Psalm 119 has the honored status of being the Bible’s longest chapter.
Fittingly, it also happens to be ‘all about’ the Bible. It’s nearly 200 verses are packed with information about the Word of God and its importance.
In this Podcast Seminary episode, our Dean, Dr. Freddy Cardoza, unpacks a total of 24 principles learned from the Bible “about” the Bible.
12 Ways the Bible Describes Itself
12 Benefits of the Word of God
A leading Christian thinker, Dr. Perry Downs, is known for an important but surprising quote: “Truth-telling is an act of violence.” Who knew?
Regarding violence, anyone who has ever been victimized and that has suffered the resultant trauma knows its resonant results. It is like the proverbial pebble which causes a disproportionate effect– rows of ripples that circumnavigate far from the point of impact, long after the rock has settled in the silt below.
In this sense, violence forever affects those it touches. It should not be confused with a momentary, punctiliar event… violence is the initiation of an altered and completely re-arranged reality for all those it touches, be it directly or indirectly. Violence changes people’s lives. Some of that change is painful… and some of it, ultimately, can bring redemptive meaning and hope.
Now back to the central idea– truth.
Truth-telling can be a blunt object. I’ll never forget the words of a physician to me in the winter of 2006 when my mother was ailing in a Knoxville, Tennessee hospital. “Freddy, your mother is dead.” No mastery of language could ever help me communicate the thoughts and emotions I experienced in that moment. The statement, however true, was horribly blunt. Cold. Hurtful.Awful. That shows what is meant by the violence of truth. That statement forever affected my life and the lives of so many others.
The death of my mother caused profound hurt, but as the gaping wound has slowly begun to heal, God has used it to bring ephiphanies and moments of meaning that, apparently, I would have been unable to perceive otherwise. Does that mean that mom’s passing was ‘for the best?’ I don’t know if I could ever utter such a thing– it seems inconceivable. But since death is an irrevocable and necessary evil since the Fall (Genesis 3), the meaning and insights I’ve received are at least a modest consolation. And, at least for my mom, this discussion is academic. She wouldn’t return even if given the chance. If that’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.
With these broad and sketchy ideas strewn about, I return to my original concept. The Violence of Truth.
Jesus said, “I came to bring a sword” (Matthew 10:34). The truth of God, like violence, affects everything. It impacts people to different degrees, depending on their proximity to it. The effects of truth continue on and on. Truth alters and dictates reality. And though it can be painful, once it does its important work, truth brings intuitive insights and meaning. For those reasons, however painful truth sometimes is, knowing it is better than ignorance– because only the truth can set us free.
I get it. But we all need to have a handle on truth. After all, we must “live!” It’s important to understand that “truth” isn’t just the stuff of people with really long Greek names like:
Pythagoras of Samos
Zeno of Elea
Diogenes of Sinope
What is the nature of truth?
Truth is what “is.” Truth is that which is real, true, or truth. Truth is that which is actual. It’s another way of saying that ‘Truth’ isn’t simply “what is ‘believed.’ ” What is ‘believed’ is subjective and may or may not have anything to do with reality. Sometimes belief is nothing more than fantasy. So ‘belief’ may not have a 1 to 1 relationship with reality. The only time belief is legitimized is when that which is believed is objectively true. Truth (or actuality) legitimizes belief. Anything less isn’t really “truth”– it’s just belief. The Point:Belief does not equal truth. And just as ‘belief’ doesn’t create truth… neither does disbelief destroy truth. Truth is ‘truth’ because it is ‘true,’ not simply because it is believed.
Podcast Seminary offers audio-based biblical and theological courses where learners listen alone at their own pace or study with others in an exciting online learning community. Podcast Seminary features guided interactive discussion forums on weekly course content and helpful digital resources in a members-only online community. Podcast Seminary is ideal for growing and mature Christians, Bible teachers, and ministry leaders wanting to be equipped with a more comprehensive and systematic approach to developing their biblical knowledge and deepening their theological understanding.
Podcast Seminary provides substantial spiritual food to Christians hungry for God’s Word. It is a fun and meaningful learning experience designed to help you build a more comprehensive knowledge of the Bible and Christian Theology. It is meant to quickly broaden your awareness and deepen your understanding of a wide range of Christian subjects. This is done by exposing you to condensed versions of content typically covered in full-time seminary degree programs.
Podcast Seminary educates, edifies, equips, and encourages Christian learners, regardless of their level of educational training or spiritual maturity. Podcast Seminary fosters an environment of inquiry and discovery. It is thought-provoking but non-threatening. It’s academic but accessible. It’s fun but not frivolous. It’s non-accredited but achievement-based.
