12 July 2007

Hello, Out There #1: on Truth

by Dan Phillips

Preface

This is the first in what I mean to be an open-ended series of Hello, Out There© posts. The intent of these posts is not to preach to the choir, not to rehearse to one another matters on which we all agree. My aim is to create some posts to which Pyro readers can point folks they know who are not in "our" camp, particularly folks who have no Bible background to speak of. In other words, I hope some of you can send a link to a friend and say "Here, this is what I was trying to explain to you."

I aim at using non-technical, non-shop-talk language to communicate some of those things we confidently believe to those who not only do not believe them, but do not even understand how any thinking non-stick-figure can believe them.

Rather than explain further, it may be most useful if I just do one. This one will be on Truth.


Truth? Says who?
Can truth be known? What do you think?

Perhaps the most popular position today is that absolute, universal, unchanging objective truth cannot be known, if it even exists. The best we can do is to speak of "my" truth, or "your" truth. This is the tolerant, enlightened position. To speak of absolute truth, statements that depict reality as it really is whether we like it or not, is insufferable arrogance. Only ignorant would-be Ayatollahs claim to know "the" truth.

But wait a moment. Do you notice the self-defeating snare built into this position?

Is it really true that truth cannot be known? Is that true everywhere, at all times, and for all people? Is it true that one can only speak of his own truth? When I say, "No one can claim to know the truth," is that a true statement?

If it is a true statement, then it is a false statement!

Don't you see? If it is true to say none can speak of the truth, then we would be making a true statement that no one can make true statements. (Except for that one?)

The truth is, we can't even talk about truth without assuming that there is truth to be discussed. The bare assertion that truth is unknowable assumes that at least one truth can be known: the unknowability of truth! So, you see, this position collapses under its own weight.

If truth truly cannot be know, then the truest behavior would be to cocoon, to shut up all induction or communication, because the entire process is hopeless. (But if it is true to say that it is hopeless... then it is not hopeless!)

I think that most folks make these sorts of statements for one of three reasons.
  1. They may say it because they know a lot of other smart folks say it, and they don't want to seem weird.
  2. Or they say it because they're lazy, and have never really thought it through.
  3. Or they may say it because in their hearts they know that truth is unyielding, and can be awfully unwelcome... and even unfriendly.
For instance, suppose I really like sleeping around. If unwed sex is really important to me, a moral stance that no one can say what is right and what is wrong is a very convenient position. I can do what I want, without feeling bad about it or worrying about judgment or wrath or anything like that.

So when someone tells me that my behavior is immoral, maybe I say "That's your truth," as a way of getting out of the discussion fast and cheap. I can seem tolerant, which is nice. What's more important to me, though, is that I can strong-arm the other fellow into tolerating my sleeping around—or my lying, or my thieving, or my selfishness, or what-have-you.

So what I am really doing is saying "I don't want to hear about it, it makes me feel bad." I am just disguising my dodge in a pseudo-philosophical clownsuit.

I can only get away with that sort of cop-out, however, if I don't think about it. If I do think about it, I'm in danger of asking myself some very uncomfortable questions. Like:
"When I say that his statement is just his truth, is that statement just my truth? If it is, then maybe his statement is my truth. Because if my statement is my truth and his truth, then I'm saying that I can impose my truth on him... in which case, maybe he can impose his truth on me! Aigh!"
Dangerous thing, this thinking outside our cultural box.

The Christian position
The Christian agrees with his non-Christian neighbors on one point: no mere mortal has the authority to create and impose truth on another. It is the Christian position that we are all finite: "we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow" (Job 8:9). Even the smartest man is limited in his grasp of the facts. Further, none of us has the infinite perspective necessary to assign the right meaning to those facts we do possess. We are bound into our own context, and lack a transcendent vantage point. The wise man says,
I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in his fists?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is his son's name?
Surely you know!
(Proverbs 30:3-4)
Worse, we are all of us bent and twisted in the way we think, so that we are inclined to draw the wrong and most self-serving conclusions from what little we do know. We have access to the truth, but suppress it by means of our own delusions of godhood (Romans 1:18)

"But wait," you say. "I hear Christians yammering on and on about 'the truth' all the time. They all think they know The Truth, and they all imagine that they can tell everyone what it is. How can you say they don't?"

