The sweeping changes that have occurred in western society during the last 50 years can be traced to multiple causes. It may seem presumptuous to single out one above all others; yet this one paradigm shift has influenced and catalyzed all others. It is the seismic shift away from the anchor of absolute truth to an ethic based on personal views and emotions. Right and wrong are up to you, not up to God. How do you feel about something? What do you think? That’s all that matters! How did all this come about so quickly?
The Challenge to Truth
There was a time when tolerance meant that you respected a person’s right to an opinion or a view. You may have disagreed entirely with the thinking, but you were tolerant to the person. That has changed; tolerance now means that we must be accepting of the opinion of others and grant them equal validity in the broad field of dogmas, ideas, and philosophy. Everyone’s view is equally true. There is no truth, only truth claims. To think that your views or convictions are “the truth” is viewed as the height of arrogance and ignorance.
The philosophy that results has become known as Relativism. This simply means that truth is relative. If you feel something is right, if something “works” for you, then it is “your” truth. There are no longer such things as absolutes, things that are always true, and things that are always wrong.
The Concept of Truth
Over two millennia ago, a Roman ruler stood before Christ and asked, “What is truth?”(John 18:38). He very likely asked it with the hint of a sneer on his face and sarcasm in his voice. There is something ironic that in the gospel which speaks of truth on 25 occasions, the last reference is Pilate’s, suggesting that truth is irrelevant to life, a commodity which can be dispensed with when not convenient.
Yet the first reference to truth in John’s writings reminds us that the Lord Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). He is The Truth (John 14:6) and bears witness to the truth (18:37). Ultimately all truth finds its origin in Christ. Thus, an attack on truth is an attack on Christ, not merely on a system of belief.
The Citadel of Truth
Believers are familiar with the many metaphors used for a local asssembly. One of the most significant is that a local church is House of God in character, and “pillar and ground of the truth” (1Tim 3:15). We have the great responsibility, and privilege, as the ground or bulwark to protect the truth; and as the pillar to proclaim the truth. Crucial to protecting the truth is the proclamation of the truth. That is why gospel preaching is so vital. The precious truths of the gospel are best preserved free of taint by its faithful heralding. The truths of the person of Christ and the uniqueness and distinctiveness of assembly testimony are preserved as we faithfully publish them.
Moral standards, Christian ethics, and righteousness must be maintained and taught in local assemblies, and not assumed. They must be taught in a gracious but firm manner. As Christ was marked by hatred for iniquity (Heb 1:9), we likewise should never compromise with sin. But as Christ came to manifest not only truth but grace, we must also be marked by grace in our defense of truth.