Screwing for Virginity

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

"What is truth?" Pilate asked.

John 18:38

Pilate's question echos throughout history at the heart of every philosopher, theologian, artist, and student. The answer for the Christian appears easy; Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. But what does this mean?

The question is further clouded in our late modern context where fundamentalists insist on claiming modern concepts as their own. They claim that the Bible is "absolute truth" and that Christians must be "certain" of their salvation in order to offer rational reasons for the hope that we have.

As the people of God, we need to cast off the trappings of modern philosophy and redefine what we mean by truth. Let us first recognise that the Bible makes no claims of absolute truth. In fact, the Bible is not truth, and to claim that it is truth is to claim that it is less than it is.

In order for something to be true, it must be compared to a standard of truth. If I need a piece of wood to be a certain length, I subject it to the standard of a tape measure. If I need a certain amount of flour, I subject it to the measuring cup. If I need to define a word, I look it up in a dictionary. In these cases, I accept the authority of the ruler, the cup, and the book; these are my standards of truth.

To say that the Bible is truth implies that a standard exists to which I can subject it. Because I believe that the Bible is the word of God, I consider such a claim blasphemous. I and all those I call my sisters and brothers accept by faith that the word of God is the standard of truth and cannot be subject to any other standard.

So what does Jesus mean when he claims to be the truth? Exactly what he said when he began his ministry in Nazareth, "Today scripture is fulfilled." When Jesus is subjected to the word of God, he is revealed as truth. He perfectly embodies the word of God.

Notice the standard to which Jesus compares himslef as evidence of his identity - the word of God. In order to claim that he was absolute truth, he would have to appeal to an objective standard that would (or at least could) convince not only Jews but Romans, Greeks, and any others who might come along. But Jesus is not interested in objectivity. Instead he subjects himself to a particular story, a story that has formed him and in which in understands his role. Having accepted this story as the standard of truth, he compares himself to it to reveal himself as truth.

Thus to maintain the modern insistence on absolutes and objective certainty is to attempt something other than what Jesus did. To claim that the Bible is absolute truth is to subject it to reason, the god of modernity. This is idolatry.

So as a Christian, I have no access to absolutes or to objectivity. What I do have is a standard of truth and faith in the one who is the truth. I find the God of the Bible a much more satisfying subject of faith than the god of modernity.


  • At 2:56 PM, August 02, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love to refresh these things called definitions:


    1. Perfect in quality or nature; complete.
    2. Not mixed; pure. See Synonyms at pure.

    n. pl. truths (trthz, trths)

    1. Conformity to fact or actuality.
    2. A statement proven to be or accepted as true.
    3. Sincerity; integrity.
    4. Fidelity to an original or standard.
    1. Reality; actuality.
    2. often Truth That which is considered to be the supreme reality and to have the ultimate meaning and value of existence.

    It appears to me that Truth is always absolute. There is no need to preempt truth with the word absolute, as if there is a truth that is not absolute. To say absolute truth is redundent. Something is either true or false. So either scripture is true, or it is false, or it is a mixture of true and false. It isn't maybe. Your opinion can be maybe but your opinion does not determine truth. So when we really break it down all we have are opinions of the scriptures we believe in. So why do we believe in them? I'm glad you asked! There are a lot of reasons to believe the Bible based on history and records. But this is not why we believe. The Bible contains massive amounts of fulfilled prophecy and some still yet to come. This is one reason why we can trust it to be true. But this is not why we believe. So why do we believe?

    Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice."

    I believe because I heard the voice of Jesus. Others who hear his voice will follow Him or choose not to. Evangelism is not pushing the good news down the throats of others, but rather just faithfully planting the seeds, knowing that His sheep will hear His voice and follow Him. It is not my voice they should hear. I do not need to convince anyone. They will hear the voice if they belong to Him.

    The very nature of the Bible demands that it is true. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life". John 1 states that Jesus is the Word. So if Jesus is the Word then the Word is Truth. They are all one and the same (not physicaly but rather spiritualy). Our scripture is the word of God and it is true. I thought this was a simple line to draw.

    Now as you stated, truth must be measured, correct? The scripture is the measure which we apply to everything else, so how do we measure the standard to which we apply the stardard to? We apply it to itself. Take a measuring stick and tell me how you know it is true. You know it is true because you take another measuring stick, hold it up next to it and see it is the same in measurement. Find the oldest measuring stick in the world and check that one too. We can also look to see if there are inacuracies from inch to inch and foot to foot. This is easily done with mathmatics and comparisons even. So we can examine it for faults. The Bible is tested the same way. We can check it with the oldest manuscripts. We can test it against itself for inacuracies. We study the original language, we study the original culture to understand it the best we can to test it for inacuracies and misconceptions. So we test the Word against itself just as we can test a measuring stick against itself. We can also test it in action like a measuring cup and a recipe for cake. If the recipe calls for one cup of flour and we used an inacurate measuring cup then the cake will have differing result according to how off the measurements are. We can do the same with scripture, testing it's ideas and recipe for life.