Good question. Here's the answer: I phrased myself carefully when I said that "no mere mortal has the authority to create and impose truth on another." But this isn't what Christians do, when they're being true to their faith.

A compelling source of truth would have to be infinite in its grasp of the facts, unerring in its analysis of the significance of the infinite array of facts it grasped, and pure in its assessment of them. It would have to know everything perfectly at once, without ever needing to learn (i.e. to evolve from less-truthful to more-truthful).

This description fits no mere man, Christian or otherwise. But it does fit God, and that is the Christian's source for truth-claims.

Listen:
After God spoke of old in many portions and in many manners to the fathers in the prophets, at the last of these days He spoke to us in the Son, whom He appointed Heir of all things, through whom also He made the ages (Hebrews 1:1-2)
You see? "God spoke...He spoke." It is the Christian assertion that the one and only Being who has a transcendent, unconditioned, unerring and infinite grasp of all facts and meaning—having Himself created all facts, and assigned all meaning—has spoken. God has taken the initiative. He has pulled off the veil, chosen His words and imagery carefully, and communicated truth as He sees it.

And truth "as He sees it" is real truth—true truth, if you will.

So the Christian foundation is not in philosophy nor discovery nor research, per se. The Christian claim is not that we have figured out the truth, nor that we have plotted or graphed or syllogized or reasoned out the truth. It is not the Christian position that we have reached upwards and grasped truth.

Rather, it is our position that Truth reached down and grasped us.

And so, you see, far from being a position of arrogance, the Christian position is one of utter humility. (Don't misunderstand: individual Christians, sadly, may not be very humble people; what I am asserting is that their position is necessarily humble). The Christian, insofar as he is true to his calling, confesses openly "I could never have figured this out, and I never would have. But God has spoken, and I can only embrace and echo what He says."

And what's even more fundamental, the Christian truth-anchor is both propositional (statements about truth) and personal. The Christian's fundamental conviction is that, when Jesus Christ said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6), He was saying it exactly like it is.

This is the point of division between Christianity and every other worldview. The Christian position rests on the conviction that Jesus is truth incarnate, that His life was supremely authentic, and His words unerringly truthful and true.

So ultimately this truth-claim does not rest on the shoulders of any individual Christian, nor on all Christians lumped together. This truth-claim rests on the shoulders of Jesus Christ.

Any other position is not Christian.

Here then is the last implication I wish to draw from that. Jesus being who He is, and truth being what it is, this truth is your truth and my truth, whether we accept it or not.

Gravity has an effect on us, whether we believe in it or not. It is our truth. The consequences of disbelieving than be pretty disastrous, however.

No less, the consequences of disbelieving the truth of Jesus.

More on that, another time.

Dan Phillips's signature

42 comments:

jsb said...

Oh sure Dan, that's what YOU say. But for me, truth is...what you said.

Jesus is the locus and the Logos.

I heard Christopher Hitchens say the other day that there is no moral pronouncement a Christian can make that an atheist cannot also make.

Which rather misses the point, doesn't it? The atheist can "say it" but cannot back it up. Cannot make an argument that would make it binding on all (and what good is a morality that does not extend beyond one person?)

I think Schaeffer used to argue that truth had to be revealed, or the whole concept was meaningless.

Great post, Dan.

DJP said...

Very well-put, JSB. A "morality" that is only binding on me falls rather short of the definition of the word, doesn't it? It would be hard to explain the difference between that definition of "morality," and "whim" or "mood" or "preference."

Matt said...

Dan, (even jsb),

your timing is excellent. I've had a few exchanges with postpoderns in my denomination lately, and have blogged about my concerns. The crux of my thinking, and jsb shared it somewhat, is that modernism and postmodernism are both too optimistic of man's view to handle truth (in modernism he knows it exhaustively through rationality - in postmoernism he creates/experiences /constructs it through irrationality). Either way, man is the centre of authority and the arbiter of truth. The Christian differs from this in that he must say that revelation is the only way we have access to certain, unchanging, dependable truth.

