Recently, one of our Academy teachers and Bible College students went to a local university with a sign that said, “Is truth absolute?” The question sparked many conversations that were both provoking and profitable.
One may ask: “Is it necessary to define truth?” A better question may be, “Is it necessary to define anything?”
Without proper definition, a fruit fly is no different than a mouse. A heart is no different than a pancreas. Absolutes, then, would be no different than relative truths. But living this way is not consistent with the world around us. We live in a world that is not only ordered, but defined. Actually, it is definable because of its ordered nature. Definition, therefore, allows us to associate with, and make use of, the order that we find. Definitions have been an essential part of all knowledge. I can still hear my father respond to our semantic inquisitions…”Look it up in the dictionary.”
R. C. Sproul rightly defines truth as “that which corresponds to reality, as perceived by God.” Why do you suppose that he included that dependent clause? It is because God’s view of reality is the only one without distortion. It is the only view that has not been influenced by muddled perceptions and false ideas. God, the eternal Creator, has the purest understanding of the way things really are. It is then our highest pursuit to see reality as God does.
“How can we be privy to God’s perception of reality?” Although it is not an easy question to answer, allow me to make a simple effort that could be expounded into chapters and volumes.
God is always moving us from generals to specifics. General grace to specific grace. General love to specific love. General truth to specific truth. General revelation to specific revelation. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). When God makes himself known to man in a specific revelation, it is through the following order: The Scriptures, the Person of Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The order is necessary because without a proper understanding of the Scriptures, we will not have a proper understanding of Christ, nor the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is our generally understanding of God that moves us to understand the specifics that relate to us personally. God’s special revelation has been the undertaking of every real Church in history, regardless of denominational ties. If you and I are to pursue God, reality, or even truth, then we need the perspective of the purest persuasion.
Finally, the latter word of the title is just as necessary – influence. Seminary has taught us to avoid reading meaning “into” the Scriptures, called isogesis. Instead, we are to lay aside our prejudices, our experiences, our knowledge, and our limited understanding to approach the meaning found in the Scriptures; this we call exegesis. The hermeneutic principle you practice is a matter of influence. Who, or what, is being influenced as we pursue knowing God? Are we attempting to influence the Scriptures by reading into the text? Are we so tied to denominational doctrine that we lack freedom to be influenced by the purest interpretation of the Word?
I am simply saying that if we are to enjoy knowing God’s truth, or his perception of reality, then we ought to do so with purity, by laying aside our own thinking and by preparing to be specifically influenced. When it happens to me and you, as it has so many others, we cannot help but define it as the Greeks did: Rhema.