Absolute Truth…or Not?

Is there such a thing as absolute truth?

If you answered yes, you share a traditional world view that is quickly falling out of favor in our culture.

If you said no, you’ve just contradicted yourself. Saying there’s no such thing as absolute truth is actually making an absolute truth statement!

Absolute truths are accepted in almost every meaningful discipline of life: mathematics, chemistry, biology. Two plus two equals four. Not three or five. It’s an accepted absolute.

So why, in a world where absolute truth exists in most disciplines of life, does it not apply to morality and spirituality? Who decided these two areas are an exception?

We’re living in a time when things are true until we don’t want them to be. Think about it.

  • By the world’s standards, a baby in the womb is a baby only if the mother wants the baby. Otherwise, it’s a “clump of cells.”
  • Our culture has decided binary gender—male and female—are now two of many options that are no longer exclusively male or female, despite physical biological evidence to the contrary. Gender is now “fluid” depending on the individual’s changing feelings.
  • Right and wrong are no longer absolutes, either. Now, what’s wrong for you may be right for me. And who are you to judge?
  • A recent Netflix documentary, Liberated, was created to “present the sexual landscape of our culture as it is rather than preach about it.” But critics were furious to learn it “showed the emptiness in hook-up culture and one-night-stands.” Apparently, it’s no longer acceptable to speak the truth.
  • Our culture decries control of the nation’s borders to stem illegal immigration in the name of children’s best interests, yet celebrates the legality of killing babies minutes before their birth.

It’s difficult to justify such contradictions in the name of logic and rationality.

We can call evil good and good evil, and claim truth is relative, but that doesn’t make it so.

We live in a world that demands hard evidence, yet refuses to believe in a Creator because they won’t recognize the evidence that’s there. This delicately balanced universe could not have accidentally evolved any more than a Rolex watch just happened to evolve into a sophisticated time piece.

People who deny the evidence of their own bodies in favor of gender-bending claims are basing those claims on feelings and faulty thinking, rather than biological evidence.

We follow scientists who teach the universe began with a “big bang,” but they can’t produce evidence or explain the source of the gasses that supposedly exploded.

So what’s a Christian to do? How can we respond in a way that engages the culture? How can we present evidence based on a biblical world view instead of simply arguing with those who disagree with us?

Follow the ABCs!

Ask questions:

  • Before sharing what you believe, ask what the other person believes and why.
  • Have they researched the topic for themselves?
  • What are their personal experiences related to the subject?

Be respectful:

  • Don’t demonize those who disagree with you.
  • Really listen to what they say…and what they don’t say.
  • Try to understand why they believe what they do. Are their beliefs influenced by past emotional wounds?
  • Be willing to “plant seeds” rather than “go in for the kill.”

Communicate compassion:

  • Care about the person more than you care about winning an argument. Be willing to build a relationship with them.
  • Leave the door open for further discussion. Most serious disagreements are not resolved in one conversation.

As Christians, we find ourselves living right-side-up in an upside-down world. But nobody promised it would be easy. Ask the Holy Spirit for the perseverance to stay true to the Person of Truth, Jesus Christ. Then speak the truth in love and live it out, regardless of others’ responses.

I suspect some of those who disagree with us may be secretly cheering us on. Because if we can live for the One who said, “I am the Truth,” it gives others hope. Hope that their shallow world, built on shifting contradictions, is not all there is to life.

And that can be the best truth of all.


The Shack: Fiction Embraced as Fact?

The ShackAs if there isn’t enough to argue about these days, along comes a movie such as The Shack, releasing tomorrow. With Christian supporters and detractors who are equally determined and vocal, what’s the big deal? It’s just a book/movie, right?

Fans of The Shack are quick to praise its depth of emotion, communication of redemption, and willingness to tackle a subject many Christians wrestle with: why does a loving God allow suffering? Many strong Christians have joined Christian celebrities in testifying to the immensely positive impact the story has had on their walk with Christ.

Critics denounce The Shack’s theological edginess, biblical infidelity, and theme of implied universalism. Theologians such as Albert Mohler and Tim Keller do a much better job of explaining the biblical objections to The Shack than I ever could. Still, I wonder why the greater Christian community does not sound the alarm over a premise that asserts a lack of future judgment in the name of love. I’m confused by those who claim to believe the Bible, yet are eager to overlook the affirmation that there are many ways to God which don’t necessarily include belief in Christ.

