Today, we pick up in chapter three of The Courage to Be Protestant. This week’s chapter is simply entitled “Truth.”
David Wells spends the first half of this chapter showing how people have become terribly disconnected in our postmodern world. Although we have achieved lightning-fast communication, new technologies for social networking, and unprecedented choices and material comforts, we have somehow lost our “transcendent point of reference” (p. 61). All sense of tradition, virtue, and value has been lost. The essential roles of craft, community, and family, in shaping a person have been replaced by mass production, urbanization, and empty individualism.
This is what David Myers calls the “American paradox” – that we have so much, and yet so little. People are wealthy, but all alone. And this “self into which all reality has contracted is now empty and insubstantial but tinged with the sacred” (p. 69). In other words, people are searching for something spiritual and sacred within themselves, but have lost all sense of absolute truth.
Rather than confronting this situation and offering a real alternative, many churches have exacerbated the problem. Pastors are now saying things like “We need to be more modest” (p. 77) and “Christianity is about the search, not about the discovery (p. 77). [Similarly, I heard Rick Warren say in an interview that a “fundamentalist is somebody who stops listening.” That sounds very much like the idea that absolute truth is arrogant and extremist, and that we should always remain “open” to the validity of other beliefs and perspectives].
The common thread among many academic scholars and emergent church leaders is that “Scripture cannot be fully authoritative at the level of its functioning in the life of the church today. We are in fact autonomous, freed from its language and constraints as we shape our own understanding, in our own way, in the postmodern world” (p. 87). Wells says that most people treat truth like the speed limit. It is somewhat arbitrary and bendable (p. 79).
The Bible, on the other hand, gives a far different perspective on truth. God Himself is utterly true and pure, and thus His self-revelation is entirely truthful (p. 75). The message of the gospel was “a proclamation about truth for all. The gospel, which is the same gospel for all people, in all ages, and at all times, is ‘the word of truth’ ” (p. 76). “Christianity, in short, is from first to last all about truth! It is about he who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (p. 76). We should engage the culture, but never capitulate our claim to truth (p. 92). After all, the church is the very “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).
So, far from ignoring or denying or being embarrassed by truth, the church of God should boldly stand up and proclaim the truth. “What truth?,” you may ask. Truth about God, Self, and Christ, the very topics that Wells will address in coming chapters. We will look at chapter four together next week.
This chapter is a critical one. I cannot think of a more important subject than what Wells is addressing here. It really becomes the foundation for everything else that he will say. Please take a moment now to click on the “comments” link and share your own thoughts of the chapter. Don’t feel obligated to write something long or profound. Just a quick impression or short quote is sufficient. I look forward to hearing from you.