Showing posts with label Truth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Truth. Show all posts

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Who’s Holding the Scales?

I have to admit I’m appalled by the debates flying around the Internet these days. More and more, they seem like merely the propaganda of angry factions, not the rational pronouncements of people who think things through.

And the sanctimony ... oh, the sanctimony! Every faction sees its perspective as not merely just, but as the only side a reasonable, compassionate, fair-minded, informed, civilized or decent person could ever be on.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Anonymous Asks (290)

“What does it mean that the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth?”

The Lord Jesus promised his disciples that when the Spirit of truth came, the Helper from the Father who would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, he would guide them into “all truth”.

Before we look into the meaning of this promise, we need to remember that every member of the Lord’s audience at the discourse that began in the upper room was in a unique and impossible-to-duplicate position.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Heights of Accommodation and the Depths of Evil

“Well, you know, many roads lead up the mountain …”

So he said to me.

People say stuff like that all the time when they want to avoid facing God. “I can do it my way,” they say, hoping that saying it strongly enough will make it true. Or, they say, “Everybody’s got a piece of the truth, but nobody’s got it all,” like the story of the blind men and the elephant (if you know that little tale).

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

The Language of the Debate (9)

Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor, a Romanian-born Jewish political activist who authored over fifty books and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. He died in 2016. In January 1968, he published a memoir in which he shared memorable encounters with “sages, mystics, teachers, and dreamers”.

Wiesel was not the earliest media figure to water down the concept of truth and make redundancies like “objective truth” an unfortunate necessity, but if you thought the problem originated with Jordan Peterson and his ilk, this 55-year old excerpt from Legends of Our Time may serve as a wake-up call. Satan has been working away at the meaning of words since the beginning of human history, and he has his cat’s-paws in every generation. Elie Wiesel, for all his creditable moments, was one of these.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Tracking True

So it was my birthday, and a friend says to me, “Why don’t we go sailing on the big water?”

I’d sailed in a small way before, but that sounded good. So off we set.

My friend let me take the tiller while he went up to the prow deck and relaxed in the sun. “Just keep your eye on the compass in front of you and trust that,” he said. “So long as it says what it says now, we’re going to be on course.”

Friday, May 12, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Debby Boone Theology

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

“It can’t be wrong, when it feels so right.”

— Debby Boone, You Light
Up My Life
(1977)

Immanuel Can: Okay, Tom. Remember that song?

Tom:hated the song, but I was wildly infatuated with Debby. I think I even had her poster on the wall in the basement bedroom I shared with my younger brother. I could just barely slide a female pop star (completely and decorously attired, I hasten to add, in a beige dress that did up at the neck and went down to her ankles) past my parents because “She’s a Christian!” Of course, I was all of sixteen at the time. Sadly, nothing permanent came of that little obsession: Debby has since married a fellow believer and, unlike many celebrities, has stuck with it going on forty years now. Good on her.

IC: Uh … right.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Standing Up for Objective Reality

We live in interesting times.

Back in 2021, ideologically motivated onlookers in Leeds, West Yorkshire reported a forty-two year old street preacher to the Joint Counter Terrorism Team, resulting in his arrest. The Daily Mail did not specify the offenses with which David McConnell was charged and for which he was eventually convicted, but made reference to “harassment” and “illegally espousing an extreme point of view”. I missed the story at the time, but McConnell appealed his conviction last week, putting him back on the front pages for a moment.

What did this Christian “extremist” do? According to witnesses, McConnell quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 in the presence of a man dressed up as a woman, and repeatedly referred to him as “this gentleman” and “a man in woman’s clothing”, which the gentleman in question apparently found distressing.

In short, McConnell stood up for objective reality. That shouldn’t be such a hard sell, should it?

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Real or Not Real?

The following quote purports to come from a 2020 Facebook post written by a woman who holds herself out to be the Handbell Choir Director at First Congregational Church of Houston, Artistic Director at Houston Chamber Ringers and a former music teacher.

Honestly, my first instinct is that it’s got to be the product of internet trolling.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

True Revolutionaries

Welcome back to our two-part treatment of the (post-)modern attitude to truth.

