What is Religious Truth?
The Bible refuses to allow men to be neutral regarding its claims. It even states why it is that men will not read it. God’s word gives such a comprehensive anatomy of human sin, that individuals are disturbed by what they read. That anatomy of iniquity is not only a description of sinful deeds but also of sinful motives, thoughts, and thought forms. Since cultures may be known in large measure by their thought forms, Scripture provides a critical assessment of human societies.
A movement that historians refer to as “The Enlightenment” would by scriptural standards, be titled a “darkening.” As a philosophic approach to life, it marked a new low point in man’s rejection of divine truth. The Enlightenment was supposedly “man’s emergence from a self-inflicted state of minority.” That “minority” consisting of reasoning that depends upon “guidance from someone else . . .” (NIDCC, p 343-4).
The thought forms systematized during The Enlightenment of the 18th century represent an attempt to formulate a worldview independent of God. The position that human reason is autonomous is one of the pillars of humanism. So thoroughly has this leaven of “pure reason” permeated western culture that every political-educational center in the western world now operates upon humanistic presuppositions.
The Scriptures declare that man is utterly dependent upon God’s revelation in order to know absolute truth. Therefore, for man to imagine that he has the capacity to take his own measure, provide his own meaning, carve out his own destiny, and determine his own moral course is the epitome of arrogance.
The claims of Christ are a frontal assault upon the mindset of humanism. For Jesus Christ claims to be the revealer of God (John 1:18), and He claims to be the incarnation of absolute truth (John 14:6). Modern men, like Pilate of old in the presence of Christ, flee from accountability before God by uttering, “What is truth?” But God’s truth permits no neutral ground. Pilate must either judge himself or judge Christ.
The Roman ruler’s capitulation sends the Truth Incarnate to the executioners. So also the natural man of contemporary culture judges God’s revelation in Christ to be unreliable and self to be authoritative. By usurping the place of God, men have arrogated to themselves the role of determining ultimate reality. The consequences are grave. The rejection of God’s revelation thrusts men into a perilous sea of subjectivism. Cultures that reject divine truth and law inevitably drift toward the jagged rocks of anarchy, oppression, pestilence and holocaust.
Historically mankind has sought ways to validate religious truth. “Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:22). But God’s validation of religious truth is the revelation of Himself in Christ. Not only in the discourses of Jesus is God revealed, but also in the works of Christ and in the character of Christ. But the revelation of Gods truth, wisdom and righteousness reach their most pivotal focus in the cross of Christ.
This presents a paradox to the mind of man. For the death of Christ does not immediately satisfy either the Jewish or Greek criterion for the validation of religious truth. The net effect is a radical humbling of human pride. For the reception of God’s wisdom in the revelation of His Son is not made to depend upon the accessibility of signs, nor is it made to depend upon human wisdom. The wise did not find the cross of Christ compatible with their wisdom and the Jews were not brought to faith by signs.
Both Old and New Testaments affirm that the knowledge of God is unattainable by the exercise of human reason and senses. Man by investigation cannot build an observation tower to view God, and then by reflection determine what is true about Him. God has closed off all of those avenues; “. . . The world through its wisdom did not come to know God . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
An entirely new faculty is needed in order to apprehend the knowledge of God with absolute certainty. Having eliminated reliance upon signs, human wisdom, and that which can be perceived by the senses, Scripture states that the validation of religious truth shall be by another means altogether.
That new faculty needed is the Holy Spirit indwelling a man (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). Though God has provided abundant evidences that the Scriptures are the very words of God, “[The] full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and the divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word [of God] . . .” (The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. p 10).
Man is humbled by the scriptural proposition that the foundation for certainty shall not rest upon signs, wisdom, empirical evidence, or the scientific method. God’s special revelation in Christ and the Scriptures is the foundation for certainty concerning spiritual truth. Christ Himself is the epistemology of those who believe (Colossians 2:8). For Christ is God’s truth incarnate. He is the revealer of God. Those who receive His testimony of divine truth receive His Spirit as well.
Christ reveals absolute truth and the Holy Spirit validates absolute truth. By the knowledge of Christ through the Scriptures, the believer is given the Holy Spirit who continually validates the veracity of God’s Word.
