6/29/2007

Certainty

Certainty is a noun describing what is “established as true or sure” (The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary). Large segments of our society see this freedom from doubt as the height of arrogance. We are constantly told, especially with respect to religion, that we cannot know the truth, communicate the truth, or expect others to follow the truth we know. It is refreshing to find a book like The Truth War by John MacArthur (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2007).

This book is really a short commentary on the book of Jude. MacArthur is an able polemicist, and his writing is at its best when he forcefully conveys a point. He begins by expounding on the ground of truth, how we can know anything at all:

Of course, God and truth are inseparable. Every thought about the essence of truth – what makes it “true,” and how we can possibly know anything for sure, quickly moves us back to God … it is not particularly surprising when someone who repudiates God rejects truth as well. If a person can’t tolerate the thought of God, there is simply no comfortable place for the concept of truth in that person’s worldview, either. (p. xv)

… God alone is the source of all that exists (Romans 11:36). He alone defines and delimits what is true. He is also the ultimate revealer of all truth. Every truth revealed in nature was authored by Him (Psalm 19:16); and some of it is His own self-revelation (Romans 1:20). He gave us minds and consciences to perceive the truth and comprehend right from wrong …All truth therefore starts with what is true of God: who He is, what His mind knows, what His holiness entails, what His will approves, and so on. In other words, all truth is determined and properly explained by the being of God. (p. xviii-xix)

MacArthur does an admirable job of stating a solid case for truth as God’s “self-expression” on pages 2-7. He points to the failure of systems of thought that do not start with God to provide a universal, absolute frame for truth. He sounds presuppositional in his approach. This is a powerful argument stated in an understandable way.

To expound on MacArthur’s points: Since we can know truth, and since God communicates His truth to us in His Word. We know that we can also use God’s words to communicate to others. Since God’s authority backs His Word, we can expect others to follow what He has revealed. We have a defense not just of the knowledge of truth but of the communication of that truth.

MacArthur points to many examples of leaders within the Emergent Church conversation who have sacrificed their loyalty to truth on the altar of post-modern philosophy. Post-modernism defines truth out of bounds with its insistence that words cannot communicate knowledge of the real world. God’s Word, and its simple communicating to us of profound truth, shows otherwise. It is not that we can know all truth about everything; it is that we can know the truth communicated by the Bible accurately.

Much more can be said about the book. It contains simple, but not simplistic, explanations of some historical heresies within the church and their recent resurgences. It points us to a humble attitude toward our task of defending the truth. He also leads us to a forceful response.

This is a battle we cannot wage effectively if we always try to come across to the world as merely nice, nonchalant, docile, agreeable, and fun-loving people. We must not take our cues form people who are perfectly happy to compromise the truth whenever possible “for harmony’s sake.” (p. 76)

MacArthur, like any good Baptist, is quick to say that physical force is not part of the Christian’s approach. He points us to direct and firm verbal confrontation of the errors we find in the church today. It is an appropriate admonition to a church whose feeble tolerance of error leads us to an effeminate faith, devoid of convictions and the will to champion them. May God make us strong.

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