Jun 14, 2019

The Battle for Biblical Truth

9 Min Read

Antipathy toward God’s Word inherently resides in the hearts of all sinners. This antipathy may even be present in those within the church. If there is any doubt about this, it is worth asking why popular evangelicalism’s greatest fear is being out of sync with the culture. Pastors and leaders are chasing the culture, so that its trends show up in their churches. They treat this pursuit as a necessary evangelistic strategy. But the only way to be in sync with the culture is to diminish the presence of the Word of God, because unregenerate culture will always be fundamentally and irreconcilably incompatible with the truth of God. By catering to the unchurched or to the unconverted in the church, evangelical- ism has been hijacked by legions of carnal spin doctors seeking to convince the world that Christians can be just as inclusive, pluralistic, and open-minded as any postmodern, politically correct worldling.

However, true biblical Christianity requires a denial of every worldly value and behavior, and Christians must be willing to make a commitment to the Word of God, with a full understanding of the implications of doing so. Jesus plainly tells the disciples in John 15:19 that the world will hate them because they are not of this world. God has chosen believers out of the world, and the world hates them. In Luke 6:26, Jesus says, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.”

Why is the world so fixed in its animosity toward the truth of God? Jesus says in John 7:7, “The world . . . hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” Contempt for Scripture is not intellectual; it’s moral. As the Lord explained to Nicodemus, “Men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). How tragic for the church to seek to accommodate that worldly affection, since it is impossible by any human method to overcome the sinner’s resistance to the truth and the gospel (2 Cor. 3:14). The only time the church has made any spiritual impact on the world is when the people of God have stood firm and have refused to compromise, boldly proclaiming the truth in the face of the world’s hostility. In the end, seeking cultural relevance will only result in obsolescence, since tomorrow’s generation will inevitably renounce today’s fads and philosophies.

In the face of ever-changing cultural trends, the church needs to boldly proclaim the eternal relevance and evergreen applicability of the Word of God. People may believe or disbelieve the Bible, but no one has the power or the prerogative to establish truth or to change it. It is fixed, once for all—the Word of God is settled forever in heaven. This is profoundly essential.

God wrote a Book—just one Book—and He was able to say everything He wanted to say. He said it without error, without flaw, and without anything omitted or unnecessarily included. It is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And God gave His Book to man through the means of inspiration, by which the Spirit of God moved in human writers who wrote down the very words that God wanted them to write.

That’s an important distinction we must not miss—the truth did not come from man. Man may discover, learn, understand, and apply it, but man has nothing to do with its origination. The Apostle Peter—himself one of the inspired biblical authors— wrote that Scripture was not developed by the will of man, but by those “moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21) to record God’s words. No human being has ever had in himself any idea, thought, or experience that determined any divine truth—it all comes from God. No human or angel has ever been, or will ever be, a source for establishing divine truth. It is God’s Word alone.

Scripture itself attests to its divine Author. The Old Testament contains more than 3,800 instances in which the writers claim to be speaking the Word of God. In the New Testament, there are more than three hundred such assertions. Paul claims that he received the gospel not from man but from God (Gal. 1:11–12). In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul quotes Luke’s gospel and refers to it as Scripture. In 2 Peter 3:15–16, Peter calls Paul’s writings Scripture. And Jude quotes Peter’s epistle, signifying similar biblical credibility. Altogether, the Old and New Testaments abundantly testify that they are the true Word of God.

And as the Word of God, the Bible has no expiration date. Peter extolls the timeless quality of Scripture in his first epistle, declaring, “The word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25). Time has no influence on God’s Word. Changing philosophies, worldviews, and cultural norms have no effect on it, either. It is utterly unchanging and can never pass away. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus said, “but My words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33).

Perhaps the best way to understand the objective truth of Scripture is to hear the testimony of the One who is most trustworthy—the Lord Jesus Himself. He testified to the truth of God’s Word, down to every detail. He said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail” (Luke 16:17). He consistently taught that He had come to fulfill the Word of God. In Matthew 5:17, He said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” He affirmed, “All things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished” (Luke 18:31). Looking ahead to the cross, Jesus said, “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him” (Matt. 26:24). Later in the chapter, He rebuked Peter for drawing his sword, reminding the impetuous disciple that He could call down legions of angels for assistance if He wished. Explaining that His arrest was part of God’s plan, He said, “How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled?” (Matt. 26:54). He even called attention to incredibly specific prophetic details in Scripture. Psalm 22:1 predicted that the Messiah would cry out and say, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Hanging on the cross, Jesus exclaimed those words verbatim (Matt. 27:46). His life fulfilled everything that was written about Him, thus affirming Scripture’s truthfulness.

