• Caleb Harrelson

When truth is slain in the streets



Have you ever walked around on a sidewalk while texting on your phone and then you run into something? Sadly, I have to admit that I have done this several times. It's embarrassing, especially when I run into a pole!


The problem was that I was not paying attention to reality.


This is exactly what happens when people evade reality through faulty reasoning and confusing truth claims.


One of the most historic examples of this is when Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea who presided over Jesus' trial, responded to Jesus' statement that "Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice" by simply replying "what is truth?" (John 18:37-38).


Doesn't it strike you as odd that Pilate said this? Why did he say this? Was he avoiding the implications of what Jesus just said? I think so. Pilate was avoiding reality by questioning the nature of "truth" itself


Today, "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and people are avoiding the truth in similar fashions. Many people are avoiding reality by making misleading or distracting statements from the ultimate issue at hand: is Jesus truly the ONLY the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), and are his commands good? (Psalm 119:33-57)


Let's take a look at a couple of truth or knowledge claims that avoid reality and I'll offer a couple of short responses:


(Note: This is not intended to be a thorough response, but just to give you a few things to ponder)

 

Agnostic: "We can't really know if anything is true at all. Thus, we really can't know if any religion is even true."


Response: "Can we know if your statement is true? If so, doesn't that mean that we can know that something is true? However, if you know that you can't know, isn't that self-defeating?

 

Pragmatist: We know what is true, by what works. Living for myself and not for Christ, works for me.


Response: There are several things that may "work" and "bring results" but that doesn't mean they are always the right or the best course of action. For example, It may work for you to steal something (especially if you don't get caught) but is that the right thing to do? What ultimate standard are you appealing to on what is good and true when you appeal to pragmatism? A lot of bad things have been justified in the name of what works for the greater good now.

 

Critical theorist: Your truth claim is just a power grab! You are a man, therefore you have no right to say if abortion is wrong. You just want to control people! I think all Christians just want to control people!

Response: What happens if your position becomes the dominant narrative in culture? Will your viewpoints simply be a power grab or is it grounded in an objective standard outside of the majority viewpoint? Is it possible that truth is grounded in reality itself and not just power dynamics? Is it possible that power is not inherently evil but can be used for good? Also, dismissing someone's viewpoint simply because of the origin (gender) is a genetic fallacy. Furthermore, why are you assuming my intentions when I claim that it's wrong to intentionally take the life of innocent human beings and abortion does exactly that. It seems that you are avoiding the reality of what we are discussing and hindering a productive conversation. Bad reasoning hurts people and avoids the pursuit of truth.

 

Post Modern: Truth is just a social construct. Truth is just relative to the individual. Christianity is just a social construct as well.


Response: Is your claim that truth is relative an absolute claim for all truths? If so, how is that not self-defeating? Is 2 + 2=4 a social construct or something that we discover? Have you ever seriously investigated the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? If so, would you be willing to watch this video? (click here).

 

New Ager: If something makes me feel good about myself, then it must be true and good. If following Jesus works for you, cool, but it doesn't work for me since I think it's just fear-based.


Response: There are many things in this world that can make us feel good, but are not actually good for us. You can overeat and it feels good, but that doesn't mean that it's good for me. What is your ultimate standard for determining what is good when feelings can change so much? Furthermore, if feelings are always changing, then by what standard would someone be wrong to say that it makes them feel good to hurt you?


Have you read my article about your "fear-based" claim? I'm not sure if you realize that statement is a genetic fallacy.


Also, it seems to be the fallacy of "faulty appeal to authority" when you appeal to your feelings for what is right and good. This is because "feelings" are not a proper authority on what is ultimately right or wrong (see Jeremiah 17:9). You need an objective standard instead (see 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Timothy 1:8-10).



New Ager: You are wrong because you don’t embrace non-dualistic thinking. Stop thinking that there are dichotomies and simply accept the unity of all things. We are all one. We are all one and divine.

Response: Wait, so you are saying that EITHER I embrace your view OR I am wrong? Why are you making a distinction between viewpoints? How is that not contradictory?

New Ager: No, you don’t get it. What we need is a “non-dualistic theological framework." We don't need an “either/or” option. For example, in the Bible, Job’s friends were stuck thinking that only the righteous prosper and the sinful suffer. If his friends were really comforting, they would realize that what they really needed to do was to see things from a non-dualistic theological framework.