In the New Testament Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul spoke of the importance of his teaching “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). In doing so, Paul was communicating the absolute importance of teachers helping disciples become fully informed about divine truth and the Word of God. One of the great challenges within today’s Christian churches is the growing problem of biblical illiteracy. Similar to that is the related issue of many Christian’s general ignorance of the biblical worldview.
What does this mean, and why does it matter? This means that many Christians are not fully equipped when it comes to knowing the Word of God and, as a result, the Will of God (Romans 12:2). The result is that believers often live without the confidence, courage, and convictions they need to be “more than conquerors” as the Bible promises we can become (Romans 8:31-39). Ultimately, this problem leads to less-fulfilled lives, avoidable mistakes, and a lack of spiritual legacy by many believers. Podcast Seminary is built to address these common problems in discipleship.
Podcast Seminary curriculum provides comprehensive, systematic, and on-going training that covers both the breadth and depth of Christian truth. Podcast Seminary covers a broad area of curriculum comprised of nine key areas. These areas represent the areas of knowledge that comprise a Christian worldview. When a person understands these areas, he or she is able to live with more spiritual power, with increased confidence, and with greater joy.
As you take your first course in one of the following nine areas, you’ll begin to understand how important it is to develop thought structures, theological perspectives, and familiarity with the many areas of truth. Before long, you’ll begin to have a working knowledge of all the key areas important to understanding how life works. We encourage you to continue to build your mind through the content and learning available through Podcast Seminary. Below are nine areas all Christians should study for more comprehensive discipleship.
by Steve Huerd Missed Part 1 of the Series? Read it here.
Integration begins with the notion of reconciling all things together in Christ. In the world today, there seem to be separate things which either do not relate together or compete with one another in their truth claims. For example, is homosexuality a learned behavior or a genetic issue? What is the best form of government? How should we as a country prepare for retirement in the future? Just read the latest headlines and you will come up with many issues demanding immediate answers. These myriads of issues requiring integration for the Christ-follower can be personal, corporate, or even conceptual in nature.
Central to the concept of integration is the notion of unity in all things since Christ is king over all the created order. For example, in Col. 1:16, Paul says of Christ that, “all things were made by him, for him, and through him.” This truth obviously implies that all things must necessarily then relate to Christ in meaningful ways since he created them, empowered them, and was the purpose for their existence. We also know from this passage that all things will be eventually reconciled to Christ (Col. 1:20), or brought back into their proper perspective in relation to him. The later verse also seems to imply that now, in the present, everything is not reconciled to Christ, being perhaps the reason we experience difficulties in reconciling them together in our minds. In C.S. Lewis’s fictional series, the Chronicles of Narnia, “Aslan” has not yet appeared to unfreeze the winter covering the earth.
Thus we press on continually trying to see the connections and disconnections between the findings of social science, or any other truth claim for that matter, and that of scripture. If we hold to the view of the scriptures being the primary and foundational source of truth, then other truth claims must be evaluated and carefully analyzed by what we know is true in the pages of the Bible and the mind of God.
The honest Christ-follower then must perpetually do what Duane Litfin, the former president of Wheaton College suggests, “The Christian’s intellectual task is to use his or her God-given apprehension and correlation to discover truth about God and truth about the spiritual, moral, and material dimensions of the world he created” (Litfin, 2004, p. 173).
Consequently, if we are to “know the truth” as the “truth will set us free” (John 8:32), then this task takes on greater significance as it affects not just our salvation but how we live here on earth. If all truth is unified coming from the mind of God where there is no confusion, then regardless of the source, all that is truthful should cohere and fit together with whatever else is truthful. This logically implies that truth discovered via social science should cohere with truth being revealed by God in the scriptures wherever possible. And, correspondingly, wherever truth seems to contradict or not fit with scriptures, we need to proceed with caution.
While the masses may follow the crowd, we as Christian educators and scholars should be most thoughtful in how we put things together in our thinking. We need to lead the church and this next generation through our careful scrutiny of today’s truth claims for “all who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly” (Prov. 16:13 NIV). Sources:
Litfin, D. (2004). Conceiving the Christian college: A college president share his vision of Christian higher education. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
by Steve Huerd
Brad Pitt played the entrepreneurial Oakland A’s baseball manager Billy Bean in the film Moneyball in which he goes against conventional wisdom by following the advice of a statistician in changing his team. Though the film was nominated for six academy awards including best actor and best picture, it raises interesting questions we must address in Christian Education.
For example, how do we really know what is true? This is not a new question per se, as the study of epistemology in philosophy directly studies these phenomena. But, it does pose continual questions as we in academia seek to lead and influence the new generation in discovering truth.
