Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bye, Bye, Blogger

Well, I have finally taken the plunge. I enjoyed the free ride while it lasted but I grew tired of the inflexibility of Blogger (what do you expect when it is free) so I have begun the journey with Word Press - and so far I am rather pleased. My blog has moved to www.theologiaviatorum.com. Please update your bookmarks and follow me there. I still have a lot of work I want to do such as adding to the blogroll and sprucing up the sidebar so if you have any comments or suggests please feel free to drop a note. www.theologiaviatorum.com

Friday, March 10, 2006

What is Truth? # 4

Oughtness of Truth

Truth invokes response.[1] Since truth can be known it demands a response of those who come to know it.[2] Knowledge of God produces an obligation to obedience. In other words orthodoxy invokes orthopraxy. John’s Gospel highlights three particular elements of this response to truth.

First, a Christian is to live by the truth. Jesus told Nicodemus that “whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out by God.”[3] Christians therefore must do what is true; they must live by the truth. “Genuinely knowing divine reality will inevitably be reflected in the way disciples live; they will obey everything that Jesus has taught them.”[4] In other words, “God’s truth and faithfulness are to be reflected in his people’s lives.”[5]

A Christian must also worship in spirit and truth. The woman at the well was discussing worship locales with Jesus when he declared to her:

Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.[6]

What then does it mean to worship in spirit and truth? D. A. Carson offers some helpful thoughts on this difficult passage, which is worth quoting in length. Worship,

…must be in spirit and truth, i.e. essentially God-centered, made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and in personal knowledge of and conformity to God’s Word-made-flesh, the one who is God’s truth, the faithful exposition and fulfillment of God and his saving purposes. The worshippers whom God seeks worship him out of the fullness of the supernatural life they enjoy (‘in spirit’), and on the basis of God’s incarnate Self-Expression, Christ Jesus himself, through whom God’s person and will are finally and ultimately disclosed (‘in truth’); and these two characteristics form one matrix, indivisible.[7]

Christian worship is based on the truth of the gospel and worked out by the supernatural indwelling of the Spirit. Worship is thus an event based on the truth of God and the work of grace in the believer’s life. Grace and truth, which Christ is full of, is central to our worshipping in spirit and truth. Only those who trust in the God who is true and who have had that God revealed to them through his Word are able to worship in spirit and truth. It must be noted that worship is not just an event but encompasses all of life. There is both a broad way of worship, which is all of life and a narrow or corporate gathering of worship.[8]

Lastly, the Christian must be continually sanctified by the truth. Christ prayed to the Father on behalf of his people, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”[9] This high priestly pray of Jesus was for both his immediate disciples and for those who will believe in him through their word (vs. 20). Believers are to be sanctified through the true Word of God.

This sanctification by the Word of God is achieved through the working of the Spirit. Sproul writes, “The Spirit is not divorced from the Word in such a way as to reduce revelation to an exercise in subjectivism. The Spirit works with the Word (cum verbo) and through the Word (per verbum), not without or apart from the Word (sine verbo).”[10] Beeke and Lanning also argue that God transforms believers through a combination of these two great powers, namely the word and the Spirit. “Each indispensable to the other, and both inseparably joined together, so as to accomplish all God’s will upon his people.”[11]

Beeke and Lanning show by what methods the Spirit works through the Word to transform and sanctify the believer. First, there is the fusion of Spirit and Word in the reading of Scripture. Daily reading of the Word of God helps bring about a renewal of the mind. Secondly, the preaching of God’s Word helps convict of sin and bring comfort to the downtrodden. Thirdly, the hearing of God’s Word is often a healing balm to the soul. Lastly, the singing of God’s Word is a returning to God the praise due his name.[12]

God’s truth requires a response. The very foundation of all truth, God, has made himself known and he has granted this knowledge of the truth to those who hear his voice, his sheep. Being confronted with the truth causes an obligation on the part of the hearer to respond to that truth. Biblically the believer is to respond to the truth of God through living his truth, worshipping God in spirit and truth, and lastly by being sanctified or transformed by the truth.

