The Word of God: Timeless truth in a “post-truth” era

This past year, the Oxford Dictionary declared the “word of the year” to be “post-truth.”  Post-truth?  Truth, it’s commonly assumed, has moved out of the realm of human absolutes and into the realm of personal perspective.  That’s why everyone is wary of the news media, fearful that journalists embellish and distort the truth to fit their own agenda.  As a young person, I would tell you this is old news—no pun intended.  My generation has rejected the idea of truth for years now, especially in the arena of professional journalism.  It’s no wonder that my peers often get their “news” from the likes of Stephen Colbert and John Oliver—because if everyone’s biased, you might as well listen to someone whose perspective you can enjoy and appreciate, right?

As we said yesterday, God is a God who speaks, who reveals Himself.  We classify this “revelation” in two broad ways: the “general” revelation we see in nature, and the “specific” revelation we find in Scripture.  For it is there, printed on every page, that the heart of God is most directly revealed to us.  Truth is personal because language itself is personal; communication implies a sort of intimacy.  And because of this, truth is not only knowable, but can be known with certainty thanks to a God who chooses to reveal Himself with the specificity of human language.

SPECIFIC REVELATION: THE WORD OF GOD

Part of what we have to remember about Scripture is that the very Word of God has a power unto itself.  The opening pages of the book of Genesis describe a God who literally spoke the universe into existence, a fact that later generations of God’s people would continually marvel at.  “By the Word of the Lord,” the psalmist writes, “the heavens were made” (Psalm 33:6).  Why was it so important to tell God’s people that God’s Word held such power?  Because the book of Genesis was recorded by Moses, who also led God’s people out of slavery and through the wilderness to the Promised Land.  During their years of wandering, they would hear the story of creation, of how God spoke and reality conformed to His will.  And the same Word that gave rise to creation also gave His people a promise of land and a promise of blessing.  They could trust God’s Word.  Why?  Because the promise was as real as the air they breathed. 

The “Word of the Lord” became synonymous with God’s revealed will and message; it’s why so many of the prophets speak of the “Word of the Lord” coming to them, such as when Jeremiah speaks of how “the Word of the Lord came to [him]” (Jeremiah 1:11), just as the Word came to various prophets throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

And this same Word also finds itself recorded in the pages of today’s Bible.  To the young pastor Timothy, Paul writes:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

And let’s not forget that Timothy lived in an age that was increasingly numb—if not hostile—toward absolute truth.   Paul’s message was one we all need to hear: in a “post-truth” age, we can rest on the unwavering Word of God.

THE NECESSITY OF DOCTRINE

Still, I know many who struggle with this idea.  Does not such an emphasis on the Bible negate the role of human experience?  After all, many times Christian theology seems dry and musty in comparison with the vibrant colors of human experience.

Some years ago a man named Ludwig Wittgenstein pointed out that human language is ultimately inadequate to describe anything.  For instance, no amount of language is sufficient to describe the robust taste and aroma of a cup of coffee.  When sharing this illustration to a gathering of college students, one young man raised his cup and offered a hearty “Amen!”  And he was right, you know.  No one wants to read about something when you can experience it directly.  So how can we ever expect to know what God is like just be reading about Him?

But human language is perfectly adequate to write directions to Starbucks.  Follow these directions and you can “taste and see” that their product is good.  So, too, can human language—in Scripture, in doctrine—provide a means by which we might “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

The alternative, of course, is to become enslaved to our experiences and our feelings.  And that’s dangerous, because God becomes subject to our perceptions and our biases.  What we end up worshipping isn’t God, it’s just a projection of what we want God to look like.  As C.S. Lewis points out, doctrine is meant to challenge us, and anything less will have no effect:

“The god of whom no dogmas are believed is a mere shadow. He will not produce that fear of the Lord in which wisdom begins and therefore will not produce that love in which it is consummated…. There is in the minimal religion nothing that can convince, convert, or (in the higher sense) console; nothing therefore which can restore vitality to our civilization. It is not costly enough. It can never be a controller or even a rival to our natural sloth and greed.”[1]

Doctrine should freak us out.  It should tear the masks from our faces like the wind tears doors from their hinges.  Only God’s truth has the power to do this, and we encounter this Truth in God’s Word.

WHAT IS THE BIBLE BASICALLY ABOUT?

For Christians, Truth is not merely a set of ideas; Truth is a person (cf. John 14:6).  What is the Bible basically about?  The Bible is ultimately a story about Jesus.  That’s why John tells us that Jesus is the very Word of God (John 1:1, 14).  To read the Bible is to come to know this Word in a way that is real and personal.  So we read the Bible not merely to find a set of answers to our problems; we read the Bible to encounter a Savior who we can know personally.  Because in a world that rejects truth, it’s easy to dismiss or “deconstruct” the words printed on a page—but I remain challenged by the Word made flesh.  I pray that as you read the Bible, your mind and heart would be filled with the knowledge of the Savior.

How do we know our God is real?  He is found in every page.

 

[1] C.S. Lewis , “A Christian Reply to Professor Price,” Phoenix Quarterly.

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