CAPE TOWN: PEOPLE OF TRUTH: Why truth matters to us
By Dr. Os Guinness in Cape Town
October 22, 2010
The following is the opening address delivered to the Third Lausanne Congress on Evangelism before 5,000 participants.
Why does truth matter to us at the Lausanne Congress? There are times when history and the Gospel of Jesus converge to create a dynamic thrust forward in human affairs.
So it was with the "gifts" of the Gospel, such as philanthropy, the reform movements, the universities, and modern science. There are other times when history and the Gospel collide, and the titanic struggle shapes history in a different but equally decisive way.
So it was when the lordship of Christ triumphed over the might of imperial Rome. There are still other times when history and the Gospel appear to collide. But in fact the Gospel speaks to the deepest dilemmas and the highest aspirations of the times that oppose it.
So it is now with the Gospel and the concept of truth. At first sight, the biblical view of truth is obscene to modern minds - "arrogant," "exclusive," "intolerant," "divisive," and "judgmental." But on a deeper look, the biblical view is profound, timely, and urgent -- even for those who reject it. But regardless of what the wider world thinks. We follow the One who declared that He is "the way, the truth, and the life."
We therefore worship and serve the God of truth, whose Word is truth, and who Himself is true and to be trusted for his covenant faithfulness.
Let me therefore sum up this plenary session by giving you six reasons why truth matters supremely to us, and why those Christians who are careless about truth are as wrong, as foolish, and as dangerous as the open skeptics and scoffers of our day:
First, only a high view of truth honors the God of Truth. Too often, truth is considered merely a philosophical issue. For us, the philosophical issues are crucial and always to be taken seriously, but truth is primarily a matter of theology. Not only is our Lord the God who is actually, objectively, really and truly there, so that what faith believes corresponds to the reality of what is, our Lord is also the True One, in the sense that He is the One whose covenant loyalty can be trusted, and the entire weight of our existence staked on Him. Those who weaken their hold on truth, weaken their hold on God.
Second only a high view of truth reflects how we come to know and trust God. Jesus is the only way to God, though there as many ways to Jesus as people who come to Him. But the record of the Scriptures and the experience of the centuries show there are three main reasons why we believe: We come to faith in Christ because we are driven by our human needs. We come to faith because He seeks for us and finds us. And we come to faith because we are convinced that the claims of Christ and the Gospel of Christ are true. It is because of truth that our faith in God is not irrational. It is not an emotional crutch. It is not a psychological projection, or a matter of wish-fulfillment. It is not the opiate of the masses. Faith goes beyond reason because there is more to us as humans than our reason, but our faith is a warranted faith because we have come to the firm conviction that it is true. We are those who think in believing, and who believe in thinking.
Third only a high view of truth empowers our best human enterprises. Skeptics and relativists who undermine the notion of truth are like a fool who cuts off the branch on which he is sitting.
* Without truth, the great enterprise of science and all human knowledge collapse into conjecture. * Without truth, the vital profession of journalism and our ability to understand the events of the day and discern the signs of the times dissolve into rumor.
* Without truth, the worlds of politics and business melt down into rules and power games.
* Without truth, the precious gift of human freedom becomes license, and all human relations lose the element of trust that is their vital bonding. We are therefore unashamed to stand in the world as servants and guardians of truth, both for God and for the highest endeavors of humanity.
Fourth only a high view of truth can undergird our proclamation and defense of the faith If our Lord is the God of truth, then we gladly affirm with the early church that "All truth is God's truth." We therefore welcome and affirm all ideas, arguments, and claims that pass the muster of God's standard of truth.
But we also know that all humans, including we ourselves, are not only truth-seekers but truth-twisters -- and that because all unbelief "holds the truth in unrighteousness," we have the grounds as well as the duty to confront false ideas and false beliefs with the assurance that they are neither true, nor are they in the best interests of those who hold them - and we therefore do them a service when we challenge them.
And we must never forget: Just as the apostle Paul challenged the apostle Peter to his face, so our stand for truth today must start in the church itself. We must resist the siren seductions of those who downplay truth for methodology, truth for activism, truth for entertainment, truth for seeker sensitivity, proclamation for conversation, solid substance for sound bites, and above all those who put a modern and revisionist view of truth in the place of the biblical view.
Let there be no mistake. Whatever the motive, all such seductions lead to a weak and compromised faith and end only in sorrow and yet another betrayal of our Lord. To abandon truth is to abandon faithfulness, and so to commit theological adultery and eventually spiritual suicide. Let the sorry fate of Protestant liberalism be a warning to us all. Down that way lies the final end of all "kissing Judases" - those who betray Jesus yet again with a kiss and an unfaithful interpretation.
Fifth, only a high view of truth is sufficient for resisting evil and hypocrisy. Postmodern thinking makes us aware of hypocrisy as never before, but gives us no standard of truth to expose and correct it. It calls us to "authenticity," but offers us no truth to help attain it. With the global expansion of markets through capitalism, the global expansion of freedom through travel and technology, and the global expansion of human dysfunctions through the erosion of traditional ties and bonds, we face "a perfect storm" of globalized evil, including horrendous crimes such as human slavery and trafficking. Both hypocrisy and evil depend on lies - hypocrisy being a lie in deeds rather than words, and evil always using lies to cover its oppressions. Only with truth can we stand up to deception and manipulation. Truth is the absolute necessity for all who hate hypocrisy, all who care for justice, all who defend human dignity, and all who fight against evil.
Sixth, only a high view of truth will help our growth and transformation in Christ. Just as Abraham was called to "walk before God," so we are called to follow "the Way of Jesus." Our task is not just to believe the truth, or even to know and defend the truth. Our calling is to so to live in truth that we are shaped by truth in our innermost beings, until by the grace of God, we become people of truth.
In sum, let there be no uncertainty about our commitment to truth, as followers of Christ and members of this third Lausanne Congress. If we do not stand fast over truth, this great Congress might as well as stop at this point.
Shame on those Christians in the Western world, who casually dismiss or scornfully deny what our Lord declared, what the Scriptures defend, and what our sisters and brothers die for rather than deny - that Jesus Christ our Lord is "the way, the truth, and the life."
Let us say as the great German reformer said of truth in regard to the Evil One: "One little word will fell him."
Let us say with our sister, the American poet: "Truth is my country."
Let us boldly declare with our brother, the Danish philosopher: "Truth or nothing."
Let us demonstrate with our brother, the great Russian novelist and dissident: "One word of truth outweighs the entire world."
If our faith is not true, it would be false even if the whole world believed it. If our faith is true, it would be true even if the whole world and the entire cosmos were against it.
So let the conviction ring out from this Congress: We Evangelicals do not just believe the truth. We do not just claim to know the truth, and to defend the truth. We worship "the God of truth," whose Spirit is "the Spirit of truth," whose "Word is truth," whose Gospel is "the message of truth," and whose Son our Lord is "the way, the truth, and the life." And we ourselves are committed, humbly but resolutely, to becoming People of Truth. Here we still stand, so help us God -
As Evangelicals we are "people of the Good News."
May we also always be People of Truth, worthy of the God of Truth.
God is true - so God is greater than all, and God can be can be trusted in all situations.
Have faith in God. Have no fear. Hold fast to truth. God be with you all.
---Dr Os Guinness is an evangelical sociologist and a practicing Anglican who lives with his wife Jenny in The Falls Church, Virginia. He can be reached at this e-mail address: email@example.com
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