Even greater than the impact of this single story is the danger it heralds. The boundaries between fact and fiction are disappearing with increasing rapidity. And the results are more significant than we might initially realize.

In recent years, our culture has magnified the power of story. Storytelling has evolved far beyond the confines of tales spun with the words, “Once upon a time….”

For much of literary history, the differences between fact and fiction were generally clear. Allegories such as Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan) and fantasies such as the Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis) communicated truth without confusing fact and fiction. More importantly, the authors took great pains to ensure the biblical fidelity of what they wrote.

The author of The Shack used his novel to offer Christianity as he hopes it is, rather than what the Bible says it is. That’s his prerogative. In fact, that’s every novelist’s prerogative. The very definition of fiction is that it is not true. Novelists have the ability to create worlds as they wish them to be.

But difficulties ensue when huge numbers of Christians espouse an author’s personal preferences as inviolate truth without applying a biblical standard. Two-thousand years ago, the Bereans were held up as a role model for all Christians (Acts 17:11). Today those same Bereans would be dismissed as legalistic. We’ve come a long way…in the wrong direction.

When readers cannot or will not differentiate between fact and fiction, we have a problem.

When Christians join unbelievers in embracing a story that depicts God stripped of holiness and transcendence, we have a crisis.

And when Christians choose to elevate the foundational principles of a novel to the level of biblical authority, we have a disaster.

The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). The Shack sacrifices truth on the altar of love and compromises real love in the absence of truth. It may be a riveting work of fiction, but my heart aches at the destructive spiritual consequences that are all too real.


Euphemisms

When I worked in the corporate world, we rarely said we were firing an employee. We said they were being “let go.” The euphemism didn’t alter the reality that the person was no longer employed.

Euphemisms are often used to make us feel better about what we’re saying. They take the sting out of painful terms. Euphemisms can also help us avoid facing the reality that we’re making wrong choices. Slap a pleasant—or at the very least, neutral—label on something, and it becomes easier to support.

There’s a quote floating around the Internet attributed to Chuck Norris that illustrates this:

“Instead of baby, we say fetus; instead of killing, we say aborting; instead of dissect, we say research; instead of extermination chambers, we say abortion clinics…”

Sigh. More euphemisms.

Which brings me to the recent news reports of Planned Parenthood’s sales of body parts such as hearts, lungs, and livers from aborted babies. Upsetting, to say the least. Outrageous would be a better word. Our culture’s callous disregard for human life seems to have spiraled out of control to an unimaginable extent.

It also has me shaking my head in confusion. For decades, supporters of abortion have refused to call the unborn child a baby. Women seeking help are told their fetus is not alive; it’s merely a “clump of cells.”

But “clumps of cells” don’t have developed hearts, lungs, and livers. Living beings—people—have hearts, lungs, and livers. So which is it? Are these living human beings with identifiable human organs or are they unidentifiable clumps of cells?

No matter what euphemisms are used to help us hide from reality, the truth is our society has created and established a business whose goal is to kill children at alarming rates. Now it has found a way to generate even greater profits.

This despicable practice is an eerie reminder of a horrifying period in our not-so-distant history we’d rather forget. A time when body parts were also harvested with complete disregard for human life. Julius Hallervorden, a Nazi medical research official, once said to those managing the death camps, “If you are going to kill all these people, at least take the brains out so that the material could be utilized.”

How quickly we’ve forgotten.

Truth & ErrorEuphemisms and short memories make it easier to avoid reality. But no matter how much our culture tries to avoid truth, it cannot change truth. And someday, Jesus Christ, the One who called Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life, will bring a judgment that cannot be evaded.

Still, as Christians it is not for us to rejoice in their judgment. Rather, it is for us to speak of this judgment with aching hearts and tears in our eyes. To speak with the hope that those who practice these horrific deeds may come to know the Savior who died for their sin and ours.

Until that day, may we never grow comfortable with euphemisms that make it easy to tolerate the intolerable.

These are my thoughts. What are yours?


Truth or Error?

Discussion is usually healthy. We learn from each other as we discuss and process new ideas or differing opinions. But what happens when we disagree about whether to have the discussion at all?

Nowhere have I seen Christian doctrine battled out more vehemently than on social media. Posts about Christian beliefs or particular teachers are lightning rods for people to comment for or against. A war of words ensues, and the one who originally posted often feels forced to delete the posting in the name of peace. One such “battle” occurred recently as commenters debated the validity of a particular celebrity teacher. Another friend posted a comment from the same teacher with the preface: “I don’t want to hear any lectures about the origin of this quote.”