  • At 11:09 PM, August 02, 2004, Blogger Buddy said…

    The whole is more than the sum of its parts. Breaking the term "absolute truth" in half and then defining each half independently of the other muddies rather than clarifies the issue. Absolute truth is a modern term. To read it back onto scripture is anachronistic.

    I think that your line is not simple but simplistic. Jesus claimed to be truth and proved that by appealing to scripture. I would still like to maintain a difference between God and his word.

    Any analogy breaks down at some point, mine as well as your refutation of it. When you compare measurements, you are not revealing "truth"; you are discovering the actual standard. My point is that to do what you proposed in order to build a shelf, make a cake, or write an essay would only ensure that all three activities were never finished. Instead, you accept by a certain amount of faith that the standard you have is the appropriate one. Since the original manuscripts do not exist, the task you propose would be endless. While study of scripture is important, in the meantime, we need to accept what we have and live according to it.

  • At 8:08 AM, August 03, 2004, Blogger Judy said…

    Good thoughts.

    I need a cookie.

  • At 10:30 AM, August 03, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Buddy said "I would still like to maintain a difference between God and his word."

    John 1:1 "In the begining was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God."

  • At 10:38 AM, August 03, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Absolute Truth is not a modern term. Maybe to you but not to the characters of Adam and Eve. "are you sure God said..." - Satan. This questioning of absolute truth goes back to Genesis. "You will surely not die". You think these idea are new when they are in fact very old.

  • At 5:34 PM, August 03, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Perhaps the term absolute truth is new, but the idea itself is not. Modernity is not the god that is worshiped through absolute truth - it is the god that says we may find absolute truth through our own discoveries and studying of this planet. Jesus called himself Truth, as does scripture, not by comparing against an outside source (as you suggest) but by comparing itself to its maker - the Perfect and Holy One. God Himself embodies Truth (and He claims as such) and both scripture and Christ are compared against that standard, and it is the standard which all Christians lay claim to as the correct way to live.

    Without this comparison, subjectivity is inevitable, and in this realm, we have obscured God by obscuring the Truth he embodies, and made it impossible to show anyone the fullness of God.

  • At 7:23 PM, August 03, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Also of note:

    1) Jesus is God.
    2) Jesus is Truth.
    3) Therefore, God is Truth.
    4) Assuming multiple Truths assumes multiple Gods.
    5) Any God but the one in in scripture is called a false god.
    6) Therefore, any Truth (God) but the one contained in scripture is false.

    Therefore, it is easy to discover false Truths from "real" truths by comparing any Truth against the one contained in scripture. Christian theologians call this "Absolute Truth", and you can call it "Pure Truth" or whatever else if you don't like the term Absolute Truth, but the idea remains the same.

  • At 4:21 PM, August 04, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Buddy. I enjoyed your thoughts. I will visit this blog often and perhaps we may fully disagree at some point, but at the moment it just a matter of personal faith. By the way, nice title.

    To "anonymous"... I am confused at your responses to our host's blog. Aren't you arguing over mixed nuts? Clearly he is not rejecting his faith in the Christian god nor is he claiming the Christian bible holds no truth for him. I myself am not a "believer," but I am still moved by a good argument. I used to attend church as a child but left the faith as a youth over the tendency Christians have of splitting hairs.

    Buddy, thank you again for your thoughts.

    "anonymous," thank you for reenforcing my choice.

    Dr. David Joyce

  • At 7:30 PM, August 04, 2004, Blogger Buddy said…

    The fact that logos and graphae are both translated "word" by English speaking Christians does not mean that they are identical. By "God's word" I mean any revelation from God, though I often use the term to refer to the Bible specifically. I'm sorry if that caused any confusion. God reveals himself in scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ (and in other ways). My point is that Jesus is not the Bible.

    When Satan asks, "Did God really say...", he is not questioning truth, he is challenging God's authority. God's word (his command not to eat of the tree) is the standard for truth. Thus, the serpent's contradiction proves him false.

    I did not say that Jesus appealed to an outside authority. I have been maintaining the exact opposite. Jesus reveals himself as truth by appealing to the standard of God's word, in this case scripture.

    God is not the standard; his word is. If we had to live up to God, we would all fail. He has revealed the standard in his word, and that is what we are to appeal to. God would be an impossible standard because we have no access to him except by what he has revealed. Thus, this revelation is our standard.

    I do believe in multiple truths, but accept only one standard to determine truths (the word of God in its various forms). The comment about real and false truths makes no sense to me, however.

    You are right; subjectivity is inevitable (we are all subjects after all). Complete objectivity (necessary in order to call something "absolute) is impossible.

    Dr. Joyce, welcome. I look forward to your input. I appreciate input from people of other beliefs (in fact I often prefer it).


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