Scripture testifies to its own inspiration; it is the Word of God, originating outside of man. This is particularly important to understand in a culture dominated by the subjectivity of postmodernism. Truth cannot be subjective; there is no such thing as your truth or my truth. Truth is forever fixed. Authentic Christianity has always held that Scripture is absolute, objective truth. The Bible is God’s truth regardless of whether a person believes, understands, or likes it. It is permanent and universal truth, and therefore, is the same for everyone. Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18–19 warn against adding to or taking away from Scripture, lest one suffer the plagues recorded therein. Proverbs 30:5–6 states: “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.” It is God’s Word to man; inspired, objective, and absolute truth

We must embrace Scripture not only in terms of objectivity but also in terms of rationality. The objective revelation of God in Scripture is meant to be understood by normal reasoning. It is logical, non contradictory, and clear. There are no errors, lies, or unsound principles. There are, in reality, no logical contradictions, though to us there may appear to be inconsistencies or paradoxes due to our human limitations. But ultimately, there are no contradictions in Scripture, no fantasies, no absurdities, no inconsistencies, and no myths.

The Word of God contains the actual history of real people told in normal language. And Scripture is to be understood in the same way we would seek to understand anything—by the process of reason. We use reason to solve a math problem, read an engineering schematic, or diagnose an illness. In the same way, Scripture is understood according to the normal patterns of human reason. It is understood by the mind, not by mystical intuition or epiphany.

That doesn’t mean that there is no spiritual component to understanding the Bible. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” The natural man is unregenerate, and his mind is still darkened by the slavery of sin. It’s the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit that brings saving faith and repentance. So while a true understanding of Scripture in all its fullness is limited to believers, the believer still comes to that true understanding through the normal paths of reasoning. In the same way, the unregenerate person is responsible for not believing in God, because he has been given evidence of God’s existence that accords with his normal reasoning powers (Rom. 1:18–20). Man is subject to God’s wrath because he does not follow the normal path of reason and conscience to recognize God as his Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge. In spite of what the world claims, it is far more reasonable and rational to believe in creation than evolution. Man is culpable before God because he doesn’t follow the path of God-given reason to the most obvious reality in the universe—God.

The rationality of Scripture also has implications for believers. We are meant to understand God’s Word through reason. In Nehemiah 8, Ezra stood up and read the Scriptures in front of the people for half the day, explaining to them its meaning. In chapter 7, we learn that Ezra read the Scriptures, studied them, lived them, and then preached them. He came to understand Scripture’s meaning before explaining it to the people. This is an important point, because so many Christians believe that the true meaning of Scripture falls on an individual through some intuition or experience. They’re looking to unlock the rational truth of God’s Word through irrational means.

This is another area in which the church cannot afford to mimic or follow the lead of this perishing world. J.P. Moreland describes in vivid terms the dangers a culture faces when it has surrendered reason and critical thinking: “We are staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, and we can no longer afford to act like it’s loaded with blanks.” He continues:

Our society has replaced heroes with celebrities, the quest for a well-informed character with the search for a flat stomach, substance and depth with image and personality. In the political process, the makeup man is more important than the speech writer, and we approach the voting booth, not on the basis of a well-developed philosophy of what the state should be, but with a heart full of images, emotions, and slogans all packed into thirty-second sound bites. The mind-numbing, irrational tripe that fills TV talk shows is digested by millions of bored, lonely Americans hungry for that sort of stuff.

What Moreland is describing is the massive tidal wave of anti-intellectualism that has overwhelmed much of society today. Tragically, it has flooded into the church, too. Today, many professing believers have no interest in the carefully reasoned study of God’s Word, preferring to seek illumination and instruction through alternate means. Some adopt the rituals of pagan religions, while others simply wait to hear the audible voice of the Lord or receive intuitive mental impressions from the Spirit to interpret the Bible.

That mystical approach to God and His truth is inherently irrational. In fact, the pursuit of private, subjective interpretation effectively denies both the objectivity and rationality of God’s truth. It also denies the sufficiency of His inspired Word, presuming that there is more we need to know than what God has placed in Scripture. In the end, this anti-intellectual search for truth often leads to the kind of chaos we see dominating the charismatic movement. For others, it leads to disappointment, despair, and apostasy.

God had a purpose when He gave us the capacity for rational thought. If we want to know Him and understand what He has revealed in His Word, we must approach Scripture rationally, following the normal processes of logic and reason with sound hermeneutics to come to a true understanding of its meaning. The rationality of Scripture is actually a great blessing. It means that instead of a multitude of elusive, scattered, subjective interpretations, there is a fixed, consistent meaning to God’s Word for everyone to know with settled confidence.

This excerpt is adapted from Final Word: Why We Need the Bible by John MacArthur. Today is the final day to receive your copy of Final Word for a gift of any amount.