seeing something true about the world – something God is doing. Or, when we observe the law of gravity, and then discover how and why it operates, we have learned a truth about how God has designed the natural order.
So, natural things are true, but not in exactly the same way the Bible is true. Our sense perception can be flawed so that we do not see things comprehensively. Our information is limited so we do not fully understand why things take place. Finally, unlike Biblical truth (which we will call big “T” truth) natural truth can change, because the physical realities of the world change. God changes natural “reality” when He enacts miracles or perhaps brings about a change in dispensation such as the New Heavens and the New Earth.
Thankfully, physical truth does not change rapidly or regularly because God is a God of order and stability. He oversees his creation in such a way that its operation can be referred to as “laws of nature” – because they function so consistently.
There is third use of the word “truth” in Scripture which dominates the New Testament discussion. This is the specific truth which relates to the person and work of Jesus Christ in salvation. The summation of gospel truth is as follows:
The perfect, holy, loving Creator God sent His Son, Jesus – fully God and fully man – to live a perfect life and die on a cross as a substitute for men who were born tainted with sin and under the wrath of God, yet who may be saved from eternal hell if they repent of sin and trust in the person and work of Christ alone.
Colossians 1:5-6 describes this aspect of Biblical truth
Col 1:5–6 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;
So, there is truth inside and outside the Bible. Truth inside the Bible is completely reliable as it corresponds exactly and unfailingly to the will and character of God. Truth outside the Bible is directly connected to the person and work of God, and is important and necessary, but can never be known as reliably as the truth contained in the Word of God. Christians must uphold and promote all forms of truth, with Biblical and natural truth being used to give testimony to, priority for, and explanation of, gospel truth.
With our pre-suppositions and definitions stated, we are now ready to dig deeply into Scripture to mine out the rich nuggets of the truth that must be vigorously supported for our gospel work to be effective. We will do this in the coming articles, but for now the question we need to ask is, “how committed are we to the truth?” What safeguards to we have in place to so that evil one will not subtly twist our thinking and thus render our witness ineffective? We must purpose with all our heart and effort to know and guard the truth so that we will remain truly free.