Last week, we were observing that the concept of an actual objective truth has gone out of fashion these days. More and more, the average person of today tends to disbelieve that anything can be, in any final and universally binding sense, “true”. Truth has been banished because there are so many voices shouting so many messages that most of us don’t know where to find it if it did exist. We’re overwhelmed by multiculturalism, media overload, the speed of modern life and the decline of the formerly-solid touchpoints of religion and tradition, even if we know nothing about the theory behind it, or about the new skeptical “hermeneutics” being taught in the contemporary academy. We’re all just pretty confused about truth.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Trouble with the Truth

Some years ago I picked up a volume compiled by Walter Truett Anderson entitled The Truth About the Truth. It was a collection of essays, actually, each one detailing some way in which the modern conception of “truth” has been warped. It had chapters on reification (the modern tendency to mistake mere traditions for inevitabilities), the love of the ironic tone, the tendency to accept things at face value, the obsession with commercialism, gender fluidity, cultural pluralism and the loss of the integrated self, and so on … all very interesting, and some of it insightful. But so far as the concept of a stable, universal, actually-existing kind of truth, very cynical.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Anonymous Asks (196)

“Do the Bible’s claims to be true make it so?”

A claim is not proof, but neither is it nothing at all. If God really chose the medium of written communication to express himself to mankind, we would not expect him to be coy about his authorship.

As it turns out, scripture is quite frank about where it comes from.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Semi-Random Musings (24)

I have found myself thanking the Lord for some strange things lately. One of them is death. Another is the limits of human memory.

The mind of God is a staggering thing to contemplate. The moment we do so we are almost guaranteed to get something wrong. Nevertheless, enough has been written about it in scripture that we can be confident there is nothing God does not know, no prayer he does not hear, no burden of which he is not aware, and therefore no care or adverse circumstance in which he is unable or unwilling to provide grace.

That’s pretty amazing.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Relativism: Facts, Foolishness and Faith

“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ ”

In my last post, I talked about relativism. I pointed out that there are two kinds — epistemic relativism and moral relativism — and that they need separate treatment, because they deal with very different issues. Then I started with epistemic relativism, the doubting of the existence of any facts, and showed how it is completely irrational.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Tolerance and Relativism

“What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.”

So wrote Sir Francis Bacon, the father of the scientific method. The man was not just a scientist, but a devout Christian as well. For him, the two were of a piece — truth in scientific inquiry was a road to knowledge of the Creator. So he wrote as much theology as science, and he stands as but one evidence of the long interaction between Christianity and scientific advancement.

In his 1601 essay “Of Truth”, he pointed out the embarrassing relativism of Pilate’s attitude. Pontius Pilate was standing next to the very One who could tell him definitively any truth he wished to know. He could have asked how planetary motion worked. He could have asked about the origins of life. He could have asked the meaning of our existence. And obviously, he could have asked what God required of him personally. He could have had forgiveness. He could have had salvation. He could have had life. And yet he walked away. And so he is remembered as one of history’s great fools.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Anonymous Asks (156)

“Is everything in the Bible true?”

In what is often referred to as the high priestly prayer of John 17, Jesus speaks to his Father on behalf of his followers. “Sanctify them in the truth,” he requests. Then he adds these words: “Your word is truth.”

Now, the Bible is the word of God. That’s not simply a nickname Christians have given to our favorite book so we can impress unsaved people with its authority; that’s something the scripture calls itself. The phrase “word of God” is used 48 times in the Bible, and the phrase “word of the Lord” another 255. These expressions are used about the Law of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets, taking in the entire Old Testament. They are used to describe both the teaching of Jesus and his apostles, which became the basis for our New Testament. They are used as a synonym for “scripture”, which includes both, and about which Jesus himself declared, “Scripture cannot be broken.” So then, the Bible itself claims to be truth from cover to cover.

But it should be obvious that not everything in the Bible is true in exactly the same sense.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (21)

We hear a lot in the current environment about how the powers that exist have been instituted by God, and that whoever resists them resists God’s ordinance. And that is certainly true, but only to a point. Scripture is full of men and women who didn’t simply go along with unlawful orders from tyrants, and who, far from incurring judgment, were blessed by God for resisting the expressed will of those very “powers that be”.