Response: I’m sorry but I think you are committing several errors in reasoning here. On the one hand, you recognize that Job’s friends made a false dichotomy (only two options) on why Job is suffering, but then you conclude that since those two options are wrong, then there must be no truth at all (see meme below).



The error here is that there is an equivocation on the term "non-dualistic" that confuses some readers to think that it may refer simply to "mystery."


These two terms do not mean the same thing.


First, let's define some terms:


  1. Truth: That which corresponds to reality as God defines it (John 17:17; Ps 119:160).

  2. Contradiction: Something that claims to be true and not true in the same way and same relationship.

  3. Paradox: Something that at first glance appears to be a contradiction, but upon further investigation is, in fact, not a contradiction.

  4. Mystery: Something that is beyond comprehension, but is not a logical contradiction.

In the Bible, there are at least two main categories for mystery:


-> Truths that were hidden in the Old Testament times but are now made known since the incarnation of Jesus (see Colossians 1:25-27) as described in the New Testament.


->Truths about God that are kept secret from us (Deut. 29:29) and that humans, as finite creatures, will never be able to fully understand. For example, the incarnation and Trinity are mysteries in that God has not revealed to us exactly how they are worked out. Regardless, we are able to apprehend the truthfulness of the incarnation from divine revelation, given to us in scripture, that Jesus is truly God and truly man yet one person. In the same way, we are able to apprehend the concept of the trinity that God is One what (his being) and three whos, namely, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.


Again, this makes sense as the finite should not be able to fully grasp the infinite.


In fact, mystery should comfort us as we walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). It is a mystery to me how exactly how "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:38). However, it is comforting knowing that God is Sovereign over all things (Ephesians 1:11) in the world and is at work, especially when I am going through trials. In fact, those trials teach me to rely on him more (James 1:2-4).


Mystery, however, is VERY DIFFERENT from Non-dualistic thinking.


5. Non-Dualistic Thinking: This is the idea that we need to get rid of distinctions or dichotomies in reality. Psychiatrist Carl Jung called this the "liberation from opposites." Hindus call it "Advaita" which means "not two" because of their belief in the oneness of everything. This is also known as pantheism ("all is one") and the path towards enlightenment with new agers, gnostics, Buddhists, and Hindus is to alter your consciousness to accept this new "un-reality" that everything is one.


In fact, apologists Ron Carlson and Ed Decker explain these non-dualistic religions this way:


“The ultimate goal of Hinduism and Buddhism is to liberate ourselves from this “physical personal existence” and become One with the “impersonal All.” Hinduism and Buddhism teach that people are suffering in life because they have not liberated themselves from their personal world. It is the physical world, they say, that causes suffering. This is because the physical world is really just an illusion, called “Maya.” In order to get rid of suffering, you must rid yourself of this illusion of physical, personal existence. It is not the true reality. "True Reality” is supposedly the impersonal Brahman-Atman. Therefore, you must transcend this physical existence and be absorbed into this “true reality.” This is done by transcending this world of illusion by means of Yoga or Transcendental Meditation. You then become part of the Impersonal One, the Brahman-Atman. This is when you achieve “enlightenment” or Final Liberation.” (Fast Facts on False Teaching, Ron Carlson & Ed Decker, pg. 92)


The problem is this view of reality is not a livable view.


Sadly, the former Christian artist, Michael Gungor, is now embracing this Hindu view of reality (see bel0w) that is just avoiding the key issue of evil and why Jesus came in the first place.


Jesus came to deal with our evil rebellion against our Creator. The cross of Christ IS the answer to the problem of evil. The good news is that God, in the person of Jesus, has shown us that he is NOT indifferent to evil. Jesus came to bear the full wrath of God the Father for our wickedness ( see Isaiah 53) that we deserved instead.


Yet Gungor talks about a non-dualistic view of reality that is contradictory and avoids the cross of Christ:



If there is no evil, then why is he wanting a world that is less violent? Is he making a distinction that violence is wrong? If so, then he is showing that his own worldview is unlivable and does not line up with reality.


Yet, THIS is the type of thinking that is being encouraged in the quote above on Job:


"they need a non-dualistic theological framework."


Marcia Montenegro, a former new ager, who now leads the ministry Christian Answers for the New Age has written extensively on one of the most popular proponents of "nondualistic thinking": Richard Rohr. She said that "I think Rohr's use of "non-dual" has caused people to think it means compassion and not judging or to not categorize."