[1] See Frame, DKG, 43, 108-109

[2] Nicole has written, “The ethical is never far remote, and the distinction between dogmatics and ethics, while useful in the theological curriculum, is not to be pressed into a separation of doctrine and practice, which should always remain united.” In The Biblical Concept of Truth, 295.

[3] John 3:21

[4] Crump, “Truth.”

[5] Woodbridge, “Truth.” He continues, “Truth is an indispensable part of both Christian faith and Christian living, leading disciples to obey all that Jesus has taught them…Profession and practice must cohere, otherwise we do not live according to the truth.”

[6] John 4:21-24

[7] D. A. Carson. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991. pp. 225-226

[8] See John M. Frame. Worship in Spirit and Truth: A Refreshing Study of the Principles and Practice of Biblical Worship. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1996 for a helpful fleshing out of these thoughts on worship.

[9] John 17:17

[10] Sproul, R. C. “The Internal Testimony of the Holy Spirit.” in Inerrancy. Norman L. Geisler. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1980. 337-384. p. 338

[11] Beeke, Joel R. and Ray Lanning. “The Transforming Power of Scripture.” in Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible. Don Kistler. ed. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1995. 221-276. p. 225

[12] Ibid, 234-262

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Lydia Grace

For those of you who are keeping count and for those of you who have lost count – number four, Lydia Grace Turner arrived on Wednesday March 8, 2006 at 11:30 pm. She weighed 8 pounds and 1 oz; measuring 20 inches. I will post more pictures, etc. later. Right now it is almost three in the morning and I am tired, although very excited. Here she is!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Categorical Errors

Much Thanks to David Price - I am in the process of putting in categories into this blog. I have thought about leaving blogger many times mainly because I wanted the option to categorize but if this works I may prolong my stay. Obviously I have yet to work out all the kinks. My problem lies somewhere in Firefox - I cannot seem to get my quick edit link along with my del.icio.us link to work in order to correctly post the categories. It works on my laptop but not on my desktop. I have fiddled with (I believe) all my security and content setting but cannot find the discrepancy. Any ideas anyone?

What is Truth? # 3

Knowing the Truth

Having established the metaphysical foundation of truth as being rooted in the Godhead the question that immediately arises is whether or not this truth can be known. The Gospel of John provides the answer to this epistemological question. First, it begins by showing humanity’s bondage to falsehood. Jesus, the light of the world comes to the world which knows him not. They know him not because their eyes and minds have been blinded by their father the devil.

The interchange with Jesus and the Pharisees in John 8:39-47 is instructive of the human condition as being bound in sin and darkness. Jesus attributes their inability to know the truth about him being from the Father to their father being the devil. He says in verse 42: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”

The Pharisees could not bear to hear such words from Jesus. They could not understand because they are of their father the devil and their will is to do that which their father desires. The devil has nothing to do with the truth. In fact it is fair to say that he is antithetical to the truth. He is the ultimate liar, the father of lies. There is absolutely no truth in him and by deduction those who are his children are also without that truth. Therefore Jesus concludes in verse 45, “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.” Humanity’s father has blinded their eyes and they have fallen into lying, deceit, and falsehood. Therefore they do not know the truth. They are unable to see the light for they walk in darkness.[1]

However, God has chosen some out of humanity to the truth. Jesus states before Pilate in John 18, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Jesus himself declares that there are those who are of the truth and that they will listen to his voice. The parallel with John 10 is significant. The sheep hear the shepherds voice and come to him: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.”[2] God has given certain sheep to Jesus and Jesus came to earth to die for those sheep. Those sheep were chosen from the beginning of time to come to know the good shepherd; they were chosen to know the truth.[3]

While many are blinded to the truth God has called out some from this world who will hear the truth and listen to its voice. These are the true disciples of Christ. They are the ones who remain in the true vine, drink his blood and eat his body, and walk in the light. They are the ones who believe that Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life. They abide in his word and doing so they will know the truth and the truth will set them free.[4]

God has chosen a people to communicate his truth with. Therefore in this postmodern world, where truth is no longer to be found the Christian can stand out as heralding the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is true knowledge, true wisdom, this is the truth. By walking in the light Christians are able to steer others into the light. The Christian task after being converted from the bondage of darkness is to proclaim the light of the truth.