It falls to each one of us to decide before God at what point Romans 13 no longer applies to our circumstances. Invariably, some of us will make mistakes, either acting too hastily in defiance of authority, or else waiting too long to put up resistance. But if I’m going to be one of those acting in error, I think I’d prefer to be too quick off the mark than to drag my feet and regret it later.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

True Revolutionaries

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Bottom of the Ninth

I’m beginning to think that the ninth commandment is more important than I ever realized.

Traditionally, it reads, “Thou shalt not bear false witness” (KJV), or more colloquially, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

Well … Duh!

“Okay,” I said to myself when I first read it, “that makes sense. In court, telling a lie about someone or something can get an innocent person into serious legal trouble. And to do that would be malicious. Fair enough.”

Thursday, April 01, 2021

The Era of the Gentle and Reverent Lie

This morning a new video appeared on YouTube.

To my surprise, it had arch-atheist Bill Maher in admiring conversation with Dr. Jordan Peterson, the pro-Christian conservative.

This is Bill Maher, who personally coined the insult “religulous” to describe all religions. But here he was, literally stumbling over himself to give a platform to someone who claims that understanding religion, and particularly Christianity, is vital to the survival and future well being of Western culture.

Amazing.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Heretics Aplenty

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

According to Shane Morris of The Federalist, a LifeWay Research survey of 3,000 people found that significant numbers of Americans who identify as Christian actually embrace ancient heresies.

Tom: The survey results confirm my own prejudices, Immanuel Can. I’ve been reading for years that upwards of 80% of Americans claim to be Christian, and I’ve never been able to buy it. You can’t convince me Roe v. Wade has been law for the last forty-plus years because of 20% of the U.S. population.

Do you find the general public level of knowledge about Christianity surprising?

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Protecting People from Truth

I was listening to a preacher a few days ago … just online, you know. And he said something that’s stayed with me and keeps running around in my head, because it’s just so smart. It’s something that solves a perplexity for me that I have to confess I’ve struggled with for years. I want to pass it on to you.

My perplexity has been this: When do you just say what the Bible says, and when do you hold back?

The preacher said this: “I’m through protecting people from scripture.”

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Who’s Holding the Scales?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

The Heights of Accommodation and the Depths of Evil

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Lost Light

How does the word of God go missing among God’s people? How does the plain teaching of scripture get overlooked for months, years and even centuries, only to be suddenly rediscovered? You would think it impossible if we didn’t have both historical and biblical evidence that it happens, and happens with sad regularity.

For example, in the days of King Josiah, the Book of the Law was found in the house of the Lord and taken to the king and read to him. When Josiah heard the Law read, he tore his clothes, humbled and stricken by the degree to which the people of God had departed from his commandments and the wrath they had incurred because of it.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Tracking True

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

These Things Happened

Stephen De Young attempts to reconcile myth and history:

“In reality, the Old Testament historical texts are of the genre of mythic history. This term is not an oxymoron as there is no innate contradiction between myth and history. Myth constitutes the story of the spiritual reality which accompanies and underlies events in the material world. Mythic history, therefore, tells the entire story of an event. Myth as such speaks of beings and events in the invisible, spiritual world. History in the modern sense speaks of people and events in the material world. Mythic history explains the union of both and makes the events of history participable through ritual.”

It’s a neat little trick that doesn’t quite work. Or perhaps it’s simply too late.

Points for giving it a shot, though.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Reports and Opinion Pieces

When Israel reached the borders of the promised land, while the mass of the nation continued to camp in the wilderness of Paran, Moses sent twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan.

He did not do this on his own. God gave the instructions directly, and he even insisted the spies be of high caliber: “every one a chief”.

In hindsight, there were probably several very good reasons for this.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (60)

We are still in the penultimate chapter of Proverbs, and while there are expositors who disagree, I believe we are now reading the words of Agur rather than the words of Solomon.

Unlike the great king of Israel who was granted exceptional wisdom by God, Agur seems to be nothing more impressive than an average devout man observing the world. All the same, by the Spirit of God, he has left us with a few useful reflections. After all, James tells us, you don’t need to be a king to be wise. All it takes is asking in faith.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Parts of Speech

“The Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is truth.”

“The Spirit of truth … proceeds from the Father.”


