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What is Truth?

• Greg Boyd

In the first sermon in our ‘Sure.’ series, Greg examines the nature of truth. Is all truth subjective? Is all morality relative? In western culture a premium is placed on tolerance. Greg explains the history of this movement and ultimately how it squares with the teachings of Christ.

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Greg lost his faith for a period when he was an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota. He encountered questions about Christianity for which he didn’t have good answers. Fortunately, he ultimately found his way back to faith. However, he frequently encounters people who gave up the faith for similar reasons and never found their way back. In this series, titled ‘Sure.’, Greg will examine the reasons for belief and answer some common questions about Christianity and the Bible that many believers and non-believers alike struggle with.

In John 18:37-38 Jesus tells Pilot that he was born to testify to truth. To which Pilot replies, “what is truth?” This series will start by looking at the nature of truth and the history of relativism.

The culture of the western world is one of a crisis of truth. This stems back to 1500s-1650s when non-stop Christian violence over who had the monopoly on truth led to 28 different wars and huge loss of life. This ultimately prompted the Peace of Westphalia which brought a truce and end to religious fighting in Europe. Tolerance was introduced as a primary cultural value. Tolerance has become even more important over the last 30 years as our country has become more diverse and people have begun to see how their experience, background, and culture have impacted their beliefs. This has led some to conclude that truth can never be known, because we are all to immersed in our cultural and experience to be objective. In this culture of relativism there is no room for absolute truth with some even seeing absolute truth claims as leading to terrorism and violence. Some Christians have even begun to see their faith through a subjective lens.

Greg shared some guiding principles when thinking about truth:

  1. Religious Beliefs ARE dangerous
    -Anything you believe is more important than life itself you will be willing to kill and die for. Therefore, religious beliefs have the potential to be dangerous. However, if your core belief is that God loves all people and was willing to die for His enemies than your central beliefs will prohibit you from using violence even to protect your religious beliefs.
  2. Relativism is self-refuting
    -Just think about this statement, “there is no such thing as absolute truth.” Isn’t that statement itself an absolute truth claim?
  3. Truth is always narrow
    -Truth is whatever corresponds to reality and since there is only one reality, truth is narrow. For instance, there are infinite numbers of wrong answers and only one right to the question what is 2+2.
    -What makes you narrow mind is not that you believe in truth, but how and why you believe something is truth. Are you open to dialogue and discussion? Are you open to the possibility you could be wrong?
  4. No one really believes relativism
    -No one lives consistently with the position of relativism. Just try to steal their parking spot and see if they don’t appeal to a standard of fairness.
  5. Jesus made absolute truth claims
    -Jesus claimed to be the way the truth and the life and the New Testament tells us that we are saved by the name of Jesus.
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Topics: Defense of Christian Faith

Sermon Series: Sure.

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Focus Scripture:

  • John 18:37-38

    Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"

  • John 14:6

    Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

  • Acts 4:11-12

    This Jesus is 'the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’

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3 thoughts on “What is Truth?

  1. Cyndi says:

    The current movement is about connection, about how to love one another. This viewpoint is only slightly more than what Greg has been teaching all along. To see one another as being in God’s image without judging who is in and who is out; is so much more loving. Looking for God in others in the form of truth, beauty, all that is good; is truly biblical. It is a broader way of considering one another, not really that much different than Greg’s sermon on unwrapping the cocoon, or that all have unsurpassable worth. We as Christians are uniquely positioned to offer the truth of Jesus as we love others. People are starving for truth, for connection, people are loved by loving them. Not looking for ways we are better, different, or narrow; we can love others freely, we choose to see truth in other places, we can choose to unwrap the cocoons; we do not need to protect God or ourselves from truth and beauty. People’s motives behind most of their actions, are for all that Christ offers; we can confidently know we have Good News. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit loved and created before we were born or on this world. God so loved the world he gave….so can we, we no longer have to be afraid to see truth and beauty. As Christians we can confidently trust ourselves, trust our faith, broaden our hearts; we will miss this unique opportunity we are being offered- to be all that Christ in me is.
    I would respectfully submit, that you actually look at where this inclusive movement is coming from and what it says. I think that you would actually find much to love and realize there are many answers for Christians here. I have been truly humbled by the heart I see in those whose label for belief is different than mine, but I am willing and more than willing to believe all real truth is from my God. I can truly love those who I would have categorized and separated in the past, I now look for what I know to be God and join Him there. It is beautiful.