God desires that those who bear a saving relationship to Himself, and thus to His truth, shall be fully assured and persuaded that they are in possession of absolute truth. A frequent theme in the Holy Scriptures is certainty concerning the knowledge God gives. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
At times God even condescends to swear by oath in order that redeemed men may have full assurance that His revelation is infallibly true (Hebrews 6:17-20).
The natural man’s ignorance of God is not absolute. By the general revelation of creation men may know something of God in an academic way. An incredible universe of beauty and diversity speaks of a Creator who possesses attributes of divine might and wisdom. Because man has a conscience that accuses or defends every moral action, man knows that God must be a righteous Judge who holds His creatures accountable. But to know God personally and not merely conceptually is only possible if a third element is introduced. That third element is Christ’s work as Revealer and Redeemer. No one possesses definitive knowledge of God unless he knows God as Creator, Lawgiver-Judge, AND Redeemer (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).
It is the lovingkindness of God that He has addressed so much of His revelation to man’s desire to know with absolute certainty. The very foundation of knowing spiritual truth for certain shall not rest upon the exercise of man’s innate faculties of sense and reason, for these are fallible. Christ Jesus Himself is God’s special revelation; in Him are all the treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3).
Miraculous signs may not be the foundation of religious certainty, but they were granted by God and were of value to the seeker during the times that God was giving new revelation. Jesus said, “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves” (John 14:11).
On Mars Hill Paul said to a Gentile audience that God, “. . . furnished proof to all men by raising Him [Jesus] from the dead.” (Acts 17:31). God has used the miraculous fulfillment of prophetic Scriptures to draw men to faith in Himself. (Acts 2:14-36).
God intends that men know Him personally, know His purpose for them, know His claims upon them, know the way to God, and know how to live before Him. What men desperately need is to understand first of all what God thinks of Himself and secondly what He thinks of men. The answer to both of these is found only in the Gospel. For the Gospel is the revelation of the mind of God and His disposition toward sinners. The Gospel is not merely the entryway to the knowledge of God, it is the ongoing basis for contact, favor, and growth in Him.
The Gospel as the mind of God is so radical and foreign to human understanding that it requires the faculty of the Holy Spirit implanted in man to fully comprehend it. Men have no compendium of knowledge and experience to draw upon by which to probe the mind of God. Nothing less than the illuminating ministry of the Spirit will suffice to give understanding. Without His anointing, men read the Bible with the “lights off.” The precious things of the Spirit of God are regarded as foolishness by the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Although the Holy Spirit performs a number of ministries in the believer, this article is concerned with His work in validating spiritual truth. When the Christian opens his Bible, he not only reads about God, he reads about himself. He reads about his position in Christ, his identity in Christ, his possessions in Christ, his privileges in Christ, his future in Christ, and his ownership by Christ. These realities are spiritually discerned. They cannot be perceived with certainty and finality apart from the work of God’s Spirit.
It is the Spirit’s ministry to convince a man that the supernatural truths he is reading about are beyond speculation. How vital this is. The sacrifices Christ calls a man to endure are joined to the conviction that his spiritual possessions consist of wealth beyond measure. The Spirit gives validation and full assurance to the believer that by union with Christ these possessions, though freely given, are his by legal right (1 Corinthians 2:12).
Only a person who has God’s Spirit living in him can know with certainty that he is the object of divine activity. Only a person indwelled by God’s Spirit can think God’s thoughts after Him. The Holy Spirit enables a believer to employ his own mind in the study of Scripture. In so doing He allows the Scriptures to dominate exceptionally in that man’s intellect, will, and affections. That man who by the Spirit’s ministry has a renewed mind is said to have “the mind of Christ”
(1 Corinthians 2:16). This rebuilt mind, which was formerly the tool of a full-time sinner, is the product of the Spirit’s validation of Scripture.
Billions of people attempt to determine religious truth for themselves. They lean on the broken reed of carnal reason. Scripture refers to that thought form as “the spirit of the world” (1 Corinthians 2:12). With man doing his own validating, no wonder phrases such as, “I’m glad it’s true for you,” or “I’m glad your religion works for you,” are so common. The countless souls who utter such absurdities are willfully ignorant of the fact that God in His wisdom and goodness has determined that there shall be but One who validates religious truth. He is God’s own Spirit.
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