Should we be discussing such things on social media, for the world to see? Or should we keep such discussions private, rather than exposing disunity to unbelievers? Should we even be discussing these things at all?

Some say if we want to be known by our love, we should not criticize or judge any other believer. After all, none of us are perfect. Others quote Bible verses that speak of the need to sort the wheat from the chaff or the chicken from the bones. Still others say those who take offense at such teachers are “immature” and that mature Christians should be silent on points of disagreement.

What does the Bible say on this subject? (All references are from the NASB.)

1. To be a pastor or Bible teacher carries great responsibility.

Of course, none of us are perfect, but that doesn’t exempt those who teach God’s word from handling it rightly.

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:1-2).

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).Truth & Error

2. Error mixed with a little truth is always easier to believe than error alone.

Rarely does a Christian teacher or pastor teach pure error. Instead, false teachers often mix truth with error.

The enemy used this strategy from the beginning when he asked Eve, “Has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). God had said not to eat of one tree, not all the trees.

Jesus warned us about the influence of false teaching:
“Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:12).

3. With abundant access to Bible teachers through print and digital media, why sacrifice valuable time to listen to those known for mixing truth with error?

I know very few people who say they have too much time on their hands. If anything, most of us are rushing around with too much to do and not enough time to do it (and that’s a subject for another article). So why, with all the Bible teachers and pastoral teaching we have to choose from, would we intentionally give our valuable time to someone who is known for mixing truth with error?

4. We each have a responsibility regarding every Bible teacher, pastor, and scholar.

That responsibility is found in the description of the Bereans in Acts 17:11.
“These were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

Does anyone really think these noble believers would have been given as an example for us to follow if they had identified errors in Paul’s teaching and decided to “keep the chicken and toss the bones”?

5. Should we silence our concerns about false teaching regardless of the response of other Christians?

Ever notice how those who want to silence detractors do so in the name of not judging others. Yet these same people pass their own judgment by calling such Christians immature, weak, or critical for sounding the alarm about false teaching.

Even if the one protesting is indeed weak, Paul addressed this when he wrote:

“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions” (Romans 14:1).

And again in I Corinthians 8:9:

“Take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”

If anything, we should deny ourselves any practice that would cause a brother- or sister-in-Christ to stumble, including the support of teachers whose doctrine or theology may be questionable.

6. Does Christian unity require showing love at the expense of speaking the truth?

Of course we should be known for our love. After all, love is indeed the greatest of the gifts and is an attribute of God Himself. But just as God does not separate His love from His other attributes, neither should we. Truth without love is harsh, but love without truth is nothing but emotion. We need both, as these verses note:

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10).

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).

If we see a brother or sister in Christ following wrong teaching, how loving is it to say nothing and let them continue down that road? We all are susceptible to blind spots. I would want to know, wouldn’t you?

7. Do large numbers (the teacher at the heart of the most recent debate claims 38,000 followers) validate teaching?

Large crowds do not guarantee right teaching. Throughout Scripture we see the importance of standing alone for what is right, regardless of what the majority does. We also see that when the nation or rulers taught or followed error, God always kept a remnant—a small group of people who were true to Him and His Word.

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth” (II Timothy 4:2-4).

8. Has the church lost its relevancy because we’re too busy judging others?

Matthew 7:1-5 is probably the second best known Bible passage after John 3:16.

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

But this passage is one of the most misunderstood, as well. How can it possibly mean that we are never to evaluate the actions of another when the very next verse (verse 6) says:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

In order to determine who the “dogs” or “swine” are, we have to make a judgment. Jesus also said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

So we are, in fact, to make some judgments. The issue is how we do it. We are not to be hypocritical and self-righteous, focusing on someone else’s “speck” while ignoring our own “log.” We are also never to judge anyone’s heart, for only God knows the heart. But we are expected to evaluate what we see and hear—actions and fruit—to determine if they are consistent with God’s Word and worthy of our following.

 

Discussion or disunity? Truth or error? When error is disregarded in the name of unity, something is wrong. As the “last days” draw near, rather than defending questionable teachers, shouldn’t we be immersing ourselves in solid biblical truth that doesn’t require excuse, justification, or defense?

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?