Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Philosophical Transformation Series: What is the Truth? Can we know it? A Battle of Worldviews

Ecce Homo painting via Wikimedia Commons

I prayed a short prayer one day, as I began my first semester at Liberty University. I knew I loved Jesus, but I didn’t really understand how it fit into everything in my life. I felt like I didn’t really know the full implications of my faith in areas like society, law, personal conduct, history, and reason. So I prayed, “Lord, please help me understand my faith.” This led to a journey of discovery and learning that transformed my walk as a Christian. I went through a transformation, a metamorphosis, from a Christian in a cocoon to a Christian butterfly. I grew in a lot of areas in my life, and I continue to grow today. I hope to share through the rest of the messages I share, regarding twelve areas of knowledge concerning our Christian faith. Today we talk about truth.

Perhaps the single most important question any person can ask is: What is the truth? Truth relates to everything we experience in life and will affect every decision we make. In my next twelve messages we’ll be addressing a series of issues that relate to truth, including: worldview, science, history, and theology.

The goal of this series is to help expand our knowledge and comprehension of the world around us, ourselves, and most of all, God’s truth.

The topics are as follows. Today we’ll address the first topic on our list, which is “The Truth: Can we Know It?”

We live in a world of competing worldviews. A worldview is a way in which we look at the world. Ultimately this battle of worldviews breaks down to the battle between God’s truths and the illusions of the world.

Jesus Christ said “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32. And again in John 14:6 Jesus actually said “I am the truth.”

It’s interesting that when Pontius Pilate came to question Jesus, Pilate asked Jesus the question: What is truth? -John 18:38. And ironically, Pilate walked away without waiting to hear the answer. So I hope today we won’t walk away, but we’ll stay and wait to understand from our Lord, what truth really is.

The first question we have to ask is: Can we know truth? Oddly enough many in our culture today would say that there is no way to know truth (agnostic). And many would say that all truth is relative (post-modernism).

Could all truth really be relative? In short, no it can’t. Why? Because to suggest that “all truth is relative” is actually making an absolute truth claim. It’s a nonsensical statement. And no one lives that way. All sorts of facts are knowable, such as: mathematics, history, science, rules of logic, finances, and systems of law. The whole world functions on objective truths; philosophy and religion don't become "relative" just because it's intellectually convenient.

Second question, what exactly is the truth? R.C. Sproul a prominent theologian gave this definition which seems quite fitting: “Truth is defined as that which corresponds to reality as perceived by God.”

Third question, is truth really that important? Well the answer to that question in short is yes. As noted Christian speaker Del Tackett said, “Our actions reflect what we believe to be the truth.” So in essence how we live exactly corresponds to what we believe is true.

When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king, Jesus gave a very unique answer. John 18:37 “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

You’d be amazed when reading the gospels how many times Jesus refers to the topic of truth. In fact time and again Jesus said, “I tell you the truth.” And “Truly, truly I tell you.” Jesus Christ and his mission was in part, to declare boldly the truth of God in a world full of distortions and lies.

The distortions and lies of the world continue to this very day. And so does the gospel and the church of Christ on Earth. They are in conflict with one another. The battle rages everyday in our country, and in countries across the face of the earth. Today many in America refer to it as the culture war. In reality, It is a great, cosmic battle between truth and lies.

This battle has it’s origins at the very beginning of time, when God first created the human race. It goes all the way back to the conversation between Eve and serpent. Satan tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God. Eve indicated that God had forbidden them to eat from just one tree in the great garden, and that if they ate from that tree they would surely die. And serpent said to Eve,”You will not surely die, for you will be like god, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5). And essentially what the serpent was saying to Eve, is that humanity would try to play god, and redefine good and evil to mean whatever they desired.

Essentially when the fall of man occurred, the instincts within the heart of man, within our hearts became inverted. Instead of seeking to serve God, we seek to serve ourselves. Instead of being loving, we tend to be selfish and callous. And instead of understanding our place as children of God, we instead try to play god, we attempt to control everything around us, and to redefine truth itself to mean what we want it to mean.