Revelation trumps rationality and irrationality.

Great post, and well written to a broad audience, Dan. We need to engage others, not just slap each other high-fives.

Jon from Bucksport said...

Thanks for the great post. I find that I need to read things like this even though I already believe them so that I anchor the salient points in my mind. BTW, the other day on FaceBook I read about 150 reviews (mostly fawning) of a book that argues at length that God does not exist. Apparently there is a large market out there for nontological writing. I am thinking of writing about the non-existence of fuzzy purple people eaters. Dan and others with good writing skills might want to jump in to this lucrative market for the postmoderns too!

Carrie said...

Good stuff, Dan. I have a recipient for this post already in mind.

Dan Paden said...

More than a few times I've referred to "the kindergartner's truth," the reality that even people who say they don't think truth can be known don't actually believe any such thing. When their child tells an obvious whopper--like it was really their invisible friend who painted the dog--what words come out of post-modern Daddy's mouth? If they don't utter the time-honored, "Don't you lie to me!" or at least, "Now tell Daddy the truth," I'll be surprised. How do they teach their children not to lie, if they don't believe the truth can be known? But they do teach their children not to lie, at least if they are any sort of good parent at all, and that means they know what truth is--and that means that all this "truth cannot be known" stuff is so much smoke-blowing. They don't actually believe it; they are just using it to escape the inevitable consequences of their positions.

Ilandere said...

Thank you for this Dan...

Dan said...

Hi Dan!

This is very great discussion.

I am in conversations often and I am finding that most people don't disagree that there is "truth". The conversation usually is how much "truth" can we know for sure.


For example, from a biblical perspective, we can say that Jesus is coming back again one day. That is "truth".

But then we get into "Jesus is coming in the clouds to take His church and then a 7 year Tribulation will start after the Rapture" is truth. But someone else will say "Jesus is coming back, but there is no Tribulation - it is an amillennial timetable - that is "truth" -".

So one of these beliefs is false - or both are false. They both cannot be truth.

So as we preach, we say we are teaching "truth" but there are two perspectives of what the "truth" may be on this, and one is false or both are false.

Now, underneath, the truth of this we can know is "Jesus is coming back"- that is certain truth. But how much further we can say we have "truth" about how He is coming back becomes a matter of interpretation and opinion.

This is the type of conversations I get in, where it now becomes very important to know what we can say we know is "truth" from Scripture, and what we can say is opinion or interpretation.


I have found that people really respect you when you do believe there is "truth", but to what extent do we say we have all the truth and to what extent do we say we don't have all the truth on things.

This is why I know I keep coming back to "what can we know is truth for sure from Scripture" and "what is my opinion of this" (such as the end times timetable).


I am trying to personally focus on what are the critical things we can say we know are "truth" and what are things we can say there are varying opinions on, but we don't know for certain is truth or not.


This plays out very interestingly in actual conversations in day to day ministry. We can confidently say from Scripture that "sex outside of the covenant of marriage is outside God's will and sin". That is truth. But then the conversation moves to "can we live with one another as long as we aren't having sex?" "Where is the Bible does it say that we can't do that?" "How far in physical contact can we go before it is considered "sex"? etc.

(I am not asking these questions, these are the types that come up in ministry with people - and I do have conclusions I give them using Scripture and common sense).


But I find the question of "truth" isn't as much "Can we know truth?" - i have yet to meet any postmodern thinking person that doesn't believe truth exists. but the question is more, "how much of what is actual truth can we for certain know?" and then how much is our opinions on what truth is.

Hope this makes sense. I would love to hear your opinion on that.

Dan

LeeC said...

What I am running up against more and more often are extreme subjectivists.
They have no problem whatsoever openly denying the laws of non-contradiction. One of the guys I have debated this with is an accountant even!

Oh, the irony, I love the guy, but he won't be doing MY books! ;-)

DJP said...

