The Dividing Line

What separates Americans into differing sides on issues? Divisions such as management and labor, urban and rural, red and blue states, Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, do not accurately define today’s culture. Conservative Catholics, Protestants, and Jews join together in opposing abortion and other aspects of the progressive agenda. The basic question is, “Do we have absolute moral standards to guide our lives?”

Our View of Truth

Francis Schaeffer identified the crisis of our age as a shift in the way people view truth. While accepting objective truth in matters of science and math, many reject objective truth in matters of faith and morals. The traditional Catholic and Protestant feared going to Hell. The new Catholic and mainline Protestant may not even believe in Hell and absolute truth. Many evangelicals hedge on these issues.

The fundamental dividing line is a changed view of truth and morality. Those holding to transcendent moral values believe absolute and ultimate truth is centered in God. These standards have an objective validity, not subject to individual feelings and preferences.

For Bible believing Christians, sex outside of marriage, lying, profanity, and drunkenness are wrong. Adultery, fornication, homosexuality, greed, arrogance, and selfishness violate ultimate moral standards. Abortion at any stage and destroying human embryos kills human beings. Individual preference or convenience should not decide these moral issues

Yet some claiming to be Christians practice homosexuality or live together outside of marriage, feeling they have every right to do so. They christen any belief or lifestyle as Christian because truth has been redefined.

For 200 years philosophers have relentlessly assaulted the idea of objective truth advocating various forms of subjectivism. These views include romanticism (truth as feeling), pragmatism (truth as what works), existentialism (truth as one’s personal choice), and the current phase, postmodernism (objective truth does not exist). Today’s culture reflects a widespread acceptance of truth as relative. Instead of objective moral standards, personal preference decides truth in matters of faith and morals. Your lifestyle and religious view can be true for you, and mine is true for me.

Those who deny objective truth consider themselves more tolerant because they say they accept all views as true. However, they show little tolerance toward those who believe behavior should be guided by transcendent values. When law is based on current preference and not on objective moral standards, the most powerful will rule. Dismissing truth will not make us free; it will unleash new tribal groups based on power. Might will decide what is right. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). He didn’t mean any truth that I choose for myself, but the truth that fits reality.

In the last 50 years, mass communication has indoctrinated our culture with these ideas. Truth as subjective and relative has been taught and is being taught in schools, universities, and the media. Truth is irrelevant; live as you please.

Our View of Christ

The urgent need of the day is for those who know the truth in Christ to teach that truth with the power and spirit of love. We must not be harsh, rigid legalists. When people turn away from a hard legalistic version of Christianity they often swing to an opposite extreme of tolerant doctrinal indifferentism.

The church needs to resist absorbing this subjective culture in our preaching, worship, and lifestyles. We need sermons that declare boldly and clearly the truth of the Word of God, not some psychological pep talk or the latest gossip from the Internet. We need music that directs our thoughts and hearts to know, appreciate, and honor God. We must not depend on the beat, the volume, and the performers. We must speak and live the truth in love.

How has this phase of minimizing and denying objective truth affected the church? The medieval mysticism advocated by some in the emerging church movement seems to continue the problem because it minimizes the objective truth of the Word of God. Churches that downplay Christian truth in an effort not to offend outsiders seem to reflect the problem. Seekers will not have their needs met until they come to a knowledge of and relationship with the God who made them and the Lord Jesus Christ who died for them. Shielding them from truth will not produce disciples or mature believers.

Experience takes front stage; doctrinal truth is pushed aside. Activity does not equal truth. Actions need to be interpreted by truth expressed in beliefs, principles, and values. If no objective truth is acknowledged, then everyone will do what is right in his own eyes. We need to evaluate our actions in our lifestyle and religious experience by God’s truth. When we jettison truth, then everyone’s experience becomes equally valid. If nothing is wrong, then nothing is really true. At this point, God help us, we are hopelessly lost.

The dividing line of our concept of truth cuts through lifestyles, politics, and churches. God and his Word are our surest source and test of truth. Obedience to his truth brings genuine freedom and fulfillment. |L

H. Lynn Gardner is retired from the faculty of Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Miss

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