It is correct to say that the triune God reliably tells the truth [Gk: alētheuō] and that he always speaks truly [alēthōs]. He is both accurate and ingenuous.

And yet despite their aptness, these statements are not sufficient. They fall short. Scripture makes such claims repeatedly, but that is not all it says.

The doctrine of God’s veracity and reliability does not turn on verbs and adverbs.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Written On Their Hearts

“Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham …”

“Scripture imprisoned everything under sin …”

Yes, the scripture is indeed the word of God. All the same, I have great confidence in assuring you that scripture — graphē, if you prefer Greek — did not do a single thing described in these verses. Not literally. A piece of paper, papyrus or animal skin does not “foresee”. It does not “preach”. It does not “imprison” anyone.

It can’t. It couldn’t. Ink, paper, the printed medium — these things are inanimate.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Invisible Chains

“For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”

“We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.”

There are few things more pathetic than a slave who doesn’t realize he’s a slave. But denial is a powerful thing.

In one of the Pauline epistles, there’s a sad little instruction to slaves not to pilfer. Well, I find it sad.

Think about it. Why would a slave bother engaging in petty theft?

Saturday, February 09, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (45)

Way back last April of last year when we started looking at Proverbs, I mentioned in passing that the book falls into seven fairly obvious divisions. We have now arrived at the fourth of these, which is a short group of lengthier “do” and “don’t” instructions prefaced with the words “These also are sayings of the wise.”

Translated literally from Hebrew, verse 23 begins, “These words belong to the wise.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Reverse Engineering the Faith

“I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Conservative scholars generally date the book of Jude to between A.D. 66 and 90. In his book The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, Frank Viola opts for a likely date of A.D. 68. William MacDonald uses internal evidence to place authorship between A.D. 67 and 70. I have not come across much that would incline me to argue with either man.

All these estimates place Jude as one of the very last books of the New Testament to be written and distributed to the first century churches.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

True Revolutionaries

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Bottom of the Ninth

The most recent version of this post is available here

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Baiting and Switching

J.T. Wynn’s debut column at Stand to Reason certainly doesn’t waste any time getting around to the really big questions; in this case, What is Truth?

Strictly speaking, I suppose Wynn doesn’t answer the question, but that’s not really the point of his post. In any case, his account of two teachers who conflated truth with perception will definitely ring a bell with recent university or college grads, and with anyone who has watched more than a few minutes of Jordan Peterson on YouTube.

Redefining common words is a useful way to skew an argument, muddle an otherwise simple issue, or advance an agenda. Thus Christians need to be able to identify and counter the ol’ bait-and-switch when we run into it.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Debby Boone Theology

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

The Era of the Gentle and Reverent Lie

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

On the Mount (27)

They say you’re either a cat person or a dog person. Or neither, I suppose.

I’m the former, I think, but dogs are just fine with me too. A little more work, perhaps, and a little less intelligent than a feline, but a worthy beast when trained in some basic ways and when living in harmony with man. Huskies will pull sleds, sheepdogs will tend sheep, and many other breeds have uses both practical and otherwise pleasing.

So when the Lord refers to someone as a dog, and it’s inarguably an insult, one has to stop and ask, “In what way?” What qualities of doghood are so very undesirable?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Truth Out of Balance

When I’m working, I leave my car in a seven-storey public parkade across the street from a hospital. Recently it was thought prudent to increase the number of available parking spaces for disabled drivers, so the necessary repainting was done and the usual signs posted.

That would have been fine, except that the increase in disabled spaces was an order of magnitude greater than the need it was intended to address; ten times the number required even in the busiest hours of the average day. Virtually the entire second floor of the parkade is now empty morning, noon and night. Thirty drivers who would otherwise have paid for space in this busy downtown parking lot are stuck looking for accommodation elsewhere, and the City loses the revenue from their daily custom. On the bright side, the strategy virtue-signals magnificently, so the town hall clerks and administrators are likely unperturbed.

Christian instruction can be a bit like that parkade. We only have so much space in our craniums. A truth stressed out of proportion pushes other truths out of place.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Words, Words, Words

Back in 1971 warmed-over sixties folkie Pete Seeger penned this little ditty:

“Words, words, words in my old bible
  How much of truth remains?
  If I only understood them
      while my lips pronounced them
  Would not my life be changed?”