"Well, Mr. Lee, you both are, AND aren't, bankrupt!"

Matt said...

Dan (Kimball),

if you are saying that truth exists, and that people legitimately have access to it, but that we do not have omniscience, then I think you are affirming something that all (orthodox) Christians can agree on.

I think that on biblical truth, there are always two sides of a horse to fall off of. One is being too dogmatic where Scripture doesn't warrant (i.e. - church needs to start at 10:30am on Sunday morning), and the other is being too ambiguous where Scripture precludes ambiguity (homosexual practice, fornication, substitutionary atonement, etc.). The concern among conservative evangelicals about *some* parts of the ECM is that it commits the latter error with great frequency. Of course, some Christians are also guilty of the former. That some have a distaste of one error does not give them license to practice the opposite error.

Dan (K), what do you make of it when Scripture repeatedly speaks of God in masculine terms, and some in the ECM prefer to call Him a chick? What do you make of the "divine child abuse" wisecrack? I'm not trying to trap you (I've actually appreciated a lot of what you've said in these comment threads). What do you make of placing a moratorium on making any clear statements on homosexuality? Are these examples of justifiable ambiguity, or does Scripture teach on these things clearly enough that Christians can have confidence in knowing God's revealed will?

One of the problems I have with taking the "we can't know that too certainly" argument too far is this. In terms of practicality, people in the real world have to *act* in a certain way. Their actions need to be rooted in what they truly believe, and that includes those who think we have little access to truth.

Let me give an example. Many ECers I've read do not appreciate the complementarian position on gender roles. Conservatives shouldn't be so certain, they think. Yet, in their churches, they will have to act a certain way. They will either practice complementarianism or egalitarianism. If they practice egalitarianism, they are certain enough of its legitimacy, and certain enough of complementarianism's illegitimacy. At that point, their action is just as "certain" as the action of the conservatives which they dislike. My concern is that on many of these things, absolute bomb-proof argumentation is required of evangelicals by ECers to *maintain* an orthodox position, but a sliver of doubt is "certainty" enough to jettison orthodoxy and introduce new (and often unorthodox) practice. It seems like a serious double standard to me. Personally, I think that the default position should always be the more careful one, not the most provocative one for the simple reason that we don't stray into sin and disobedience so easily when we are intentionally careful.

If ECers will agree with traditional evangelicals that our level of certainty on any doctrine or practice is directly proportional to the clarity and force with which Scripture speaks to that issue, then why is the *general trend* within the EC towards more and more provocative practice?

DJP said...

Hi Dan (not me), thanks for the question.

First, isn't "amillennial timetable" an oxymoron? (c;

Second, I'm sure I can't give a better or better-put answer than Matt's.

It's nice if the people you talk to grant the existence of objective, knowable truth. The dodge I address is still very common in other circles. If you can start ahead of that game, then that must be a nice "leg-up" for you.

The next step is to establish that this objective, knowable, "true truth" comes from the Bible, that it is non-negotiable in its essential nature, that it is morally binding on us and not just a matter of curiosity. (I hope to get into that a bit more in another post.)

Having established the uniquely Christian position, then, I think we're in a position to address what you're talking about. What distinguishes the Biblical, Christian position from others is that all the cards on the table. All the truth we appeal to, in this context, is found in Scripture. It isn't God's still small voice, telling us what to tell them to do, or any other inaccessible trump card.

So it is incumbent on us as pastors and teachers to be able to put the cards on the table: "Look. Here is what God said about that."

Does that get anywhere near what you were asking, otherDan?

Ken Click said...

Please check you 2nd to last sentence.

Something amiss...

Dan said...

Hi Matt!

You wrote:

Dan (K), what do you make of it when Scripture repeatedly speaks of God in masculine terms, and some in the ECM prefer to call Him a chick?

** I actually have never personally heard anyone call God a "chick" in the EC circles. I believe that was what Mark D. said he heard someone say a long time ago. But I personally have never heard someone say that or write it anywhere. Have you? Who have you heard in the EC say "chick" or write "chick" referring to God?

