It was very good to have pastor-scholars Gary Cymbaluk and Kip’ Chelashaw with us last week to teach our second year class. Kip’ shared with us A Biblical theology on the person and work of Christ and it was great to see many beautiful ways in which Christmas and Easter tie together the different threads of the Bible story. Then Gary shared with us on Objective Truth – why we need to orientate ourselves to ‘true North’, reality outside of us.
Perhaps one of the most striking things Gary shared with us was this:
“Things are not true because they are in the Bible; they are in the Bible because they are true.”
This might sound odd but it fits with the end of John’s Gospel:
“Jesus did many other things as well.” (John 21:25)
In other words there are loads of things that happened, true genuine historical things, which are not recorded in the Bible. The truth, reality, is bigger than what is contained in the Bible, even though the Bible is the only book which tells us how to understand that bigger reality and how to be saved from its darkness.
The Reformers, 500 years ago, believed:
“the authority of Holy Scripture rested purely on the fact that it reports upon real acts of God in revelation… The authority of Holy Scripture then rests not upon the form of its recording [that it is written in a book] but upon… the reality of the revealed facts attested in writing.” (Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics as quoted by D K Mckim).
Everything in the Bible is true but it’s not that being written in the Bible magically confers on things the attribute ‘true’. Rather the reason that things are in the Bible is because they are true – the acts of God in history.
“This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.” (John 21:24 cf. 20:30)
The Bible is legal testimony – it points to concrete reality, often as an eye witness. As Gary helped us see, the truth is out there. There is such a thing as objective reality, what Francis Shaeffer called ‘True Truth’ which is there whether or not you believe it, whether or not I believe it, it is just there. And the Bible witnesses to that reality.
So what? Here are a few consequences:
- We are not supposed to be like the Pharisees who got fixed on searching the Scriptures as an end in itself. We are supposed to search the Scriptures to find the reality of Christ and come to him to have life (John 5:39-40; 20:30-31).
- Christians should be people committed to truth wherever it comes from. Science (exploring reality) is good. History (examining sources from the past) is important. When we make claims or share things on social media we, more than anyone, should be concerned to check out whether they are true.
- We should rediscover the historicity of the gospel. The message of the apostles was not about some fuzzy feelings they were having it was ‘News’ that something had happened – a man had been crucified and he had risen again. This was not a self-help philosophy it was public truth (Acts 26:26).
- Let’s think carefully about whether we ourselves really believe that the things in the Bible are public truth or whether we have quietly bought into the view that this is ‘my spirituality’, ‘my truth’. Do we really care whether these things actually happened or not? Have we forgotten that the Scriptures are describing reality and started to treat them as writings that ‘work for me’ or that ‘I believe because I know I’m supposed to believe this stuff because it’s the Word of God’? When challenged by unbelievers do we respond with ‘In my opinion’ or ‘Me I think’ or do we stand firm on this being Reality for everyone whether they like it or not.
- As we look with sadness at how the contemporary Godless world is embracing an aggressive form of relativism and self-definition where ‘I create my own reality’ and ‘Don’t you tell me that my reality is wrong’, we need to be careful that we don’t do the very same thing in our own spirituality. Many false teachers in the church will tell us, ‘Create your own reality and define yourself by speaking out positive words about yourself’. Many motivational speakers will tell us, ‘Don’t let anyone say anything negative into your life’. As the old Bible teacher Dick Lucas has said many times, biblical spirituality which is always about facing up to hard reality not living in a fantasy world. Biblical faith is not faith in faith. Our faith is supposed to be a trust in solid historical truth – Jesus crucified and risen.
- We need to embrace the great Reformation rediscovery that hope it outside ourselves. Identity is not something we find by looking within. Wisdom is not in us but in Christ. Good is not in us but in Christ. Salvation is not found by looking inside for the still small voice or by trusting in our good works or even in our feelings of assurance. Salvation is about having our eyes opened to reality – seeing the crucified, risen, exalted God-man – and finding in him an objective status – ‘Righteous’ – an alien righteousness, from outside.
Some more resources from second year class over the last couple of weeks: