Summary: Why Truth Matters An Excerpt from The Faith By Charles Colson and Harold Fickett In February Zondervan published The Faith, Given Once, For All: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters. An excerpt from Chapter 4: “Truth” is p
This article is from BreakPoint WorldView magazine: http://www.breakpoint.org/contentindex.asp?ID=146.
Truth Matters Because the Heart of What We Believe Is at Stake
The path of postmodern Christianity bears some chilling resem¬blances not only to early Church heresies (such as Montanism), but to the theological liberalism of the last century, which led some Prot¬estants to abandon the basic propositions of Christian doctrine. A late defender of theological liberalism, Deane William Ferm, writes,
What are the motifs of liberal Protestantism? Perhaps the most important one is the priority of firsthand personal experience as the authority for one’s religious beliefs. All doctrines must be extracted from "the inward experience of Christian people."
In the last line, Ferm is quoting famed German philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher, nineteenth-century progenitor of twentieth-century Protestant liberalism. Doesn’t that sound hauntingly like the argu¬ments we hear today?
The great conservative leader, Princeton professor J. Gresham Machen, resisted this trend heroically early in the last century, argu¬ing that when doctrine and truth are abandoned, you don’t get liberal Christianity, you get another religion altogether, which he called lib¬eralism. We saw how this led to the decline of mainline churches in the last century, and conservative churches are at risk of the same thing today.
Without Truth the Gospel Is Perverted
Weakening our commitment to the truth allows us to undermine the Gospel without arousing even a protest. When Katherine Jefferts Schori became presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the U.S., Time asked her for her prayer for the Church. She answered, "That we remember the centrality of our mission is to love each other. That means caring for our neighbor. That does not mean bickering about fine points of doctrine." But as we have seen, right doctrine leads to the love of neighbor Schori would like to see practiced. And without first loving God, the first commandment she ignored, we can’t love our neighbor with the consistency and stamina this world demands. (Bishop Schori’s answer reveals that the current fracturing of the Episcopal Church is not primarily over gays being ordained, but over the authority of Scripture.)
The mission of the Church is perverted as well. When truth is abandoned, therapy takes its place. We learn how to cope with our problems instead of curing them.
Rejection of Truth Results in Biblical Illiteracy
Abandonment of the truth shows up in widespread biblical illiteracy. Pollster George Barna has discovered that most churchgoing adults reject the accuracy of the Bible, the existence of Satan, and the sin¬lessness of Jesus. Many see no need to evangelize and believe that good works are one of the keys to persuading God to forgive their sins. It would be humorous if it were not so tragic that the most widely known Bible verse among adult and teen believers is "God helps those who help themselves," which is not in the Bible--it’s actually a quote from Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac (1757). When given thir¬teen basic teachings from the Bible, only 1 percent of adult believers agreed with or accepted all thirteen. I encountered the same thing in my personal survey. This is why Barna describes this as "an age of spiritual anarchy . . . [while the] Church is rotting from the inside out, crippled by a biblical theology."
Rejection of Truth Leads to Ethical Confusion
Denial of the truth of God’s revelation undermines any attempt to deal with contemporary ethical questions, particularly in regard to sexuality, which plays a major role in all of our lives. It’s often the place where we want to make up our own rules.
At a prayer breakfast in the Midwest some years ago, I met a doc¬tor active in a good Bible study and a strong evangelical church. The subject of homosexuality came up, and he told me that as a doctor he believed homosexuals have a natural instinct and desire that needs to be satisfied, so how can we as Christians deny them the same plea¬sures heterosexuals have?
It’s an argument I’ve heard many times--one that evokes some sympathy; no one wants to denounce anyone’s desire for sexual plea¬sure. Christians who do are viewed as being bigoted. But I pointed out to my new friend that homosexuality is contrary to God’s design, the natural order, and the truth about God’s creation, as he could read in Romans 1.
It is important to understand the context in which Paul wrote in order to grasp how we understand moral truth. In the first part of Romans 1 he tells us that God’s eternal power and divine nature are plainly seen from His creation. So "men are without an excuse"; though they knew God "their thinking became futile and their fool¬ish hearts were darkened" (Romans 1:20-21). Paul then uses ho¬mosexuality as a prime example of the consequences of denying the obvious: "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity . . . their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones . . . [and] the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another" (Romans 1:24-27).