For the first twelve hundred years of the Church, truth was defined by revelation. In other words, God has spoken, He’s spoken through His Word.
But most people didn’t have a Bible. There wasn’t a printing press. The only people that had the truth were the “clergy.” And you have the period that’s called the Dark or Middle Ages.
Then we saw the big breakthrough. And the big breakthrough happened in the thirteen to about the fifteen hundreds called the Renaissance. And a rebirth happened in two streams. The one stream in the secular world was a going back to the classics, to Greek literature, to Plato, to the arts, to David, to statues and pretty soon instead of man being this worm and this person that has no value or nobility the Renaissance was the birth of humanism.
It’s that man has value and nobility and given enough time and energy we can change the world and make the world what it is. And so the classics and art was changed.
The other stream was among Christians and there was a return to historic Christianity - to the original text. And that gave birth to the Reformation. Overlapping that was then the Enlightenment in the sixteen to seventeen hundreds. It was called the Age of Reason.
Immanuel Kant would follow up that and you had what was called the Rationalists and people that though reason instead of revelation. Now it’s man’s thinking, man is the center, man is the measure. And we and our thinking and our reasoning is the authority. When what we think is different than what God says, reason champions.
And so you had this birth of the Enlightenment. Now man is the center, reason is the authority, and with self-sufficiency where we can actually change the world. We’ll make the world what we want it to be.
In the midst of that in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, Charles Darwin wrote a book, Origin of the Species.
And it was the soft, or the social sciences, that picked up on evolution as a way of thinking and relationships and it began to become how people began to think. Not that there was scientific credibility behind it.
At the same time another young man, the theory of relativity would be birthed by Albert Einstein. Einstein never thought truth was relative. What he was talking about was a new way of looking at the world, a new paradigm instead of through just one reference point he said, “No, no, no, no. You can look at reality through more than one reference point.” But the buzz word in the early twentieth century was about this idea of relativity. Now, the philosophers then got a hold of this.
Here’s what you gotta understand - philosophically and historically, when your kids go to trade school, or college, or hang out in your high schools, at sixteen or seventeen and say, “I believe in Jesus” and people start asking them questions, one, two, three, and four that they don’t have any good answers.
And that’s why, by the way, inside the Church the problem may be as big or as difficult. The philosophers and the intellectual elites, it starts there.
And so what, it’s, “Oh, that’s kooky, that’s out there. No one will ever believe that.” And then it usually filters into the arts. Now think about it. If you go back to Byzantine art, and the pictures of art, and pictures of God and symbols and now you think of “modern” art. If life doesn’t have meaning, if there’s not a right, if there’s not a wrong, if there’s not an order you can take paint and throw it at a canvas and see it and go, “Wow!”
And so it goes from the arts, and then it moves to the music, and it goes to the general culture.
If you think I’m exaggerating a bit let me read an article from a high school student. And I want you to listen for some of the buzz words and the key words. This is a high school student, I want you to think about absolute versus relative truth, and I want you to think about the implications in terms of not just morals but at the core, thinking.
It’s entitled: “God.”
“There are too many things in Christian dogma that I can’t accept. The first of which is the universal idea of truth. Good and evil. I can’t rationalize all of that. All religion is based on subjective views of the universe.”
I wonder where he got that?
You know, if I could sit down with that kid and say, “Well, actually, only in about the last fifty years. You’re at odds against thousands of years of human history.”
He goes on. He says, “My problem is that in your opinion God made the universe. And other people’s opinion someone else did so. So on and on it goes. I do believe that everyone is entitled to their own subjective reality,” relative truth.
So there is no truth, there is no real reality but you’re entitled to your little dotted line to perceive it any way you want.
“Because I just can’t see how one opinion is right and one opinion is wrong.” What he’s saying is pluralism. But he has no idea where this came from.
“I believe that all religions are right for particular groups. But there’s no one religion that’s right for everyone. My god is not a god of love but a god of reason.” Huh, wonder where he got that?