For centuries the church based its epistemology upon revelation or the idea that truth was directly given to us by God through the writing of the Holy Scriptures. However with the rise of the Enlightenment period, man’s reason gradually grew to occupy a more central place in the search for truth. This led to the rise of science, which while being originally created to study God’s universe, eventually became an alternative means of discovering truth in the world. Francis Schaeffer (1976), in his classic book How Should We Then Live, traces this independent and autonomous thinking back to the Renaissance period, placing man in the center of the universe.
Today, centuries later, science and the scientific method of investigation have largely supplanted revelation in the secular world as the chief means of discovering truth and knowledge. Revelation as a means of epistemic knowing has been subjugated to the realm of person opinion or even superstition as there is no way to empirically verify its findings through experimentation.
Thus, when it comes to doing research in the social sciences of academia, empiricism and the scientific method rule. You can’t really say anything unless you can support it with empirical evidence.
Those of us in Christian education, who still hold to God’s revelation through scripture as a means of knowing, must constantly wrestle at the task of integration. We maintain that all truth is God’s truth whether it is found in nature through general revelation (i.e. empirical research) or in special revelation (i.e. the Bible). If we have as our premise the knowledge that “all truth is one and all ways to truth are one because the Author and End of truth is One” (Green, 2007, p. 63), then integration becomes an essential task we must engage with great care.
And, like Billy Bean of the Oakland A’s, we face constant temptations to ignore conventional wisdom in favor of a more scientific approach. Even in the writing of my dissertation, I confess to spending far more time reading and summarizing empirical research than I did in writing about how the scriptures interact with my topic. Yet, if we truly believe that God has revealed truth in the Bible to us, than this truth must have supremacy over human reason being argued through statistically based empirical research.
Integrating truth discovered through empirical research with truth being revealed via scripture is no easy task. The scriptures will always hold epistemic supremacy for me in my thinking, but anyone who has ever read the Bible knows that the Bible doesn’t speak about every little truth God has created. For while God has given us everything we need for a life of godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), there remains much more truth to be discovered in the universe. Social science and scripture need not conflict and it’s not always one or the other, nevertheless we in Christian education need to be prepared so that we don’t lose our way in the midst of the fog in our search for truth. Sources:
Schaeffer, F. A. (1976). How should we then live? The rise and decline of western thought and culture. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company.
Green, B. (2007). Ch. 3: “Theological and Philosophical Foundations,” in Shaping a Christian worldview: The foundations of Christian higher education, ed. David Dockery and Gregory Thornbury. Broadman & Holman.
Ideas have consequences. The statement seems self-explanatory, but the real and deep impact of ideas reaches into culture, changing the minds of people and the way that they think. If believers are not careful, we can fail to recognize the impact that secular ideas have have on our own worldviews.
Richard Weaver wrote a book around 1950 entitled “Ideas have Consequences.” In 1 Timothy 6:20, Paul urges Timothy to avoid ‘worldly and empty chatter and opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge.’ That implies that whether an idea is true or not is immaterial to the consequences it can have in the world and upon society. The power of ideas is self-evident: Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Nietzsche influenced Stalin and Adolph Hitler. Hitler took Neitzche’s book and distributed it to all of his SS brigade and to Benito Mussolini, and it influenced Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf.
Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species influenced all of Western Culture, more perhaps than nearly any book besides the Holy Bible. Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital, which influenced and shaped many of the world’s political systems for nearly a century and he, in turn, was so influenced by the writings of Charles Darwin that he wanted to dedicate the English version of Das Kapital to Darwin, though the offer was rejected
Books written in one century sometimes redefine life in the next. It’s all about ideas.
The New Testament is certainly an example, but so is Thus Spake Zarathustra, which arguably has influenced our culture and the thinkers of our culture more than virtually any other in the twentieth century, though it was penned during Neitzche’s lifetime of 1844-1900, sometime before his entry into an asylum.
As Christians,we should be aware of the great challenges being issued to us by the world and by those ideas that are falsely called knowledge (1 Tim. 6:20). The appropriate response we should have is to actively engage ideas and thought systems and to develop a healthy appetite for theology and her handmaiden, philosophy. That means becoming conversant about different belief systems, ideologies, and worldviews. We must guard against thinking of these things as being irrelevant and allowing indifference to lead us to inaction. Whether we realize it or not, our worldviews are being shaped by everything we see, hear and read– and it is important to understand that. For those reasons, we must “study to show ourselves approved” and “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” by avoiding any hint of anti-intellectualism that might cause us to retreat from the battlefield of ideas.
We have a responsibility, as those who have been called out, to be guardians of the truth– contending earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). So, as Christian educators, we must lead the way and help people recognize the impact of ideas and in doing so, cultivate a hunger for truth in those we teach by engaging both the heart and mind.