Tuesday, July 17, 2007

nothing but the truth so help me ...

Jonny Mac continues his series on truth - a topic that I thought he would really nail but now I'm not so sure. He wrote a lot of nice sounding phrases that at first blush I bought but now I think I disagree with him. I would love you inputs as I think about this.

First, "Biblical Christianity is all about truth." Amen - but Iggy reminds us that Truth is a person. I suspect that is not what MacArthur has in mind.

MacArthur then says, "God’s objective revelation (the Bible) interpreted rationally yields divine truth in perfectly sufficient measure." Is that a true statement? Given our minds were radically affected by the fall, I'm not willing to say rational interpretation alone yields divine truth unless MacArthur has more in mind than the words "interpreted rationally" mean.

Next he reminds us that "Everything we need to know for life and godliness is there for us in Scripture (2 Peter 1:3)." Hmmm ... I'm not sure what this means. I don't quite see the connection between the Scripture reference (His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, ...) and his point. Also, based on his other writings, MacArthur means "all we get" not "all we need". I agree that Scripture plus the opening of our heart by the Holy Spirit is all we need but I do not agree that this is all we get. The Holy Spirit does much more.

Another text often used by MacArthur's ilk on this point is 2 Timothy 3.16-17 - "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." This is perfect for telling us the value of Scripture but it does not tell use that this is all there is. In fact, as I was trying to figure out if MacArthur simply quoted the wrong verse above, I found one of many examples that it is more than Scripture alone that shapes us into the people of God. In 1 Peter I find "make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love ... practice these qualities you will never fall." Experience (especially suffering) is another key element to our Christian walk.

Anyway, MacArthur continues with:
Good [sic] wrote only one book — the Bible. It contains all the truth God intended us to order our spiritual lives by. We don’t need to consult any other source for spiritual or moral principles to govern our lives. Scripture is not only wholly truth; it is also the highest standard of all truth – the rule by which all truth claims must be measured.

Sounds nice but I think it's wrong. "It contains all the truth" - I would have said, "it contains only truth". "We don't need to consult any other source" - I would have thought the Holy Spirit, the Church, etc. would have been key elements to my coming to know Truth. This really hits home the difference in my understanding of Scripture versus MacArthur's. I think Scripture teaches me how to interact with God and His creation while he thinks Scripture teaches me how to interact with Scripture.

Moving on, MacArthur writes:

Such a conviction is the very antithesis of the post modern notion that no one should ever claim to know objective truth. And that is another major reason why Christianity has been targeted by the proponents of post modern inclusivism. Authentic Christianity is “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Christian truth is not subject to change or amendment. It isn’t nullified by changes in worldly opinion or standards of political correctness. It doesn’t need to be adapted and redefined for every new generation.

Here MacArthur demonstrates his continued inability to accurately represent other views. His implication is that those outside his circle claim that there is no truth. While this is true for some, many are claiming something a little different but he represents it as all the same. Many are claiming our ability to know objective truth completely is in question. Our ability to know Truth in Jesus is not in question. The fact that there is truth is not in question. Only our ability to know truth (lower case "t") absolutely is questioned. But MacArthur and others like to group all of those folks together and say we do not hold to a standard of truth.

So yes, Truth has been delivered to us the saints. And yes, the Holy Spirit guides us to all truth and Truth. And yes, Christian truth is not subject to change or amendment. But I do not absolutely know all truth. I'm not sure why he continues to represent so many as not getting this.

Ok - enough of the criticism, I'll skip down to the conclusion.

We must recover our love for biblical truth, as well as our conviction that it is unassailable truth. We have the truth in a world where most people are simply wandering around in hopeless ignorance. We need to proclaim it from the housetops, and quit playing along with those who suggest we are being arrogant if we claim to know anything for certain. We do have the truth, not because we are smarter or better than anyone else, but because God has revealed it in the Scriptures and has been gracious to open our eyes to see it. We would be sinning if we tried to keep the truth to ourselves.

Amen! We must stop acting like we do not know Truth and we must proclaim Him to the world. We must stop acting ashamed of revealed truth and live lives to standards foreign to the fallen world. We must stand out as different. We are ambassadors of a Kingdom that is in antithesis to the kingdom of this world. Ours is not to blend in but to stand out.

So to his conclusion, John MacArthur, I say Amen.

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jul said...

Obviously (to me anyway), we need the Holy Spirit at the very least in order to recieve divine revelation from Scripture. Satan of couse knows the Scripture very well and is not changed by knowing the objective truth of it.

It seems that if people took Mr. J.M. at his word, he would be out of a job. If the Bible is all we need, why doesn't he stop writing books?

Robert Ivy said...

Good analysis of Johnny Mac's article. I think it's intimately related with the issue that I took up earlier when I considered, "what is the Bible."

The thought struck me as I was reading that even with 2 Tim 3:16, it says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God." "Is", is the key word there - it doesn't say "all Scripture was breathed out by God," as if we now have this finished reference work - which is how J.M. sees it.

I know it's very weak support for my perspective, I'm just not so sure that we should so quickly equate a book we hold in our hands with the living word of God. It would be much more accurate to equate the book combined with the Spirit to the living, breathing, Word of God.