We can know God because he has revealed himself. This is at the heart of the gospel. This does not mean that God communicates all that he is and knows but he nonetheless has communicated some true elements[5]

Epistemologically the truth can be known. Truth being rooted in the Godhead is revealed to humanity through the Gospel. God, through Jesus Christ, breaks down the barriers of our sinful blind eyes and having chosen us reveals the truth, as it really is to us in the good news of his Son Jesus Christ. This revelation of Christ is at the heart of John’s usage of truth.

[1] See Frame’s discussion in DKG about what unbelievers can and cannot know pp. 49-61

[2] John 10:14-16

[3] cf. John 6 with the emphasis of Jesus on those whom the Father has given him.

[4] John 8:31-38

[5] D. A. Carson writes, “Because he chooses to communicate with finite mortals in their languages, God cannot possibly communicate all that he is and knows, but I cannot see how that is a barrier to his communicating some true elements of what he is and knows. Of course, we will misunderstand the communication in all sorts of ways, owing both to our finiteness and to our sinfulness. But the content itself is objectively true, a subset of what Omniscience knows, and cast in culture-laden forms that demand of modern readers that we attempt to fuse the horizon of our own understandings with that of the culture and language in which the deposit was given.” In The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996 p. 130 (emphasis his).

Monday, March 06, 2006

Anti-smoking ban ushers in a new epoch in Turkey

Justice Commission approves a new anti-smoking law that, if passed by Parliament, will impose strict new rules on smoking, but there are doubts concerning how heavy smokers will be persuaded to abide by them

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

Parliament's Justice Commission's decision to approve an anti-smoking law this week is expected to seriously change the way Turks live. Smoking is an ancestral tradition that goes back to the 17th century, when the "nargile" -- the hookah, or water pipe -- became a fixture in Ottoman coffee houses.

For about half the adult population of Turkey, smoking is an absolutely normal activity, the result being a permanent national health disaster with anti-smoking campaigns making barely a dent in the habit.

Health Ministry figures show about 110,000 Turks die of smoking-related illness each year. About 60 percent of men and 20 percent of women in the country of 71 million people are smokers, one of the highest rates in Europe.

Nicotine addiction has reached worrying levels even in schools, where 11.7 percent of schoolchildren smoke, according to ministry figures, despite a ban on the sale of tobacco products to minors.

Even among the justice commission members failed to agree on the extent of the ban, with smokers among them describing the bill as an execution order for smokers.

Justice and Development Party (AKP) Gümüşhane deputy Mahmut Durdu said every article of the anti-smoking bill was problematic, while Adıyaman deputy Hüsrev Kutlu argued that most diseases were due to stress, describing smoking as a way to combat stress.

The bill approved by the commission still needs to be passed by Parliament's General Assembly.

Turkish Anti-smoking Fighters Foundation (SSV), Ubeyd Korbey, has said that warning messages on cigarettes packets, in concert with a series of anti-smoking advertisements, has decreased the number of people addicted to smoking in Turkey over the past six years.

In a statement made to the Anatolia news agency, Korbey asserted that the effects of a more concerted fight against cigarettes in Turkey were beginning to be seen, and that a significant drop had been registered in the number of addicted smokers since 1999.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

What is Truth? # 2

Trinitarian Nature of Truth

Truth is founded upon the Trinitarian God of Scripture in both his person and his revelation. In John 3:33, John the Baptist declares that God is truth. Geerhardus Vos notes that throughout the Gospel of John the concept of truth is associated with the heavenly.[1] In John the Baptist’s declaration of God as truth Vos’ argument seems justified. John ties truthfulness to God because he is from above and the testifier of the Father is also seen as true because he comes from heaven.[2]

In fact as Groothius notes, “each member of the Trinity is closely associated with truth in the New Testament.”[3] Jesus constantly makes mention that he is testifying to the one and only true God. In John 7:25ff Jesus is teaching in the temple even though his enemies are seeking to kill him. Some question that the authorities really may think he is the Christ. However, they know where Jesus came from and believe that they will not know where the Christ comes from. Jesus responded by declaring that you may know where I come from but I have not come on my own accord. Then he proceeds to say, “He who sent me is true, and him you do not know.” Jesus’ mission was to bear testimony to the Father and he does so by declaring that He is True.[4]