“Anything that can be explained with facts and charts seems reasonable to me. I worship,” notice we all worship something, “I worship the idea that nothing is intangible. That man can explain anything given enough time and given enough data. My god is not a person or a being, he is an idea.”
I can, literally, trace the philosophers and the thinking that got him there. The tragedy is life doesn’t work that way. How do you explain love? How do you explain personality? How do you explain the reason for being here? How do you explain the longing in your heart when you’re lonely? How do you explain the particulars and the beauty of life that just randomly came?
Well, here’s his explanation. He says, “We live in a mechanical universe. Your God doesn’t exist here. We don’t have any equation for love. You know what happens when you die in a mechanical universe? You rot. No clouds, no angels, no free candy bars. You rot and I rot.”
Think of the moral implications of this type of thinking for this person when he would choose to be married or when he goes to work for you. Or when he has a decision to make about putting someone ahead of himself that might have a need.
There’s not only no remorse there’s no reason logically. He finishes by saying, “Why do I create such a world? Why do I make this place into a machine functioning on random chance and chaos? It’s for the same reason that you make life about the kingdom of God. It’s just my opinion of reality.”
If the Church doesn’t start turning our brain cells on and start learning how to think, not moralize, not just, “Don’t do that, honey. Don’t do that, honey. That’s wrong. That’s right.” Why? And on what basis?
We gotta get off our tablets, get off our Google searches, and read some things with substance, and content, and reality, and teach our kids to think and understand where we are in world history and how we got here, and where we’re going, and what it’s going to take to change.
Because what’s happened is it’s just encroached on the Church. The Church is full of pragmatists. Well what kind of worship should you have? Whatever works! What should you do in your marriage? What should you do with your child? Whatever works for me!
What we do is we just say, “And Jesus will help me get whatever works for me.” “Make my life work, Jesus, for me, my way, as I perceive it.”
And so that’s why I remember discipling a young man who came to Christ and about six or nine months into it was growing rapidly. And I remember one morning we met and he just turns and he goes, “Um, I’ve made a decision.” I said, “What’s that?” He said, “This relationship with Jesus is very real. It’s very helpful. It’s really transformed my life. But I’ve decided all the issues in regard to premarital sex and sexual content, I’m just not going to obey those. Those aren’t for me. Those don’t fit in my lifestyle.”
Well, so what’s he saying? He’s saying, “I’m God. I choose what’s best for me. I call the shots. The ultimate authority and center is man.” What he doesn’t understand is he’s mixed his existential, relative truth into his new experience.
And here’s what you need to understand. There are painful consequences. See you don’t have to believe in gravity to jump off a three story building, you don’t have to believe what God says about truth, you don’t have to believe what He says about human sexuality, you don’t have to believe what He says about homosexuality, you don’t have to believe what He says about debt, or lack of debt.
You don’t have to believe anything the Bible says about wisdom. But when you violate it because it is absolute, and it is true, there are devastating consequences. Painful ones. And here’s what you need to hear and what we need to share: it breaks God’s heart.
How is this relative truth or absolute truth, how is it played out daily? Here’s the interesting part: the public rhetoric in our day and now in the Church is that all are right, pluralism, tolerance, truth is relative. The private reaction, however, is my rights, justice and fairness, truth is absolute.
In other words, I can be as existential as I want, Christian or non-Christian, and I can say, “Everyone has a right. You have your truth, I now have my truth and now I’m driving on the freeway and as I drive on the freeway someone cuts in front of me, ‘What are you doing?’” Why are you angry? Who are you to say that that space in front of you should be yours?
Or someone gets promoted ahead of you. Well, who are you to judge how your supervisor decides? Or they get a raise and you don’t. Or someone leaves you that you love for another person and they betray you. And you get angry and frustrated and it’s not fair.
Well, whoa. Fair? Who are you? That truth is okay for them. This truth is okay for you.
See, everyone draws the line somewhere. You can verbalize, or publically say, “Your truth for you, my truth for me.” Everyone, one hundred percent of the population, draws the line and you have an absolute.
