Thy Word Is Truth

Today, our pastor discussed some of the key elements to one of the fundamental questions of existence, and managed to talk about relativism in a way that matched some of my current reading on philosophy as it relates to video games, discussing the ways that relativism is self-refuting, in that it presents itself as absolute truth but tries to cut against the existence of all other absolute truths, without a reason why it should be privileged above any other view. The question, of course, springs from John 18:37-38, which reads: ” Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.”” What we have here is a cynical Roman governor who, once he knew that Jesus Christ was not a political revolutionary, but rather an idealistic religious figure, saw no need of his own to crucify Jesus Christ. Yet he was insufficiently curious about the truth to stand firm against the hostility of the Jewish leadership who were threatened by the truth He brought, allowing Him to sacrifice a just man and the Son of God so that we might be forgiven.

Of great interest is that shortly before facing the cynical Roman governor, Jesus Christ had himself spoken about truth in a different way, while praying to our Father in heaven with such intensity and passion that he was sweating blood, which is not an enjoyable experience and tends to occur rarely among people in situations where stress is overwhelming. A short portion of this prayer, found in John 17:14-19, underscores the importance of the truth to Jesus Christ: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” In these few verses truth is repeated over and over again, not merely that the disciples were given the truth, but that the truth would be manifest in the way that they live as being in the world but not a part of it, and therefore outsiders [1].

Over the past week, I was irritated a couple of times by someone who was a part of a Bible Reading program group on Facebook that I belong to with brethren, most of whom I know personally. One of the (former) members of the group was preface nearly every comment she made with some sort of statement about how she believed the Bible was obsolete and out-of-date, and with a belief in her own moral superiority to those who took the Bible seriously and to the people portrayed in Bible times. It struck me that by placing herself as a judge of the word of God, she had cut herself off from learning from the text anytime it differed from her own worldview, which is precisely the wrong way to view the Bible. As I read in a book about other texts [2], if we do not approach the scriptures with a hermeneutic of charity, giving it the benefit of the doubt, we cannot truly consider ourselves believers. Likewise, those who we do not give the benefit of the doubt to with regards to their own conduct are not truly brothers and sisters in our behavior. It is not the truth that we have in our head, but the truth we manifest in our lives that is of the most importance, as my pastor made clear and plain.

Yet although the truth cannot be self-refuting and internally contradictory like relativism, there are many cases where different aspects of the truth are in tension, and being committed to the truth means wrestling with both aspects of that tension. For example, we look at the justice of God and the graciousness of God, and do not see Him as only one way or the other, but as both. Likewise, we do not view God as only seeking for us to be like Him or only taking us just as we are, but over and over again in scripture, including in those problematic passages in Genesis where we are dealing with people whose customs are largely foreign to us, we see that God reaches out to us where we are, and expects us to grow and to learn and to change as we walk with Him. Likewise, God likes to work in a certain order, by which one or a few people are called first, and trained to teach others, and to spread the example of godliness throughout the world. Yet just as all Israel was supposed to be kings and priests, and all brethren are supposed to be the same [3], so too it is difficult for people to relate to the temporary nature of their privileged position above others, a position that is privileged so that they can serve until others are capable of picking up the slack themselves.

Part of what my pastor spoke today, when it came to the spreading of truth, was a belief that the ministry in the Church of God served in the privileged place of the ordained Levitical priesthood. And yet the author of Hebrews speaking to an audience that was surely not made up only of ordained leaders, said of them that he expected them to be teachers, and yet they needed to be taught the basics {Hebrews 5:12-14). Likewise, when Joshua expressed frustration that two elders of Israel were given the Holy Spirit despite being among the commonfolk, Moses expressed a wish that all Israel could be given the Holy Spirit and insight to teach and instruct God’s ways, to reduce the burden on himself (Numbers 11:26-30) and was not jealous about his own position. Those who have served God have, throughout history, been more concerned about serving and building up others than making sure that their positions and prerogatives have been respected.

Yet, speaking for myself personally, I have long been worried about coming off as presumptuous myself, or seizing for myself honor and power and influence that has not been given to me to do. In many ways I feel caught in a double bind. I do not feel myself to be the sort of person who tends to be easily groomed by existing leaders, and I tend to find that my own candor and passionate zeal, where they are not appropriated by the people I happen to know who pick my brain for ideas and approaches to speak on, tends to make others feel uncomfortable and feel me to be far too pushy and even threatening to the status quo that serves them well. Certainly I am no natively talented political intriguer, quite the contrary. On the other hand, given that I have been given certain conspicuous talents in terms of intellectual knowledge, speaking and writing ability, and certain other gifts in teaching and encouraging, I feel compelled to share the fruits of such gifts with others, even if I am deeply concerned that my willingness to serve is sometimes viewed as unacceptable levels of ambition from unwelcome sources. Ultimately, it is up to God to place me where He wants me, for though it is clear that I have seldom been placed where I can do the most good for others, and where I can suffer the least anxiety and ridicule for myself, it is also clear that it is not up to me to presumptuously choose where I belong, but for God to show His will while I do the best I can wherever I am and whatever I am doing. For all who follow God have a proper place and role to serve, and none will be without honor and glory for doing what they were put on this earth to do, however long it takes for God to sort everything out.

[1] This is a common fate for believers. See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/the-perks-of-being-an-outsider/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/inside-wants-out-outsider-wants-in/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/you-wont-find-the-answers-until-you-first-have-questions/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/a-lesson-once-learned-so-hard-to-forget/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/book-review-misquoting-mohammad/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-king-and-a-priest-in-the-kingdom-of-god/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/have-you-not-read-in-the-law-that-on-the-sabbath-the-priests-profane-the-sabbath-and-are-blameless/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/a-view-of-the-institutional-framework-of-the-composition-and-publication-of-the-psalms/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/the-giving-of-the-law-and-the-holy-spirit/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/a-case-study-on-the-tension-between-growth-and-tradition/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, Church of God, History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Thy Word Is Truth

  1. Pingback: Psalm 111: In The Assembly Of The Upright And In The Congregation | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: It’s No Sacrifice At All | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth | Edge Induced Cohesion

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