Elsewhere Jesus almost in passing makes reference to the Father being true.[5] The people did not understand that he was speaking of the Father, but Jesus exalts Him as being true, as being the truth. Lastly, the Father is declared as true in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”[6] The only way to a life eternal is through God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. Knowing God involves knowing him as the one and only true God.[7]

God the Son, Jesus Christ, is also the truth. He is both the messenger of truth and the message of truth.[8] Jesus’ mission as messenger was to reveal the Father who is truth.[9] The mission of Jesus is summed up well in John 1:9: “The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” Jesus’ mission was to be a lamp unto his chosen people’s feet. He was to lift their heads to the radiance and truthfulness of the Father. The true light of the world came to point those in darkness to the source of that light. He alone was able to be a faithful witness, a truthful messenger, and a just herald to the Gospel of his grace.

Indeed grace and truth can never be separated. Coming from the Father, Jesus was full of grace and truth.[10] “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus’ message was to bring not the law, which was given, through Moses, but grace and truth. This grace is made known because Christ reveals the Father who has never been revealed before. Jesus has this right because of his closeness to the Father.

Jesus also is the message of truth. Jesus is the “true light, which enlightens everyone.” He is the true bread and his body and blood are the true food and drink. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is also the true vine. To know the truth one must walk in the light, eat of his body and blood, come to the Father through him and abide in him.[11] Crump writes, “John presents Jesus as the final revelation of God, who is himself God; the one against whom all claims to meaning and reality are to be evaluated.”[12]

The Spirit is also truth. Crump notes three aspects to the Spirit being defined as truth. First, the Spirit who comes from the Father is also God and therefore truth. Secondly, the Spirit continues the mission of Jesus, which was the proclamation of truth. Thirdly, the Spirit will lead disciples into the truth. The Spirit has come in the world to be an “advocate of heavenly reality in this world, advancing God’s case, as it were, and exposing, or at least condemning, all counterfeit claims to truth.[13]

From the above texts it is clear that the Gospel of John sets forth the Trinity as Truth. Truth as “conformity to fact” and “completion” have their foundation in the Godhead.[14] Roger Nicole understates this by writing, “The truth is called God’s truth for he has a stake in it.”[15] Indeed God has a stake in the truth because he is the truth! Herman Bavinck sums up the doctrine of God as truth:

God is the ‘original truth,’ the source of all truth, the truth in all truth; the ground of all truth, and the true essence of all things, of their knowability and conceivability; the ideal and archetype of all truth, of all ethical reality, of all laws and regulations, the norm in accordance with which all things should be judged both as to their essence and as to their manner of manifestation; the source and fountain of all true knowledge in every sphere the only light in which we can see the light, the sun of spirits.[16]

It is therefore correct to see God as the metaphysical foundation for all truth.[17] He is truth, he is the standard of truth and he is all the final judge of truth and falsity. In other words God is the precondition for all truth since he is the Truth. God is the norm or criterion for all knowledge and truth.[18] Without God there would be no truth and truth would not be attainable by humanity. Truth is derivable and knowable because God is truth and he has revealed himself.

The Trinitarian nature of truth is founded upon the metaphysical aspect of the Godhead being truth. The Father is true, the Son is true and the Spirit is true. Therefore there exists a foundation in this postmodern world for truth. There is such a thing as objective truth!

[1] Geerhardus Vos. “True’ and ‘Truth’ in the Johannine Writings.” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. ed. Phillipsburg,NJ: P&R, 1980. 343-351.

[2] See John 3:31-32

[3] Truth Decay, 63

[4] cf. John 17:18 where the one who sent Christ is true and there is no falsehood in him.

[5] John 8:21-30 Pharisees are here questioning Jesus, they ask him who he is and where he is from. Jesus always goes back to his heavenly mission as one commissioned by the Father to proclaim the glory of the Father.