I always refer to God as "He" - because that is how Jesus said to refer to the Father as, as well as the whole of the Bible.


**Your also asked: "What do you make of the "divine child abuse" wisecrack?"

- the "divine child abuse" was a quote from a book by an English author named Steve Chalke. i have not read his book, I only have read that quote repeated times when people refer to it. A couple of things, is that i haven't heard anyone else ever say that (divine child abuse) apart from that quote from Steve Chalke. I know I would never say that, so it is something I would not write.

but something also important is that Steve Chalke is not part of the "emerging church" or "emergent". he wrote that book and it had an endorsement by Brian McLaren, because of the endorsement, Steve got classified as someone in "the emerging church".

Jason Clarke is the leader of "Emergent Village" in the UK, where Steve C. is from and he says this:

“Steve denies … [he is the leader of the emerging movement in the UK] himself, and has never been part of the emerging church in the UK.”


I don't have that book so I can't say what the point was when he said that quote. But I haven't heard anyone else say that and I personally would not make that statement or even equate God as a child abuser (i have a hard time even typing those words out in relationship to God). Maybe someone has used that term, but I cannot recall anyone else writing or saying that but Steve C. in that one book. Have you?

Those are some thoughts back to your questions....


Dan

Dan said...

hi Dan!

yes, i totally agree when you say:

"The next step is to establish that this objective, knowable, "true truth" comes from the Bible, that it is non-negotiable in its essential nature" and also

"So it is incumbent on us as pastors and teachers to be able to put the cards on the table: "Look. Here is what God said about that."

*** absolutely. i have no problem at all talking to anybody and saying "Here is what God said about that." My example was I know I can say "Here is what God said, that Jesus christ will one day return". so that is "truth". but then when someone says "How will He return? Is the anti-christ going to be marked 666 etc. and we go through Tribulation for 7 years?"

Then, I can't say in the same way "Here's what God says about the anti-christ and 666" and that is the "truth" - as there are multiple perspectives that godly, Spirit-filled Christians hold to as "truth" regarding different interpretations of that.

for me, i want to be bold and confident in what i keep referring to as "core" truths that the historic church as held to and even among most denominations are truths we all agree on. and then say "there are several possiblities on other things (like the end times) but I can't see which one is for sure "true". I can say it is "truth" Jesus is returning. But then I can't say "the premillennial pretribulational rapture" is truth - in the same way.


Make sense?

Dan

DJP said...

Sure, otherDan. That does make sense, thanks.

But I trust you're not saying that I am arguing that the Biblical and Christian position equates to instant-absolutely-certainty about everything. (I wish!)

But there is a world of difference between saying — reading from left to right, I guess — (1) no truth has been revealed nor can be certainly known, and (2) some truth has been revealed and is certainly known, and (3) all truth has been revealed and is certainly known. Neither the third nor the first would come from my argument.

But once one does know some truths with certainty, there is a moral obligation. We aren't computers that simply contain data without accountability for what we carry, nor what we do with it.

For instance, I was noticing these verses from, Psalm 119, just this morning, in my reading:

104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
113 I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.
128 Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way.
163 I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.

You see that sort of thing a lot. Like Proverbs 28:4 — "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them." And Hebrews 1:9, addressed to the Son — "You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness."

Knowledge of the truth obliges one to embrace the truth, and that embrace necessarily puts one in opposition to its opposite.

So given what you've said, it puzzles me (honestly) why you respond to Matt's questions quite as you do. He asked:

Dan (K), what do you make of it when Scripture repeatedly speaks of God in masculine terms, and some in the ECM prefer to call Him a chick? What do you make of the "divine child abuse" wisecrack? I'm not trying to trap you (I've actually appreciated a lot of what you've said in these comment threads). What do you make of placing a moratorium on making any clear statements on homosexuality? Are these examples of justifiable ambiguity, or does Scripture teach on these things clearly enough that Christians can have confidence in knowing God's revealed will?

You did answer straight out that you yourself wouldn't say some of these things, and for that I'm glad. But he asked what you make of them. Am I reading ambivalence in, or into, your response?