And when your absolute is violated you get hurt and wounded and angry. And when someone you care about gets a “raw deal.” How can there be a raw deal? There is no truth. There are no absolutes. It’s just random chance. No one is consistent. Do you get it?
And one of the ways that we help those inside the Church, and outside the Church, when their lives are falling apart and when things aren’t working is to gently help them understand there is absolute truth and when you violate it there’s a price to pay.
But you have a heavenly Father who loves and cares about you. And He wants you to understand what it is and cooperate with how He’s created life.
Galatians chapter 6 verses 7 and 8. It says, “Don’t be deceived, God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that sinful nature will reap destruction and the one who sows to please his spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
See absolute truth is absolute truth. And we see soaring divorce rates, breakups, communicable diseases, people in debt at levels that turn their world and their life upside down, people that have addictions that they can’t shake trying to fill the gaps and the holes that the world doesn’t fill. You reap what you sow.
Now, what I want you to do is I want you to step back and think about what it means for you to think. What are you going to do with what you’ve learned? How much time are you just going to keep asking and answering the question? Not by your mouth or your words, but by your behavior, that basically as a Christian says, “What works for me? What works for my family?”
How much energy is going to keep going on to, “I gotta make more, I gotta get my kids in the right schools, we gotta do this, we gotta do that, we gotta do that, they have to be involved in all these sports so that they, so that, so that, when that, we can, so that.”
When’s the last time you sat around the table and had some deep discussions? When, and where, and how are you modeling truth? How is your life different? How do you think differently? And here’s the thing I ask myself, “How much of this, because it’s in the air and the water and the culture, so subtly is squeezing me into its mold without me even knowing?”
Turn to the back page because I want to give you what Jesus said. He was the most tolerant person who ever lived. He was the kindest person who ever lived. But He made outrageous claims. He said he never sinned and no one could prove that He ever sinned.
He not only said He never sinned but He said some even more outrageous things. Jesus’ outrageous claim about Himself, John 14:6, follow along. He said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”
That is a very intolerant, non-existential statement. But in space-time history He lived it out perfectly and rose from the grave. And there is an absolute truth that when you’re down, and when you’re hurting, and when this life is over there is a future and it’s real whether you “believe it” or experience it or not, in the right now.
Notice His outrageous claim about His Word: John 17:17, “Sanctify them,” His last prayer on earth, “sanctify them by Your Word, Your Word is truth.” There’s an infinite reference point. There’s something you can bank on. This is Jesus, the one who rose from the dead, He said, “This is true! It doesn’t change. It doesn’t shift. It doesn’t depend on circumstances.”
And after His outrageous claims, notice His outrageous concern for you. He would say this to a woman who’d been married five times, was living with someone, and instead of a “shame on you, what’s wrong with you?” He said to her, “You’re missing out on life.”
And after a little bit of a religious discussion He says, “Here’s what I want you to know,” John 4:23. He says, “I want you to know that there’s coming a day and is now when your heavenly father is seeking, or pursuing, those who will worship and follow Him in spirit and in truth.”
God has a concern for you, a concern for me, a concern for your kids, a concern for your neighbors. And He’s pursuing people. He longs for relationship and connection that’s real and absolute, and all the things we talked about don’t change.
And then finally I love His concern in John 8:32. He says, “You’ll know the truth and the truth will,” what? “Set you free.”
He wants you to be free. Free of guilt. Free of anxiety. Free of overwhelming debt. Free of addictions. Free of pleasing people. Free of codependency. He wants you to be free. But you’ll never be free with the, “Well that’s good for you, that’s good for me. If it feels good do it. If it feels good do it and then you pay later.”
Here’s my challenge: let’s become a people who think - clearly, truthfully, winsomely, no bashing of anyone. What’s true? Let’s look at the evidence. And then let’s go into our homes, and go into our neighborhoods, and go to our workplaces as thinking people, who understand truth and where and how we got where we are, so that we can make a difference.