And as Christians, part of our commitment is to say: I’m going to fight myself, my own worst enemy, me, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, in Christ’s power, I will try to live out things in the proper order.

I’m going to embrace God’s way, instead of my way. Instead of defining truth the way I want it to be, which is an illusion, I’m going to study God’s word and embrace what is actually the truth. Instead of being selfish I’m going to try to be loving and caring for others. Instead of trying to play god and force things to go my way, I’m going to let go, and let God run the universe. He is after all, much better at it than us.

So this cosmic battle is essentially between those who have surrendered to the real truth, God’s accurate description of reality, and those who are continuing to live out the rebellion of man, those who despise god, and who want to do things their own way.

It continues to this very day. Think of the marriage debates over the last twenty years. First the issue came up of gay marriage, should men be able to marry men, should women be able to marry women. Despite what God’s word says on this issue, that marriage is between man and woman, the rebellious world angrily insisted that God was wrong on this issue. And pretty soon, they had redefined the truth to suite their own desires. But it continued after that, now today, they are seeking to redefine gender, and suggest that men can become women and women can become men, based entirely on feelings.

And again, in the area of human life, we see the starkest contrast between the perfect holiness of God and the lies of the world. The implications of a vaccum of truth means that an unborn baby, inside the womb of his or her own mother, can have forceps jammed into it’s head, and have it’s brain removed through a suction device. And in many cases, the unborn baby’s body parts are then sold on a black market for profit.

Truth matters, it affects every aspect of life, and when lies reign, humanity suffers. So we see this cosmic battle playing out before our very eyes, between the accurate truths of God, and the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Think about it in your own life. How do you struggle between believing the truths of God’s word and the believing the lies of the world? Does it affect your sexual life? Does it impact your priorities in life?

This is a very real struggle. For me in the past, I believed the lies of the world. And it led me into drug addiction. I was like a fool being led to the slaughter. If a person has not been instructed in God’s word, all they have is what is put out on the television, the internet, and instruction from parents. I nearly died, because I believed the lies of the world. This is a very real, and dangerous struggle, the cosmic battle.

I’d like to encourage you to reflect on these issues. And fight that internal battle, to submit to God’s truths.

So we live in a struggle of worldviews. This is a clash of worldviews, of philosophies regarding how the world actually is. Our modern society believes that only the material world is real. Only what can be seen and tested and touched and examined can be real. This is a worldview called materialism. They believe only the material universe exists. While we believe we are imageo dei, made in the image of God, much of the modern believes they are made in the image of slime, meaningless blobs of matter. Our biblical worldview says that there is another realm of reality, not just the material, there is a spiritual realm, which exists outside the material universe. We believe people have souls. We believe in things like consciousness and freedom of choice. We believe every human life has value, they believe in survival of the fittest, the weak must perish, the strong survive.

We see life on earth as a continuum containing the grand story of God’s plan for the human race. We see God’s glory in the sky, stars, and natural world. When we see global events take shape, when we see wars, genocide, church revivals, joyous families, and plenty we see the sovereign will of God. When we see friends struggling, when we see illnesses and deaths, we see the effects of sin on mankind, and when we see the needs of the poor and lost, and the addicted and the self destroyed we see the need for Jesus Christ our savior in the world, and our need for Christ personally, within our hearts, to help us live out our lives in holiness, and love for others.

So we understand the answer to the question: What is truth? Truth is the reality that God created the universe, the world, and the human race. God’s word is our set of glasses that we put on, it doesn’t change the world to rose colors, but it actually magnifies the world so we can see it more clearly. And more and more we’ll see that the ones wearing the blinders are actually the naturalists who insist in a world without God.

Truth is seeing reality as it truly is. We see that truth is the reality of Jesus Christ born, crucified, resurrected, and seat in glory in heaven. We understand that Jesus Christ came to Earth to testify regarding the truth. So we see that every time Jesus Christ said in the scriptures “I am telling you the truth” he indeed was doing just that.

Sources: The Truth Project Series by Focus on the Family
I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norm Geisler
The Cross of Christ by John R.W. Stott
The Ministry of RZIM and the many presentations given by Ravi Zacharias