You wouldn't say those things — but should anyone say them? If he does, where does that put him in relation to the truth, in relation to Christ? As Matt asked, "Are these examples of justifiable ambiguity, or does Scripture teach on these things clearly enough that Christians can have confidence in knowing God's revealed will?"

I'd be interested in your response.

Robert said...

This was a well said, nicely laid-out post. I've talked and thought a lot about this and I couldn't have done a better job...so I'm pointing people to your blog instead.

God bless,
bob

Caleb Kolstad said...

Keep up the great work here!

Caleb

Dan said...

Hi again Dan!


You asked:


"You wouldn't say those things — but should anyone say them? If he does, where does that put him in relation to the truth, in relation to Christ?"


No, I don't personally feel anyone should call God a "chick" if that actually happened. So, no I am not ambivalent - if a Christian friend of mine or a Christian in our church was saying God is a "chick", I would be correcting them in saying that is not truth.


Same for of a Christian friend or a Christian in our church was saying that God was guilty of "divine child abuse" I would be correcting that statement as well.

Is that what you are asking for? I didn't mean to sound ambivalent on that.

Dan

Matt said...

Thanks for the interaction, Dans.

Dan K, as Dan P pointed out, I wasn't insinuating that you personally went along with the examples I gave, but what your thoughts were regarding their basic content.

Also, what are your thoughts regarding the need to be certain enough to act in a specific way? What is the default position? Act according to what all the available evidence seems to teach? Or, if there is a shred of doubt anywhere, act according to that doubt and against the available evidence? Is an orthodox position "orthodox until proven wrong" or "wrong until proven to be without any doubt whatsoever"?

Matt said...

Dan K,

you posted while I was writing. Thanx for the clarification to the first part of what I was asking!

Sewing said...

There are too many Dans (and too many Davids) in the Reformed blogosphere. They're solid Biblical names, but youze guys really to differentiate yourselves some!

Sewing said...

On a serious note, thank you very much for this post, Dan, and thanks to the Lord for the idea of writing this series. May the Holy Spirit continue to grant you wisdom as you walk us through these posts, and as we in turn lead others to them.

Dan Paden said...

There are too many Dans...in the Reformed blogosphere. They're solid Biblical names, but youze guys really to differentiate yourselves some!

I'm the best-looking one. You can tell from my picture.

Phil said...

You make strong points, but rarely will you ever find a person who outright denies the existence of absolute truth, except in belligerent philosophizers.

@jsb, excellent points regarding atheism. I never understood why the task of proving their stance always seems to fall upon the theist. Why don't the atheists ever have to prove anything? They claim to believe only things which are scientifically and empirically determinable. They deny creationism on such criteria, but never admit that Darwinists can't prove much more than we can.

I think in light of this post, we should also keep in mind that we are human and are perfectly capable of misinterpreting truth, specifically the Bible. No one is immune to false belief, whether they believe it is "truth" or not.

Seth F said...

I'm not so sure I like this article. It seemed rather confusing to me, but maybe that's because my brain doesn't work very well. Nevertheless, I think that this article offers some helpful points of insight regarding the relationship between truth and the Christian faith, but for most non-believers, this article would be far too much for them to process, aside from those fairly well educated.

Moreover, discussing the logical fallacies of postmodern thinking can be helpful, but ultimately people come to the truth of Christ through His Word alone. It is powerful enough to destroy logical fallacy on its own.

This article is a good start, but it needs more shaping and refining before I could point any non-believer to it.

Seth
whatum.com
theological satire

DJP said...

I find your assessment utterly baffling, and unrelated to the actual article. But, well, now we know what you think, I guess. Sorry you don't find it useful, glad others do.

centuri0n said...

JSB:

I can think of one moral pronouncement that a Christian can make that an atheist cannot make.

What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

I'll bet that anyone who has read the Bible -- actually read it and not just run their eyes over it -- could come up with at least 5 more.

Benjamin Nitu said...