  2. Peter says:

    This topic has in many ways been close to my heart, which is certainly the case in recent times but has had its origins many years ago with the teaching I received from a pastor/theologian.
    I have found the subject or theme of Truth is rarely if ever preached but is absolutely central to a believer’s life. While I appreciated Greg’s message I also understand how difficult it is to encapsulate all aspects within forty minutes or so…that could easily be a four year university course that may only scratch the surface. In fact, Greg made several references to additional bookshop materials to provide a wider picture and understanding of Truth.
    Although I will attempt to make a contribution where the Truth has opened up for me (as a believer), it cannot be comprehensive but, like my situation, it can provide some areas to further explore.
    We note from Paul (Rom 1:25(a)) in relation to the Fall and humanity, “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie”. The point here is that in Eden, God’s Temple, that was created in Truth and that Adam and Eve created in the Image of God and were True and lived the Truth of their creation ie Truth isn’t just something you know, it’s something you do and are consistent with. So when God said (Gen 2:6-7)“You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”, He was stating the Truth…so in that sense, Adam and Eve were living the Truth by not eating from this tree.
    However, we know the Fall and it’s consequences and the point Paul makes above concerning the exchange of Truth for a lie.
    A most significant aspect that comes out of this situation for a believer is, that through the Cross we are born again…but not born again to continue to live the lie, but live the Truth…for which we are given the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. Out of this comes Paul’s references to putting off the “old” man and putting on the “new” man and putting on the “mind of Christ” etc. in his epistles to the churches he planted. (If we were robots, it would be out with the old program and in with the new…but as we have a will, the degree to which our life is renewed is a result of our choices or will and, our obedience to the Spirit. A further but related aspect to this is love ie it would be impossible for two robots to love each other – they may exhibit externally programmed actions that indicate love – but this is not love, as love can only be an action of the will.)
    The above teacher notes,
    “We have seen that God has actually shown us the truth of Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ. He has not only shown us how a man walks in truth, but He has shown us His truthfulness in fulfilling His plan for His creation. This must not be seen as a special part of truth, or an expedient created later in time to meet sin’s happening, but rather that this was His being, His truth from before time. Hence when it appears in time it is only a widening of the revelation of Himself as the truth.”
    As a final aspect, at least for this post, is that of witnessing. While our thoughts may go back to collaring someone and explaining the four spiritual laws. However, because we are to live the Truth our lives become that testimony as did Jesus’s. In the sense that Israel was supposed to be the ‘Priest Nation’ to the rest of the world and show them God’s Truth, they were invariably tied in with idolatry and failed to be a True witness.
    The born again believer is now that source of Truth to the world system and hence a witness,
    “We see then, that the principle of witnessing to the truth is to live in it. Jesus said he came to bear witness to the truth, and he did by living (or, doing) the truth. He said he was ‘the truth of the Father’ so he lived in truth as the Son. We are under the Lordship of Christ and so, in and by obedience, we bear witness to the truth. The truth is not only refraining from that evil which suppresses the truth, but doing that truth which is truth. The effect of this is to suppress unrighteousness anyway.
    This principle is very clearly shown in John 7:18, ‘He who seeks the glory of Him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood (unrighteousness)’. When Jesus witnessed to the truth he simply sought to show the glory of God. Hence his actions were true. Thus we are seeing increasingly the nature of truth as being the doing, doing righteousness which is doing the truth. In a rather tragic way it can be seen that all that evil is doing amounts to nothing, since what is untrue is not viable, and not genuinely existent and so genuinely true, or actually authentic. The righteous man has the propensity for truth, but the truth is what he does as it issues from what he is.”
    While Greg’s message, was aimed at addressing some of the ‘philosophical’ aspects of truth (and he highlighted early in his message that there was not going to be a lot of scripture quoted), however, for the believer, Truth is at the core of our actions, with the forgoing indicating some important (but not exhaustive) aspects.

  3. kevin says:

    ‘no other name by which we must be saved.’ what i need to know is this; what is “saved”? Is that word the same as ‘rescued’ and if so, rescued from what or from whom? When i use the word saved, it usually means i have saved some money for future use; is this maybe what the bible means by ‘saved’?

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