It goes on. Seeger riffs on the Constitution, oral tradition and written history in much the same vein. But his tone is meditative rather than rebellious. He has no new “truth” to declare with his usual hippie bravado. In fact, he seems to wish he could find some of that rare truth in all those “words, words, words”.

Because, yeah … if he understood them, his life would most surely have been different.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Quote of the Day (37)

The very articulate Stefan Molyneux hosts Freedomain Radio, the most popular philosophy show on the Internet — not that he has a lot of competition in that department. Molyneux has described himself as an atheist, though these days he seems more of an agnostic than a hard-nosed denier.

Earlier this year I picked up a copy of his book Universally Preferable Behaviour: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics, figuring I might review it here if it turned out to be of interest. The case for ethics apart from God is a tough one to make, and I was curious what sort of evidence Molyneux might produce.

Monday, October 30, 2017

New and/or Reactionary

Gary McIntosh has written an intriguing guest piece for Christianity Today on the subject of the history of spiritual gifts profiles, and it raises a bigger question concerning the validity of new movements and trends within Christendom.

Given a minute, you’ll probably think of half a dozen examples of what McIntosh means by “spiritual gifts profiles”. Books, seminars and platform ministry on the subject of gifts are found everywhere these days. These attempt to inventory and describe each of the spiritual gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit of God with a view to helping Christians recognize the gifts they’ve been given and use them more effectively for God’s glory.

But McIntosh points out that this level of attention to the gifts is a fairly recent phenomenon; perhaps not quite big enough to refer to as a “movement”, but certainly a notable trend.

And to some people anything new is automatically suspect.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I Liked You Better Before You Apologized

Here’s Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton last Wednesday, responding to a question from a female reporter about the “physicality” of one of his wide-receivers as he runs downfield:

“It’s funny to hear a female talk about ‘routes.’ It’s funny.”

Oops.

Cut to the same Cam Newton last Thursday, after social media erupted over his “sexism” and at least one of his corporate sponsors went off in search of greener pastures:

“I sincerely apologize … I’m a father to two beautiful daughters and at their age I try to instill in them that they can do and be anything that they want to be.”

You know, I kinda liked Cam better before he apologized.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Who’s Holding the Scales?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Private Interpretation

I believe all scripture is breathed out by God. That’s not a new idea and it won’t shock anyone here. Holding and maintaining that view of the Bible is one of the marks of orthodoxy going back to the first century.

I’ve been enjoying the book of Job recently, every word of it God-breathed and profitable. But that does NOT mean every word of it is correct.

No, really.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Trouble with the Truth

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Disclaimers Anonymous

More and more as I observe the life and conduct of the Lord Jesus, I want to say less and say it better.

We Christians have, I think, a tendency to over-explain things, especially our own thoughts and motivations, and especially what we DON’T mean by this or that. We disclaim for good reasons and we disclaim for bad ones.

You’ve done it, I’ve done it, everybody does it. And usually it doesn’t help one bit.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I Got No Strings (Among Other Things)

In her book Sacred Psychology of Change: Life as Voyage of Transformation, Marilyn Barrick writes this:

“As you may remember, the wood carver, Geppetto, gazes out his window at the starry heavens above and wishes upon a star that the puppet, Pinocchio, he has carved and painted might be a real boy. His words have been echoed by children ever since, ‘Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.’ ”

Pinocchio being a children’s story, Geppetto eventually gets his wish, though not without a fair bit of grief along the way.

In the real world getting our wishes is not so common.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Commentariat Speaks (11)

Cail Corishev on truth:

“I think the rhetorically-challenged person hears ‘truth’ and thinks, ‘literal truth in correspondence with the facts.’ In that regard, he sees a picture of Donald Trump riding a war horse over a corpse labeled CNN while a cartoon frog-pope waves, and sees no truth at all. Literally, nothing in that picture is true, so that’s bad, maybe even Leftist.

But rhetorically, that picture is completely true, and a better, more persuasive representation of the truth of that situation than you could convey in any amount of dialectic.”

Now, like everyone else, I too can be sold by a grand rhetorical flourish, but that’s fairly unusual. Generally I’m inclined to skepticism. So here’s the meme to which Cail is referring.