Posted by Pastoral Musings on 17th July 2012
In a previous article I spoke of God as the source of truth and the ultimate standard of truth. We all live as if this were true, whether we accept the foregoing statement as true or not. We live by a standard of truth and expect others to live by the same standard. For example, when I go to the bank to deposit my money, I expect the tellers to come to the same total as I do when they have completed their addition. Why? Because I know that there is a standard by which we operate. Two plus two always equals four. The fact that we live by such a standard points to the reality of the absolute and ultimate standard. There could be no standard of truth if there were no Christian God. The God of the Bible is not only all knowing, but is the source of all knowledge and truth. He is truth.
The above statements may seem to be somewhat of a leap, but consider that morality also exists. There is an ought-ness about certain things in life; and that ought-ness is personal, and presupposes an absolute person who cares about what we do. We do not live in an impersonal world. We interact with persons all the time. We live in a world that is so full of personality that we often give inanimate objects personal names, and many men refer to their cars as “she” and “her”. We have no true moral responsibility to inanimate objects as such. We may have a moral responsibility to God and to others in regard to how we deal with inanimate objects, but we are not morally responsible to an inanimate object itself.
Morals demand one to whom we are morally responsible. They also demand an absolute standard of morality. Since morality is impossible without personality, it follows that there is an absolute person who is the final arbiter and ultimate standard of morality. The God of the Bible certainly fits this description. He is called the God of truth who is without iniquity (Deuteronomy 32:4;2Corinthians 1:18) and all men will give account to Him in the judgment (Romans 14:10-12).
What does morality have to do with truth? That is the question that some will ask. It is a good and valid question. It is also a question that must be answered. The answer is that truth must be respected, honored, and adhered to. If we do not do so we are being immoral. To commit an offense against the absolute standard of truth is to commit a moral offense. An offense against God is an issue of moral consequence. God cares what we believe. It matters to God whether we believe the truth or not. He cares whether we speak truly or not. To stray from the absolute standard of truth is to offend against the absolute person who is the standard of morality and the judge of all men.
It may be argued that there is no moral culpability when one commits an error due to ignorance. We don’t truly live this way, however. Should I be fully convinced that a new bridge which will shorten people’s commute times by fifty percent is opened, and I inform everyone I see that it is opened though it is not; I can assure you that there will be a large number of people who will hold me responsible for giving them wrong information and causing them to be late for work. Ignorance will be accepted as no excuse. We also know that ignorance of the law will not excuse us in court if we have broken the law. Ignorance may be considered by many to be a mitigating circumstance, but it is not an excusing circumstance. Many times we find ourselves gaining new information and thinking, “Well, I’m glad that I know better now.” Scripture does not allow us to do that. Scripture compels us to look back on our ignorance with shame, and then commands us to repent ( See Leviticus 4:1-35;Acts 17:30).
Let’s take this a step further. Scripture intimately connects our loyalty to truth to our morality. You see, we are morally obligated to fear the Lord. That is commanded many times in the Scriptures. At the same time we are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). Only by the fear of the Lord will we know the truth. As I am morally obligated to fear the Lord, and I am morally obligated to believe and speak the truth, truth and morality are inextricably connected.
I fear that many fail to see that man’s fall was a rejection of truth, and that man’s sinful state is one in which he suppresses the truth (Romans 1:18). Man’s fall was a rejection of truth in that he did not give glory to the one who is truly glorious (Romans 1:20), accepted the word of the one who is a liar (Genesis 3:1-7;John 8:44), and corrupted their own understanding and knowledge, thus becoming fools (Romans 1:22). This immoral rejection of truth then led, and still leads, to a rejection of the truth of God and a perversion of the truth of God.
The connection between morality and truth could hardly be more plainly seen than in a verse in the “love chapter” of the Bible, 1Corinthians 13. In 1Corinthians 13:6 Paul stated that love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth. We would be correct to say that the opposite of unrighteousness is righteousness, but it is also correct to say that the opposite of unrighteousness is truth. Think of it: the opposite of immorality then is truth. Truth is a moral issue.
Paul, speaking to the church at Corinth, declared that he worked to bring everyone’s thoughts under submission to God (2Corinthians 10:5). It did not matter to Paul from what school one originated. What mattered to Paul is that every thought was submitted to the Lordship of Christ, and that is a moral as well as a religious issue.
The letter to the Ephesians most definitely shows that Paul considered truth and morality to be related issues. His desire for the Ephesians was that they would not live by the standards of the world (See Ephesians 4:17-24). He explained to them that those outside of Christ lived in the futility of their thoughts, and that their minds were blinded because they were ignorant of the truth. Their ignorance of the truth was not only a sinful thing, but it led to more sin in that they went head-long after sin and gross immorality.
In common, everyday life we live as if these things are true. We expect our banker to hold to the truth about addition, subtraction, multiplication, because we are relatively sure that, if he doesn’t, he will err on the side of immorality and take our money instead of erring so as to give us more money. When people speak to us, we expect them to speak the truth to us and we don’t accept ignorance as an excuse when someone is harmed due to being given wrong information. Ivory tower academics and philosophers may quibble about this, but they also deposit money in the bank, and their expectations are the same as those of the common man. It is reasonable to conclude that there is an unbreakable link between truth and morality.
There is one application that needs to be made before concluding this article. That application relates to the debate surrounding the inerrancy of the Scriptures. Not only are there some who deny that the Scriptures are inerrant, but they plainly state that there are mistakes in the Bible. Not only so, but some go so far as to say that Jesus Himself erred and ignorantly spoke things that were not true. If that is so, we cannot accept that Bible as what it claims to be: a holy book which is the true Word of God that teaches us the way of righteousness and salvation. Neither can we take Jesus to be what the Bible claims Him to be: the sinless Son of God. To insinuate error in Christ and the Bible is to insinuate sin in them. There is no way to escape that. Those who do so, no matter what they may claim about adoring Christ and accepting the authority of the Scriptures, are grossly in error and would do well to reconsider their position. What true Christian wishes to be guilty of implicitly accusing Jesus of sin and Scriptures of being deceitful and misleading?