I just received and read my copy of the current “Communion together” newsletter (Nov/Dec 2010). First, take a few minutes to read the article by Jen Carney on being “Missionaries in Our Own Community.” Her words are right on the money – missions work begins in our own neighborhood. It’s good stuff.
Second, I’d like to comment about Jim Lyon’s article on “Absolute Truth and the Word of God.” This article reminds us of some important points, such as the fact that the Bible contains the truths of God. But the notion of absolute truth is, I believe, more complicated than the article suggests. Here’s what I mean:
The article mentions mathematics as a field of study in which there is absolute truth. As a former student of mathematics, I was naturally intrigued by that idea. The trouble with the world of math is that “absolute truth” turns out to be more shaky than we’d like to admit.
The article includes the well-known aphorism, “two plus two equals four.” I’d be the first to agree – most of the time. However, there are perfectly valid (and useful) systems of arithmetic in which two plus two does not equal four. It can equal one, or zero, or lots of other things, depending on the kind of math in which you’re working. Your perspective on the situation matters! The issue of absolute truth in arithmetic is more complicated than what we all learned when we were very young.
In today’s world, people want to treat ethics, morality, and spirituality the same way. Truth should be relative, they say, because your perspective on life determines what is true for you. This can be a pretty dangerous position to hold! What happens when people’s ideas of truth conflict with each other? We need to be obedient to God’s truth in order to survive!
The article mentions that “the Bible is the ultimate illustration of absolute truth.” I agree – to a point. Similar to mathematics, the issue here is more complicated than it first appears. The Bible can be very confusing sometimes, and occasionally it appears to contradict itself (usually regarding the timing of minor historical events – nothing crucial). More importantly, some of the doctrines we proclaim, like the Trinity, are not explicitly stated anywhere in scripture!
We begin our quest for truth by studying the Bible, but that’s just the beginning of the journey. We certainly should not claim that truth is relative, that it can vary from person to person. God is the author of absolute truth! But who are we to understand God’s truths completely? Our task of searching for truth will never be complete on this side of eternity.
If the notion of absolute truth is a little more uncertain than 2+2=4, then I think our quest for truth will bring more glory to God in the end. Who wants to follow a simplistic God? I would much rather follow a God who is infinitely complex, impossible to understand completely, and so amazingly attractive that I cannot help but want to learn more about how to follow him. Wouldn’t you?