by Mike Halpin —
What is truth?John 18:38, Roman Governor Pilate to Jesus.
Unrighteous men suppress the truth.Romans 1:18
It is to confess we are called, not merely to profess. If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.Elizabeth Rundle, Chronicles of the Schoenberg Cotta Family
Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; For truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.Isaiah 59:14
Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, famous for being the spiritual home of John Piper for decades, has fractured like so many other monoliths of Christian steadfastness. You can read the story here.
The article mentions hot topic issues like Critical Race Theory (CRT), George Floyd’s death, and what compassionate responses to victims of all stripes looks like. It’s assumed these were all contributing factors to the departure of three pastoral staff members as well as staff from the college associated with the church. But I suspect the fracture goes deeper than those topics, and I think therein lies the cautionary tale for the Church at large.
While issues like Critical Race Theory need to be heard, studied, and responded to individually, I believe these hot button issues are in fact secondary regarding the fragmentation spreading through the Church and parachurch groups. The foundational issue in most or all these issues is one of epistemology—what is true, and how do we determine truth? Truth as a foundational necessity in addressing any and every issue appears to be forfeit for, among other things, the sake of what’s perceived to be compassion and understanding, at least within the professing Church.
Voddie Baucham’s book Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe is a masterful treatment of the un–truths of the Social Justice movement and its offshoots, as well as a prophetic warning to the Church. Like Old Testament prophets in their calls to Israel, he defines, indicts, and shows the way forward in the Church’s temptations to forsake truth for something temporarily more convenient.
The Church won’t stop the cultural stampede over the edge of the cliffs of error, but God help us to stand up in the assemblies of those who call on the Way, the Truth, and the Light, and who cry out for Wisdom and Truth (Proverbs 1:20). And God strengthen us for the future battles, already coming our way, when confessing truth becomes more costly (Isaiah 59:15).
If our standard for truth isn’t the biblical one, and if our society doesn’t require verification of claims to truth, then it’s simply the loudest voices that will determine what is “truth” in any given moment and in any given situation. How has the mob done at determining and heralding truth throughout history?
In all our current social upheavals and fractures regarding justice, amid claims and counter claims regarding viruses and vaccines, in the development of legislation said to address society’s ills, it’s truth that’s at stake; truth is on trial. In our culture today, the words of the prophet Isaiah ring true—truth has fallen in the public square. Truth has been mugged, again and again in our social, religious, and political discourse. Truth has been left for dead, like Amasa slain by Joab along the side of the road (2 Samuel 20:8–12). Christians follow One who said, “I am the truth…” (John 14:6). How can those who follow the Truth accept anything short of biblically consistent and verifiable claims to “truth”? We can’t. And we shouldn’t.
†Photo credit: Michael Carruth, https://unsplash.com/photos/m_tnGfoHeko