[6] to.n mo,non avlhqino.n qeo.n – The one true God, avlhqino.n stands in the attributive position in relation to qeo.n. Truth is attributed to God the Father.

[7] Crump writes, “As ultimate reality, God the Father is the only standard by which all truth or falsehood, light or darkness are measured in this world.” Crump, D. M. “Truth.” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall. eds. electronic ed., Pages 859-862. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997, c1992.

[8] Ibid.

[9] John 3:17; 4:34; 5:24, 30; 6:29; 8:25; 17:18; 20:21

[10] John 1:14, 17. John Frame writes, “Truth like knowledge and wisdom, comes by grace, by trinitarian communication, by Word and Spirit.” DKG, 49

[11] John 1:9; 6:32, 55; 14:6; 15:1 respectively

[12] Crump, “Truth.”

[13] Ibid. See John 14:16-17 for the Spirit as another helper, 15:26 to his testifying to Christ, 16:7-11 for his conviction of the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, 16:13 for guiding believers into the truth. See also P. D. Woodbridge. “Truth.” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. eds. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

[14] For truth being understood as conformity to fact and completion see Roger Nicole. “The Biblical Concept of Truth.” in Scripture and Truth. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge. eds. Grand Rapids,MI: Baker, 1983, 1992 287-302.

[15] Ibid, 294

[16] Bavinck, Herman. The Doctrine of God. William Hendriksen. trans. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977, 202.

[17] John Frame writes, “In the lordship attribute of authority, he is the very standard of truth for his creatures…There is no higher standard than God against which his truth may be measured. So God’s metaphysical ultimacy implies that he is the standard of prepositional truth.” In The Doctrine of God. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2002, 477.

[18] Frame, DKG, 124

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

What is Truth? # 1

Toward a Biblical Understanding of Truth for Postmodern Times Truth is stranger than it used to be![1] Postmodernism has brought about a radicalization of the nature of truth. The truthfulness of truth has been dissected by the scalpel of postmodernism and little of anything has been left.[2] Many are found rejoicing that there is no longer any objectivity or absoluteness to truth and that it lays ravaged by postmodernism.[3] Others decry the postmodern decay of truth and seek to offer an alternative.[4] Where should Christians seeking to be Biblical stand on this matter? Must we agree with the postmoderns that truth is dead or should we fall back onto the foundationalism of modernism? More poignantly to paraphrase Pilate, “What is truth for this postmodern age?”

The following few posts will seek to answer that question. A course will be charted between the Scylla of modernism’s foundationalist truth and the Charybdis of postmodernism’s destruction of truth. Christianity offers an alternative paradigm on the nature of truth. The goal of this paper will be to examine the Biblical teaching of truth as found in the Gospel of John. First, it will be shown that the nature of truth is founded upon the Trinitarian God of Christianity and His Word. Secondly, it will be argued that the possibility of the knowledge of truth is founded on the nature of Scriptural truth. Thirdly, given the nature and knowability of truth there follows an oughtness of truth, which will be set forth. These three elements or perspectives on truth stand together as a construction of the biblical notion of truth.[5] Lastly a few applications to the postmodern situation will be set forth in seeking an alternate Christian paradigm.

[1] J. Richard Middleton and Brian J. Walsh. Truth is Stranger That It Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995.

[2] For a detailed examination of this shift see the following: D. A. Carson. The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996. David S. Dockery. Ed. The Challenge of Postmodernism: An Evangelical Engagement. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995. Millard J. Erickson. Truth or Consequences: The Promise and Perils of Postmodernism. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001. Gene Edward Veith, Jr. Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994. Stanley J. Grenz. A Primer on Postmodernism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996. Also see any other works by Grenz.

[3] Philip D. Kenneson. “There’s No Such Thing as Objective Truth, and It’s a Good Thing, Too.” In Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm. Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995. 155-172.

[4] Douglas Groothuis. Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

[5] My indebtedness to John Frame will be evident throughout this paper even when not directly cited. It is the hope of this paper to add some Biblical meat to his theological arguments. By this I mean adding more of an exegetical flavor to the argument through an understanding of truth as found in the Gospel of John. See his The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1987 for a thorough Biblical epistemology.