Some Carl Henry quotes:

Let's start with the sense experiences:

"The Hindu, the Christian and the logical positivist have similar sense experiences (not identical, to be sure, because every individual’s perceptions differ); the essential difference between them occurs not in what they see, hear, smell or taste, but in what they think about reality. The positivist thinks that sense data alone can relate us to the real world; the Hindu thinks that sense data are illusory and lead away from the real world; the Christian thinks that the phenomenal world is a real creation that witnesses to its Creator”

About truth:

“The mind of man is not veiled divinity. Transcendent divine revelation, not human reasoning, is the source of truth; publicly shared reason is a divinely gifted instrument for recognizing truth ”

About God's revelation:

-"Not only the apostate abandonment of revelation as the basic Christian axiom in epistemology, but weak and fallacious views of divine revelation as well, needlessly obscure the truth of evangelical theism. The truth of revelation is dimmed also by an unbelief in the authority and reliability of Scripture, since this dilutes God's Word and speech"

"-Either divine revelation is a source of intelligible knowledge or it is not, and if it is - as inspired biblical writers insist - then its content cannot be codeduced from secondary sources, and we are limited to what God has revealed of the intricacies of his plan"


He just says it much better than I could ever do.

DJP said...

Seriously good quotations; thanks, Benjamin.

(Now give the bibliographical info!)

Benjamin Nitu said...

mine or his Dan?

It took me 2 and half years to read his first volume of " God, Revelation and Authority" : God Who Speaks and Shows.

all the quotes are from there.
The first two could be found at page 248 & 106. The other ones are from the same volume.

Here is one too good to not post it:

“Because theological and ethical statements cannot be verified by empirical methods does not mean, as the positivists erroneously and arbitrarily conclude, that they are beyond verification. Such a judgment stems purely from the metaphysical theory that only empirical experience supplies evidence about reality” (Henry, p.247).

Henry, Carl F.H. God, Revelation and Authority Volume I God Who Speaks and Shows.
Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1999

DJP said...

Dang, that really is good. Thanks again.

centuri0n said...

I wanted to note that I really appreciated Dan Kimball's first comment in this thread, even if I disagree with him about something very specific.

I think he's 100% right that it's not that people don't think there's anything true. I think pomos think there is something true and that there is truth.

The problem they have is radical autonomy in that they do not believe that anyone or any "thing" (like a book which is the cultural property of people they don't like) has the authority to tell them what the truth is.

People do not want to be told they are wrong. They can barely grasp they are wrong and accept it when they realize it with their own power of observation -- if someone comes up to them and tells them, "dude, that's screwed up," they react as if they've been slapped in the face.

But at the root, the question for us as ambassadors of Christ is whether or not we have a commission to tell them they are wrong.

We do. Paul told everyone they were wrong -- the Jews, the Greeks, Agrippa, the Judaizers, Peter. Everyone! And it wasn't because he was a spiteful prig or a bigot: he wanted these people who were heaping the damnation of God on their own heads to repent and turn to the only Savior who could save them.

Our predisposition in evangelism ought not to be fear that the Gospel is a scandal, an offense. It is. It doesn't need any help from us to be offensive to the lost. Our fear ought to be that we aren't telling people that God sent His son to save those who will believe that they need Him and that He will save them.

jsb said...

I wanted to say one more thing on this idea that most people, EC or otherwise, "believe in truth."

That's sort of like saying most people love America. You put the question to them, and they'll say "Of course!" But Michael Moore believes in America and so does Newt Gingrich. But their take is entirely different, and the way they "show love" is going to be different.

When James said, show me your works and we can talk about your faith (my translation), it seems to apply here. Show me how you're "handling the truth" and putting legs on it, and then we can talk more clearly about whether this is really a belief in truth or just lip service -- or self-delusion. How wide is your net of certainty? How big are the holes in your net?

IOW, the declaration "I believe in truth" doesn't get us very far.

bloggernaut said...

Are emerging churches the new whipping boy of the 21st century? It's only been days since Phil closed the last thread of debate and how quickly someone opens it back up...