The person that wrote the comment about Job is assuming that irrational thought must be the only comforting answer since all of Job's friends were wrong. Dr. Clay Jones, who has written extensively on difficult passages of the Bible, says that:


"There is an arrogance when approaching scripture that says ‘if I don’t understand scripture, then it’s not even understandable.”


How would a non-dualistic framework specifically help Job's friends see the situation? How would telling Job "well, there isn't really any good or evil" be of any comfort? It wouldn't. It's a cruel and empty thing to say.


If you don't understand God's ways, it doesn't mean that you need to start thinking that God is just combining contradictory notions together.


This is what the non-reality and non-comfort that non-dualistic thinking offers: It sounds fancy and empathetic, but it's really just a disconnect from reality that offers no hope at all.


At the end of Job, God responds to Job with an intense rebuke of several questions back to back.


R.C. Sproul describes God's response to Job this way:


"In chapter 40, God says to Job finally, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (v. 2). Now, Job’s response is not one of defiant demand for answers to his misery. Rather he says, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (vv. 4–5). And again God picks up the interrogation and goes even more deeply in the rapid fire interrogation that shows the overwhelming contrast between the power of God, who is known in Job as El Shaddai, and the contrasting impotence of Job. Finally, Job confesses that such things were too wonderful. He says, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5–6).

What is noteworthy in this drama, is that God never directly answers Job’s questions. He doesn’t say, “Job, the reason you have suffered is for this or for that.” Rather, what God does in the mystery of the iniquity of such profound suffering, is that He answers Job with Himself. This is the wisdom that answers the question of suffering — not the answer to why I have to suffer in a particular way, in a particular time, and in a particular circumstance, but wherein does my hope rest in the midst of suffering.

The answer to that comes clearly from the wisdom of the book of Job that agrees with the other premises of the wisdom literature: the fear of the Lord, awe and reverence before God, is the beginning of wisdom. And when we are befuddled and confused by things that we cannot understand in this world, we look not for specific answers always to specific questions, but we look to know God in His holiness, in His righteousness, in His justice, and in His mercy. Therein is the wisdom that is found in the book of Job."


(Click here to read the full article by Dr. Sproul)


You don't need a 'non-dualistic framework.' You need a God-centered framework that finds your ultimate hope and comfort in knowing Christ who will never leave you nor forsake you (John 10:28-30). You need to understand that ALL of the Bible is pointing to our hope that is found in Jesus (Luke 24:25-27). In fact, the apostle Paul says that "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God" (2 Corinthians 1:20). Christ dwelling within the believer and leading them through every trial is the greatest mystery that has now been revealed! Thus, like Job, you must continue to walk by faith in God, your redeemer, even when you don't fully understand what is going on.



Ultimately, we must all decide to face the truth of who Christ is today or kneel in submission at his return (Philippians 2:10). For "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." (Hebrews 9:27).


In the book of Isaiah, the prophet talks about how spiritually blind people can't even discern what justice and truth are because the "truth has stumbled in the public squares and uprightness cannot enter" (Isaiah 59:14). Later in Romans 1:18, we understand that people suppress the truth in "unrighteousness" so they can worship something in creation instead of the Creator. This avoidance of truth is ultimately due to a belief that they don't need atonement for sin, Jesus is not satisfying and worth surrendering their entire lives to and something else in creation is a better source of joy and authority for their life.


Yet, Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life is not a reality that you should want to ignore. He is the resurrected and reigning King of Kings who is Sovereign over all affairs of men (Hebrews 1:3; Romans 8). This should give you great comfort in the midst of our trials (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).


As the eternal God (John 1:1), he is the ultimate author of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16), and he affirms that everything is not divine, but only the triune God exists and He is separate from his creation (Deteurnomy 6:4; Is. 44:6).

Jesus says "whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (John 6:37b) and that he will always be with us (Matt 28:18) forever as His Spirit dwells in us when we are born again by trusting in Him (John 3:16-19; 6:29; Ephesians 1:13) and our guilt is forever washed away by Jesus' payment for our sins (1 John 2:2) and we receive his perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9).


So, look up from your phone and look up and away from all of your distractions from the truth of who Jesus is.


The greatest gift of the gospel is getting God.


God dwelling in you now (Colossians 1:27) and forever. Look to Jesus the prince of peace and king of Glory. Look to your maker.


"I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2


 

If you still have more questions on why Christianity is true, please read this article here. Also, please check out our Engage Truth Show and podcast and share!


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