When James said, show me your works and we can talk about your faith (my translation), it seems to apply here. Show me how you're "handling the truth" and putting legs on it, and then we can talk more clearly about whether this is really a belief in truth or just lip service -- or self-delusion. How wide is your net of certainty? How big are the holes in your net?

IOW, the declaration "I believe in truth" doesn't get us very far.


Well said. That about sums up most younger Christians' attitude about talking about truth to nonbelievers. Due to postmodern thinking, talking about truth may sound hollow or unintelligible. People are so jaded by hypocrisy. People want to SEE the truth in Christianity, not just hear its propositions. Demonstrate Jesus, and the stuff about objective truth is already part of it (for responsible churches, anyway). The aim is to act in such a way that nonChristians will say "wow, there must be a God around here!"

*Letitia*

bloggernaut said...

Phil,

@jsb, excellent points regarding atheism. I never understood why the task of proving their stance always seems to fall upon the theist. Why don't the atheists ever have to prove anything? They claim to believe only things which are scientifically and empirically determinable. They deny creationism on such criteria, but never admit that Darwinists can't prove much more than we can.

This is exactly William Lane Craig's approach to debates with atheists over the existence of God. Hardly any atheist he has ever debated in his 10-15+ years of this has given the positive case for atheism. Some have gotten closer than others. Most have simply ranted about the irrationality of God-talk and the 'superiority' of scientism.

*Letitia*

janelle said...

This was amazing. Thanks.

David said...

Could you guys put permanent links to this (and the future in the series) posts on your sideboard? I don't have a use for it today, but I sure will in the future.

thanks!

(ugly David)

P.D. Nelson said...

Excellent Dan, I'll need to print this out for someone I know who maintains such statements about "truth".

DJP said...

See? There are too such people!

Dan Paden said...

Of course, many (inserting that all-important qualifier!) Emergents say they believe in truth. It seems to me (another qualifier!) that the problems I generally encounter with the local crowd tend to run along these lines:

1) The way they define truth, if they bother to define it at all; too often, it turns out that "truth" need not correspond to actual reality. This way, one can talk endlessly of how he believe the Bible to be true without necessarily letting his audience in on the fact that he doesn't think its statements necessarily reflect what actually is. For a perfect, well-known example, see Marcus Borg's comments on the physical resurrection of Jesus, as quoted by Craig Dunning:

"I am one of those Christians who does not believe in the virgin birth, nor in the star of Bethlehem, nor in the journey of the wisemen, nor in the shepherds coming to the manger, as facts of history. Yet I find these stories to be both powerful and truthful, and I have no difficulty preaching sermons on them."(Bible Review, December 1992, pg.4)

This kind of thing seems very common.

2) Knowability of truth is frequently disparaged. It varies in degree from person to person.

3) Those two things are often (another important qualifier!) put together and made use of in highly selective fashion, such that they are pretty much all convinced that they can know (sometimes via a mystic experience, sometimes not), for example, that God is love, but that they can not know, for example, that universalism is not biblically tenable. This is the kind of thing I referred to as "smoke-blowing" earlier; they do believe that truth exists and can be known--somehow--when it suits them, and start in with the hard postmodernism described so well by D.A. Carson when it doesn't.

I hope that was halfway coherent. My nine-month-old was sitting on my lap and trying hard to play with the keyboard while I wrote it.

bloggernaut said...

The problem they have is radical autonomy in that they do not believe that anyone or any "thing" (like a book which is the cultural property of people they don't like) has the authority to tell them what the truth is.

Frank, should we be surprised? This is the logical outworking of 200 years of Enlightenment thinking, rooted just as much in rights, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and "We the People" as "In God We Trust." Radical autonomy is a piece of Americana.

What a relief that the Christian faith is rooted in the Bible instead of Enlightenment-inspired documents like the Decl. of Independence.

Here we go again:
Lots of "EC" names have been thrown around to show how unbiblical the movement is and everything about it is reincarnated hippie satanism.

And here I thought I thought I was a Calvinist...

So TRY to be a little more balanced, is that too much to ask?